Monday, November 12, 2012

Interview with Harlequin Blaze Author Karen Foley

I'm so excited to have Blaze author Karen Foley here today! I met Karen this past summer at RWA Nationals in Anaheim. It was an embarrassing case of mistaken identity that resulted in a major fan moment. I'm telling all of you, without reservation, that if you want to read a hot, smart, kick-ass Blaze, you can't go wrong with Karen Foley. I mean, seriously, how many romance authors do you know who've jumped into the cockpit of a Black Hawk all in the name of research ; ? Karen is one of the sweetest, most interesting and funniest people I've met...and when it comes to putting a guy in his place, she's pretty kick-ass herself. Read on and you'll see what I mean :)

1. Welcome, Karen! After reading Flyboy a few years ago, I knew I'd found an awesome, auto-buy Blaze author. No surprise it was a Romantic Times Top Pick (October 2007). I was thrilled when I saw its re-release as a 2-in-1 with your latest, A Kiss in the Dark, another incredible read. Your stories aren't just sexy and suspensful. They're smart. I love the intelligent plot lines and characters, as well as how you always tackle both psychological and moral issues. You write extremely hot heroes (often with various military backgrounds) and heroines who, in spite of their high IQ's and successful careers, are a little oblivious to how sexy they are to men :) Take scientist Lacey Delaney and her invention that could save men in A Kiss in the Dark as an example, or aerospace engineer Sedona Stewart and how she outsmarts sexist men in Flyboy. Has working at the Department of Defense influenced the type of heroine you write and how she fits into a 'man's world'?

First of all, thank you so much for inviting me here today! And thanks, too, for the nice words about my book! I’ve worked for the Department of Defense for nearly 27 years, both here in the U.S. and overseas. I’ve attended top level meetings with military and government officials, where I’ve been the only woman in the room. Intimidating? Oh, yeah. When you’re working in a male-dominated environment, I think you really have to step up your game and know your stuff. Learning to speak up and stand up to some of the alpha males I’ve encountered during my career has been challenging, but it certainly made a difference—both to my career and to my own self-esteem! Thankfully, it’s been a long time since anyone has called me “dear” or “honey,” or asked me to get them a cup of coffee (yes, that really happened, and the guy who asked me to get his coffee had no idea that I was the one directing the meeting. I did get his coffee, and served it to him with a smile, and he nearly choked when he eventually realized his gaffe). So when I write my heroines, I try to create them the way I’d like to be.

2. Love it! A Kiss in the Dark involves a mining industry investigation. Your descriptions are so vivid and emotionally evoking that I actually wondered if the sweet Karen I'd met at Nationals had actually been in a mining accident! Have you ever been in one of those claustrophobic mining elevators, or been cave or mine shaft exploring...or are you just incredible at research?

Thanks, Rula! I absolutely love doing research and then applying what I’ve learned to my story and to my characters in a way that hopefully feels authentic. When I was writing A Kiss in the Dark, I read through many of the news articles and interviews related to the horrific mining disaster at Crandall Canyon Mine in 2007. The rescue and recovery efforts lasted for four weeks, before officials called off the search, and the mining company itself was cited for safety violations. That incident really impacted me, and I knew I wanted to write a story about a mining accident, but with a happy ending. Thankfully, I’ve never experienced a mining accident first-hand, and I don’t think I’d be brave enough to actually enter a coal mine! I don’t even like driving through tunnels, lol!

3. I'm a bit claustrophobic myself. Miners and mine rescuers are truly daring and brave. They're the heroes who don't get the acknowledgment they deserve or the limelight, unless there has been a televised accident. Although it wasn't a mining accident, the rescue crew in A Kiss in the Dark reminded me of the heroes who saved Baby Jessica when she fell in a well pipe back in 1987. I think you give your heroes and heroines very unique and interesting careers (in the romance arena). Of all the careers your characters have excelled at, which was the one you loved/enjoyed researching or writing the most?

That’s a tough question! In my book, Coming Up for Air, both the hero and the heroine are military helicopter pilots and I really loved doing the research for that, including visiting Sikorsky, where they build the helicopters, and sitting in the cockpit of a Blackhawk helicopter. That was so cool, but I really enjoyed doing the research for my book Able-Bodied, where the heroine was a funky, new-age Reiki master and energy healer. I took a Reiki class, and learned about crystals and their many properties. As I was writing, I surrounded myself with crystals, and burned certain candles that were supposed to encourage creativity and inspiration. My husband thought I’d gone off the deep end, but I really enjoyed the whole process, and I think it enabled me to get into the heroine’s head a little more. And the hero was a lot like my husband—an unabashed skeptic!

4. An author's first book always holds a special honor. Let's fly back to your first sale. We'd love to hear about your Call story!

