Friday, January 18, 2013

Fabulous Friday Feature: Karen Witemeyer

Today I welcome an authoress who has had many books published in a short time. She is friendly, loves to laugh, and is a sweet friend: Karen Witemeyer. 

Enter to win an autographed copy of Karen Witemeyer's book Short-Straw Bride see below

I met Karen at the 2012 ACFW conference. The smile in her photo is not "just a moment for the photographer." She not only smiles a lot but laughs a lot, too. What a fun person to be around! I knew right away she would be a great friend.

I asked Karen to share how God led her on her writing journey. This is what she said:

Persevering Through Roadblocks

As I began my publication journey, I expected the road to be arduous. So I prepared. I put my craft muscles through years of intensive training and stretched myself in critique groups and contests.

Then in 2007, I took my first completed novel to the ACFW conference. I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman worked beside me who shared my first name. That's fun, I thought. However, as time ticked on, I picked up clues to her identity from others in the room. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. Only the Lord could have orchestrated such a meeting. I resisted throwing my pitch at her, but two days later, I sat at her lunch table and after everyone told her about their projects, one brave writer asked if we could send her our proposals. She said yes.

After the conference, I sent in my proposal and soon had a request for a full manuscript. Surely a contract was right around the corner since the Lord was at work, right? Wrong. The acquisitions editor rejected my manuscript. She considered the plot too similar to something they'd already done. It wouldn't work for launching a new author. Nevertheless, she complimented the writing and said there was one component to the story that she liked—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new idea surrounding a dress shop?

Now you have to understand, in the original book, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. It didn't even make it into chapter one. Yet she wanted me to create an entirely new book from scratch based on this shop idea. Maybe I should just seek publication elsewhere.

But publishing with Bethany House was my dream. So I started brainstorming, and even met with the editor in person at the 2008 ACFW conference where she gave me feedback and encouraged me to resubmit. By January 2009, Bethany House offered me a three book deal launching with A Tailor-Made Bride. Yep, the dress shop book.

However, just because I had a three-book deal didn't mean the roadblocks were over. Not even when the books sold well. When contract time rolled around again, and they asked for three new book ideas that they could take to committee, I worked hard to come up with the best synopses I could. Surely they would be accepted and loved, right? After all, my editor had already mentioned that she wanted to sign me to another deal.

Nope. They turned down two of my three ideas. Ouch. Roadblocks are never fun to hit, but they do teach important lessons. You see, my first books were light-hearted and fun. However, I have a soft spot for dark, wounded heroes, too, and one of my synopses featured such a tortured soul. My editor wrote that it wasn't what readers would expect when they picked up a Karen Witemeyer book. In other words, it didn't match my brand. I needed to go back to the drawing board and create ideas that better fit readers' expectations. That's what a professional does. She doesn't whine and complain about the cruel publisher who doesn't understand her artistic genius. No, she opens a new document and gets to work.

Contract renewal time is coming up again soon for me, and I have to admit I'm still nervous about giving them ideas they will like. But now I know more about branding, and more than that, I know that if one or more of my ideas come back to me with a big red No stamped across them, I can persevere, be a professional, and get things done.  That's what this writing journey is about—doing our best for God's glory.

About Karen:

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon's wife and mother of three who believes the world needs more happily-ever afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul.

Two-time RITA® Finalist and winner of the coveted HOLT Medallion and ACFW Carol Award, CBA bestselling author, Karen Witemeyer, writes historical romance fiction for Bethany House, believing that the world needs more happily-ever-afters. She is an avid cross-stitcher, shower singer, and bakes a mean apple cobbler. Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her husband and three children. Learn more about Karen and her books at:   

To enter the contest for an autographed copy of Karen's book Short Straw Bride, leave a comment and become a follower of this site if you aren't already. Please also include your email address (username (at) yahoo (dot) com) so I can contact you if you are the winner. The winner will be selected by a third party,, and will be announced next week. U.S. residents only. 

Thank you Karen for joining us this weekend!

Reader, What roadblocks have fallen into your path? In hindsight, did you see the benefits?


Patty said...

Most authors do have some sort of signature style so to speak, but if I've read enough of an author I would pick up one of their books even if it seemed like a big departure for what I knew of them.

All of Karen's book that I have read so far have been great!

I am a follower=)


Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks for stopping by, Patty. Sure loved sharing a cup of virtual coffee with you this morning.

I'm the same way. When I find an author I enjoy, I look forward to all of their books:)

Cindy Q said...

Wow! What a great interview. She has such a good attitude it is inspirational. Thank you for sharing Mary and Karen.



Karen Witemeyer said...

Thanks, ladies, for your supportive comments. It's so nice to visit a blog and feel like I'm right at home!

Patty - I like knowing that you would follow an author you love even if he/she changed up her style somewhat. That's true reader loyalty!

