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Interview with Karen Randau

Karen Randau is a prolific author of Romantic Suspense. A native of the southwestern U.S., Karen Randau has been writing and telling stories since elementary school. She holds a degree in journalism/public relations from the University of Texas at Austin and has enjoyed a long career in marketing communications.

After a short stint working in a psychiatric hospital, when she wrote three self-help books, Karen joined an international relief and development organization to use her skills to help people struggling with extreme poverty. She has traveled to numerous developing countries, witnessing famines, violence, and hopeful people working to overcome a generational cycle of poverty. She loves to read and write fast-paced mysteries and thrillers, especially those with intricate plots, lots of action, and rollercoaster-like twists and turns.

Hello Karen, and congratulations on your latest book, Into the Fog! Please tell us more about yourself.
I was born to a mother with the heart of a wanderer. Before I graduated from high school, I’d lived in Colorado, California, Texas, and Florida. Mom loved to remodel homes, and she taught her three girls how to hang wallpaper, saw and hang paneling, paint, and plant Pacific Pickleweed to keep the topsoil from eroding on our sloping yard that backed up to a canyon in San Diego. She also made sure we girls could cook, sew, camp, and take care of a family.

Since graduating from the University of Texas, I’ve planted myself in Arizona, working for nearly three decades at an international Christian non-profit that worked in developing countries. While my husband’s job took him to places like Scotland and Switzerland, mine had me dodging bullets in places like Somalia and dodging human waste on the hillside slums of Peru.

What inspired you to write romantic suspense?
I’ve always loved to read, and I’ve processed all of my life’s major events by writing about them.

As a youngster, my nose was often buried in a mystery book, especially Nancy Drew novels. To me, mysteries are like solving a puzzle, and I’ve learned I can’t start reading unless I have enough spare time to finish the book in one sitting—I’ll ignore everything else until I get the mystery pieces put together. While I don’t remember this, one of my childhood friends recently told me I often talked of becoming a novelist.

Since reading and writing have been an important part of me since childhood, I guess you could say I was born to write mystery and suspense books. I prefer writing about women who are like me but with a lot more spunk and skills. That means my audience tends to be more like me in age, interests, and values. It also means I do a lot of research to get it right. Romance has been an element in all of my books, but I’ve recently realized clean romantic suspense can lead to some inspiring scenes.

What did you learn along the way to publication that made it click for you? Or, had the biggest impact on your success?
There are a lot of “experts” out there who teach about the different aspects of the craft of novel writing and the art/science of selling your books, which are both essential elements of a successful novel writing career.

I’ve taken classes, read books, and attended conferences. I’ve learned how to plot a book in several different ways and combined bits of them into a plotting method that works for me. I continued to struggle to understand what agents and publishers meant when they said they wanted a character-driven book rather than a plot-driven book. Then I found The Story Equation by Susan May Warren, and it all fell into place for me. To that point, my books were more plot driven with a lot of character development thrown in, and Warren’s book is helping me to create deeper characters.

It doesn’t matter how good your book is if no one sees it, so one of my hardest lessons has been that marketing is harder than writing, and I have to do it every day.

What do you usually add in (or change) during the editing phase? How many edits do you usually do before you send it off?
I have a hard time doing what a lot of “experts” recommend—just get the first draft written, and go back and edit later. I do that a chapter at a time instead of the full manuscript. I feel compelled to make sure each chapter flows and has the elements I want before I can move on to the next. As I get deeper into the manuscript, I come back and make additions, deletions, or changes to match where the story has headed.

When I’ve finished the first draft of the full manuscript, I read it several more times. The first read is intended for finding inconsistencies in the setting or the characters (are their eyes always the same color or do their words and actions match their personalities, for example). I read it again to make sure the characters' emotions are coming through, that I wasn’t redundant in the way I “show” the internal conflict, and that there are no boring parts—if it won’t keep me reading all night, it won’t keep anyone else’s attention. When I have those things straight, I read it again to make sure it flows smoothly, then again to make sure the writing is good. By that time, I’m sick of it. I send it to beta readers and don’t look at it again until they’ve sent their comments—if two readers are having the same problem with something, I have to change it no matter how much I liked it. After that, I read it again to ensure it still flows and is still consistent. I get it professionally edited at that point, then read it again after I’ve accepted what edits make sense to me. I’ve looked at it so many times that I no longer trust myself to find any typos, so I send it to a proofreader and don’t look at it again until I get it back. Then I read it one last time for my final edit and proofing.

