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Saturday, December 22, 2012

Nickie's Ten Questions to Karen Kay

Remember my blog about Native American culture, from some days ago? Well, recently I did an interview with Karen Kay, who writes the most lovely romances in which Native Americans play a main role.

Ms. Kay was very responsive and glad to have the opportunity to show her work. Here's the interview:

1) Did you always wanted to be a writer?

No, not always. Although I've loved literature all my life, early this lifetime I was trained in classical music -- playing piano and clarinet. I always thought that I would do something with music, but was disillusioned with the field when, in college, I learned that many of the musicians I was hanging out with were on drugs. This scared me a little and I had second thoughts about going into the music business.

2) Why did you pick romance as your genre, and not anything else?

I loved the old Emily Loring stories when I was in school. Then, when my kids were young, I began to read romance again as a sort of escape. I grew to love the genre and eventually tried my hand at writing one. Let me define romance, however, as the word is being changed into something it never was before. Nowadays the word "romance" is sometimes being used to encompass unusual sexual experiences, ones which might cause the God of the Bible to shudder. But when I started writing the genre, romance was defined as the love between one man and one woman, who have problems with each other, but work through them to a happy-ever-after. The stories are often stories of chivalry and great adventures. Noah Webster defines romance in his 1828 dictionary as follows:

n. romans', ro'mans.

1. A fabulous relation or story of adventures and incidents, designed for the entertainment of readers; a tale of extraordinary adventures, fictitious and often extravagant, usually a tale of love or war, subjects interesting the sensibilities of the heart, or the passions of wonder and curiosity. Romance differs from the novel, as it treats of great actions and extraordinary adventures; that is, according to the Welch signification, it vaults or soars beyond the limits of fact and real life, and often of probability.

The first romances were a monstrous assemblage of histories, in which truth and fiction were blended without probability; a composition of amorous adventures and the extravagant ideas of chivalry.

2. A fiction.

Romance, v.i. romans', ro'mans. To forge and tell fictitious stories; to deal in extravagant stories.
3) You have a greatgrandmother who is Native American. How much of that heritage is in your blood?

I'm not entirely certain. I know that my great-grandmother was Choctaw Indian -- I have some pictures of her on an old computer. How much Choctaw blood she brought to the family we don't know. We only know that she was Choctaw Indian and proud of it, as was my own grandmother.

4) How long did it take to finish your first book, and have it published?

When I first started writing, I was working as a Realtor in Vermont and worked about a 65 hour work week. But I took off every Thursday and wrote to my heart's content -- that was the schedule I kept in writing my first novel -- and it took me about a year to finish the book on that schedule.

5) How do you deal with criticism?

A very, very successful author once told me that she didn't ever read her reviews. When I first started, I read them and then gradually took her advice and stopped reading them entirely...only reading them if sent to me personally or if someone else mentioned them -- then I knew they wouldn't crush me and so I was in more of a mind to read them. I would give this same advice to new authors. Don't read your reviews. It's only opinion and sometimes (not always, thank goodness) reviewers can take out their own frustrations with writing on that project they are reviewing. So ignore them and write and create.

6) In your novels you use Native American language at times. Do you know different languages?

No, not really. I have some great dictionaries and on the book, LONE ARROW'S PRIDE, a Crow friend of mine, Jeff Rides-the-bear, looked over the language that I used -- mostly because to the Crow people, Crow is their first language, and so I was hesitant to write about the Crow because I was afraid I'd make mistakes with the language. So he really helped me with this.

7) Do you visit the settings of your novels personally?

Yes, I do -- even spending my honeymoon on the Blackfeet reservation.

8) How do you organize your research into customs and traditons?

I love this question. Early on I became aware that it was only through the invader's eyes that we saw the character of the Indian -- we don't have the voice of the Indian of the time to defend himself or give us his viewpoint of the invader to his land. When I ran across some "facts" -- or rather lies -- that were hard to believe -- I decided to look into the character and honesty of the person who was writing the book about the Indians (this is for historical research). I discovered something very profound. Most of the men at that time who wrote about the Indians were themselves drunks and scroundrels of the worst sort -- breaking their word and promises without thought or consideration, drunk in all their dealings. When I discovered this, I found out that these "authors" were putting their own blackened heart and evil deeds upon the character of the Indian -- in other words they were telling lies -- fabulous lies -- and of course these are the sources that Hollywood is fond of using to depict the character of the Indian also. It's not that the Indians were all "good" and the whites all "bad." Not at all -- but there was honor and integrity to the Native American, who tried in many ways to pattern their own heart and character after the Creator. So I would say this: Be careful of who you use as research in the historical realm. Research the character and honesty of the man doing the writing -- and base your own judgment on that. Here are sources that I think are good ones: George Catlin, Edwin Thompson Denig, James Willard Schultz -- to name a few.

9) Mind if I ask why you married in a reservation?

We married in LA and Las Vegas actually and spent our honeymoon on the reservation. I was writing about the Blackfeet and yearned to go to the Reservation. My husband is from Montana and he was happy to go there, also. It was a wonderful experience.

10) Can you tell us which are your favorite authors or books?

One of my favorite books and I still often read it because I love the male character in it is BUCKSKIN BRIGADES by L. Ron Hubbard. I also love another of his stories for the same reason, BATTLEFIELD EARTH. There was a story I read when I was very, very young called THE PINK DRESS -- can't even recall the author now -- but it was a romance and I really fell in love with it. But I also love Joanna Redd, Joanna Lindsey, Lois Greiman, Louis L'Amour and so many, many others it's hard to list them. I love the field of Historical Romance and Romance in general and have loved it most of my life -- even as a young girl. The old Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy movies (musicals) still thrill me to this day -- I was very, very young when I saw my first Jeanette McDonald and Nelson Eddy movie on television, but I was very moved by it -- and still am.

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