I hope this blog post finds you well and safe. Reading is an important portal into other worlds, where we can all escape for a while.
With the opportunity to read a lot more, I have been looking at my book shelves for inspiration. Re-reading a book after a number of years can surprise and delight us once again. It maybe because we have life experiences to reflect on or the story has new meaning.
As you can see it is an eclectic mix of authors, genres and publishing dates. There are a couple of childhood books that I have kept, such as Hiawatha, The Illustrated Book about Africa and Grey Rabbit and the Wandering Hedgehog as well as a history of Bucklebury.
I also have a lovely collection of fellow authors books, which I have bought, won or been gifted. I love reading emerging author’s work as they have such unique viewpoints and narrative styles.
I am an advocate for always reviewing every book I read, not only does it give other readers an insight into the narrative but also acknowledges the author’s hard work. A review is the life blood of any author – so please write a review, even a single sentence is enough. It can be on any platform: Smashwords, Goodreads or Amazon or copy & paste to put it on all three!
2019 Books: The Clockmaker’s Daughter, Elevation, The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy, The Lucky One, Spook-Science Tackles the Afterlife, The Icarus Girl, Things Withered, Magnetic North, The Asylum for Wayward Victorian Girls, Becoming, Sixpence House, Hollow City, Lomita for Ever, The Little Paris Bookshop, To Air the Laundry, Mrs Everything, Hearts in the Spotlight, Stranger in the Woods, 10 Days in December, Dirt Road, Steampunk FAQ, River of Destiny & Past Presence.
This number equates to about a book and a half a month, which considering I was also writing is not too bad.
As you will see, it is apparent I do not have a particular genre I favour, I much rather chose a book due to the topic or story line than stick to one type of narrative. The Spook book was loaned to me by a friend, who knew of my life long interest in reincarnation and I ordered Stranger in the Woods, as it was one of the news stories I utilized in a work in progress. The others were picked by chance as the blurb caught my eye.
What inspired your latest novel? My father passed away when I was 27 years old, so none of my three children had ever met him. To keep his memory alive, I used to tell my kids true stories about my dad. He was an amazing fun loving, comical, adventurous person but he came from a very dysfunctional, heartbreaking back ground. One day (8 years ago) when I was telling my (then) 11-year-old son about how my father rode the rails when he was 13 years from Saskatchewan to BC, my son said, “Mom, I love your stories so much, you should write a book”. So, I did.
How did you come up with the title? The title of my book Looking for Normal, is a play on words. For a big part of my life I would often say, “I just want a normal family”. Therefore, I was always looking for normal. When, in the real world, there is no such thing as normal. I use a quote from Erma Bombeck, “normal is just a setting on your dryer” on the first page, chapter one.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp? YES! I would very much like my readers to 1) feel inspired by my story 2) come to understand that mental illness and addiction can cause people to behave a certain way, but there is always hope and humour if you can get past the pain. Mental health issues are not uncommon.
How much of the book is realistic? My book is a true story about family, heartache, heartbreak, hope, and humor, it is all true and about my life. Some people have described my memoir to be unique and eclectic and I say, “aren’t we all?”
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? Yes, the main characters in my book are my mother, father and myself. It weaves in and out with flash backs and stories throughout. I have been told that my book is very relatable, it could be many peoples story. It takes place between 1930 and 1978 and has historical facts, photos and events along the way.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog? I currently have (as of April 2019) 25 reviews on Good Reads. My book is available on amazon.ca amazon.com Indigo.ca chapters.ca barnesandnoble.ca I also love chatting with my followers on Instagram, I have approximately 8,000 @karenharmonn I post about writing, health, fitness and family. Twitter @karenharmonn
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Yes! I am currently (as of April 2019) 50,000 words into my 2nd book which is a sequel. I should be finished by the time this blog comes out. I am very excited as this book takes place in the 80’s and 90’s. Parts of it have been fun to write because I was a disco queen during Vancouver’s disco era. And I started teaching fitness at the same time as Jane Fonda. HaHa! Other portions have been more difficult to write but very therapeutic to write because it deals with AA, and Alanon.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Of my three main characters they are ALL my favourites and this is why…….. 1) my dad adored me, and I idolized him. He was funny and kind. He never repeated the cycle of abuse that he was raised under. 2) my mother wanted to be a private detective in the 1930’ & 1940’s which was completely unheard of for a woman, so she settled and became a mom & house wife. Plus, she had mental health issues and in those days that too was unheard of. 3) Me, my heart breaks for the little girl I once was. I really got to know little girl Karen during my telling of her childhood. I gained confidence from writing about who I once was and my beginnings. Therefore, all three of my characters are my favourite.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I favor non-fiction because writing about something I know to be real and true is easier. I gained my story telling ability from my father, he was animated and funny. I like to look at life that way, we are all characters on the stage of life.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? My first book was by the seat of my pants, sometimes it felt like verbal diarrhea. My second book has been more planned out and I feel way more organized.
