Thursday, May 12, 2016

Q & A with Karen Halvorsen Schreck and giveaway!!!!

 Karen is graciously giving away a copy of Broken Ground to one commenter. To enter answer the question in red below and be sure to include contact information. If we don't know who you are and can't contact you, you will be disqualified. USA only. 

1.       Why do you write the kind of books you do?
This is a great question, and it’s also a question that makes me smile. I think it’s kind of like asking: why are you who you are?  To both I’d reply: because that’s who I was created to be (my writing is born of my nature, my innate identity, my true self), and that’s how my experience has shaped me (my writing is also born of my experience, the challenges I’ve faced and journeys I’ve taken, my relationships with others and encounters with this world). And because I’m a Christian, I want to incorporate the whole of human experience—the emotional, physical, intellectual, social, and cultural, and ALSO the spiritual. 
To break it down even further: I have a real love of history, and I think that’s because I was the only child of two older parents. Growing up my reference points and touchstones were a little different than many of my peers. The Great Depression and World War II were as present to me as they were distant to most of my friends. I saw connections between then and now all the time because that’s how my parents moved through the world. So even when I’m writing a contemporary story, there will be traces of history involved—some mystery or struggle related to the past or the inheritance of a past. And when I’m writing historical fiction, I’m most interested in teasing out the connections today. Thus, what fascinated me about Broken Ground was this: the more research I did, the more contemporary events caused me to feel a strong sense of déjà vu.

2. Besides when you came to know the Lord, what is the happiest day in your life?
The happiest day of my life actually occurred over the course of two days, which were separated by four years—so days, plural—and these were the days that I first held my two children.
People respond differently at profound moments like this for all kinds of uniquely individual and perfectly understandable reasons, I know. So I don’t want to assume that anyone else’s experience mirrors mine. But during the course of these two days, I was overwhelmed with feelings of wonder and fulfillment, as well as an overpowering sense of destiny. You see, I learned at thirty-two, for no discernable reason, I learned that I had gone through menopause (with all the typical side-effects—a confusing and surreal experience, and lonely, as well, as I knew no one else my age who was enduring such symptoms). My husband and I took some time to absorb what had happened, and then we decided to build our family through adoption. But as any of you who have adopted may know, the journey toward a child is frequently a long and arduous one. That’s how it was for us, at least. Our sense of personal control was consistently revealed as an illusion. So when I held my daughter (now 18) and my son (now 14) in my arms for the first time, when I looked into their eyes, and they looked into mine, I felt as never before that I was experiencing a miracle, a gift from God. In fact, we named our son Teodor, which means just that. 

3. How has being published changed your life?
          Not at all. That’s what my initial response was. But honestly, when I really think about it, publishing HAS changed my life—just not in the way one might expect. My life is not more interesting or glamorous, for instance. In fact, it’s the opposite. Meeting deadlines has, if anything, made me work harder. I treat my writing as I treat any job I care deeply about. I draw upon a strong work ethic (or force myself to conjure up the energy and focus), and I put in my time. I am better than ever at taking criticism and making necessary changes. I am more and more grateful for any support I can get from my friends and family. And above all, I appreciate readers—people who really love books. I work part-time at my local public library, and any time someone checks out a stack of books instead of a stack of dvds, I want to give that person a hug or send up a cheer or simply say thank you. But I don’t, of course. That would be unprofessional. And I want them to come back for more books. J

4. What are you reading right now?
 I just finished The Feathered Bone, by NYT and USA Today best-selling author Julie Cantrell.  My gosh, what a brave, beautiful book. It’s set more recently than her other wonderful historical novels, and it addresses the toughest topics you can imagine. But Julie shapes a story, even a difficult story, with such grace, dignity, and so she makes it not just a necessary read or a compelling read (which The Feathered Bone is), but a deeply pleasurable read as well.

5. What would be your dream vacation?
You know what? I was going to pass right over this question, because I LOVE to travel, and want to go everywhere, anywhere, all the time, so questions like this are always impossible for me to answer. But then I realized: I know! I know the honest-to-goodness answer to this one as I never have before! I want to take a tour of the National Parks with my family (during off-season, like the fall because I’m daunted by the thought of summer crowds). I’m sorely remiss in seeing any of the natural grandeur and beauty that is right here in the U.S..  Apparently there’s a new IMAX movie out about the parks, and a wonderful Ken Burns documentary, and while I might not get to tour the places first hand, it’s on my bucket list to at least see experience them on screen with my family this summer.

