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Breath of Malice Cover to International Thriller WritersBy Karen Harper

It was fun to interview Karen Fenech, not only because she writes in the same genre I do, but because she is so amazingly diverse and prolific yet manages to keep everything straight.  In the interview, she shares her methods for success, and her joy of writing comes through loud and strong.

What is BREATH OF MALICE about?

BREATH OF MALICE centers on an inexperienced FBI agent who catches the eye of a serial killer and becomes his next target.  It’s a game of cat and mouse . . . and she’s losing.

I see on your website that you work out extensive and detailed outlines before you write your novels or novellas.  What do you see as the advantages of this pre-thinking work?  Are there any drawbacks?

I find that the pre-thinking prep prevents me from taking wrong turns in the story or writing myself into a corner.  Having an outline, for me, is like having a road map.  It keeps me on track and gets me where I want to go.  I don’t find any drawbacks to the pre-thinking.  Thinking about the novel I intend to write in advance, cements it for me in my mind and makes it part of my real world.  I could be doing something completely unrelated when something I want to include in the novel occurs to me.  I love those moments.

You have some great author-help, reader-interest articles accessible on your website, such as “The Worst Thing About Writing” and “Finding Time to Write.”  What three helpful suggestions would you give a beginning writer, either published or unpublished?

Coming at this from someone who’s been there and certainly not an authority or writing coach, I would say that if writing is really something that you want to do, you’ll find yourself making time to do it, even if just for a few minutes every day.

A few minutes every day will add up in terms of pages. When I first started, I found it difficult to allocate large blocks of time to writing and so I didn’t.  A few minutes here and there at first, with longer writing sessions when I could, resulted in my first novel.  In the previous question I was asked about pre-thinking work, here’s an example where I found the pre-thinking served me well.  I was never far from that first story, since I’d done some prep and had a grasp of what I wanted to do with the book.  The pre-thinking helped me write more in the short bursts I was able to fit in.

Here’s that old, typical question, but I think it’s relevant for someone as multi-published as you are.  Where do you get your ideas for your suspense novels like BREATH OF MALICE?  Do you do much research?  Maybe more for the historical suspense work than the contemporary, or is that not the case?

Ideas, for me, come out of my characters.  I get a thought about a character.  In the case of BREATH OF MALICE, an inexperienced FBI agent, then I play the “what if ” game.  What if my inexperienced agent, Paige, is part of a squad tracking a serial killer? What if instead of following the lead of seasoned agents, like her squad leader, Paige comes up with a plan of her own to catch the killer? What if Paige’s plan goes wrong?

I do extensive research to make sure that I get things right.  In the acknowledgments of BREATH OF MALICE, I mention the invaluable help I received from the FBI and from a coroner in South Carolina when I started writing novels with FBI characters. These wonderful people answered my questions and kept me on track.

For my historical suspense, I did a great deal of research into the period when the book was set.  I love research and find that I can become immersed in it for hours at a time. J

Like me, you loved reading Nancy Drew books as a child.  Do you think your early reading attracted you to mystery and suspense or is that a genre that attracted you as an adult reader?

Nancy Drew absolutely influenced my love of mystery and suspense.  I always loved solving the puzzle along with Nancy and friends and remember my heart beating a little faster when Nancy found herself in a potentially dangerous situation.  I love the romantic suspense subgenre.  Writing, romantic suspense allows me to incorporate both suspense and romance—the two elements I love to read in a novel.

Your ‘Protectors’ series has five books so far.  Is it a special challenge to write a series?  How do you keep everything straight?

Writing a series does have some challenges, one of which is making sure to keep the plots and characters fresh.  And, yes, there is the added concern of keeping everything straight.  I keep extensive notes on each book and refer to those notes when I’m writing a subsequent book.

I love writing a series.  I love introducing new characters to the fold and having the opportunity to revisit characters from previous books and catch up with their lives.  I hope to continue to write the “Protectors” for many books and years to come.

Any hints to other authors about how to balance “real life” (home and family) with “fiction life”?

Boy, I could use some tips on that myself. J  I find that when I’m deep into the writing, I like to stay deep and don’t plan any social events or too many activities.  During those writing times, I try to keep my life as simple as I can. I’m very lucky that my family is supportive and understanding about this.

You write in several genres and in different series.  How do you keep them straight?  Is one the easiest or hardest to write?  Where does BREATH OF MALICE fit in?

I keep character boards and series boards that help me remember who is who and what is what for each series.  I like to go over these notes and reread portions of previous books to refresh my memory when I begin a new book in a given series.

With BREATH OF MALICE, the book is written as a standalone and is complete, but I have a few more things I’d like to do with Paige, the heroine, and Sam the hero. I would like to writing another book or two about the characters.

When the summer weather beckons, what strategies to you use to keep your “butt glued to the chair?”

LOL! : )  During the summer, I write outside at times.  Batteries for our laptops or writing device of choice are a fabulous invention.


Karen Fenech -- author photo submitted to International Thriller WritersUSA TODAY bestselling author Karen Fenech writes romantic suspense novels and short works of suspense. She is the author of the bestselling romantic suspense series, The Protectors. Karen’s novels and short suspense fiction have received critical acclaim. Her novels have been translated into several languages and have been released in audio format. When Karen’s not writing or spending time with her family, she loves to shop, watch movies, and just kick back in a comfortable chair and read.

For information about Karen’s books and to find out when her next novel is released, visit her website.



Karen Harper
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