Tell us about your current book?
My new book, Passin', is about a young African-American woman, Shanika Jenkins, who is -- as the old folks used to say -- light, bright, and damn near white. Not only is her complexion that of a white person, but she was also born with blonde hair and blue eyes. When Shanika is turned down for a job at a prestigious PR firm in NYC she decides to change her name to Nicole Jensen, and reapplies . . . and this time gets the job. Her family is furious at her, but she doesn't care. Not only is she passing at work, but she develops a whole new social set -- all white -- and even denies her family when she sees them in the street. But then she falls in love with a successful African-American stockbroker, and he in turn believes he's found the white woman of his dreams.
What would you like your readers to take away from your book?
Just the fact that while most people think that passing is something that happened in the days of old, but a tradition that still exists. I also wanted people to see that passing is not as black and white (no pun intended) as one might think. There are various reasons for passing, and they may or may not all be related to self-hate. And I wanted readers to explore those reasons along with me.
What aspect of writing do you love the best, and which do you hate the most?
I love coming up with an idea and then seeing it all the way through to fruition. I don't know that I hate anything about writing, actually.
What’s something you wish you’d known earlier that might have saved you some time/frustration in the publishing business?
Well, I wish I'd known earlier that I was a writer! You see, I didn't start writing at all until I was in my thirties, and then didn't attempt to write my first book until I was in my forties. Oh, all the time I wasted! I so envy the young people who know from a very young age that they were meant to write!
What’s the most interesting change in your life as a result of being a published author?
I love the freedom that I have . . . to write when I want to write and what I want to write without having to worry about pleasing a boss!
How much marketing do you do? What have you found that particularly works well for you?
I do a lot of Internet promotion, but also the good old getting out there and passing out postcards is still one of my favorite ways of promoting my books.
What one thing about writing do you wish other non-writers would understand?
That's it a talent that should be respected. Not necessarily envied, but respected. I mean, when someone comes up to me and says "Yeah, book writing. That's pretty good. I might go ahead and write a book someday." I never turn around and say, "Oh, you're a brain surgeon, huh? That's pretty good. I might go ahead and operate on someone's brain someday."
What do you do to make time for yourself?
I don't . . . but I should!
Meet The Author:
Born and raised in Harlem, Karen dropped out of school at the age of 13. At age 22, Karen joined the Navy, and after spending five years in the military, Karen married, had a child, and divorced -- all within a two-year period.
She moved to Philadelphia at age 29, and enrolled at Temple University three years later. Karen graduated magna cum laude from Temple with a B.A. in journalism, confirming her belief that the only thing she missed by skipping high school was the senior prom. After graduation she became a newspaper reporter, and worked for the Associated Press, The Norfolk Virginian Pilot, and lastly for The Philadelphia Inquirer where she worked nine years. She also worked as a correspondent for People Magazine.