A New York Times and USA Today bestselling author, Karen Harper is a former college English instructor (The Ohio State University) and high school literature and writing teacher. A lifelong Ohioan, Karen and her husband Don divide their time between the midwest and the southeast, both locations she has used in her books. Besides her American settings, Karen loves the British Isles, where her Scottish and English roots run deep, and where she has set many of her historical Tudor-era mysteries and her historical novels about real and dynamic British women. Karen’s books have been published in many foreign languages and she won the Mary Higgins Clark Award for 2005. Karen has given numerous talks to readers and writers across the county.
Her latest book is the romantic suspense, Broken Bonds, the third book in the Cold Creek Trilogy.
Q & A with Karen Harper
A&RBC: Where did the concept for Broken Bonds come from?
I can’t really explain how plot ideas evolve for me. They grow out of character and setting. The backstory and career of the heroine dictates a lot, the same for the hero. Although I have a general idea of the story I share with my editor before I write, a lot of the story actually occurs to me as I write. I have taken plots from real events at times, but the plots seem more to just grow as I go.
A&RBC: Where is the setting for Broken Bonds? Is it a place you are familiar with?
I love the area the book is set in—the edge of Appalachia. I spent four years near this area in my first four years of college. The area is beautiful but dangerous, perfect for a romantic suspense story. Also, I love small towns, and Cold Creek is one with tensions and secrets—and a fascinating hero who finally meets his match in Charlene Lockwood. I must admit I created Cold Creek, but based it on a town in the area I know well. I find it easier to put fictional people in a fictional town.
A&RBC: Which Lockwood sister was the hardest to write?
Kate from FORBIDDEN GROUND is most like me—hm, that was easy. Which one was the hardest to write would be Tess from book #1, SHATTERED SECRETS. Tess has had a traumatic childhood, whereas I had quite a lovely one, so I had to work hard to get into her head and heart. Also, she has suppressed the terrible memories of her kidnapping ordeal, so I had to do a lot of reading on such things as psychic memories of childhood. Her struggle is to force herself to recall things she’s buried deep so she can help the sheriff (her love interest) find who has recently kidnapped a young girl—and the case has similarities to hers, but a case where they fear the young girl may not come back alive as Tess has, so there is an urgency to act fast.
A&RBC: What do you want readers to take from Broken Bonds? And the Cold Creek series?
I want them to realize that “an average woman” who comes up against difficult, even dangerous situations can rise above that—can fight back. Social worker Char Lockwood has made a major mistake working with Navajo children, but she returns to her small hometown of Cold Creek in Appalachia to help poor children there. But, ever the do-gooder and bleeding heart (I consider those good terms, not bad,) she rescues a man from his car going off a cliff. She not only falls in love with him but is soon involved with keeping his would-be killer away, who is now after her too. My heroines are can-do women, and we should all be that, each in our own way.
A&RBC: What 4 tips can you give an author wanting to write a series?
(1 )It’s important to realize that it’s a real commitment. It’s like writing a mini-series instead of a single show or movie. Even if there is a new heroine and hero who “own” each book (like in my COLD CREEK NOVELS,) there will be a spillover of characters from each book. (2) Their development, change—character arc, as we say—will be longer and important. They need to learn, grow and change. (3) Keep a good “catalogue” of things like eye color, ages, etc., so you don’t make a mistake in book 3 that messes up something in book #1. If you do, the great readers out there will find it, even if your copy editor does not. (4) Try to make each book fresh and different, even if it’s in the same place, even if the main characters are good friends, or sisters.
A&RBC: Who is Karen Harper?
She’s a multi tasker at life and blessed to have a loving family. She always wanted to be an English teacher, which she was for 17 years: 15 years teaching high school English and 2 years teaching good old freshman English 101 at The Ohio State University. She’s a wife, stepmother and grandmother. She’s the daughter of a 93-year-old mother who lives nearby and still reads small print! She’s a church-goer, of course an avid reader, and a proud American, despite the troubles that have hit the US lately. She’s an Anglophile who loves England and gets there whenever she can. And she’s blessed to be a published author since 1982, with almost 70 books in print. (And, of yeah, this is a good one. Her historical novels are best-sellers in Russia, where she has NO plans to go on tour.)
A&RBC: Are you an avid or occasional reader? If so, what is your favorite genre of books?
I must admit I usually binge read fiction between writing my own books. While I’m writing, my reading is often for background research. For example, for BROKEN BONDS, I had to study up on poverty in Appalachia (sadly, it still exists); fracking (because one of the possible villains is into that). For book #1 in the trilogy I read up on childhood trauma and small town sheriffs. For book #2, FORBIDDEN GROUND, I studied ancient, Indian mounds, their burial customs and artifacts. I also try to keep up with newspapers to get ideas for scary situations I could use.
If I even tried to keep read up-to-date books by my author friends, I’d probably never have time to write! I love biographies and memoirs too, often historical ones. I recently finished a book called FOUR SISTERS by Helen Rappaport, the story of the last Russian czar’s family. Fascinating young women with luxurious lives caught up in a terrible time. This was for a late-Victorian, Edwardian historical novel I’m writing.
A&RBC: What has been your biggest achievement/challenge as an author?
I would say, after “only” writing for 20 years, making the USA TODAY bestseller list and then The New York Times list with my romantic suspense THE FALLS, for the first time in 2003. The tag line on the front of that book said “Don’t look down!” and the cover had a picture of a waterfall. My motto is not only to keep looking up but to keep looking ahead. I’m very excited about the great reception this new series has had so far and I’m looking forward to writing more romantic suspense thrillers.
A&RBC: What new project (s) are you working on?
A perfect segue from the last question. I’m researching character backgrounds and settings (in this case, South Florida where I live part of each year) for a new trilogy. For the first time, a Harper trilogy will have continuing heroine and two heroes she will have to choose between. She’s a forensic psychologist. Stay tuned.
A&RBC: Where can readers find you?
For More Information
- Visit Karen Harper’s website.
- Connect with Karen on Facebook.
- Find out more about Karen at Goodreads.
About the Book
Haunted by the past…
Cold Creek is a place with a dark history, especially for the Lockwoods. Now adults, the three Lockwood sisters are still recovering from the events that led to the destruction of their family when they were children. Determined to move forward, Tess and Kate are making fresh starts, ready to put bad—even deadly—memories to rest and settle happily in the small but booming town. And they’re hoping their older sister, Charlene, can do the same.
Char is back in town seeking comfort as she figures out her next move. A social worker used to difficult situations, she soon runs afoul of some locals who think she’s sticking her nose where it doesn’t belong. She’s certain something sinister is being covered up, and when she witnesses Matt Rowan being run off the road, she knows she’s right.
Working together, Matt and Char figure uncovering the truth will be dangerous, but living in Cold Creek won’t be safe for any of them until its secrets are revealed.
For More Information
- Broken Bonds is available for pre-order at Amazon.
- Pre-order your copy at Barnes & Noble.
- Broken Bonds will be available at Indiebound.
- Add Broken Bonds to your to be read list at Goodreads.
- Discuss this book at PUYB Virtual Book Club at Goodreads.