I have the great pleasure today of interviewing Karen Oberlaender, author of the short story collection, IN A SMALL COMPASS, and flash fiction series NEIGHBORS, on Marcia’s Book Talk.
Welcome, Karen, it is lovely to have you here!
Thank you very much, Marcia, it is a pleasure to be here.
Q: For how long have you been writing?
A: I started writing ‘songs’ for myself when I was about elevenish. Throughout school I did not write much as we were forced to write what the ministry of education deemed necessary. At university, things changed; the topics were more interesting, and regained my love for writing. I kept writing non-fiction texts until I started my first blog, “My train of thoughts on…”, in December 2012. It took me until April 2013 to gather the courage to hit the publish button for my first short story, “Nightmare,” on my second blog, “In a Small Compass”. Let us say I have been writing – with interruptions – for a little more than 40 years.
Q: Have any life experiences inspired you to write your books?
A: Life per se is very inspiring, however not always in a pleasant way. Every story comprises bits and pieces of situations I have been in, of characteristics of the people I have met, personal insights, favourite places, and hobbies.
Q: Each writer works in different ways with reference to writing. Do you have a writing program/schedule that works for you?
A: As I have a full-time job, opportunities for writing are rare, yet very precious. Writing is mostly limited to a few hours on Saturdays or Sundays; inspiration during my non-writing life is jotted in my little black book or my smartphone for later use.
Q: Do you have any favorite book genres which you love to read?
A: I love mysteries, urban fantasy, paranormal stories, and many more.
Q: Are there any favorite books and authors who have been influential upon you and your writing?
A: I love the Odd Thomas series by Dean Koontz.. There is another author who has found his voice, writes in different genres, has unusual ideas he puts into unforgettable stories, who has inspired me even more: C. S. Boyack. He created one very special character, Lisa Burton. You can consider me her greatest fan, and – this incredibly kind author allowed me to integrate Lisa in “Neighbors!” He has a tiny guest appearance, and Lisa helps to solve the mysterious case.
Q: IN A SMALL COMPASS was a compelling, thought-provoking collection of short stories dealing with themes such as the paranormal and telepathy in a stimulating, enjoyable manner. What led you to write these stories, and do they reflect an interest in these subjects?
A: I wrote each story for different reasons, sometimes there are dream fragments, sometimes I was inspired while travelling, in museums. These stories have one thing in common: to help those in need. Each day, innumerable things happen, often they cannot really be explained; there can be noises, scents, etc. So, yes – to a certain degree I am actually interested.
Q: Amongst your stories, is there one which is closest to your heart, and why?
A: All these stories are very dear to me. Within this first volume, I have to name two of them. One is “Laura non c’è”: I dreamt of a young Italian woman who took her life in her own hands after an unfortunate relationship. She travels to Munich and meets Laura, a British student. “Laura non c’è” is a song by Nek; the title means “Laura is not here”. This song obviously made a great title for this story.
The second story is “Directions”. I dreamt of the black car and the voice asking for directions in Skerries. As Skerries is like home for us, I opted once again for a paranormal helping hand.
Q: You have just published a flash fiction series entitled NEIGHBORS! featured on your website in book form. Did you intend to compile these segments into a single book, and when did you decide to turn the story into a book?
A: It is due to one of my readers’ comments that Neighbors! was born. In 2014, participated in the Flash Fiction Friday challenge. One Friday, we were challenged to write a story of 150+/- 10 words, a photo of mailboxes, and to include an unpaid bill. I really liked the story I came up with, published it on my blog and – received this feedback: “I liked the message stuck on the cactus. Trouble is, I want to know more.” I felt the same. As I wanted to keep the concept of flash fiction and a certain number of words, I did not plan anything. In episode 61, I realised that this meant the end. My daughter did no longer accept excuses for not publishing my stories, and I started researching ways to publish.
Q: You are currently writing a flash fiction series entitled OH! MY! DOG! on your website. Will you one day be compiling these segments into a single book, or would like to continue this on a serialized basis?
A: This flash fiction series will also become a book one day. This series originated in a dream – I saw a young man reading a newspaper on his tablet, and a black labrador retriever who showed him something by laying his paw on the young man’s knee. I do not know yet, how many episodes will be there, just that every episode will consist of 200+/-10 words.
Q: Are there any genres you would like to write in?
A: I would like to write suspense with a touch of other genres; currently it is rather contemporary with a touch of suspense and other genres.
Q: Do you have any favorite TV shows, either from the past, or currently on the air?
A: There are some I really enjoy: The IT Crowd, The Big Bang Theory, Scott & Bailey, Bob Ross – The Joy of Painting, and a lot more.
Q: Are there any hobbies or pastimes you like to participate in when you have spare time?
A: Reading time – even if scarce – is always planned into my schedule. Then there are topics like linguistics, research, humanity, animal protection. My husband and I love travelling, going to the cinema, watching the local sports teams (except football (=soccer)).
Q: Are you left-handed, or right-handed? Being a left-hander, it is interesting to see how many writers are either one or the other, or ambidextrous.
A: I am right-handed, whereas my daughter is left-handed.
Q: Do you have any other writing projects, or new/upcoming releases, that you would like to mention to readers?
A: I am always collecting bits and pieces of inspiration, so there are more stories on the way. Around November/December, I am going to publish IN A SMALL COMPASS, VOL. 2.
I am certain you will join me in thanking Karen for her time, and that we look forward to reading more of her works in the future. If you wish to contact Karen she is available on:
+In a Small Compass, Vol. 1 can also be accessed on books2read
+Neighbors! can also be accessed on books2read