Please help me welcome Wild Rose Press Author Karen Hulene Bartell…
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
Thank you for inviting me to your blog, Alicia! I was born in Jersey City, NJ, to rolling-stone parents who moved annually. My earliest playmates were fictional friends in books. Paperbacks were my portable pals. Ghost stories kept me up at night—reading feverishly. The paranormal was my passion. Wanderlust inherent, I enjoyed traveling, although I loathed changing schools—seven schools by the time I entered ninth grade.
Novels offered an imaginative escape. An only child, I began my first novel at nine, but stopped after several days. (Said I needed to learn more first.) Professor emeritus of the University of Texas at Austin, I live in the Texas Hill Country with my husband Peter and my mews—three rescued cats and a rescued *Cat*ahoula Leopard dog.
Where did you get the idea for THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE?
The idea for THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE came to me as my husband and I drove Highway 1 through the Keys all the way to Key West. (Something about travel always spurs my imagination.) Key West itself is so chock-full of history and ghosts, the two apparitions almost wrote themselves into this Mainstream Fantasy. Even Key West’s original name evokes mystery. The Spaniards called it Cayo Hueso, meaning Island of Bones, because they found human bones scattered across the island’s white beaches when they first arrived. Since I love turtles, the underlying message of this novel is saving one of the few remaining sea-turtle nesting beaches from being developed into a hotel and lost forever to the turtles.
Why did you choose the Mainstream Fantasy genre?
I like to read stories that include mystery, romance, nature, and the supernatural. As a result, I write stories that include those four elements. Although a romance develops between Keya and a dashing sailor, this is not a “Romance,” even though a budding love develops between a thirty-something man and woman.
A body washes up on the beach and begins a whodunnit mystery, but two other mysteries also crop up. Though Keya finds buried treasure and love, can she save the beach? Can Ruth find the body’s murderer or help Bart solve his 400-year-old mystery? Despite all these mysteries to solve and resolve, this is not a “Mystery.”
I chose the Mainstream Fantasy genre because where else can readers join the characters’ adventures as they fall in love, mingle with ghosts, and talk with turtles?
Was there any anecdote about THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE you’d like to share?
Yes, finding the name Keya for one of the main characters—who is Native American and a turtle aficionado—was kismet.
In the Lakota Sioux language, Keya means Turtle. The setting of the Mainstream Fantasy novel is the Florida Keys, and the premise is protecting sea turtles and their nesting beaches. The title is The Keys: Voice of the Turtle.
Are there any tricks, habits or superstitions you have when creating a story?
The only writing “tricks” I have are these two:
- I can only write in the morning when I’m fresh—which often means getting up at 3:30, so I can write before my day begins, and
- I write every day, which keeps the story going. Even afternoons, when I’m busy with other obligations, my mind continues thinking about what the characters will do next.
What do you love that most people don’t like and wouldn’t understand why you do?
I love researching my books and going on “Tory n’ Mom” trips with my dog—for instance, going on Louisiana’s Creole Nature Trail and getting cornered by a bobcat or walking through the Wetland Walkway and meeting an alligator. I love nature and enjoy going on rock hunts near the Rio Grande in Terlingua’s mountains, or walking barefoot through White Sands, New Mexico, or climbing the Franklin Mountains, or sitting in an open cattle trailer at dawn, waiting for Nebraska’s Prairie Chickens to begin their “dance.”
Have you written any other books that are not published?
I have. My Master’s Thesis was my first unpublished book—although, I plan to rewrite it at some later time. I also began a book and could not find enough material or inspiration to finish it. However, I “cannibalized” what I wrote, reusing bits of it in several other books 😉
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
Completely, yet not at all. Let me explain 😉 I take pieces of people—facial or other physical features, mannerisms, unusual speech inflections, or temperaments. Then, I combines these qualities into a wholly new character. Once in Taipei, Taiwan, I followed a man into a bookstore because he absolutely looked like the mental picture I carried of one of my characters.
Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Yes, in THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE, the underlying message is to save one of the Keys’ few remaining sea-turtle nesting beaches from being developed into a hotel complex and lost forever to the turtles.
How much of the book is realistic?
All of it, yet none of it. Let me explain 😉 Like I “piece together” characters, I merge real places (and sometimes events) with total fiction. Hopefully the result is a seamlessly “realistic” amalgamation that is plausible and could happen yet is rooted from my imagination.
How did your interest in writing originate?
Characters in books were my earliest playmates. Paperbacks were my portable pals. Ghost stories kept me up at night—reading feverishly. My mother didn’t care how late I stayed up—if I read. The result? Writing—it’s the natural extension of reading. Besides, what reader can resist creating her own ending?
Movie ~ Gone With the Wind
Music ~ Classic oldies
Place you’d like to visit ~ Ireland
Food ~ Any new ethnic dish
Thank you, Karen. Great interview. Gone with the Wind is my favorite movie too!
Now, Karen has a question for you…
Question for readers ~ If you could write a book, what would be its theme?
THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE Blurb:
Finding buried treasure and love, Keya moves forward, but can she save the beach? Can Ruth find Maita’s murderer or help Bart solve his 400-year-old mystery? Join their adventures as they mingle with ghosts and talk with turtles.
THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE Excerpt:
“These nesting grounds are the reason I’ve fought to keep this property intact. If this beach is developed, the impact will destroy it, but fighting the lawsuit is expensive. I’d hate to sell this place to pay court costs.”
“But you said keeping the nesting grounds intact is only part of the reason you stay.” Ruth gave her a sympathetic smile. “What’s the rest of it?”
“Call it my legacy.” Keya stood up straight. “When I’m gone, I’d like this beach to remain as nature intended it…for the turtles. Since I’ve never had children—”
Keya grinned. “That is, except for my furry, four-legged kids, I’ve never had children. I have no one to leave it to other than who or what will make the best use of it. Conveying this land to the turtles would be my way of leaving the world a better place.” She turned toward Ruth. “Does that make sense?”
Ruth nodded. Her cousin’s intentions were clear. “But legally, how can you will the property to the turtles?”
“Easy. I leave it to the Turtle Refuge.” Keya chuckled as they meandered along the beach. “And this is where you come in. When you’re writing the brochure, add a few paragraphs about planned giving and charitable bequests…” Keya stared as if in a trance.
Her hand shaking, Keya pointed to a shady patch of beach half hidden by sand dunes. A lifeless hand lay tangled in seaweed, its fingernails broken and bloodied.
THE KEYS: VOICE OF THE TURTLE Buy Links:
KEEP IN TOUCH WITH KAREN HULENE BARTELL:
Web Page: http://www.karenhulenebartell.com