6. How do you choose your settings for each book?
I absolutely love a good setting. I love imagining settings, writing settings, revising settings toward a final draft. In fact, setting is most often my portal into a new book. If I can create a world then the people can live and move in it, make their choices and have their being there. But as nature abhors a vacuum, so do characters—at least, my characters. They just can’t get comfortable, let alone real, in a void. The writer Terry Tempest Williams says this about setting: “the place came before the words.” True, right? God created the world, and populated Eden, and then asked a human being to help with the naming of creation. That’s always been inspiring to me. Enter into an experience through your senses, as a newborn or Adam and Eve might, and then articulate it in your mind and on the page.
For this reason, I like to write about places I know intimately, whether I’m writing contemporary or historical fiction. If I have been in a place and that place has through my experience taken a kind of residence inside me—in my memories and my emotional connections—then I feel like I can return the setting truthfully in my imagination. Typically that emotional connection is important for me—I’m not keen on writing about places that pass before me neutrally or in a blur. But because environment is so important to me, there are few places I’m neutral about. What’s key then is that a place stirs something up in me—not only can I imagine characters there, but I can imagine it as a site for conflict.

7, What are your hobbies, besides writing and reading?
I enjoy long walks in forest preserves, gardening, museums, movies, listening to music, good food, a TV show like The Gilmore Girls that my family and I can watch together through all seven seasons and laugh (and if anyone has any suggestions now that we’ve just finished The Glimore Girls please let me know), and travelling. I also love my dog. But she’s more a relationship than a hobby.

8. What is your most difficult writing obstacle, and how do you overcome it?
My biggest writing obstacle is 1. The Internet 2. Housework.
I overcome these obstacles in the same way: I leave the house and go to a place where there is no Wifi and hunker down, even if it’s only for an hour. If I’m unable to leave the house for whatever reason—the kids need me around, or transportation is unavailable, or a repairperson is coming, or the weather is rotten—I set a goal, grit my teeth, leave the dishes in the sink and the dog hair on the floor, and stay off social media until my goal is reached. Ideally. Preferably. In a perfect world.

9.  What one question would you like us to ask your readers?  
What is the specific family story that you’d like to use (or have someone use) as the seed for a novel?

10. How did Broken Ground get started?
I started working on my historical novel Broken Ground in fall 2014. My debut historical romance Sing for Me had released the previous spring to good reviews, and I wanted to satisfy the hopes and expectations of its readership by writing another novel set in the depression era. I’ve always felt deeply connected to the 1930s and 1940s, as my parents were both young adults during this time; their memories fueled my own imagination from early on. As with Sing for Me, which drew upon my father’s stories, I decided that I would again use family history as a springboard for my work. This time, however, I wanted to build upon an aspect of my mother’s story—her reinvention of her life after the loss of her first husband and ensuing terrible grief. What I didn’t expect was that my original premise would be derailed by a single photograph on the Internet, which I spied while researching the Great Depression and Dustbowl Refugees.
 The photo showed a train yard crowded with people waiting to board. My first thought: I’d misdirected my search—this was taken during WWII and documented the horrors of the Holocaust. But I looked closer and saw that the picture was indeed a glimpse into the 1930s, the location was California, and the people were Mexican nationals and U.S. citizens of Mexican descent. And then I read for the first time about the massive deportations without due process of the 1930s.
 My two children are both Latino. They knew nothing of this event. My husband, my extended family, my friends—they were also unaware. What actually happened, I wondered, and why wasn’t it discussed in history classes? Why wasn’t it a part of our national consciousness? And so I began to research the so-called “Mexican Repatriation” of the 1930s, and the next thing I knew, the narrative arc for my novel had shifted. My mother’s story was and is still the seed for Broken Ground, but this seed flowered in a new way, extending the scope of her story to include the stories of others.

11. Where can readers find you online?
— I have a Facebook author page:
      A Twitter account @KarenSchreck
      I’m on Instagram:
—And there’s my website/blog:
or you can always email me:


Karen Halvorsen Schreck’s 2014 novel Sing For Me received a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Her previous novels include While He Was Away, a Finalist for the 2012 Oklahoma Young Adult Book Award, and Dream Journal, a 2006 Young Adult BookSense Pick. Her short stories have received various awards, including a Pushcart Prize and an Illinois State Arts Council Grant. Karen received her doctorate in English and Creative Writing from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She lives with her family in Wheaton, Illinois.


Lucy Reynolds said...

My moms story of how she ended up in an orphanage. Thank you for the chance. Blessings

Patty said...

Would love a story about how my grandfathers family ended up in America.


Annie B. Stronge AKA Diane Theiler said...

Not sure on your question. Would have to give it some thought. . Great interview.

lollipops said...

congratulations, Diane!