Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wednesday Writers: Karen Wyle

As an aspiring author, it’s always good to hear stories of other people’s success. They inspire us to not procrastinate, and reassure us that there is a light at the end of that proverbial tunnel.

This week we hear from Karen Wyle, attorney by day, writer by night and author of an intriguing science fiction story about twins, called Twin-Bred.

Name: Karen Wyle
Location and one thing you love about living there: Just east of Bloomington, IN. I love the autumn foliage. (I love some other things about it as well, but you said one thing….)
Author of: Twin-Bred
Book available: It's available in paperback and ebook formats, at the following online locations:
Amazon (Kindle):
Amazon (paperback):
Nook Store:
B&N online (paperback):
Smashwords (various ebook formats):
Website: and and
Tell us a bit about yourself: I'm an appellate attorney, mother of two remarkable daughters, on-and-off photographer, compulsive reader, and (in recent years) a novelist. I grew up on both coasts, but settled in Indiana in 1989 and now consider myself a Hoosier.

Tell us about your book, Twin-Bred: Twin-Bred asks: can interspecies diplomacy begin in the womb?
After seventy years on Tofarn, the human colonists and the native Tofa still know very little about each other. Misunderstanding breed conflict, and the conflicts are escalating. Scientist Mara Cadell’s radical proposal: that host mothers of either species carry fraternal twins, human and Tofa, in the hope that the bond between twins can bridge the gap between species. Mara lost her own twin, Levi, in utero, but she has secretly kept him alive in her mind as companion and collaborator.
Mara succeeds in obtaining governmental backing for her project – but both the human and Tofa establishments have their own agendas. Mara must shepherd the Twin-Bred through dangers she anticipated and others that even the canny Levi could not foresee. Will the Twin-Bred bring peace, war, or something else entirely? . . .

What sparked your passion for books and the art of a good story? I wish I could remember that far back! I know I had plenty of books before I could even read. I used to sit on my bed and flip through one book after another. Once I could read, it became my favorite pastime - and still is.

Is there a particular book that changed or affected your life in a big way? It's hard to pinpoint a single book - but George Eliot's Middlemarch illustrated quite forcefully how one's actions and decisions can have unalterable consequences.

What was the seed of inspiration for Twin-Bred? Here's where Twin-Bred came from: I read an article about amazing interactions between twins in utero, captured on video. The researchers had found synchronized movement, touching, even kissing. Either the article or a comment on the article mentioned the traumatic, often devastating, impact on those whose twin - identical or fraternal -- had died in utero or shortly after birth.
Straining this information through the science fiction filter in my mind, I imagined a scientist seeking to overcome the comprehension gap between two intelligent species by way of the bond between twins. It would be natural for the scientist who conceived this idea to be a twin. It would add emotional depth to the story if she were a twin survivor. And for added strangeness and interest, what if she had somehow kept her lost twin alive as a companion, who could be a character in the story? . . .

Is there a message in your book that you want readers to grasp? I suppose there is the mixed message that our endeavours may be based on inadequate information and may have unintended consequences - but that it's still worth trying to make a difference.

What challenges have you faced in your writing career? My most formidable challenge was the threshold matter of what, if any, stories I had to tell. I also needed to overcome a chronic and paralyzing case of writer's block. It took many years of living to show me what themes mattered to me and what stories those themes suggested. Practicing appellate law, which requires me to turn out persuasive prose in quantity, seems to have dissolved the writer's block. (Doing most of my writing during NaNoWriMo and related one-month sprints also helps.)

What has been your best moment as a writer? My memory isn't good enough for me to pick a single "best moment" -- but some contenders would be seeing my first novel (Twin-Bred) appear on Amazon, and reading the first favourable reviews.

Who is your author idol? I don't do idolatry, generally, but there are many authors I admire. The one who comes most readily to mind is Mary Doria Russell, who combines brilliant dialogue with deeply moving characterization and themes that speak to me, while writing in several different genres.

Do you see yourself in any of your characters? I have a certain amount in common with Mara Cadell. Like Mara, I'm impatient, though less likely to explode as a result. I am no scientist, but I have an inquiring mind. I'm persistent and stubborn, as Mara is. Finally, neither Mara nor I have a great track record at forming and maintaining social connections, although both of us are getting better at it.

Do you feel like your dream has come true or is there much more to do? Both!
I have, in ways I could not have foreseen, achieved my childhood dream of becoming a novelist. (Self-publishing was possible back then, but in a very different and limited way.) However, I would like to reach a substantially larger audience, with quite a few more books. (Two more are in the pipeline, and others in the vague planning stage.)

