7 Questions With Author Karen Tomsovic
Meet Karen Tomsovic, author of romance and women’s fiction, whose titles include Season of ’72, Spare Me the Drama, and the City Lights New York series of romantic comedies.
For the ones of you who are new to my blog, I’m Esther, writer, content creator for authors and massive nerd. If you’re interested to know all the tips & tricks surrounding the process From Writing To Publishing Your Novel, you’re only a click away. For more goodies, articles and giveaways, please consider subscribing to my Newsletter.
Are you a plotter or a pantser?
Mostly a plotter. I’m definitely an overthinker. I’ll spend months and months turning a story over and over in my head, writing about the story, getting details and pieces of scenes and quotes and possible plot threads and character goals and motivations down, and then I’ll sift through it all – in my head and on paper — and get the structure in order, going from general – Acts, major turning points, etc. – to specific.
Then, when it comes time to actually craft a scene from start to finish, that’s when the pantsing comes in. All those little parts of the scene, the transitions and the stage directions and the props and the physical movements, that comes spontaneously as I go along.
For instance, in Season of ’72, my couple has an argument that leads up to a major separation. I had no clue what I was going to do with it. They were working together on a television show and a lot of their previous scenes took place in her trailer or on set in front of a crowd. When I sat down to do the scene, I said to myself, how can I change this up?
So, I decided to set the scene in the parking lot before they went into work. Their respective cars, a Corvette Stingray and a VW Beetle -this was the ‘70s after all – figure into the story in other scenes, so I had them parked side-by-side here. And I had the characters do a lot of rolling down windows and slamming doors and circling around one another as they went point-for-point in their quarrel. I felt by getting them out of the usual surroundings I had them in, they could really let loose.
What should readers expect from your next novel?
I had an identity crisis with my earlier books. Am I writing straight-up romance or women’s fiction? Drama or humor? Pick a lane already, you know? I like writing all those things, but maybe it’s best not to try to do all four at the same time!
My latest release focused more on drama and emotion and less on humor. It’s part romance and part saga but it absolutely has that romance HEA.
Next I’m planning a three-book series featuring characters from my first book, which has been a standalone up to this point. Those are going to be women’s fiction with strong romance plots. The focus will be more on the woman’s POV and goals than the man’s.
One of the themes from Season of ’72 was jumping around in time. I love reading books like that and I love writing them. I’d love to do more, maybe even setting an entire book in the past. Who knows, I may do a “2” theme and have books set in 1982, 1962, 1942, 1912, etc!
There are a lot of experts behind the novel: editors, development editors, proofreaders, beta readers, etc. How did you find your perfect crew?
I wouldn’t say I’ve found the “perfect” crew yet. I haven’t published that many books. But I’ve worked with a couple of line editors that I’ve loved and would definitely go to again. One gave me some story critique along with my edit and the other helped me with style. I haven’t used a content/developmental editor, but I’d love to spring for one just to see if they could help with story. I know a good line editor is worth her weight in gold!
I have yet to use beta readers because I’m a bit skeptical of their effectiveness. I’ve really put time and effort into learning structure the past few years and am more confident than ever in my work. If I could find one or two good beta readers whose judgment I could trust, I’d definitely work them into the process. But I wouldn’t use beta readers just to have beta readers.
I really believe in editing. Self-editing works and is necessary – up to a point. I spend less time endlessly polishing than I used to. Too much tinkering ruins your voice, I think.
On my new release, I hired a proofreader for the first time. It’s necessary to have another set of eyes look for those typos after you do the revisions from the line edit. Even so, I did the final, final polish. And still found errors! I swear, elves come out of the woodwork in the middle of the night and just go around putting errors into manuscripts.
What’s an approximate price authors would pay to get their precious out there into the world of readers?
I don’t know what price authors would pay to get their books out there, but I’d say that in the world of indie authorship, by now there’s a fairly established price range for most services. I would caution anybody to do some comparative shopping before giving someone your money.
The two biggest expenses are solid editing—at least a copy/line edit—and a good cover. For those things combined, I’d say $1,000-$1,200 is reasonable, and that’s what I usually budget for a book. The trick is finding editors and designers who can give you the most value for your dollar. I think a decent ebook cover can still be had for $200-$300.
Editing depends on how many rounds you need, and that depends on the quality of your writing and how long the book is. Developmental editing is a huge splurge, and I don’t know of many indie authors who spring for it. You can spend as little as $300 for basic copy editing on a shorter book, and up from there. I think you get the best value from a line edit, which is like a deluxe copy edit, and usually costs a bit more. A penny a word is a good guide.
