A Day in the Life Presents . . . Author & Editor, Karen Otto

Photo courtesy of the author.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Thank you again for agreeing to be interviewed for this series, Karen. What types – and forms – of writing do you do?

Karen Otto: Well, primarily I’m a science fiction writer, but I have been pushing myself out of my comfort zones. I’ve written some horror, some high fantasy, non-fiction poetry, and lots of drabbles.

Terrie Leigh Relf: You’re also an editor, so what is your niche in that regard?

Karen Otto: Yes, I am an editor as well, and I read and work with everything under the sun. I’m the editor for Bloodbond and FrostFire Worlds (though I am training a new editor for this one). In addition, I read, edit, and put together a lot of the books we put out. I’m also reading and editing for almost all of the anthologies Alban Lake has open at the mome

Terrie Leigh Relf: What is your area(s) of subject matter expertise? How did you discover this niche? What intrigues you about it?

Karen Otto: I have to say sci-fi and fantasy are my specialties, though I have a deep love of horror as well.

Fantasy has always been a passion of mine ever since I learned to read. I absolutely devoured every fantasy book I could get my hands on. When I met Bill, he got me into role play – Dungeons and Dragons, Amber, free-play – and my love of fantasy flourished even more in this form.

Horror . . . Ah, horror. Stephen King was my introduction to written horror and I haven’t looked back. I absolutely love reading horror but until recently I haven’t been very good at writing it myself. Practice has helped, though, and now I’d like to think I’m much more readable.

My main stories are sci-fi, though, and that is something that is still surprising to me. I always, always, saw myself as a fantasy writer, but for whatever reason, my stories never worked out, until one day, I threw out the fantasy aspect and wrote in sci-fi. I absolutely love it, and have so much more of a connection to all my stories due to this discovery – no matter the genre.

Terrie Leigh Relf: How do you balance your creative and work time?

Karen Otto: A difficult question. I work from home, so you’d think it would be easy to have a schedule, right? Yeah, not so much. I have a sort of timeline. In the morning I read through and answer emails while I eat breakfast, and then I move on to either writing or editing, depending on my mood. But most of the time, my days are taken up by running the house: errands, animals, kids, bills, etc.

I spend most of my “free-time” working on Alban Lake – editing, reading, sorting, emailing, research – but when the mood strikes, I will set everything aside, put on my headphones, and write.

At the very least, I try to write a few lines every day on something.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What tips do you have for other writers and/or editors?

Karen: Don’t pigeon-hole yourself. Branch out to other genres, other styles. Experiment.

Even if you’re comfortable and happy in your chosen writing style, it is still healthy and good for you to try out something new – even if it doesn’t work.

Also, don’t focus on just one piece at a time. I did that for a long time. I ignored and suppressed ideas in favor of a single one. Who knows how many stories I lost doing that. Write down your ideas, even if it becomes months before you go back to them. Better to have them written somewhere than lost forever.

Writers write. Write something, even if it is only a sentence, every day.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What are your thoughts on the creative process in general and your creative process in particular?

Karen Otto: I think this is something that’s different for each person. My process, such as it is, starts with a random idea or a picture. Art is greatly inspiring for me. I’ll save the picture or write down the idea and return to it over and over before something solidifies. From there, I’ll work on the piece alongside my other projects. Sometimes, I’ll spend hours or days doing nothing but writing on that one piece. Other times, I ignore it for weeks on end before I have something new.

I try not to edit as I work, because if I do, I’ll get lost in changing the story and then lose the thread of it. I go through and write the story to the end before I edit.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where do your ideas come from?

Karen Otto: Most of my ideas are random: What happens if someone is sucked out of an airlock? What if that person was an alien who could survive that?

Other times, art will inspire something. For my first non-fiction poem, the City of Chicago inspired every word.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Where have you been published? Upcoming publications? Awards and other accolades?

Karen Otto: Let’s see . . .

I’ve been published in the January and October 2017 issues of Outposts of Beyond.

My first novel, Bugs in the System, was published this May through Alban Lake.

I had an art piece used as cover art for May 2018 FrostFire Worlds.

My drabble, ‘The Shifting Needs of the John’, is being published in the most recent Drabble Contest.http://albanlake.com/drabble-contest-9/

I have a haiku and an art piece being published in the upcoming issue of Disturbed.

I also have another art piece, a poem, three drabbles, and three short stories I am waiting to hear back on. Fingers crossed.

 

Terrie Leigh Relf:  What are you working on now?

Karen Otto: I have a sci-fi novel I am currently editing, two more in the same series I am planning, a book of sci-fi drabbles I’m working on, a fantasy/adventure novel, a sci-fi novella, a short dark story I’m editing, and another story that I’m not sure if it will be a novella or a novel.