What is your personal cure for procrastination? For me, the most effective cure (or preventive) for procrastination is to take part in National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo), or its summertime equivalent, Camp Nano. Publicly undertaking to write the rough (and I mean rough) draft of a novel entirely within one month has a way of keeping me on track.

What does your workspace look like? Ridiculously cluttered and visually unappealing. The prettiest bit is the closed wooden window shade that I know to conceal a fairly nice landscape.

Are there any occupational hazards to being a writer? Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Have you ever had a day when you just wanted to quit? Not since I un-quit, after decades of ignoring my desire to write.

What do you do when you’re not writing? I read. I practice appellate law. I take photographs. I hang out with my husband and/or daughters. I administer our household. I walk the dog. I spend too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and various blogs.

What are the most important attributes to remaining sane as a writer? Keep your inner editor locked out of sight when you're writing a first draft (or when adding a substantial chunk during the editing process). Take the long view: success takes time, and, for most of us, the release of multiple books. Enjoy the good parts -- a message from an admiring reader, a good review, holding your book in your hands -- without diminishing them with comparisons to the successes of other authors.

What was the greatest thing you learned at school? That I could enjoy using my brain. (I rediscovered this truth during my freshman year in college, after months of brooding after a romantic disappointment. I went for a study session with a professor's assistant and found myself, instead, in a tete-a-tete with the professor himself, the marvellous Ronald Rebholz, then teaching literature at Stanford University. We spent perhaps an hour delving into W. B. Yeats' "Among Schoolchildren." Thank you, Professor!)

Did you have a moment when you realised you were meant to be a writer? If so, it happened before I turned ten. By that age, I intended to be the youngest published novelist ever. (Later that year, I had to revise my ambitions -- a nine-year-old British girl beat me to it.)

What advice would you give to aspiring authors? Warning: long answer ahead. . . . The following are mostly suggestions that I have found in various books/essays/blog posts about the process of writing fiction, and then verified by experience.
  • Read, read, read. Read fiction, biography, history - whatever interests you. Read authors whose voice appeals to you.
  • Don't let anyone tell you whether you're meant to be, or whether you are, a writer. Even well-meaning folks may be poor critics, and not everyone who makes pronouncements on your potential will be well-meaning.
  • Keep pen and paper, or some other means of taking notes, with you at all times. Don't assume you'll remember your great idea five minutes from now - write it down immediately! Get or jury-rig a lighted note pad for your bedside table. (A clip-on book light attached to a cheap note pad will work.) If you get ideas in the shower, mutter them over and over to yourself until you reach dry land.
  • Become compulsive about multiple backups of your idea notes, works in progress, rough drafts, subsequent drafts, etc. Use "the cloud" (Web-based storage), e.g., Dropbox or Evernote. (I use Dropbox. Once it's running on your computer, it will back up a document stored in your Dropbox folder every time you save. But check periodically to make sure it's still running!) Email attachments to yourself (and then check whether your email host is periodically deleting them). Put files on a separate hard drive and on flash drives.
  • This one is YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary). That said, as I mentioned above, I and many other authors find it essential to keep the inner editor gagged and stuffed in a closet when we're working on a rough draft. Don't be afraid to leave blanks or bracketed notes as you go. (My second-to-latest rough draft had one that read "[insert appropriate South American country here].")
  • A related point: find the process that works for you. Some authors outline in detail. Others find too specific an outline stifling, and work from less organized notes of possible scenes, or with no notes at all. Some have a fixed time of day for writing, and allow nothing to disrupt it; others flit back and forth all day between writing and other tasks. Some use computers; some still write longhand, and a few swear by typewriters.
  • Think seriously about self-publishing. There's a wealth of info and support out there for indie authors. Conversely, this is a risky time to sign a contract with an agent or publisher. Because of the uncertain and fast-changing conditions in the publishing industry, many agents and publishers are inserting "rights grabs" and other clauses in their contracts that could cripple an author's career. Some of the worst language may be hidden in unexpected places like "warranty" clauses. If you do sign with an agent or publisher, try to find a way to pay a good literary attorney to go through the contract with a microscope. Don't let the allure of "having an agent" or "being published" lead you to grab at an offer of representation or publication without vetting it thoroughly.

1 comment:

  1. Wonderful review, Karen. Thanks for opening up to us and for your practical advice for writers. As a sci-fi fan I look forward to reading your novel. I wish you the best of success in the future.
    Best regards,
    Paul M. Schofield