As a writer, Karen Diem is a traditionalist. Her plans for adulthood centred on writing books from a cabin in the woods, with multiple cats as company and as endless sources of amusing anecdotes. She began by telling stories and handwriting scenes as a child. While she later graduated to an old manual (no, seriously!) typewriter, she had to return to her roots when the typewriter revolted after a particularly awful batch of fan fiction. She still considers the computer keyboard to be one of technology’s greatest gifts.
As she grew older, she took the writer-required variety of odd jobs before finally settling in as a technical writer. In that profession, Karen wrote a number of books and online Help systems for her employers, as well as an assortment of other documents. Somewhere along the line, the Society for Technical Communication threw a couple awards at her. After too many years, Karen disappeared from her technical writing job with a dramatic flourish of glitter and falling chocolates… or a polite resignation letter to the good people who paid her.
Without an outlet for her hyperactive imagination, she started writing anything on everything. Everything. Somewhere, there’s a receipt with a haiku about dog cookies on it. Gathering what little remained of her wits, she turned to fiction. During the last few years of her technical writing career, she had thrown together most of a novel. She abandoned it, although it may someday be completed after some major revision, perhaps as a steampunk trilogy… Did this biography mention she could be distracted by shiny ideas?
However, the idea of writing fiction stuck, and she began the Arca books, a series blending superheroes, mythology, and an intrepid heroine to make a delicious urban fantasy smoothie. Karen published the first book in the Arca series in May 2016, with the next book following a year later, along with short stories in between the two books. She is hard at work on the next few instalments in the series.
What kind of books do you write?
My books are about a version of reality where people have superpowers, mixed with a heavy dose of tongue-in-cheek and Murphy’s Law. I call it superhero urban fantasy.
Most of my heroes are genuinely good people with character flaws, who will trip over things in the dark and get in their own way at times. My main character, Zita Garcia, definitely has the wrong thing to say for almost any situation. The villains might chew up the scenery like the hammiest of drunken Broadway actors, but they’ll also have times where they try to figure out why someone’s throwing pies at them or where they’re actually smart and effective. Bystanders don’t behave predictably. Bosses only call when you’re busy rescuing people. That sort of thing.
Can you describe your writing why?
I love writing about my imaginary friends. I get cranky if I can’t write. Since I prefer not to alienate my real loved ones more than necessary…
Additionally, I’m also a huge consumer of multiple fiction genres, with the occasional nonfiction chaser. I’m a polygenre-ist? A gentle subversion or rewriting of unrealistic, classic, or unhealthy tropes makes me happy. For example, male-female completely platonic friendships don’t usually show up in books unless the characters are actually related or one/both of them are gay. Superhero costumes don’t have pockets unless they’re wearing pseudo-military gear. Stalking one’s soulmate to win their heart—neither realistic nor healthy.
The reason I publish is because I hope that other readers will have as much fun with my characters as I do. Also, bills. For some reason, people want to be paid for goods and services. Go figure.
Share with us your favourite passage from the book you enjoyed writing the most
Each one of my books has been fun for different reasons. Since my favorite passages from Monster would have spoilers, here’s a section of Power.
Andy stared at the newspeople busy filming Wyn, Jerome, and Aideen. He inched closer to where Zita leaned against a tree. “I’m totally going to lose my geek card. It’ll spontaneously combust. I still haven’t thought of a good superhero name.”
“Birdbrains?” Zita suggested, keeping her own voice low and grinning. If he’s talking to me, he’s not wallowing in self-pity, and that’s a huge improvement. “Birdseed Pervert might still be available. That totally would work for you.”
He snorted. “No. You suck at names. I wish I had my phone so I could check and see which ones are trademarked. J—Chevalier is awesome. He had his name all ready.”
Zita shook her head and turned away, scanning the highway. The mass of cops must’ve felt confident they had the situation in hand, as they were allowing EMTs to tend to the wounded. “You just got a massage from a live electrical wire and broke an overpass with your butt. Are you seriously worried about trademarks?”
“What? Lawyers cost money, especially the sharks I’d need if one of the big comic companies came after me for infringement.”
She rolled her eyes. “Pick something easy, then. How about Thunderbird? Your big form resembles one, and it references a muscle car. That’s all macho and might fool someone.”
Andy grimaced. “I’m really feeling the love here. No. Almost every Native American superhero in comics has a name like Thunderbird or Chief Something-to-do-with-animals, even if it’s somewhat… sacrilegious. Not to mention, it feels wrong to pick my own name. You don’t give yourself names. Others gift you with them.”
She rubbed the back of her neck and watched the other three goofing for the cameras. “You may be stuck with Mano then. Arca’s okay. It’s short and easy to spell.”
“I don’t like Mano. I mean, maybe Dreadnought—no, that one’s taken—or something cool. Dr. Dreadnought?”
“Doctor Birdseed Pervert?” Zita poked his side, her smile conspiratorial.
Andy shook his head.
“More seriously, mano, I’ll help you think of something. Though I still think you should run with Birdseed Pervert while you got the chance. That name could be big.”
Tell us about your latest project
The fourth book in the Arca series, Monster, was released on May 5, 2019. It’s fun! My very physical, straightforward, and undiplomatic main character has to chase down a serial killer obsessed with her family and solve a mystery (in addition to fighting bad guys).
Also, she gets to rescue someone tied to the railroad tracks, because, hey, classic!
Book five, as of yet untitled because I’m being horribly indecisive about it, is underway. I’ve already thrown someone off a cliff, literally, so I’m having a blast with it.
What is your favourite cake?
Chocolate layer cake, with chocolate fudge icing and curls or broken pieces of quality chocolate on top, unless I can get a still-warm-from-baking chocolate chunk cookie cake with hot fudge and Haagen Daz ice cream on top. That might be a tad specific, but dessert is important to get right.
I agree with you on that one, Karen! You can keep up to date with all of Karen's writing news on her website, follow her on Facebook and Twitter and join her on Pinterest.
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Claire Buss is a multi-genre author and poet, completely addicted to cake. Find all her books on Amazon. Join the discussion in her Facebook group Buss's Book Stop.