What is your best marketing tip? Networking and asking questions. Find a facebook page with like minded individuals. That’s where I found you, and look, I get to be in your blog! Instagram and Twitter are important too.
Be professional, if you are having a book launch, a book read, or any kind of event make professional invitations and hand them out. At my book launch my friend made appetizers that were conventional in the 1960’s. I had old fashioned coke in glass bottles, and everyone was offered coffee or tea. My friend owns a coffee shop, so she gave me a great deal. It was super fun and prior to the launch the newspaper did a story on me.
Contact your local newspaper as they love personal interest stories about people in the community, you are helping them if they do a story on you. So, it is a win-win as it gives you exposure as well.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? I want to say a little bit of both. Through Instagram I have connected with some amazing, writers, bloggers and readers. Sending personal messages DM’s (direct messages) I have messaged at least 50 people I have admired. At least ten of those people have responded and we have had some amazing conversations. I have been given incredible advice from other authors. I have sent my book to instagrammers who read as a hobby and I they have given my book great reviews. Plus, its fun to post photos, make videos, network, and make connections. I find Twitter a bit more challenging as it is important to post something everyday, if not more. I enjoy following people who have odd perspectives on life. My challenge is coming up with something unique and fresh daily.
What do you enjoy most about writing? I enjoy thinking of someone reading my material and laughing or crying or becoming inspired. I visualize certain friends reading what I have written, and I can see them smile in my head.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? I have always liked to write stories, but my lack of self confidence and self esteem got in the way. I am way more confident now, so I have way less inhibitions.
Has your genre changed or stayed the same? So far it has stayed the same, but I do have a few ideas for a fiction book, based on real people.
What genre are you currently reading? I love true stories and memoirs, I just accidentally read, Too Close to the Falls by Catherine Gildiner. I say accidentally because I read it before, years ago but I forgot and read it again lol. My favourite book was The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both.
Who is your best supporter/mentor/encourager? Wow! I have a few. I have three author friends who have helped me and inspired me in different ways. Nadine Sands she wrote Hold On, Let Go, she told me these simple words, “not everyone likes memoirs, which does not mean that yours is not good”. As silly as that sounds, it was like an epiphany for me. Mary Edigar, she wrote Mennonite Girl, she said “just keep writing, do not worry about mistakes or punctuation that can be fixed later”. Colleen Friesen she is a Travel Writer and a Blogger, her inspiration is more about who she is and how she lives her life. Plus, she can be very frank in her writing but still manages to bring hope to the reader. She writes about travel, but she also writes about family, death and spirituality.
Where is your favorite writing space? Good question! I love, love, love, writing in my bed with my little dog Steven curled up next to me. I am either drinking a coffee (with extra cream) or a giant water. I live in a small home, but my bedroom is my sanctuary. My husband can have the TV and the living room lol.
Do you belong to a writing group? If so which one? I have attended the North Shore Writers Association and I really like it. They bring in guest Authors and it feels great to be with like minded people.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be? Jeanette Walls and Whalley Lamb.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? I would live here in North Vancouver, but I would like someone to give me house too. OR if my three children and husband could come with me, I think Hawaii would be a great place to live.
Do you see writing as a career? I would love that, if I could make a living from it.