Oh, gosh…it’s true…you never forget your first! I had this idea for a story about a Navy pilot and a female engineer who are forced to work together to find out who is sabotaging a fleet of fighter jets. I attended the RWA conference that year and Brenda Chin—my amazing editor—was holding a contest to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Harlequin Blaze line. She was accepting proposals for “the best Blaze story idea.” So I wrote a 2-page synopsis and handed it to her, and she called me a week later to request the full manuscript. I hadn’t even written the book yet! So I sat down and wrote the book in ten weeks—at night and during the weekend-- and mailed it off. Two months later, she called and offered me a contract. It was the most unbelievable experience of my life, and it all happened really, really fast. I’m not sure I could ever do that again! But the Flyboy cover is incredibly sexy, and I have a poster of it in my sunroom (I wanted it in our bedroom, but my husband refused).

5. From Alps to Castles, you've traveled to incredible places, forged a successful career with the Department of Defense and now you've topped all that with a successful romance writing career. All this with your high school sweetheart by your side. Definitely romantic! Did your high school classmates foresee any of this, or did they vote Karen most likely to....?

I went to a very small high school, so everyone knew their classmates really well. I was a total geek, and I spent most of my classes furtively writing stories, while pretending to take notes. When I wasn’t writing, I had my nose buried in a book. When I was a freshman, I was home sick for three weeks, and I wrote my first romance in a five-subject spiral notebook. The hero was Tarzan—talk about animal magnetism! This story was seriously hot. I gave it to my best friend to read, and she loaned it to someone else, and the manuscript disappeared for a full two years. My husband had just moved into our town that year, and I immediately developed this huge crush on him. But he was a bad boy with a surly attitude, and my dad (who was a cop in town) told me to stay away from him, which only made him more appealing to me! Two years later, my missing story surfaced in my older sister’s English class, where several boys—including my future husband—were doing a public reading at the back of the classroom. My sister confiscated the notebook and brought it home, and I think she may have beaten me about the head and shoulders with it, telling me that she’d never been so embarrassed in her whole life! I was just thrilled to have it back. Now, of course, she’s one of my biggest supporters! As for my husband—he said that reading that story made him look at me in a completely different light!

6. LOL. You truly have a gift for writing. You also have years of experience as a writer now. Looking back, what do you wish you'd known when you were still striving to become published?

I wish I’d known a couple of things. The first was to finish the book. I was really good at writing the first three to five chapters of a book, and then moving on to another story. By the time I finally got The Call, I had fifteen or more partial manuscripts, but none that were completed. And I wish I’d discovered RWA earlier. My local chapter meetings opened huge doors for me, and really helped me to refine my writing. I’ll never forget when Suzanne Brockman, who was a local chapter member at the time, came in and gave a workshop on deep POV. That day was a real turning point for me in my writing, and there are times when I still go back and listen to the recording of that workshop. I’ve learned so much from other writers, and hopefully I’ve been able to help others on their road to publication.

7. Have you settled into any quirky writing rituals or do you have a favorite deadline crunch-time snack?

I seem to work best under pressure. Intense, painful, having-nightmares-about-it pressure.I give myself 3-4 months to write each book, but I’m a terrible procrastinator. The week or two before my deadline, I am pretty much writing around the clock, not sleeping, not eating, not cleaning, taking time off from my day job, etc., in order to finish the manuscript. I don’t know why I do this, but it’s been the same for every book I’ve written—60 percent of the book is written in the last week or two before the deadline. I don’t enjoy it, my family hates it, but that’s my process. I’m physically and emotionally drained by the time the book is finished, and I swear I’ll never do it again…until I do!

8. A Kiss in the Dark and Flyboy are definitely keepers (and re-readers). What can your readers look forward to next?

I just finished a book about a Navy pilot and a photographer, called Free Fall, which will be a July 2013 Harlequin Blaze release. After that, I have two books featuring some seriously sexy U.S. Marshals, which I’m really excited about. I love stories where the hero is pursuing the heroine, and she’s outsmarting him at every turn, until he finally catches her. I hope my readers enjoy them, too!

We definitely enjoy them! And I love the title Free Fall :) Thanks so much for being here today, Karen. I had so much fun interviewing you! Best always.

Blurb: A Kiss in the Dark 

Anything can happen in the dark…

Scientist Lacey Delaney has a hard rule: no dating men in the mining industry. And anyway, she'd rather focus on her work—designing a sophisticated piece of equipment for locating trapped miners. But when she finds herself stranded on the side of a Kentucky road and rescued by a drop-dead-gorgeous guy…well, who's to say her business trip can't have a little pleasure?

Then Lacey learns that Cole MacKinnon is a mining engineer. His job is hazardous—and so is getting involved with him beyond a few nights of wickedly hot fun. What Lacey doesn't know is that Cole is actually an undercover federal agent, a job that carries even more risk.

And the deeper they go, the more dangerous it will get….

Buy it here:

Find Karen here:


  1. That's a great "coffee" story!

    I had to laugh at the 60% of the book is written close to deadline. LOL

  2. Oh, what I would give to have been in the room during the coffee incident. :D

    This sounds like it could be my kind of story.

  3. Hey Jennifer and Stina! I love the coffee story too :). The subtle power of a woman ;). Thanks for stopping by!

  4. Sorry to be so late getting here. Blame it on the beach :)

    I think Karen writes the type of story I'd like to read.