KAREN E. OSBORNE’s debut novel followed a forty-year career, first as an academic administrator and then co-owner of The Osborne Group, serving as a consultant, trainer, and motivational speaker. In partnership with her husband, Bob, she traveled the world helping nonprofits raise money, build great boards, and manage effectively.
Getting It Right, published by Akashic Books, came out in June 2017. Since then Karen has spoken at numerous bookstores, conferences, book clubs, and literary festivals. She was featured in Essence Magazine and Poets & Writers.
Tangled Lies, Black Rose Writing, launches July 22, 2021. Perfect for fans of women’s fiction and suspense, the novel is about two women from vastly different backgrounds and eras, dealing with loss and forgiveness as they solve a murder together.
Native New Yorkers, Bob and Karen have two grown children and three grandsons. They live full time in Port Saint Lucie, FL.
1) First, I want to thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me! When did you know that writing is what you were called to do? What is it about being a writer that you love the most? What about being a writer frustrates you the most?
Thanks for the opportunity. I’m delighted to be with you. As a little girl, I loved to read and tell stories. By the time I was twelve, I was drafting short stories in books I made with cardboard covers and paper my Uncle Vincent brought me whenever he visited. In junior high, what is now called middle school, I’d hand in book reports on fictitious books I’d written in my head. I made up plots, titles and author’s names. Never got caught. Under my graduation photo in my high school yearbook it said, “Ambition: Writer.”
I love the entire process except the final editing stage. Creating living characters, figuring out the plot and what happens next, writing dialogue in my head (I have entire conversations with my characters). I enjoy re-writing. I’m blessed with an excellent group of writers and readers who provide honest feedback. But those final nitpicks — finding and fixing repeated words and phrases, for example, are not my favorite activity.
If I may ask, how old were you Jimmetta, when you knew you wanted to be a writer? I was actually 6 years old when I knew that being a writer was what I wanted to do but I didn’t actually start really getting into writing heavily until I was 10 years old.
2) Can you tell us a little about your book(s) and where our readers can find out more about them and you?
I’ve written three novels and one is in process. The first, Getting It Right, came out in June 2017. It’s a compelling story of women trying to move past the bondage of their upbringing. We are left wondering, what does it mean to make amends? Is redemption possible? Getting It Right is absorbing and pushes at understanding race, family bonds, and trauma.”
My second novel, Tangled Lies, launches July 22, 2021. It is a multicultural story of two women, one seventy-years-old and Black and the other twenty-five and white, dealing with loss and forgiveness as they solve a murder together.
My books are available on Amazon, Barnes & Nobel, and the publisher’s website, Akashic Books. I’d love your readers to subscribe to my You Tube channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCN9Sxl3l-eGsVh4N13q66GA and my website — www.kareneosborne.com
I keep my readers updated on my website and You Tube Channel. I’m also available for book talks.
3) Where do you draw your inspiration from for the stories that you manage to weave together and the characters that you create?
A friend gave me a T-shirt that said, “Be careful what you say to her or you’ll end up in her novel.” Like many authors, I draw from my life experiences and my imagination. Characters often come to me. I remember seeing a woman on an airplane and everything about her made me think of Vanessa, one of the secondary characters in Getting It Right. Her hair, mannerisms, and voice. I pulled out my ever-ready notebook and wrote furiously. Dani, in Tangled Lies, is a composite of several folks I know. The murder in the opening scene is based on a true-life experience.
4) Do you have a schedule for when you write? Do you outline your novels? How long does it generally take you to finish a novel? What projects are you currently working on?
I have a mantra, “Writers Write.” I try to write every day, even if it’s just for a few minutes and I’m at my best in the morning. If I miss a few days, I force myself to sit at the computer and get going. My first novel was rather organic. I wasn’t sure where it was going, and I often let my protagonists, Kara and Alex, lead me.
Because the second one, Tangled Lies, is a murder mystery, I was more disciplined. I had to know the end and make sure that all the plot twists and surprises were believable.
That depends on what you mean by finished! I had a big job and traveled weekly so I wrote the first one on airplanes, in the Delta Sky Club, and in hotel rooms. That took a year. Re-writing, however, took many more.
The People’s Theater (not sure if I’m keeping that title) is in major re-writing mode.
True Grace is a memoir. I’m writing it as if I’m my grandmother. She had an extraordinary life and I’m focused on 1924 to 1930, the Harlem Renaissance, Marcus Garvey, Prohibition, the crash of 1929. It was an amazing time in history and a challenging time in her life.