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food? I could never nibble while I write, but I do love coffee or tea while I am writing. AND Ice cream after a day of writing with my favourite Netflix show.
What reward do you give yourself for making a deadline? Rewards vary. A massage, a pedicure, ice cream and for example today when I finish answering all these questions, I will have a cold Corona with lime. But just one.
Local Vancouver writer Karen Harmon, writes passionately in her recent memoir Looking for Normal – which won the Rubery Book Excellence Award in the category of Women’s Health.
The book contains Karen’s recollections based on her parents meeting in 1945 at the Cave Super Club in Vancouver B.C. and her own personal experiences of growing up in the 1960’s. Taking the reader on a memorable journey throughout 1930 to 1978.
“With poverty, addiction, mental illness and family relationships being current topics of discussion, Karen Harmon has tapped into a story that everyone can relate to. I am looking forward to sharing her upbringing with my students”. Cathy Sieben, Secondary Teacher Gibson’s B.C.
Looking for Normal is a bitter-sweet memoir that covers historical events dating back to the depression era, the outcome of prohibition, the obsolete recognition of mental health issues and a family trying to succeed in amongst the trappings of society and current events in Western British Columbia, Canada.
What inspired your latest novel? It is actually a comic book called Snarc. The character came to me in a dream in 1982. I believe it was initially inspired by an alien abduction experience from my childhood.
How did you come up with the title? The title and the name of the character is from the dream
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, we have to work together to solve our problems because time is running out.
How much of the book is realistic? Snarc visits various locations in the USA where real life problems are happening (i.e., the border with Mexico).
Are your characters based on someone you know, or events in your own life? My wife Ginger says that I am Snarc. I pay close attention to what is going on around the country. So, yes.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book? Is it a sequel or a stand alone? Snarc is a comic book series. I have already written enough stories for three more issues.
Of the characters you have created or envisioned, which is your favorite & why? Snarc is my favorite. He is part human, part alien, all heart. He is learning about the troubles we face as humans from a totally objective viewpoint and with an eye toward helping all of us survive the upcoming calamities.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one? I write non-fiction, I write theatre plays, I love writing.
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer? Totally right brain seat of the pants and awaaaaay we go!
What is your best marketing tip? I use FaceBook and direct mailers. Old and new.
Do you find social media a great tool or a hindrance? Definitely a great tool, but don’t forget about the old ways and use those too!
OPTIONAL QUESTIONS What do you enjoy most about writing? Writing is life, and I enjoy life.
What age did you start writing stories/poems? Age 7.
Do you read for pleasure or research or both? Both, but mostly research.
Where is your favorite writing space? My home library, my sanctuary.
If you could meet one favorite author, who would it be? Mark Twain.
If you could live anywhere in the world – where would it be? Northern Norway.
Do you see writing as a career? Yes, a second career.
Bruce Olav Solheim was born in Seattle, Washington, to Norwegian immigrant parents. Bruce was the first person in his family to go to college. He served for six years in the US Army as a jail guard and later as a warrant officer helicopter pilot, and is a disabled veteran. Bruce earned his Ph.D. in history from Bowling Green State University in 1993. Bruce is a distinguished professor of history at Citrus College in Glendora, California. He was a Fulbright Professor in 2003 at the University of Tromsø in northern Norway. Bruce has published eight books and has written ten plays, two of which have been produced. He is married to Ginger and has four children and a grandson. Bruce has just published his second paranormal book, Timeless Deja Vu: A Paranormal Personal History. Bruce’s mother was psychic and introduced him to the magical realm. His first paranormal experience took place in northern Norway in 1962 when he was four years old. Bruce took a parapsychology class while he was stationed in West Germany in 1979 and has wanted to write about his experiences ever since. He has continued to have paranormal experiences throughout his life and has developed advanced mediumship capabilities. It was only three years ago that Bruce had a spiritual awakening after a vision and communication with his departed close friend Gene that Bruce decided to publish his paranormal stories and overcome his fear of being rejected and ridiculed by his peers and the college administration. Bruce studies quantum theory and has developed a model that may help explain our quantum reality, ghosts, reincarnation, alien contact, and more. He is interested in all esoterica and oddities. Bruce teaches a Paranormal Personal History course at Citrus College and has his own radio program. He is also an associate member of the Parapsychological Association.