I also have a novel that I basically trashed. It was written during a bad period of my life, and it shows in a poorly written way. I have plans to re-write it eventually.

Terrie Leigh Relf: What challenges have you faced as a writer and/or with a particular project? How did you meet them? What did you learn from these challenges and how did they make you a better writer and/or editor?

Karen Otto: Every one of my writing pieces has been a challenge, but I think the biggest thing, for me was accepting that I cannot edit my own stories.

I am too close to the stories, the characters, and tend to read things into the story that I didn’t actually put in.

Giving up even part of that control was a very difficult thing for me –  and continues to be  – because once I’m ready to edit, I have to work on Bill’s schedule, since he is my editor and help.

That’s the biggest thing for any writer, I would imagine: Giving up even a small amount of control over your story – whether it is to an editor or to a publisher. It is also one of the most rewarding, I think.

When you work with an editor, the story grows in ways that you couldn’t have seen on your own. It becomes something new and vibrant.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you plotter and planner or a discovery writer?

Karen Otto: I’m a bit of a planner and a discovery writer. I don’t plot too much. I find when I do, I get bogged down in “this is what I plotted to happen so it needs to happen.”

I much prefer to let the characters tell and carry the story. Fighting them never works.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently a writing mentor? If so, what are your thoughts on mentoring?

Karen Otto: I am not at the moment, but this November I will be doing my very best. I love the idea of mentoring and giving back to the wonderfully supportive writing community. I would not be as confident a writer as I am without the support of my fellow authors.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Since you’re a fiction writer, who are your favorite characters? How did they come into being, and what do you love – or loathe – about them?

Karen Otto: My favorite characters of my own are Jerai and Serra.

Serra is the first character who got me published. Her story was a way of getting through my depression and since then, she’s flourished into a fantastic character.

Jerai makes me smile. He’s a big, scaly, alligator-looking dude. The book he’s in is one that I’m editing right now, so unfortunately, you’ll have to wait to read about him.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Are you currently, or have you ever, been in a writing group? Your thoughts?

Karen Otto: I am in a writing group! I do my best to attend the writing conference call hosted by none other than Terrie each week. These calls are absolutely amazing and really a great way of connecting to the Alban Lake family.

I highly encourage writers of any skill level to join a writing group. You have no idea how much fun and how supportive a group like that can be.

Terrie Leigh Relf: I know our readers would love to hear about your networking, marketing, and promotional experiences – including tips.

Karen Otto: I do a ton of marketing and promotional work for Alban Lake. I have us on Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, and I have our affiliates, Infinite Realms, on Cratejoy and their own bookstore.

All of those platforms are fantastic for individual authors to promote their work on. With the exception of Cratejoy, all of them are free to use. With the bookstore, Infinite Realms will host your book for a small piece of the selling price.

We’ve also made promotional bookmarks, which is not too costly, and a fantastic way to get your name out there.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on having an agent?

Karen Otto: I think agents are rather unnecessary, especially with all the options an author has these days. Yes, to get into a huge, fancy publisher you have to have one, but you lose a great deal of control with those places. Yes, you might get rich, but you might also be forced into a contract to churn out stories you’re not passionate about, or you might very well simply lose and waste money trying to get them to accept your work.

Basically, they’re not for me.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Your thoughts on self-publishing?

Karen Otto: I understand wanting to self-publish and fully support the authors who do. However, that route can be so hard and expensive. If you’re willing to put in the time and money it takes, go for it, but there’s something to be said about having a publisher at your back.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Anything else you’d like to add that I haven’t asked? For example, what would you like to see more of in your specific genre? In the publishing field? Where do you see yourself in the next year? Next five years? etc.

Karen Otto: I’d like to add just one other thing:

Don’t give up on your writing. It took me fifteen plus years of writing to get published, but I did.

Writers write. If you’re a writer, write.

Terrie Leigh Relf: Thank you again, Karen, for creating time out of your busy schedule for this interview. Be sure to read her novel, Bugs in the System, and all her other work. Check out her bio below – and yes, visit all the new sites!

 

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Karen Otto serves as the Managing Editor for Alban Lake Publishing, where she is the editor for two of their magazines, several anthologies, and multiple books. In addition, she maintains the social media presence for the company with the help of her husband, Bill Otto. Karen has been published in the January and October 2017 issues of Outposts of Beyond and in the 10th Great Lake Drabble Contest, published April of 2018. Her first novel, Bugs in the System, also came out May 2018.

Contact Links:

Twitter: @editorotto

Email: evilbookworm@yahoo.com

Bookstore: http://www.infiniterealmsbookstore.com

Cratejoy: https://infinite-realms.cratejoy.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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