5) What’s the first book you ever read that really moved you emotionally? Who is your favorite author to read? What book are you currently reading?
I read The Color Purple in one seating. It shook me to my core. As an incest and rape survivor, it spoke to me in devastating but also freeing ways. My reading taste is eclectic. I like Cheryl A. Head’s mysteries and I’m reading her latest now. You can’t go wrong with James McBride. I love Laura Lippman, Stacia Pelletier, and Rowling’s (under her pen name) Cormoran Strike series. For poetry I enjoy Philip Robinson.
6) What has been your most significant achievement as a writer thus far? Where do you see yourself within your career in the next five years?
Getting published! My first novel came out at age 69. Whew. It is never too late to follow one’s dreams. All the support I received once it came out was overwhelming. I spoke at nonprofits, on college campuses, at book clubs and bookstores, at a conference for social workers, and even at a golf outing during lunch. What a joy. I was honored to be one of four authors at the Langston Hughes Literary Festival.
I’d like novel three to come out in 2022 and number four in 2023. After that, I don’t know. Two of my three grandsons are writers. They’re 14 and 9. We are collaborating on a kid’s book, so who knows.
7) How have you dealt with rejection within your writing career? What is your advice for other writers to better be able to cope or navigate their way through the publishing process, be it traditional or self-publishing?
I used to get my feelings hurt. I’d send out a few queries, get rejected, and stop. Wait for months before trying again. My son told me, “It’s a numbers game. You authored a great book. Send it out.” So, I set a goal of 100 rejections and got all my queries out the door over a two-month period. I paid attention to the comments from agents. I kept at it and it worked.
Rejection is hard because we love our stories and characters. Why can’t everyone else love them as much? But publishing is a business. Great books get rejected. So I recommend research and networking, resilience, and perseverance. And keep on writing.
8) Do you find it hard to juggle the creative side of being a writer against the business side of being a writer, in terms of marketing and promotion and things of that nature? How hard has it been (or easy) for you to build up your author platform?
What a GREAT question. For my first novel I didn’t know what I was doing. I built a website and created a You Tube channel and alerted everyone I knew that I was available for book talks. I walked into bookstores and introduced myself.
This time I’ve put together a marketing plan and budget. I highly recommend creating one. It helps me focus on those activities and opportunities that will be the most advantageous. Staying on top of all the moving parts cuts into writing time but it’s worth it.
The book talks, which are also part of marketing, I love. Having discussions with readers about the lives of the characters in my books is a joy.
9) So many writers say that they hate reading their own work. Do you ever enjoy reading your own work back to yourself after it’s out there for the rest of the world?
I love reading my stories and books because I care about the characters so much. Plus, I find things I could do better going forward.
Do you hate reading your work, Jimmetta? I actually do not like reading my own work once it’s really done. Not immediately anyway lol. If it’s been a few years I do like reading something I wrote and being able to have that feeling like “did I really write that! That’s pretty good!” but a few years needs to have passed first.
10) Do you believe that there is ever a point in life where it’s too late for an aspiring writer to become successful in this industry? Do you feel a late start would hinder their chances?
As I mentioned, I was 69 when my first book came out. Poets & Writers magazine featured me in an annual section they call “5 Over 50.” Never too late. Never too old to follow your dreams.
11) I feel like writing is a remarkable tool to help people not only express themselves, but also to cope emotionally and mentally. I know for me I write to be and feel more authentic. What unique quality is there about you, about your art, that you feel represents your authenticity? How does writing help you to be more empowered in your purpose?
As an incest and rape survivor, the mother of an adopted daughter who spent her first two years in foster care, and a Black woman, I have lots of issues I use my writing to spotlight. On any given day in the US, for example, 400,000 children are in foster care and a huge proportion are children of color. Sixty-two thousand age out at 18 and too many end up jobless and homeless. Over 70% of the girls get pregnant. I made Kara, in Getting It Right, an incest survivor and aged-out foster care adult.
One of the most powerful aspects of my book talks was at everyone, no matter where, someone waited until the end and the last guest left and then told me, “It happened to me.” Some told me they’d never shared with anyone until now. I’m humbled that Kara’s story and my truth has given readers strength to speak about their abuse.
I also try to interweave racism just as it is woven into our everyday lives and all my protagonists are flawed but good women trying to make their way. These are all issues I care about deeply.