Kathleen Karr

Kathleen  Karr

I grew up on a poultry farm near Dorothy, New Jersey, after being born in Allentown, Pennsylvania. I worked in the film industry and taught high school and college after escaping to college. On my husband's dare, I started writing fiction seriously and sold five women's fiction novels before my children requested me to write a book for them (It Ain't Always Easy, 1990). I discovered my passion for writing children's books and haven't looked back since. It's wonderful to be able to create my own universes.

It's a thrilling sensation to watch a character come to life, to become genuine flesh and blood and to take control of a story. It's also a lot of work, especially since I prefer historical settings. What a blessing it is that I feel at ease in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries! This is my only option of returning to the past short of creating a time machine.

It's my method of demonstrating to my viewers that, while events change, human nature remains rather consistent. Against all difficulties, courage and common decency have always existed. Where do my thoughts come from? My family and I have traveled to practically every state in the United States throughout the years. We've explored Europe, walked the walls of old Jerusalem, sailed up the Nile, and paddled through the Venezuelan rain forests to Angel Falls in a dugout canoe.

We've traveled a Gypsy caravan in Ireland and hiked through Yosemite's high country with burros. We've camped on the Oregon Trail and visited tunnels in New Zealand with water up to our chins. We developed an interest in archaeology along the road. We've explored gold-rush settlements in Montana and pioneer sites in upper Wisconsin, as well as an Anasazi pottery kiln in Utah. These visits have probably influenced some of my thoughts.

Others emerge through intense participation in sports such as boxing or sculpture. Then there's actual research in Washington, D.C.'s Library of Congress and National Archives. I enjoy sifting through old letters and analyzing the handwriting of bygone eras. I enjoy tracking down people who truly existed and creating a life for them based on the snatches of information they leave in their letters and journals.

From a single thrown-away sentence, I've gotten the idea for an full novel on occasion. How does my family put up with all of this? Eventually, an detailed adventure is brewing in my head, bursting to get out and be populated with genuine characters. My kids have been reading and correcting my work since they were old enough to read and edit. One beneficial outcome was that they never had any apprehensions about writing school essays.

They learned to feel at ease with books and language as they grew up in a house full of them. Suzanne, my daughter, is starting graduate school, and Daniel, my son, is starting college. They've both moved on from children's writing to adult literature, but they continue to provide me constructive feedback on my work in progress. What else could a writer ask for?