I’d like to introduce you all to Karen Harrington, author of Janeology, which I reviewed earlier this week. Harrington is a Texas native who has been writing fiction for more than twenty years. Her writing has received honors from the Hemingway Short Story Festival, the Texas Film Institute Screenplay Contest and the Writers’ Digest National Script Contest. A graduate of the University of Texas at Dallas, she has worked as a speechwriter and editor for major corporations and non-profit organizations.

She authored and published There’s a Dog in the Doorway, a children’s book created expressly for the Dr. Laura Schlessinger Foundation’s “My Stuff Bags.” My Stuff bags go to children in need who must leave their home due to abuse, neglect or abandonment.

She lives in Plano, Texas, with her husband and two children.

Harrington has kindly taken the time to answer some questions for this post:

How did you keep track of all of the branches of Jane’s family tree?

I used my genealogy software to create a realistic pedigree chart for Jane’s family. I referred back to it several times to ensure I was keeping my dates and places correct along the way. The chart can be found on my website, too, and my publisher is considering including it in the paperback version.

Why did you decide to tell this story from the husband’s point of view?

I chose Tom’s point of view because he could ask all the questions about his spouse that I would have if I were in his shoes. He was/is the person most interested in finding out the answers to all the “why” questions. So it seemed logical to follow his journey. Plus, I was initially undecided if the spouses of women who kill are responsible in some way for the death of their children. So I wanted to follow that path to its end until I was satisfied I had at least uncovered a few answers. I think I did.

Why add a clairvoyant to the mix?

That’s an interesting question. The short answer is that this character was the vehicle to time-travel into the past. Antiques have long provided intrigue for me. I look at them and think “What if this piece could talk? What if it could tell me what scenes it had witnessed?” So, I developed the idea of a person with retrocognition to give those family heirlooms and photos a voice. I wanted you, the reader, to have the experience of looking at a photo and leaping right into the moment the camera took the picture. Enter, Mariah the clairvoyant.

What inspired you to write this story?

Initially, I wanted to write a story about a woman from the perspective of her genealogy and explore all the dark traits she may or may not have inherited. My father and I share a passion for our own family genealogy. Growing up, I was surrounded by his research and a lot of family photos of relatives I never knew. I developed an early curiosity about who they were and the possibilities of genetic inheritance. Then, there were far too many Texas news headlines about mothers who kill. When I had my first daughter, those stories really kept me up at night. And when a question keeps you up at night, that’s when you know you are going to write about it. So, the two ideas of genealogy and a troubled mother merged. Voila – Janeology!

I really liked the idea that objects are what keep us connected to our past. How did that part of the story evolve?

As I mentioned before, so many family pictures of my grandparents and great-grandparents surrounded me during my childhood. We also had a lot of well-preserved antiques passed down through the generations. So I was always curious about the origins of these heirlooms. For instance, the trunk and the necklace featured in the book (both shown on my website) are both family heirlooms passed down from my great-grandfather to my father and now to me.

What’s been the biggest challenge to you as a writer?

Managing the whole landscape of a story as it expands. It gets a bit unwieldy as it enlarges and you must constantly stay on top of it, making sure your facts are correct and that you are consistent. For me, working on the same piece every single day, even if it’s just to tweak one paragraph, over several months is the only way to stay in the story.

I’m also curious about the publishing house you chose. How did you find Kunati? And what was it like working with an independent publishing house?

I have to smile here when you say “the publishing house you chose.” It’s fortunate to be published at all when you consider the number of writers out there. So if your dog had his own publishing house and offered me a contract, I would have jumped at it. That said, my relationship with Kunati began by way of the typical submission process. I sent out my manuscript to dozens of agents and publishers and was thrilled that Kunati selected me; particularly, after I saw the types of bold stories they embrace. Plus, I think my experience with an independent publisher like Kunati has been great because of the level of communication exchanged from the editors and publishers directly to the authors. I’m not sure if the lines of communication are that open to the authors of larger houses. The best thing about my Kunati experience has been learning from the other talented authors on its roster.

Are there any other Karen Harrington books in the works?

Why, yes! I just got my next manuscript back from my freelance editor and I’m working on revisions now. I’m hopeful it’ll be at my publisher in January. (Unless, of course, your dog would like to have a look.)

Lastly, I’d like to know what you like to read. What are the three books you think everyone needs to read at least once in their life?

I think everyone should take on Homer’s Odyssey at least once. There are so many offshoots of this story in modern literature that reading Homer will make one’s reading experience richer.

The same is true for Shakespeare. If I had to pick a couple, I’d say take on Romeo and Juliet and Hamlet.

And third, I think every writer should get a healthy dose of Hemingway to learn lean prose and Elmore Leonard to learn dialogue. Any books from these authors are terrific.

And what are you currently reading?

Fresh Kills by Bill Loehfelm and The Collected Stories of Eudora Welty.

And now for the giveaway. One lucky reader will receive my copy of Janeology by doing the following:

1. Leave a comment here saying why you’d like to read this book.

2. You can earn a second entry by posting about this giveaway on your blog.

The deadline for entering is October 30th.

For more information about the author or the book, you can visit Karen Harrington’s website, which includes a pedigree chart for the characters in her book. Also, below is back-of-the-book description of Janeology.

Tom Nelson is struggling after the death of his son at the hands of his wife Jane. While Jane sits in a Texas mental hospital for her part in the crime, prosecutors turn their focus to Tom. They believe Tom should have known Jane was on the cusp of a breakdown and protected his children from her illness. As a result, he is charged with “failure to protect.” Enter attorney, Dave Frontella, who employs a radical defense strategy – one that lays the blame at the feet of Jane’s nature and nurture. To gather evidence about Jane’s forbears, Frontella hires a woman with the power of retrocognition – the ability to use a person’s belongings to re-create their past. An unforgettable journey through the troubled minds and souls of Jane’s ancestors, spanning decades and continents, this debut novel deftly illustrates the ways nature and nurture weave the fabric of one woman’s life, and renders a portrait of one man left in its tragic wake.

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