Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence. After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles. There she met her husband, who hates L.A. They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University.
Wyle has been a voracious and compulsive reader as long as she can remember. She majored in English and American Literature major at Stanford University, which suited her, although she has in recent years developed some doubts about whether studying literature is, for most people, a good preparation for enjoying it.
Wyle’s voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of practicing appellate law. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
What inspires you to write?
After decades of reading science fiction (though not exclusively science fiction), I tend to see things through a SF lens. I hear a news story and imagine how future technology would affect the situation that gave rise to it; I see a photograph and imagine some SF setting for it, or an alternate version that could occur in some other or future world.
More fundamentally, I love to invent — or discover? — characters and learn from them what their stories are.
Tell us about your writing process.
I’m mostly a pantser. I never do full outlines. Before starting to write, I do make notes about a few key characters and likely scenes.
I am a fervent convert to Scrivener (in my case, Scrivener for Windows) as a tool for authors. Scrivener makes it trivially easy to shuffle and add scenes, to compare scenes, and to have all one’s material (actual text, research, “inspiration” photos) in one place. One may back up the entire work or any portion of it, at any time. There’s also an AutoSave feature. I direct all backups to a folder on Dropbox (an online storage service).
So far, I’ve written the first drafts of all my novels during National Novel Writing Month (aka NaNoWriMo, NaNo or Nano), or its summertime equivalent, Camp Nano. Standard NaNoWriMo takes place in November. The idea: bang out a VERY rough draft of a novel, at least 50,000 words long, entirely within that month. The Nano website, run by the Office of Letters and Light, provides word count tracking, inspirational posts and videos, and a multitude of community forums. The latter include everything from research assistance (what did the folks wear who picked up bodies during the Plague Years? What would a wormhole in space look like? etc.) to writing prompts to commiseration and encouragement.
Once I finish my rough draft, I put it aside for a month or so, and then spend a number of months editing (mostly in Scrivener), with multiple editing passes. Then I send it out to beta readers with a list of questions for those readers to answer (though I welcome additional comments). Then I edit some more, format for ebook and print publication, and send it on its way.
I hire, or trade services for, cover design, though I often find some or all of the cover art to include in the design.
For Fiction Writers: Do you listen (or talk to) to your characters?
I do more listening than talking. If I do have anything to say, it’s likely to be along the lines of “Really??” or “Hey, that’s not what I expected you to do — but it works. Thanks.”
What advice would you give other writers?
I used to have a very long answer for this question, but I’ll be more concise this time around:
–Find a process that works for you, and ignore anyone who says that only some different process is acceptable. Be similarly skeptical of “rules” (e.g., “no prologues,” “no adverbs”).
–Join Facebook groups for writers, and/or communities like Goodreads, for encouragement, advice and sympathy. If it turns out you’re in a group that tends toward snark and sniping, bail.
–Explore self-publishing. If you do seek an agent and/or a traditional publisher, try to hire an Intellectual Property attorney to go over any contract before signing it. (See my next answer for more details.)
How did you decide how to publish your books?
While I was editing my first novel (well, not counting the 200-page, 100-chapter handwritten hodge-podge I wrote at age 10), I was simultaneously researching the world of publishing. By the time I was ready to submit to agents or publishers, I had pretty much decided to self-publish instead, for these reasons:
–I’m a control freak. I did not fancy having anyone else decide such crucial matters as what my cover would look like, with minimal or no input from me. I liked the idea of doing what I could for myself, and hiring experts where necessary.
–I’m both impatient and middle-aged, and did not want to spend years finding a publisher and then a year or two waiting for my book to be published.
–The long timeline for traditional publishing, combined with the unstable nature of the industry at the moment, creates certain dangers. One’s editor, the one who believed in one’s book, could move on, leaving one’s book an orphan. Or in the 18 months or so it takes a book to go through the traditional publishing process, the publisher itself might go out of business.
–I’m a lawyer, and was increasingly dismayed as I read about the sort of clauses that have become commonplace in both agency and publishing contracts. For example, one could easily find oneself contractually prevented from marketing or publishing other novels — for life.
What do you think about the future of book publishing?
I am somewhat optimistic. I believe the advent of ebooks, POD printing, and online retailers will continue to provide alternatives to the industry “gatekeepers.” I think it likely that traditional publishers will eventually find ways to survive and remain relevant. Print books — especially paperback books — will survive. More and more bookstores will have the technology on site to let patrons print out a book on the spot.
What do you use?
Professional Cover Designer, Beta Readers
What genres do you write?
science fiction, mixed genre (both with an arguably literary flavor)
What formats are your books in?
Both eBook and Print