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INTERVIEW: Karen M Cox Writes Stories Brushed with History & Romance

Updated: Jan 30


Welcome to the Tuesday Author Interview with Christina Boyd for the Who, What, When, Where, and Why.


I first read Karen M Cox's 1932: Pride and Prejudice Revisited back in 2010. I heard through the Jane Austen Fan Fiction (JAFF) world that she published other alternate era-Pride and Prejudice reimaginings, and I joined the throngs of her online fans, all anticipation for her next. I've loved so many of her stories, a few I re-read annually like comfort food. In 2015, when I was a subcontracting editor at Meryton Press, I helped curate and edit Sunkissed: Effusions of Summer, their first multi-author anthology; I was lucky enough to work with Karen on her short story, "Northanger 2015".

When I met Karen M Cox at Mr. Darcy's bar in Seattle. (Left to right) Karen M Cox, Gail Warner, Emilyn Wright, Lucy Parker, and Christina Boyd

After that, we worked on several projects together, including standalone novels and more anthologies. Karen even graciously donated her time to format the Yuletide anthology. Hundreds of email exchanges and even more messages later, we finally met when she visited some Austenesque friends in Seattle in 2018. And she was as friendly, kind, and generous as I knew she would be. Karen and I are even "sprint" writing partners. It's kind of amazing when authors I've admired, and then been lucky to work with, become friends too!



CHRISTINA: When did you first think you had a book to write and how did you start?


KAREN: About thirty-five years ago, I started writing a story about a college girl, editor of her university newspaper, who falls for a football player with a career-ending knee injury. I wasn't into Jane Austen at the time, had never read any of her books, nor seen the movie/TV adaptations, but the story had definite P&P [Pride and Prejudice] vibes, like enemies to lovers, as well as some of my characteristic “love blooming in the midst of family and personal drama.” I just kept writing on the story—it was a complete pantser writing process.The story is unfinished, although the ending is in my head. It’s never seen the light of day (no one has ever read it) but I saved the files with each computer upgrade—they’re called Book 1, 2, 3. Man, the writing is pretty rough when I read back over it now, but I loved those characters and still think about them from time to time.

Anyway, that’s how I began thinking maybe there was a story inside me I wanted to tell, but finishing school, working, and having a family took precedence over writing for a long time. For me, writing is something that requires a lot of mental focus and, to be honest, silence. I have to be living in my own head to produce my best stuff. Sometimes, that’s a really fun place to be, but sometimes it’s downright uncomfortable. And the real world is always tugging me away from that writer’s space. (Darn you, Real Life Job!)


Much later (2009) I started writing Austen-inspired stories and posting them on-line. People liked them, so I kept writing them, and that coincided with the advent of Kindle and independent publishing. It was all kind of an adventure in serendipity.


CHRISTINA: Time really has flown. I mean even 2009 seems like yesterday but also eons ago.


How has the publishing industry changed since you started?


KAREN: It’s a lot more crowded! Or maybe I was just naive. My first books were published by a small, independent publisher. It was the best way to go for me, because I didn’t know what I was doing. I had no knowledge of publishing, had never even had a writing course. Back then (2010ish) there weren’t as many independent publishers as now, and “self-publishing” authors were considered one step above vanity-published authors, or maybe even on the same level. They were definitely looked down on by the publishing establishment. Agent/editor and publishing gates were still kept firmly closed, locked to most of us. As readers began to show more interest in independently published books and independent publishers became more successful, that started to change somewhat.


I began publishing under my own banner, Adalia Street Press, in 2017. That was a whole new learning curve: cover design, formatting, distribution channels, graphic design for marketing materials, social media, and then audiobooks: narrators and new audiobook platforms. Now we have the AI factors: what will it change? Is it a tool? Or the end of creative writers? Or something in between?


One thing that is different is the pace at which changes come at us now. There’s always something new to learn or read about book publishing, and it’s harder to decide on what to spend our precious time and attention. I’ve had to accept that there will always be something out there I won’t know about, and I’ve had to let go of my FOMO about it. (Do I sound old yet? —haha)


CHRISTINA: I love how self-publishing doesn't have the same negative stigmatism it used to. I think that's because of the excellent novels by you and other talented writers who worked hard to legitimize the publishing option by producing top quality novels.


What comes first, plot, or characters?


KAREN: With rare exceptions, characters come first for me. Sometimes, I actually see them forming in my head, like Aphrodite arising out of the seafoam (#LaurelElliot in Find Wonder in All Things).


My first inklings of stories are usually formed around character-driven “what if” questions. For example, “What if Elizabeth Bennet were in dire circumstances, would she still turn down Darcy’s first proposal? Answer: 1932. Or, what if a Darcy-like character was the son of a evangelical preacher, and an Elizabeth-like character had reputation (back in the day when, and a place where, that mattered a lot)? Answer: Son of a Preacher Man. Or, what if the Bennets had a son, but there was a problem? Answer: Young Mr. Bennet, my current WIP.


