This month, I continue my series of crime and thriller fiction author interviews by welcoming Karen Guyler to the blog. We discuss her background, her inspiration, and the connection between my home city of Milton Keynes and her latest book.
I started by asking her to tell me a bit about herself.
I live in the lovely Milton Keynes (no sarcasm, it really is beautiful here!) in my 26th address. That much moving you can get used to, but it meant I went to 9 schools on two continents which isn’t to be recommended, though I have read my way through several libraries. I live with my husband who I’d like to say feeds my coffee habit, but he tells me his engineer skills don’t extend to managing to froth the milk, and my youngest son who collects cars like a bookworm buys books. We have an NYPD squad car taking up most of the drive at the minute that’s only 15 days older than him that he’s currently renovating ie. most of the interior keeps ending up in the conservatory. I’m sure that’ll make an appearance in a story! My other son and daughter have both just got puppies within weeks of each other. Having two grand puppies is lovely now they’re almost out of the climbing piranha stage, but when they get together it’s bedlam!
My biggest claim to fame is that I was a dead body in a sci-fi film, complete with alien made hole in my head. . . or maybe it’s that I used to work with Professor Colin Pillinger and held a piece of the Moon in my hand when we were inventorying the Apollo samples. . . or maybe it’s that I’ve trekked to Everest Base Camp. Definitely the thing that pushed me way out of my comfort zone the most was canonyning down a 28m waterfall on a 20m rope when I’m terrified of heights. Research has a lot to answer for!
You’ve written several series including the Society series and the DI Nikki Ross series. What were your reasons for writing multiple series? Do they share common themes?
That’s an interesting question. All my series share the common themes of strong women saving the world and/or their loved ones and righting injustice. At heart there’s always a mystery they need to solve too, whether that’s a crime, unravelling a nefarious plot or untangling lies. The stages they do this on are very different, so that’s why the different series work so well but they all have in common that they’re packed full of twists and interesting people and lots of my readers say they couldn’t wait to find out what came next.
Why did you choose to write crime fiction over other genres?
In my last series, The Society, the heroine, Eva, does work with the police but her creative way of operating was more asking for forgiveness not permission, so I wanted to explore the dynamics of trying to right injustice while staying within the law and the strictures of being a police officer. (Actually, having said that, there’s a bit of Eva in DI Nikki Ross so it’ll be interesting how that pans out for her…!)
You have a new book coming out soon set in my home city of Milton Keynes. Known to many as the home of concrete cows and roundabouts (although this stereotype is fading, thankfully), what made you choose Milton Keynes instead of the traditionally featured cities like London, Newcastle etc?
Yes, I do, book 2 of the DI Nikki Ross series, Whippersnapper will be out soon. I set the series in MK because it is a bit overlooked in fiction. Also, living here, I love it and wanted to show off how it’s embracing being a smart city with delivery robots and hire cars that drive themselves to you—quite fitting in a book with an AI!—and how it’s so much more than a concrete jungle. Spoiler alert: the first murder in the series takes place in one of our many woods. I do feel I owe the city an apology as I’m busy setting lots of crimes here when it’s a safe place to live, but my Major Crimes Unit has to have things to do! There’s so much here to love I have to keep reminding myself I’m not on commission for the Tourist Board…
What advice would you give to others embarking upon their author journey?
I teach Creative Writing for Adult Education and I think the question that comes up the most from students is how to find time to write. To that I say an awful lot of writing isn’t sat at a desk but it’s in your head thrashing out ideas, plot lines, dialogue, characters etc and that can all be done on your commute, when you’re queueing, in the shower (the shower solves lots of problems!), folding washing (also a great thing to keep your conscious mind busy while your subconscious, your muse, gets to work). You can also do writing snacking (not quite eating all the chocolate biscuits while you’re writing, though that’s fun and needed sometimes too!) where you put a timer on for 10 minutes and just write. The pressure of the counting down clock and only having 10 minutes makes it easy to start. If that’s all the time you have, you’ve at least achieved some new words and doing this every day soon adds up. Sometimes you might be able to squeeze another 10 minutes, or maybe 15 in – it’s a brilliant technique to make words happen. And, once you get into the story, it’s becomes a need to get to the keyboard to see what happens next, especially (another top tip!) if you leave your previous day’s writing in the middle of a scene, in the middle of a paragraph, in the middle of a sentence!
What are your final thoughts?
The photograph above is me with our lovely Rahni, our Bernese Mountain Dog, who we sadly lost at the beginning of this year. But her fun, cuddles and the dreaded tumbleweeds live on as Anouk with Nikki Ross. You can find me at www.karenguyler.com where there’s a sign up to get a couple of free books. And there’s a surprise you’re going to love coming very soon which you can hear about first on my mailing list! I’m also making a fool of myself on all the socials. Click on the buttons below to see how!
I’d like to thank Karen for taking the time to chat with me. It’s been fascinating to learn about her approach to the writing process, and it’s been a joy to speak to a fellow Milton Keynesian. Please take a look at her socials and find out more about her and her books on her website.
~ T.G. Campbell,November 2023
AI, CONCRETE COWS & MURDER:
An Interview with Karen Guyler