WRITING PROMPTS & THOUGHTS & IDEAS (oh my) INTERVIEW BLITZ—KAREN JURGENS
WRITING PROMPTS & THOUGHTS & IDEAS (oh my)
“I am a newly-retired teacher who is entering the field of Christian ministry… There are a vast number of people who are lost and hurting, and I hope to reach them with this message of faith. I have always loved to write and have been doing so since I could hold a pen. I love to cook gourmet French dinners–but only during holidays–as well as to cycle, read the classics and play Scrabble.”
She spent her career as a high school English and French teacher, and will always be a lifelong learner. She loves everything French, especially creating gourmet cuisine for birthdays and holidays, and you will likely find French culture and language in whatever she writes.
Ms. Jurgens began a new ministry, Touched by Him, where she serves as a blogger and speaker. As a single mom, her best accomplishment has been raising two lovely daughters. Along with her mother who is now 93, the four of them enjoy fun times together shopping, dining out, and traveling.
rem: Welcome to my blog, Karen. Tell us a little about yourself. Where were you raised?
KAREN: I was born and raised in Cincinnati, but I have lived in the Dallas, Texas, Metroplex for 31 years. I love to cook, write, and travel. I once planned to go to cooking school to become a chef, but a teaching job came through instead. I have spent my entire career as a French and English teacher.
rem: I do love cooking! (Je ne parle pas français.) What’s your favorite flavor of ice cream? What’s your favorite cookie?
KAREN: Since I grew up enjoying Graeter’s and United Dairy Farmers’ local ice cream, I was very spoiled. Every July both companies treat patrons to a fresh peach flavor that is divine. But my very favorite is raspberry chocolate chip. I am a chocoholic, so no surprise that my favorite cookie is chocolate chip, too.
rem: oh my! Fresh peach ice cream! I’ll take some! Coffee or tea? Sweet or un? Flavored or not?
KAREN: I love both. Coffee must be French roast, and my tea is always black—English Breakfast or Earl Grey. I take both with cream only.
rem: Kids or pets? Names and ages?
KAREN: My older daughter, Meghan, is 31 and the younger is Caitlin, 28. My darling poodle, Babette, was 15 when she passed away several years ago, but she is still carved in my heart.
rem: So sorry about Babette. Vacation: beach or mountains?
KAREN: I love the beach. Growing up, my family vacationed in Florida every year. I learned to be a sun worshipper from my early teen years, so laying out and getting a dark tan was my passion. I finally gave up tanning when I turned 30, but I still enjoy sitting in the sand under a beach umbrella and swimming in the ocean.
rem: There is something about the sound of the surf. Sigh… What do you most value in a friend? What quality do you most admire in a man or woman?
KAREN: I value sincere honesty above all else. A good sense of humor along with a disciplined work ethic are qualities I most admire in others.
rem: I agree on all counts. Without honesty, nothing else holds up. When reading, what makes or breaks a story for you? Your fiction pet peeve?
KAREN: Since I am writing my second fiction book, I have discovered that I don’t like the syrupy-sweet perfect endings that contemporary romance demands. I find them too contrived. I enjoy surprises, twists and turns, and the story that forces me to create my own romantic dénouement.
rem: Thank you! I couldn’t agree more! (gak) Which book have you read the most in your lifetime?
KAREN: Non-fiction: The Bible. Fiction: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
rem: If you could chose to be a character in a book, who would it be and why?
KAREN: I would be Melanie Hamilton Wilkes in Gone with the Wind. She was pure southern class, exemplifying loyalty and humility. She was the heart and soul of the novel, always supporting Scarlett and knowing better than to believe the romantic gossip about Scarlett and Ashley. She was wise, understanding, and spent her life serving others with devoted love.
rem: You are a classy lady, I say it’s a good fit! Tell us a little about your writing journey.
KAREN: I loved reading and writing stories from an early age. I grew up reading the Bobbsey Twins series (all of which I still have in my library). Since I had no siblings my age, I entertained myself writing stories in all kinds of places, even the car (my parents were always on the go). I remember one essay I wrote, entitled “How Pillsbury Got its Name.” My first “novel” was a romance called Love is Forever. My writing matured as I took creative writing courses in high school and college, and I still have stacks and stacks of short stories and chapters from unfinished stories over the decades.
rem: I remember the Bobbsey Twins! What is your Writing Routine? Where do you write: In a cave, a coffeehouse, or a cozy nook?
KAREN: I have an office at home where I love to work, especially in the evenings and into the wee hours of the morning. I usually get going about nine and am not aware of the time again until two a.m. I substitute teach most days, so if I can, I have learned to write at school while the students are working.
rem: What makes you struggle as an author? How do you handle it?
KAREN: I struggle with how I accept criticism about my writing. When I began attending a critique group, I was surprised at how much I still needed to learn to become a good writer (in spite of being a high school English teacher). I have learned to be tough, meet deadlines, and accept critique suggestions without letting them “sting.” Now I thrive on constructive criticism because it makes my writing much better.
rem: That’s a toughie, I think, for all of us. Do you prefer the creating or editing aspect of writing? Why?
