Karen White: The Best Books Come From the Heart

New York Times bestselling author Karen White discusses the complexities of writing a series and how to handle cliff-hangers.
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Karen White is the New York Times bestselling author of more than twenty novels, including the Tradd Street series, Dreams of Falling, The Night the Lights Went Out, Flight Patterns, The Sound of Glass, A Long Time Gone, and The Time Between. She is the co-author of The Forgotten Room and The Glass Ocean with New York Times bestselling authors Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig. She grew up in London but now lives with her husband and two children near Atlanta, Georgia.

Karen White credit Marchet Butler

In this post, bestselling author Karen White discusses the complexities of writing a series, how to handle cliff-hangers, and much more! 

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You’re not sure how to describe women’s fiction, but when you read it, you know that’s the kind of novel you want to write. By identifying the essential elements that make up women’s fiction, gaining the insight to see inside your main character, and honing the skills needed to bring women’s fiction to life on the page.

You’re not sure how to describe women’s fiction, but when you read it, you know that’s the kind of novel you want to write. By identifying the essential elements that make up women’s fiction, gaining the insight to see inside your main character, and honing the skills needed to bring women’s fiction to life on the page.

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Name: Karen White
Literary agent: Amy Berkower, Writers House, LLC
Book title: The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street
Publisher: Berkley
Expected release date: October 20, 2020
Genre: Women’s fiction/mystery
Previous titles: The Tradd Street series, Dreams of Falling, The Night the Lights Went Out, All the Ways We Said Goodbye (with Beatriz Williams and Lauren Willig), and twenty other novels.
Elevator pitch for the book: In book six of the seven-book Tradd Street series, psychic realtor, Melanie Trenholm, and her true-crime mystery writer husband, Jack Trenholm, battle an old adversary and a vengeful spirit to find a long-lost Revolutionary War treasure rumored to have already caused the death of past treasure seekers. Melanie, struggling with her lifelong trust issues, steps out on her own to solve the mystery, resulting in devastating consequences for everything she holds dear.

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What prompted you to write this book?

My contract was for three final books in the Tradd Street series. The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street is the “bridge” book between The Guests on South Battery and the final book. Being the proverbial bridge, I needed this book to go deeper with some of the newer characters who would play an even bigger role in the final book, as well as deepen the long-running mystery of a young woman’s disappearance introduced in a previous book and resolved in the end of the series. I also needed to leave it on a huge cliff-hanger instead of wrapping up everything neatly with a ribbon at the end so readers would have a reason to read the final book.

How long did it take to go from idea to publication? 

The joy of writing a series is the familiarity with the setting and the characters. It doesn’t make the writing any easier (as if there could be such a thing), but it does facilitate sliding into the book as it’s like reuniting with old friends. The idea for this book certainly started spinning while writing the previous book in the series so I was ready to go when it was time to start. I do write my single titles and collaborations in between (as “palette cleansers”) and because I do have a rather full life outside of my writing, I can only guestimate that the actual writing time was between six and nine months. Knowing where my story and characters had been (from the last book) and where they needed to be (the final book) certainly guided me.

Were there any surprises or learning moments in the publishing process for this title? 

As with every book I’ve published (not just this series), I’m always mystified by the decision process that goes into choosing the month of a particular book’s release and this one was no different. Various books in the series have been published in January, February, and November, so when this book—a book with a decidedly festive cover—was scheduled for October, I was surprised but not disappointed since October is traditionally a “spooky” month. As with many things in the publishing process, there are things I can control (like the writing and the cover art), and there are things I can neither control nor understand. Like publication month. I’ve been told the next book in the series will be published in Fall 2021.

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Were there any surprises in the writing process for this book? 

Writing the penultimate book in a long-running series carries its own challenges—like how to tie up the main mystery introduced in this book while leaving loose ends of another, as well as punctuate unresolved issues on the personal end for the series’ main protagonists, Melanie and Jack. It wasn’t until I was writing the climactic scene at the end of the book that I realized just how unresolved things would be! Rest assured, dear readers—everything will be resolved in the final book in the series, The Attic on Queen Street coming in November 2021.

What do you hope readers will get out of your book?

As with all of the books in this series, my goal is one of entertainment. There is humor, there are ghosts, and there is mystery. But I also like to highlight a diverse family with all of its flaws to show that regardless of mistakes, assumptions, and carelessness, the core of every successful family is forgiveness and the love that binds them together.

If you could share one piece of advice with other authors, what would it be?

Trust your gut. If there’s a story or character gnawing at you to get out, that’s the next book you should write regardless of what’s trending. The best books are always those that come from the heart.

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