The exception for me was Undeceived. But then, the characters were already established (a canon-like Darcy and Elizabeth), and the idea for the story setting was my husband’s—Pride and Prejudice in the Cold War/Lizzy and Darcy as spies.


CHRISTINA: Ah yes, "Darcy and the Spy Game." I remember editing that and all the spy-related topics I looked up. Anyone looking at my Google search might have wondered if I was a spy!


What is your current project or latest release?


KAREN: My current project is my first full-length Regency novel. It’s called Young Mr. Bennet, and it’s the story of Christopher (Kit) Bennet, the fourth child of the family, and the heir to Longbourn. A lot of circumstances change when there is an heir, but many things are just as tangled as they were in canon. Georgiana Darcy also plays a prominent role.


I also have a couple of other things started but not active: a contemporary women’s fiction piece, a story about Eleanor Tilney, a Western, gender-reversed P&P.


CHRISTINA: I've read early excerpts of Young Mr. Bennet. I can't wait for readers to read it too. Hurry up and finish it, would you? But this contemporary fiction of Eleanor Tilney...this is news to me! I'm all anticipation to hear all about it. Write, Karen! Write.


What do you think is your strength as a writer?


KAREN: I have been told that I write anger well, which is odd, because I don’t think of myself as an angry person. I’ve also been told that I write regional (Southern) fiction well, and that my heroines are strong and independent. I like those things—those are nice compliments.


CHRISTINA: How did writing your first book change your writing process?


KAREN: The longer I write, the more of a plotter I become. I’m not wedded to any outline though. I’ll take the road to CrazyTown if there’s story treasure there!


CHRISTINA: The road to CrazyTown. That made me laugh.


Speaking of travel, have you gone on an author pilgrimage or research trip? Where and what was the most memorable moment?


Pilgrimage to Jane Austen's England. Photos by Karen M Cox

KAREN: In 2015, for my fiftieth birthday, I made a pilgrimage with some friends, who are also JA fangirls, to England. It was a BucketList item and an amazing trip! We visited Bath, Jane Austen’s Chawton Cottage, Lyme Park, Winchester Cathedral, Chatsworth, and London.

So many memories! One was when we were at Chawton cottage, and I saw her little table where she worked. And I thought, “This room, this table—this is where it happened. Genius and perseverance combined to make literary history, and it all came from these humble surroundings.” #TheRoomWhereItHappens


Another memory was at Winchester Cathedral, viewing where Austen is buried. I was overwhelmed with the sadness of what we all lost when she died so young, what stories never came to light because of that untimely event. I even cried a little, grieving that loss. It was unexpected, that deep well of emotion.


CHRISTINA: Thanks, Karen, for taking time with me on your summer break. I know as a speech pathologist with the school district your summers are short, and time is valuable. I can't believe you guys have gone back to school already. So, thank you again. Mostly, I hope you made progress on your Young Mr. Bennet. When are we scheduled to sprint again?


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen M Cox is an award-winning author of four full-length novels that adapt Jane Austen to other eras: 1932: Pride & Prejudice Revisited; Find Wonder in All Things: Persuasion Revisited; I Could Write a Book: A Modern Variation of Emma; and Undeceived: Pride & Prejudice in the Spy Game. Her other published novel, Son of a Preacher Man, takes its inspiration from the social and class differences examined in Pride & Prejudice.


Karen has also written five Austen-inspired short stories: “Resistive Currents”, “A Nominal Mistress”, “An Honest Man”, and “I, Darcy” all in the Quill Collective anthologies, and “Northanger 2015” in Sunkissed: Effusions of Summer.


In addition, Karen manages a Facebook Group and website devoted to other-era Austen books and authors called Austen Through the Ages.

Karen was born in Everett, Washington, but has resided in her family’s home state of Kentucky since she was eleven. Armed with her master’s degree in communication disorders and her Ph.D. in experimental psychology, she works as a pediatric speech language pathologist in her small community in Central Kentucky—where she lives with her husband of 37 years, encourages her grown children, and spoils grand-girls whenever possible.


Connect with Karen via her social media and subscribe to her newsletter, News&MuseLetter here.




4 comentários


Christina Morland
Christina Morland
17 de ago. de 2023

I love Karen's novels! Thanks to you both for this great interview, and I'm very excited about Young Mr. Bennet!

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Christina Boyd
Christina Boyd
17 de ago. de 2023
Respondendo a

I’ve been so pushy about her writing more; I forget she has a life outside writing too. Hahah! I’m a selfish reader—what can I say?! and “selfishness must always be forgiven, you know, as there’s no hope for a cure.”—Mary Crawford, Mansfield Park

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Karen M Cox
Karen M Cox
15 de ago. de 2023

Thanks so much for inviting me, Christina! I always love to talk about writing. I’ll go get to work on that story now 😊

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Christina Boyd
Christina Boyd
16 de ago. de 2023
Respondendo a

Yes! I can’t wait to read the rest.

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