Karen Harper is the NYTimes and USA TODAY bestselling author of romantic suspense and historical novels. A former high school English teacher and college instructor of composition (Ohio State University,) Harper now writes full time. For years, she and her husband have divided their time between Columbus, Ohio and Naples, Florida. They love to travel to the British Isles. Harper won the Mary Higgins Clark Award in 2006. Visit her at www.KarenHarperAuthor.com or www.facebook.com/KarenHarperAuthor.
–Tell us about your new release, CHASING SHADOWS. I’m excited to say that CHASING SHADOWS is the December launch book for a new romantic suspense series, although I’ve written each book to stand alone in case a reader picks up mid-series. The first three books will come out close together. Book #2, DROWNING TIDES in February, and FALLING DARKNESS in May. Claire Britten is a forensic psychologist who has gone through a divorce and is fighting the tough disease of narcolepsy. Nick Markwood is a criminal lawyer with a dangerous enemy who hires Claire to help him with a case. Though they don’t trust each other at first, threats and attacks soon have them working together as a team, and spark fly from there.
–What led you to write this book? My husband and I were South West Florida snowbirds for 30 years—in Naples, to be exact. I fell in love with the glitz and glamour of the area, but also with the scary elements of the wild Everglades and “old Florida.” Eccentric characters and crimes galore somehow breed in south Florida. Ripped-from-the-headlines cases inspired me to partner Claire and Nick to delve into deaths that might be murder, or suicide—or even an accident.
–How important is setting to your story? Setting is so important that it becomes another key character in my stories. From the deep, dark Everglades, to Civil War Era plantation to the mysterious Ten Thousand Islands, Florida is a real gift for a suspense writer. The first two books also use tropical settings in the Caribbean such as Grand Cayman Island and even Cuba. Island are so unique and romantic.
–Have you ever written a scene that creeped you out? Absolutely! I try to write two or three of those in each book, especially when the hero and heroine are trapped. The fact that Claire must take some strong meds to fight her disease also helps the already scary settings and events. If she takes her meds wrong (or someone tampers with them—hint, hint) she experiences dreadful walking, waking nightmares on top of the fact she and Nick are under attack from their enemies.
–Do you read the same genre you write? Yes, but not when I’m writing it. When I’m not reading my own research, I binge read between books. The exception to that would be if I’m asked to give an endorsement of another author’s novel, and there is a deadline for that. I also write in two genres—romantic suspense for Mira Books and historical novels about real British women for HarperCollins—so I might read historicals while I’m writing a rom/sus. I really need a ‘brain transplant’ when I switch from one genre to the other since the dialogue, characters and cultures are so different.
–Do you people watch for character inspiration? I think all authors do this, although I have never completely copied a character in one of my books (60 and counting!) I do, however, use a particular characters trait I might see or certain way of speaking. But if someone I know thinks they are “in” one of my books, that’s not quite true. However, since I write about real people in my historicals, that is a whole different thing, bringing people I have researched to life from another era.
–What’s next for you? I hope to keep writing both romantic suspense (I’m ready to sign a new 3-book contract for more of THE SOUTH SHORES SERIES.) There are lots of changes in Nick and Claire’s lives, both domestic and professional. I’m having such fun taking them into a deeper relationship with each other—and Claire’s ex is on the horizon as one of Nick’s staff. I’m also writing another Edwardian story. Think Downton Abbey for that elegant era. THE ROYAL NANNY, out last June was the true story of the Cockney woman who reared two kings. Although I was first published in 1982, I never get over the thrill of seeing a cover for my new book, seeing it in the stores or in someone’s hand. I saw a woman reading a Karen Harper book on a Florida beach a few years ago and proudly told her, “That’s my book!” She said, “It is not! I paid for it at Barnes and Noble!” And so it goes. Happy, sunny and scary reading to all of you this winter.