Do you favor one type of genre or do you dabble in more than one?
I find it very satisfying to challenge myself to write in different genres and especially enjoy incorporating storytelling into nonfiction. I’m published in nonfiction, literary nonfiction, fiction, self-help (Give Yourself a Pep Talk, Pelican Publishing), and travel (Day Trips From Edmonton, Whitecap Books). Two of my Scholastic titles are “info-fiction fantasy,” a classification I always found amusing!
Do you plan your stories, or are you a seat of the pants style writer?
With nonfiction, I start with an outline that sometimes resembles a very detailed table of contents. As I research and discover new irresistible facts, I find ways to work them in. Hooray for sidebars! They allow me to expand on main text or add unexpected tidbits. With fiction, I start with a rough outline of events and see where they take me. This approach can be exhilarating or frightening, depending on how long it takes to find a way to get my characters out of the trouble I’ve conjured.
The stories in Dark Matters, Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press) began with a list. I compiled an inventory of events in my life relating to astronomy, wildlife, and the environment, then matched them to the points I wanted to make about how light at night impacts different species. Enormous fun, this approach triggered me to remember stories from my childhood, teen, and early adult years that I hadn’t thought about for a long time. I feel any writer can benefit from the activity of matching personal stories to a theme, and this is an exercise I incorporate into creative writing workshops. (As a follow-up to the question above, it’s interesting to note that Dark Matters, being part memoir and part science, doesn’t fit into a traditional genre. Even more fun!)
What is your best marketing tip?
When approaching traditional media sources, make your potential interviewer’s job easy. Find a way to tie your content to current events or trending topics. For example, if proposing an interview about Dot to Dot in the Sky, Stories in the Clouds—Weather Science and Mythology from Around the World, I could point out connections to thunderstorms, frost warnings, or climate change.
Do you see writing as a career?
Absolutely. When not working on my own books, I offer freelance writing and editing services though my business MoonDot Media [moondotmedia.com]. I edited a magazine for several years and take on freelance projects that have included speechwriting, writing/editing website content, museum panel text, grant applications, magazine articles, advertising, annual reports, educational materials, and a myriad of other projects, as well as manuscript and publishing consultations. I have produced radio programming and other projects for broadcast, and offer writing and creativity workshops. Writing as a career can take many forms and every type of writing helps you to build your skills by teaching you to write for different audiences.
Do you have plans or ideas for your next book?
While an abundance of ideas are tempting me, I expect to especially continue exploring themes relating to space, astronomy, and ecology. An upcoming title is Absolute Expert: Space (National Geographic Kids).
Do you nibble as you write? If so what’s your favorite snack food?
Chocolate is essential to good writing, especially chili pepper dark chocolate.
Where can readers find you on social media and do you have a blog?
I’m an occasional contributor on the the Sci/Why blog, where Canadian children’s writers discuss science, words, and the eternal question – why? http://sci-why.blogspot.com/
Joan Marie Galat is an international award-winning author whose career began at the age of 12 when she was hired as a newspaper columnist. Now she is the author of more than 20 books, including a Canadian best seller. Joan shares her love of the night sky in her Dot to Dot in the Sky series (Whitecap Books), which partners sky science with the stories early cultures first told to explain their observations. Dark Matters—Nature’s Reaction to Light Pollution (Red Deer Press) offers personal stories, revealing how light at night impacts wildlife, while Solve This! Wild and Wacky Challenges for the Genius Engineer in You (National Geographic Kids) encourages young readers to explore hands-on problem solving.
A professional speechwriter, former radio show host, and frequent presenter, Joan has traveled across Canada and around the globe to deliver presentations promoting science and literacy. She has been featured at a United Nations event in Seoul, Australian observatories, the International Dark-Sky Association conference, and numerous other events. When not writing or talking about writing, Joan can be found enjoying the outdoors.