KRIS: Thanks for being on the blog today, Karen! I’m so excited to have a chance to showcase you and SHREDDED to our readers.
Shredded is an interesting behind the scenes story about BMX riding, a sport mostly populated by boys. Your MC is one of the few girls riding and struggles to make a place for herself. What got you interested in BMX riding? Are you a rider yourself?
KAREN: Hi Kris, thank you for having me here! When I started SHREDDED I had a sporty female character in mind, and I needed an individual fringe sport to fit her personality. I researched different sports, and when I found girls BMX I kept clicking and clicking, thinking WOW - girls do this? I knew I’d found the perfect sport for Josie. For the sake of authenticity, I tried a bike ramp once, which is how I know what it feels like to have your bike land on you in front of a bunch of people.
KRIS: Shredded is one of the best self-published books I’ve read in this genre. Can you tell us about your decision to self-publish?
KAREN: Thank you! I did a lot of research, had a tough critique group, excellent beta readers, and a fantastic editor. I tried the regular submission route to agents and publishers, and I received requests for fulls, interest from a producer, and a lot of personalized feedback: love the character, love your voice, it’s just too niche for us right now. The message I took from that was the story was solid, but not right for traditional publishing. Niche books are tough for traditional publishers but perfect for self-publishing. Plus, a big part of the story was about Josie not letting someone else tell her she can’t participate. It became a case of life imitating art.
KRIS: How long have you been writing?
KAREN: I’ve been a marketing and/or technical writer for over twenty years, and I started attempting to write novels about seven years ago.
KRIS: What made you start to write seriously?
KAREN: When rumors of layoffs started circulating at my full-time public relations writing job, I asked myself if I could choose to do anything, what would it be? The answer was write novels.
KRIS: What genres do you write? Do all your books feature Sporty Girls?
KAREN: I write contemporary young adult, and I’ve got my eye on new adult because my protagonists tend to be on the upper edge of teen. So far all of my books feature sporty girls, but I do have ideas for not-so-sporty girls as well.
KRIS: Can you tell us anything about your current work-in-progress?
KAREN: Sure. The working title is CUT OFF. It’s Lauryn’s story - she’s one of Josie’s friends in Shredded. Lauryn lies to her parents about going to college while she chases opportunities in the world of high-risk adventure sports.
KRIS: Where do you find your inspiration?
KAREN: I enjoy being active and spending time outdoors, and through my network of active friends, I’m exposed to a lot of interesting, non-mainstream adventures and characters. CUT OFF was inspired by my experience as a reporter on the web team covering an adventure race one weekend in ’99. The competition was fun to follow, but the behind-the-scenes stories fascinated me. Ideas and what-if’s from that experience have been running through my head ever since and they fit well into my girl in a fringe sport niche.
KRIS: Are you a full-time writer? What is your non-writing life like?
KAREN: I’m currently freelancing full time as a marketing writer, and when I’m not writing newsletters, press releases, or working on my novel, I’m usually outside. In the summer I’m cycling, kayaking, or swimming. In the winter I’m snowshoeing, winter camping (no bugs!), cross-country skiing, or on vacation scuba diving somewhere warm.
KRIS: What is the biggest challenge you find with your writing?
KAREN: Relaxing. My best ideas and fastest writing happen when I’m in a “flow” state. If I start to stress too much over word counts, schedules, or second-guessing myself, I get completely jammed up. I have to stop, breathe, focus, and let go. It’s actually pretty similar to sports. If you’re tense you’re more likely to fall. When you stop over-thinking it, you do much better.
KRIS: What are your favorite books or movies?
KAREN: Chris Crutcher’s books are fantastic - Whale Talk is the one I usually recommend first. I also like to read John Green, Laurie Halse Anderson, and Cath Crowley. I’ve re-read Nevil Shute’s A Town Like Alice several times, and it keeps getting better. For movies, Blue Crush is on my keeper shelf, and I just saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower and really enjoyed it.
I watched a lot of BMX videos and movies when researching SHREDDED. Remember the opening of Stick It when Haley smashed a window riding BMX? Nicole Kidman even starred in a BMX movie from 1983: BMX Bandits!
As for non-YA, I’m completely addicted to Game of Thrones. I haven’t read the books, and I’m terrified that something horrible will happen to Arya Stark, even though I know better than to get attached to any of the characters.
KRIS: Do you have a favorite “guilty pleasure” you can share?
KAREN: I’m a chocoholic, and I frequently indulge (another reason why I need to keep active). Dark chocolate-covered almonds are my favorite, but any dark chocolate isn’t safe within reaching distance.
KRIS: If people would like to get to know you better, do you tweet? Blog?
KAREN: If you visit my blog at www.karenavivi.com, you’ll find my Contemporary YA Suggested Summer Reading List, and a post with more information about my work in progress CUT OFF. I also post regularly on my Facebook page, and I like adding friends on Goodreads who read contemporary YA. If anyone knows of a fun fringe sport I should write about or try (!), send an email to karen AT karenavivi DOT com.