KAREN: I very much enjoy the editing process, probably because of my English teacher background. However, I adore the writing process more because that’s where my creative juices soar. It’s much like giving birth to a “child” you hope everyone will want to read and love.
rem: Very apt analogy, and one I feel deeply as well. What do you enjoy most about being a writer?
KAREN: I enjoy my characters and how they evolve in the story. Mine have spiritual issues that resolve through God’s grace in a contemporary setting. Their personality traits deepen through the story, sometimes developing in surprising ways I didn’t originally plan.
rem: I love when the story surprises me, especially when I’m the one writing it! What was the hardest thing about publishing? The easiest?
KAREN: The easiest thing about publishing is having someone else do that for you. My first novella is part of a ten-author anthology, which was published by Lena Nelson Dooley. The hardest thing is to find a publisher or figure out how to Indie publish, which is what I’m facing with my current novel. Understanding and implementing a strong marketing plan are the biggest keys to success.
rem: I know very few people who don’t have great disdain for the marketing aspect of being an author… What are your top 3 recommendations for a new writer? What 3 things would recommend not doing?
KAREN: To do: Read all you can about your craft, whether it’s fiction or non-fiction. Attend conferences your first year and just try to learn as much as possible. Create a good library of reference materials, like The Emotions Thesaurus. Learn Scrivener. Invest in a good laptop or computer and know how to use it. Join a good critique group. (Whoops, more than 3!) (meh, who’s counting?)
To Not Do: don’t write without an outline—plan before you begin. Don’t fail to set daily goals, whether it’s time or word count. And don’t let others’ criticism turn into writer’s block.
rem: Yeah, ‘bout outlining… Where do you get your greatest ideas for writing?
KAREN: My greatest ideas all come from real life—the people I’ve known and the places I’ve been. Great writers pass on the good advice of always writing about what you know.
rem: Do you have a favorite book or work that you’ve written? If so, why?
KAREN: The fiction I currently write is for my ministry, Touched by Him. I try to show how characters deal with spiritual issues in a contemporary setting. My first story is about how important it is to choose a godly mate in a world where true believers are scarce. The second is about how a broken marriage can be salvaged and redeemed through God’s merciful love and grace.
rem: Which character in the story is most like/least like you?
KAREN: I am most like Gwen Livingston, whose husband was unfaithful to her. Although my personal circumstances are different from Gwen’s, I hope to show how forgiveness and learning to trust again are keys for every person who has suffered through the unfaithfulness of his or her spouse. I am least like Meredith Holloway, Carlie’s loose-living sorority sister who stabs her in the back.
rem: See? Now I’m gonna have to read your story! Tell us a little about your latest book? What is your current project?
KAREN: Desire’s Deception is the name of my second book, slated for a 2016 publication. The original plan was to be part of an April Love novella collection, but this story dictates a larger word count, so it will become a novel instead.
rem: What is one take-away from your book(s) that you hope readers identify with?
KAREN: Sin is a messy business that splashes on everyone. You can’t get away with a secret life forever, and when it comes out, everyone suffers—the innocent along with the guilty.
rem: The best stories have secrets somewhere in them, methinks. Tell us about your ministry, Touched by Him. How did that come about and what is your purpose and mission?
KAREN: When I retired from my teaching career in 2014, I knew it was time to begin the ministry. God called me more than twenty years ago, after I went through the most difficult trials of my life. My mission is to use my experience to help others find His answers to their life’s trials, and most importantly, to find salvation in Jesus Christ.
rem: Father is always faithful to take our mess and turn it for our good. Thank you for being on my blog today, Karen. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you.
You can follow her blog about scriptural answers to life’s trials at Touched by Him Ministries at www.karenjurgens.com.
Facebook Author page: http://www.facebook.com/TheKarenJurgens
Amazon Author page: http://www.amazon.com/Karen-Jurgens/e/B016CXTOOG/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_6
Writing Prompts blog: https://writingpromptsthoughtsideas.wordpress.com/
Carlie Livingston is steering into her last year of college in Oxford, Ohio, confident that she and Lance Holloway are headed to the altar after graduation. Those plans are wrecked, however, by her dad’s infidelity, causing her parents to walk through a messy divorce. Will she have the same fate if she marries her college sweetheart who comes from a secular family? Her mother insists she will.
She tests God’s Word by letting Him take the wheel of her life. But if God is in control, why are all her close relationships crumbling? Nothing makes sense.
Just when it appears hopeless, Clay McKinney two-steps into Carlie’s life, promising to provide everything she’s looking for. But if he’s God’s answer, why can’t her heart release Lance? Where will her final destination be on this journey of trust?
rem: Thanks for joining us today, Karen. It’s been a pleasure having on my blog!
You can find Karen at:
Author of A Christmas Mosaic, published 2015
Desire’s Deception, coming 2016
#karenjurgens, #writingpromptscrew, #authorinterview, #aChristmasmosaic, , #desiresdeception, #touchedbyHim