Where do you turn to do research? Does it vary with each book?
I do a lot of my research on the internet. When I can afford it, I travel to the place where my book is set. If I can’t, I talk to people who know the subject matter. I’ve also sought out beta readers who are experts on the topic. It varies with each book.

When I wrote a story set in Scotland but couldn’t afford to go there, I consulted YouTube to understand the accent and how people there insulted one another. I also asked people who had been there what struck them the most about the country, the food, the smells, the culture, and the people. When I later wrote a book with a Cherokee character, I spent time in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, the home of the Cherokee nation, to better understand the people and the culture. When I wrote a book where the character had to survive in arctic conditions, I tapped into what I’d learned while my son was a Boy Scout—and I interviewed one of the scout leaders who was also an aviation expert to make sure I got both aspects of that story right.

What do you think makes your style of storytelling unique?
I want people to learn something while I’m entertaining them—thus the careful research. My voice is casual and, at times, folksy, rarely formal. Since all my books involve a crime, I try to come up with unique methods for that. I look for ways to invent unique characters, motivations, and fight scenes for every book.

Who is/are your favorite authors? Whose work would you love to mimic?
I have too many favorite authors to mention them all. In the Christian romantic suspense realm, I enjoy the work of Christy Barritt, Colleen Coble, and Lynette Eason. I recently read a book by Susan May Warren and would love to be able to create the emotions that the struggles of her characters stirred up in me.

What is the funniest thing that happened to you as an author?
Someone once asked my husband if he was concerned I might do him in, since I kill characters in my books. He said, “If she wanted me dead, I’d already be dead.”

Are you a plotter or a pantser?
I’m what they call a plantser because I do both. I learned way back in school—whenever they teach kids to outline—that I’m not good at outlining. I had to write the assignment and then write the outline, which meant my assignments were always done early. I grew as a professional writer, when I’d prepare a sketchy outline so I knew where I was headed, write whatever I was writing, and go back and write a better outline based on what I wrote in order to find and fill any holes. With my books, it has taken a lot of discipline to write a bio for each of my POV characters so I thoroughly know them and their backstory before I start writing. I make a preliminary outline of where I want to start, what I think the twists might be, and where I want the story to end up. It isn’t unusual for my entire outline to get used up in the first act, however. Then I’m stuck with outlining from twist to twist, allowing the characters to take me wherever they want—that’s the method that seems to work for me.

What does your writing routine look like? Do you have any idiosyncrasies that keep you going?
I’m an early riser. I love to get up before everyone else and write for two or three hours until I have to stop because there’s too much commotion for me to think. I’m often able to get back to it during the day, but my creativity is all used up by early afternoon, so I stop for the day. I often wake up in the middle of night with an idea, and I’ll get up to write.

Because I was born to write, I can’t not write, and that keeps me going. When I go through stretches when I don’t feel like writing, I give myself refresh time—reading, watching movies, and hanging out with friends and family. Sometimes it takes reading just one book to get myself back into writing, but sometimes it takes several books spread out over a week or more. In the meantime, I make sure I write something every day, even if it’s just an email or a social media post.

What advice would you give to new authors, or authors who are not new, but have struggled to keep at it in the face of obstacles?
Enjoy what you write. If you aren’t enjoying it, maybe it isn’t your story to tell. There will be struggles, especially in that long stretch of Act 2 of a novel. It’s always at the midpoint when I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into and what in the world made me think I could write a novel on that topic (every single novel). That’s when I take the time to refresh. I’ve only once had to tell myself after a refresh period that a story wasn’t mine to tell. I set it aside and moved right on to the next story.

What are you working on now?
My work in progress is the second book in the Peach Blossom romantic suspense series. My vision for the series is that the three women who live on Peach Blossom Orchard will experience a second chance at love. In book 2, Kelsey and Gregorio witness a murder and realize their attraction to one another while running and hiding from the murderers.
Terri Thompson is an author, foodie, nature lover and philanthropist. She loves walks along the beach at sunset, dancing in the living room with her grandchildren, the beauty of flavors expertly combined, and the joy of words creatively knit together to bring truth to life. She blogs about writing, life and inspiration at To learn about the non-profits supported by the H. G. Clay Foundation go to

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