Author Karen Wyle is here to talk about her book, Wander Home, a family drama with mystery elements set in an afterlife. Before we begin, take a look at a little more about Karen's book.
Death is what you make it. . . . Eleanor never wanted to leave the daughter she loved so much. The overpowering urge to wander -- to search, without knowing what she sought -- drove her away. She left little Cassidy in her family's loving care. But Cassidy and the others died in an accident before Eleanor could find her way home. Cassidy has her grandparents, and her Great-Grandma. And all of them have what may be eternity. Memories can be relived, or shared. The wonders of the world they left behind are only a thought away. The one-way tyranny of aging is no more -- a white-haired and stooped great-grandmother one moment can be a laughing young playmate the next. But nothing can ease Cassidy's longing for her mother; and Eleanor's parents know better than to hope that Eleanor's life has been a happy one. Now, they are all reunited, with the chance to understand and heal. But the restlessness that shaped Eleanor's life still haunts her in death. Somehow, she must solve the mystery of her life -- or none of them will be at peace.
Hi, Karen, and welcome to A Blue Million Books. Let's begin with your thoughts on writing. What do you like best about it?
I love having a story or its characters surprise me--for example, when an element I added casually or for one purpose turns out to be important for some quite different reason.
I know exactly what you mean! What’s your least favorite thing about writing?
The hardest part of writing, for me, is fighting the invisibility of self-published work by new authors. But my least favorite aspect might be the constant threat of carpal tunnel syndrome.
I’ve never had trouble with carpal tunnel, but I’m with you on the invisibility thing. How did you come up with the title of your book?
I'm basically bad at naming things, tending toward the dull and literal. My daughters' special sleep-toys were named Special Bear and Puppy. I once had a coffee plant named Coffee. My first novel, Twin-Bred, was named for the human-alien fraternal twins who bore that label in the book. So I had quite a time finding a title for my second novel.
I started with the working title "Reflections," which had some subtle connection to aspects of the book. Various people following my progress, and then some beta readers, found that title boring and thought it didn't (so to speak) reflect the book well enough. I also realized that it had been used quite often, and that one recent book with the almost-identical title Reflection had some thematic overlap with my novel. I came up with a few alternatives that sounded like romance or YA, when my novel was neither. After that, I started reading poetry, hoping that a line would jump out and declare itself a good fit for my book. For a while, I was ready to go with "The Story of Our Days," from a somewhat-appropriate poem by Sir Walter Raleigh – but it reminded me and too many others of the soap opera Days of Our Lives . . . . My next candidate, "Nor Whence Nor Whither," was adapted from a stanza in The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – but not even the people who liked it could remember it.
Finally, I spent some time thinking about my book and free-associating words and phrases, writing them all down and reading them over and over. My final two possibilities were "The Road Behind" and the title I finally chose, Wander Home. I liked the feel of the latter, and its slightly paradoxical and somewhat optimistic connotations suited me.
I like it too. Good choice! Did you have any say in your cover art?
As a self-published author, I had total control of my cover art, within my technical limitations – which are substantial. I needed to collaborate with designers to realize my ideas.
I wanted faces on this cover, although I know the arguments against using faces. After a couple of attempts to find an artist to draw my characters, I decided to use stock photos that came close to how I imagined them. I encountered some frustrations in this process: in one case, the version of a photo that I saw online and fell in love with was subtly but crucially different when I bought and downloaded the full-size file. The photos I ended up using don't completely match my character descriptions, but they're close enough to content me, and they're wonderfully striking photographs. (The photographer credits are in the front matter of the book.)
Tell us about the artist.
Two designers in a row had the unenviable task of coping with my many requests for tweaks. (The first one eventually dropped out of the process; the second, Michelle Hartz, who is also an author and our local NaNoWriMo municipal liaison, picked up where the first left off and actually still talks to me.)
What do you think of it?
I'm very pleased with the final result!
Sophie’s choice: Do you have a favorite of your characters?
It'd be a close competition between Eleanor's father Jack and Jack's mother Amanda. Jack is a big strong hunk who's not afraid of strong and somewhat dominating women (including his wife Sarah). He's a thoroughly nice and affectionate fellow, and he's good with his hands. What's not to like? Amanda is (at certain points) a very talented ballet dancer, hailing from a different background than many of the inhabitants of that world. She's both shrewd and wise, with a talent for accepting people as they are. In her latter years, she looks like my maternal grandmother, of whom I have warm memories.
When you start a new book, do you know what the entire cast will be?
Some day I may work out my whole plot and all my characters ahead of time, but so far, I start with a situation, some scenes, and a few key characters, and then let the story lead me.
Are any of your characters inspired by real people?
Eleanor, the central character in Wander Home, has some resemblance to my late brother. He was a troubled soul who caused a fair amount of heartache to those close to him but was fundamentally a good and decent person and deeply creative. One could say the same of Eleanor – although the reasons for her problems and life choices are unrelated to my brother's lifelong mental health issues.
Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.
I'm not good at choosing a favorite anything -- but I'm quite fond of the very first scene, and of the very last scene. Other contenders include Eleanor's introduction to the surprising features of the afterlife, and her reunion with Cassidy (the portion that takes place in Grandma/Amanda's kitchen.)
How do you handle criticism of your work?
I remind myself that there are other readers who love my work, sometimes more than it deserves. I acknowledge any areas where I agree, at least in part, with the criticism. If the reader doing the criticizing appears to have misunderstood some aspect of the book, i.e. on what planet it takes place, (this actually happened with Twin-Bred) I examine whether there is some deficiency in the book that made that misunderstanding more likely. Finally, I look for any grammatical or logical flaws in the criticism that allow me to feel superior to the critic. (I'm only human!)
I love that! Tell us one weird thing, one nice thing, and one fact about where you live.
Weird: it isn't anywhere. That is, we're not in any municipality -- only in a county.
Nice: we're in the woods, and it's beautiful much of the year.
One fact: Indiana University basketball is coming BACK! (Yes, it's a fact! . . .)
It certainly is. They’re currently number one. And I’d like to point out that the University of Louisville and the University of Kentucky are numbers two and three! Go CATS! Okay…if you could take a trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? (Don’t worry about the money. Your publisher is paying. )
I would go to Venice during Carnavale. I visited Venice once for two days, many years ago, and felt as if I'd been there much longer. I found it not only beautiful, but soothing, at a time when I needed some emotional healing.
What are you working on now?
I'm in the middle of editing the sequel to Twin-Bred, tentatively titled Reach (or, more completely, Reach: A Twin-Bred Novel). I also plan to format Wander Home for paperback publication via CreateSpace.
And then there's NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month)! I’m hoping to finish the VERY rough draft of my latest novel.
I hope you’ll come back and talk about it here when you publish it. Thanks for being here today.
About the author:
Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years
throughout her childhood and adolescence. After college in California, law
school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San
Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles, where she met her now-husband,
who hates L.A. They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of
Wyle's childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist.
While writing her first novel at age ten, she was mortified to learn that
some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age nine.
Wyle has been a voracious and compulsive reader as long as she can remember.
Do not strand this woman on a plane without reading matter! Wyle was an
English and American Literature major at Stanford University, which suited
her, although she has in recent years developed some doubts about whether
studying literature is, for most people, a good preparation for enjoying it.
Her most useful preparation for writing novels, besides reading them, has
been the practice of appellate law -- in other words, writing large
quantities of persuasive prose, on deadline, year after year.