Cindy - I'm so glad you found my journey inspiring. God is constantly teaching me new lessons in trusting him. Right now I'm trying to juggle a full-time day job, being mom to 3 kids, writing my next book, going through galleys of my next release, doing rewrites for a novella project, preparing a presentation for a writing conference I'm speaking at in 2 weeks, and judging a published authors contest. If ever a writer needed to depend on God's strength, it's me. Whew!

Mary Vee Writer said...

I agree. Karen has a fantastic attitude. You simply must meet her at a conference.

You really have a lot on your plate. No boring days for you in the near future.

Elyssa said...

What a great post! I've only read Head in the Clouds by Karen, but I absolutely loved it! I've heard such great things about Short Straw Bride (my best friend highly recommends it), so I'm looking forward to reading it. Thanks for the chance to win!
I'm a follower. =)


Mary Vee Writer said...

There is no higher recommendation than one from a best friend. You are also entered! And thanks for stopping by and chatting with us.

Heather Marsten said...

Hi Karen, I am so glad you had that opportunity to volunteer and meet the editor. Thanks for sharing your struggles. What I'm impressed with is your persistence, and willingness to go with what the agent suggested. Your story sounds interesting. I like the concept of short straw bride - curious how that works out. Have a blessed day.

Mary Vee Writer said...

You are quite an encourager. Yes, Karen is an example of persistence and willingness to comply with her agent. We are blessed to have her here this weekend.

Pam K. said...

I enjoy Karen's books. I'm glad she persevered in writing them. It must be hard not to be able to write just what you want. Thanks for helping us learn more about Karen and for the book giveaway.


Mary Vee Writer said...

While it may be difficult to not write where our passion leads, I'm sure Karen has found a new passion for the genre her editor requested. That alone stirs many great ideas.

Thanks for joining us, Pam. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Mary for this chance to win Karen's book. Also, thanks to Karen. I would love to win. MAXIE

Mary Vee Writer said...

Hi Maxie!
So nice to see you again. Yes, we will enter you in the drawing. :)

Shopgirl said...

Right now I'm working through a roadblock and it's definitely giving me patience! I loved Short-Straw Bride and would love to win!

Mary Vee Writer said...

So sorry you are going through a difficult time. Hopefully you trial will be over soon. Thanks for stopping by. We enjoyed seeing you today:)

Janice said...

I feel so blessed when I read stories like this this. Thank you, Karen, for sharing about your roadblocks. Remember that children's story about Going on a Bear Hunt? It is a story about roadblocks and making a way. Your way was to do what was asked of you. That shows a humble heart. The Lord blessed your humbleness and your perseverance. So glad He did!

It would be great to win and read your book. Please include me in the contest.

Janice jsmithg(at)hotmail(dot)com

Mary Vee Writer said...

Hi Janice.
So nice to see you again.
Of course you will be included in the drawing. :)
Loved having you here to chat.

Gabrielle Meyer said...

Mary, this was such a fun post! It has encouraged me in more ways than I can tell you. I had the chance to hear Karen talk a little at the Spotlight on Bethany House at the 2012 ACFW Conference and she was such a delight. Thank you for sharing her story here!!

gabriellevan (at) Hotmail (dot) com

Mary Vee Writer said...

We must has sat in the same room! I went to that presentation as well! I totally agree, it was a great time to get to know her.

You are entered in the contest.

Karen Witemeyer said...

Thank you ladies, for your wonderful comments. What an encouragement you are to me.

Heather - it's hard to let go of something when you've invested so much of yourself into it, but sometimes that is the sacrifice we are called to lay on the alter. And our God can do marvelous things with our sacrifices.

Janice - I fell like chanting and clapping with the Bear Hunt! Ha! You really hit on one of the key elements - Humility. That is something I continually pray for. Especially now that I'm published. I'm convinced God can do much more through me if I have a teachable, humble spirit, than if my self-confidence blinds me with pride.

Mary - Thank you so much for having me, and thanks to everyone who left a comment. You have blessed my life this week!

Anonymous said...

Looks like it would be hard to just write what your publisher wants, when most of the authors talk about how the characters just start talking in their head until they know GOd is giving this to them. Maxie

Mary Vee Writer said...

True. But.
If you walked into a new house and watched for a moment, you would meet the people and begin to engage with them. The same is with the stories Karen is asked to write.

Good question/comment, Maxie. So nice to see you.

Karen Witemeyer said...

Hi, Maxie.

Actually my publisher gives me freedom to come up with my own stories. They don't dictate at all what they want me to write beyond letting me know if the ideas I present fit with my brand and the direction they want for me. Even with my first book, when the publisher asked if I could write a book about a dress shop - that was all the direction they gave. The characters, the plot, the entire story came from my imagination. It just centered around a dress shop. :-)

There are other publishers, however, who give a lot of direction to their authors. Especially in the shorter lines like Love Inspired where they have continuity series with multiple authors using the same characters. To make the series work, they need to keep the details straight, so the the authors have to work within tighter parameters. However, even then, an author's imagination is what gives life to the story. It can be more challenging, but sometimes the added structure can be a blessing, too.

Thanks for the great question!