Today we welcome Karen Ankers.
Book ‘Em: Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.
Karen Ankers: I am fifty-five years old and live in Anglesey, North Wales, with my partner, five cats and a dog. I have three sons, who have grown up and left home. I do some part-time work in a local shop. I also act with a small repertory company, read at spoken word events and teach classes in Creative Writing.
Book ‘Em: Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?
Karen Ankers: I recently published my debut collection of poetry, One Word At A Time, with Lulu. I have had eight one-act plays published with Lazy Bee Scripts, which have been performed in the UK, USA, Australia and Malaysia. My first novel, The Crossing Place, is due to be published early next year. It is a love story, with dark edges, set in Chester. I find that I am increasingly moved to write in order to give a voice to people who would otherwise have none. My work often has a supernatural edge.
Book ‘Em: Do you have a work in progress?
Karen Ankers: As well as working with my publisher on editing The Crossing Place, I am working on the first draft of my second novel. This one is based in Moelfre, in North Wales, and is about a woman who wants to change her life’s direction and have a new beginning. But her attempt to reinvent herself brings her into conflict with issues from her past.
Book ‘Em: What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?
Karen Ankers: There is a poem in One Word At A Time called “Lies,” which is about my youngest son’s raw grief after the death of his father, and my own feelings of inadequacy on not being able to comfort him. A very difficult poem to write. But I have learned not to shy away from writing which is difficult. Often it is the poems written through tears that will touch other people and give them permission to explore their own feelings.
Book ‘Em: What sort of research do you do for your work?
Karen Ankers: I do a lot of reading. The Crossing Place has reincarnation as a central part of its plot and was inspired by reading Brian Weiss’ books on the subject. But often, talking to people can be more useful. The novel I am working on at the moment has a storyline set around a boating accident, so I will be talking to the volunteers at the Lifeboat Station in order to make it as authentic as possible.
Book ‘Em: Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?
Karen Ankers: As a child, it was reading Alan Garner’s wonderful novels that first inspired me to write. Nowadays, one of my favourite writers is Harlan Coben, even though I don’t usually read crime novels! But he is such a skilled writer. I also like Linda Green, whose novel Ten Reasons Not To Fall In Love had me so engrossed I had to keep reminding myself it was fiction. The poet who inspires me the most is Patrick Jones.
Book ‘Em: Was there a person who encouraged you to write?
Karen Ankers: When I was seventeen I went to a meeting of the Chester Poets. To my amazement, they took my scribblings seriously! I remember being very surprised that anyone would want to listen to my work. If it had not been for their encouragement and support, I probably wouldn’t be writing today.
Book ‘Em: What would you say are your strengths as an author?
Karen Ankers: I suppose my main strength is my ability to observe and then to ask questions. I might see someone walking down the street and notice something about their posture or clothing that will start a story. Asking “what if” is really important if you’re going to write engaging fiction.
Book ‘Em: How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?
Karen Ankers: I would love to be able to have a strict writing routine! I write every day, but not always at the same time. I find I write best in the afternoons, but sometimes I only have time to write late at night. I am quite strict about keeping a list of deadlines and tackling things in the right order, depending on when they have to be submitted.
Book ‘Em: Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?
Karen Ankers: I would hope that I am able to make a living from my writing, even if it is a meagre one! Thankfully, I don’t spend much money! I don’t see myself settling down to one kind of writing. I’m a storyteller and sometimes a story is best told as a poem, other times it will be a play or a novel, so I’ll probably still be doing all three.
Book ‘Em: If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?
Karen Ankers: Believe in yourself. Devote yourself to your craft and don’t let anyone tell you you’re wasting your time.
Book ‘Em: What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?
Karen Ankers: That they enjoyed reading it. It’s that simple.
Book ‘Em: Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.
Karen Ankers: Meeting At Euston
a girl with city faded eyes
excuses her request for a pound
says she’s never been on the streets before
tells me in a worn tobacco coated voice
she needs the money for a bus
as if I need a reason to be kind
the coin in my hand is bright
as she once was
has unquestioned value
as she once did
when her eyes and soul still shone
before promises and practised lies
took her light as deposit
on oxygen and pavement space
the metal that slides from my palm to hers
courts the sun
just for a second fairytale gold
illumines the touch of our hands
and in that moment more is passed
skin meets soul remembered skin
blood beats between us
each strengthening the other
in the time it would have taken
to turn and cross the road