Beta reading, proofreading and ebook formatting can be done at low- or no-cost if you have friends/family you can trust to help. Lots of options there. You can set up a website inexpensively, too. And of course, there’s social media. That may not sell books directly, but it does help you build connections, if you’re good at it. And you’ll probably want to start building an email list of readers to market future books to, and you can get on the free plan at MailChimp or MailerLite to start that.
The ebook market is absolutely maturing and advertising is a necessity. But what works for one author may not work for another, and all the platforms are different, so you have to experiment with Facebook, Amazon, Bookbub, etc. before you start seeing a return. You can – and should – throw small amounts into that as you figure things out. If you’re not careful, those platforms can eat up huge amounts of money with no return if you let them.
And for goodness sake, don’t buy into anyone’s “marketing system!” Steer clear of all the get-rich-quickers. And that goes for the all-in-one service providers, too, who tell you that you need to spend $4,000 and up to publish your book. You do NOT need to spend anywhere near that!
What’s your favorite genre as a reader?
I’ve gone through phases in my life. When I was in my teens and early twenties, decades ago, I read Agatha Christie mysteries and WWII and Cold War spy novels. These days I stick to women’s fiction with some romantic comedy thrown in. I’ve never really read category romance.
It took me a long, long time to even think of the stories I was writing as romance because I never read romances. I mean, I would read stories with romance in them, often as a subplot or part of what the main character wanted, but usually they were bigger stories than just the relationship between the couple.
I still maintain that my favorite genre doesn’t really exist today. It’s that perfect blend of comedy, drama, and romance. Books that make you laugh on one page and shed a tear on the next.
Does the genre you normally read have a direct influence on your writing?
Yes. I’m a very reactionary person, and often I’ll have an emphatic reaction to what I’m reading. I read a range of “women’s” genres – from romantic comedy to chick lit to women’s fiction to romance. For a long time, I’d end up dividing my favorite authors into two camps, the ones who were good at writing the emotional stuff, and the ones who could write humor. And I’d always wish there was humor in the emotional stuff, and deeper emotion in the comedy.
Again, it’s that pick a lane thing. I don’t read the steamies because I don’t like sex scenes, but lately some of the sweeter stories leave me underwhelmed in the emotions department.
Indie-authored genre fiction seems to be hyper-segmented these days. Everything from cover to blurb to meta data and advertising needs to be so stringently defined and targeted down to sub-sub-categories and niches if you want to be visible and attract readers. It’s kind of a shame.
Pick a lane, pick a lane, pick a lane.
Just how much research is there behind a novel?
Not enough, as far I’m concerned! I love to get lost down the rabbit hole of research. And the internet makes it easier than ever. I find the most amazing details to put in my story that way, and they’re usually things I’m not even looking for, but they just jump out at me. For instance, in Season of ’72, the main character, Robin Stewart, grew up in the Hollywood of the 1950s.
I read this terrific magazine article about the street in Beverly Hills where Lucille Ball and Jack Benny and other huge stars lived, and how mythical and idyllic it was. I got so many details from there that I managed to weave into Robin’s backstory, things that really resonated with his character and his relationships and helped me paint a bigger picture of his life, threads I carried throughout the novel.
Same thing with his romantic interest, Christine. I happened to be going down the YouTube rabbit hole one night, watching black and white videos of Peter, Paul and Mary from the ‘60s, and next thing I know, I’m reading about the 1964 Newport Folk Festival. Well, my character, Christine was from Boston.
She would have been thirteen for that event. And right away, it got me thinking about her as a kid wanting to go to that event and making an argument to her parents as to why she should be allowed to go, as opposed to say, seeing the Beatles with all the other teenage girls, which would have been too cliché. She would definitely have been a folkie back then. Anyway, it became a perfect detail to use in her backstory to illustrate her character – mature, rational, determined to be independent – and how all of those qualities were threatened when this traumatic thing happened to her several years later.
Oh, I could go on and on and on about research. It’s a great thing to do when I get writer’s block. It may start out as a diversion or avoidance tactic, but it inevitably helps jump-start my thought processes.
Find Karen Tomsovic on her Website
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And check out Lost in Amber: An Out Of This World Paranormal Romance if enjoy girl power, adventure & a toe-curling love story.
She just wanted to mope over her breakup but the universe had other plans for Zoey Mills.
Read the full blurb here.