Upcoming Agent Spotlight Interviews & Guest Posts

  • Bethany Weaver Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 6/26/2024
  • Rebecca Williamson Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 7/8/2024
  • Sheila Fernley Agent Spotlight Interview, Critique Giveaway, and One-Hour Zoom Call on 7/29/2024
  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

Agent Spotlight & Agent Spotlight Updates

  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.


Hope you are all enjoying summer. We've just had our first week since school got out. But with a swimmer, I we still have to get up at 6:00 am because she has to be at the pool at 7:15 for two hours of practice. And she's just started driver's ed. (Can't believe she's growing up so fast.) Still, it's so nice having more family time and not being so busy.

Before I share Karen's awesome interview, I have a number of winners to announce. 

The winner of SURRENDER is:


The winner of REGRET is: 


The winner of STRUCK is:


The winners of the Indie Author Book Giveaway are:




The winner of LIKE CLOCKWORK is:


Congrats to all the winners. E-mail me your addresses so I can send you your book.
Today I’m excited to interview Karen Schreck whose new book WHILE HE WAS AWAY was released on May 1, 2012. I was especially interested in sharing this book with you because it deals with a long distance relationship when Pena’s boyfriend goes to war in Iraq. This is such a timely topic given our world today.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads

"This is just something I have to do, okay?" I hear David say. "The right thing."

He cradles my face in his hands. He kisses me hard. Then he lets go of me. His eyes dart from me to whatever's next.

All she wants is for him to stay. She's been doing pretty well, pretending he doesn't have to go. But one day, after one last night to remember, she wakes up and there's no denying it anymore. He's gone.

When Penna Weaver's boyfriend goes off to Iraq, she's left facing life without him. As summer sets in, Penna tries to distract herself with work and her art, but the not knowing is slowly driving her crazy. Especially when David stops writing.

She knows in her heart he will come home. But will he be the same boy she fell in love with?

Hi Karen. Thanks so much for joining us.

1.  Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I was an only child.  You know that clichĂ© about books being best friends?  Well, that was true in my life.  I wrote my first story in an orange notebook (just like Harriet the Spy’s), when I was nine.  (I still have it.  It features a unicorn.)  I had a wonderful high school English teacher who further inspired my love of reading and writing, and by the end of college, I knew that I wanted to this work seriously.  I wouldn’t give up, I decided.  I got my MA and doctorate in Creative Writing . . . but this by know means makes or breaks a writer.  I just kept on doing it even when I wasn’t getting published, kept on trying to learn more and more from day to day, kept reading like a writer. I did my best to keep my desire alive, in other words, nd to be disciplined to the best of my ability, while also maintaining “paying work, and loving my children and my husband.  Like so many good thing, writing is a choice an individual has to make.  I just kept making that choice.

2.  I didn't have many friends as a kid so I can totally relate to books being your friends. I’ve read you did a lot of research on the military and serving in Iraq for this book. Tell us about the research you did and share tips on connecting with the right research sources when doing a book like this.

Over the years that I wrote WHILE HE WAS AWAY, I interviewed soldiers and vets who were serving or served in Iraq.  I interviewed girlfriends and their wives.  I interviewed Gold Star Wives through email—these women who’d suffered so much loss were incredibly generous with me.  I reflected deeply on the war stories that I’d heard from both my mother and my father—what I knew and what I didn’t know, and what I still wanted to know, based on what they’d shared about their experiences.  (My father served in multiple theaters of WWII; my mother’s first husband was killed in WWII.)  I read books and blogs and watched every movie about Iraq I could find.  I learned more about war than I’d EVER imagined I would learn.  And I have to say, I was changed by the experience.  That’s what writing should do for a writer, I guess.

3.  Wow! You were really dedicated to being sure your story is accurate. Your book involves heart wrenching issues. Pena has to deal with saying goodbye to her boyfriend David for a year while he goes to Iraq. And then they have to try to maintain their relationships long distance. What were some of the challenges in really showing us some of the emotions these characters go through?

I think long distance love can be very challenging—and when people are communicating across “continents and the oceans in between” (as I write in the book) it can be an act of great service just to keep the lines of communications open and intact.  Especially since the lines of communication are so frequently thwarted by powers beyond anyone’s control.  In this day and age, we feel we have such easy access to communication—we’re right at each other’s fingertips.  People who are in situations like Penna’s and David’s can’t take that communication for granted.  

I guess another way to say this is:  communication is hard in any relationship. I wanted to explore this fact, and Penna and David’s situation threw it into dramatic relief. 
Another challenge I faced in dealing with Penna and David’s emotions had to do with time.  I wanted to communicate the sense that time is relative:  weeks can go by in a blur when a person (like Penna or David) is undergoing great stress or is emotionally distraught.  At the same time, a single day can hold the complexity of a year of real time.

4.  I think the fact that David is stationed across the world definitely adds a layer of challenges to those of being in a long distance relationship. Besides the issues of staying in contact, neither of them had the freedom to jump on a plane to see each other. Pena finds ways to cope with her situation, including discovering the mystery surrounding a grandmother she never knew about. Tell us a bit about Pena’s coping mechanisms and why you chose the subplot about her grandmother.

It’s been my experience (firsthand and from observation) that love can sometimes feel all-consuming.  Also I think that’s how many people in our culture (perhaps especially girls) have been trained to think it should be.  Just listen to much of the music on the radio; watch most of the popular movies.  While that romantic idea has much appeal, I also think it’s profoundly important that people in life and characters in book develop other passions and interests.  We’d all be pretty one-dimensional if we didn’t.  So though I believe in the depth and purpose of the love between Penna and David, I also felt like for everyone’s sake, Penna and David BOTH needed to find other means of support.  Penna copes by searching for her grandmother, getting interested in her job, making art, finding some new friends, and deepening her relationship with her mom.  David copes by making art, engaging in his difficult experience, and dedicating himself to the work at the orphanage—seeing the humanity behind the people in Iraq.  These developments in the characters’ lives occur because of their painful separation—but I think they are probably better people for expanding their lives, opening themselves up to other experiences of truth and beauty.

In terms of Penna’s search for Justine:  I wanted to explore the way the connections between generations can be severed and recreated.  It’s all about forgiveness and healing for me; it’s about the possibility of reunion—even if the reunion is less than perfect, less than easy.  Maybe especially then.  I’ve seen estrangement and reconnection in my own extended family—the leave-taking, the coming home again.  Often this has occurred because of some superficial understanding of the differences between generations and eras.  Writing this book, I really came to believe that those differences (as represented by  three different wars) are not as profound as we sometimes assume they are.  We are more alike across the years than we often assume.

5.  This is not your first book. You last book DREAM JOURNAL was published in 2006. Tell us about your publication experiences and how you continued to write during this period when you didn’t have any books being released. Do you have any tips for the rest of us?

The initial draft of WHILE HE WAS AWAY was proceeded by a few fiction manuscripts that simply would not evolve as I hoped they would.  I’ve still got those drafts though.  I try to keep a version of everything into which I’ve invested time and energy; you never know when you might want to resurrect what seemed to be dross and turn it into gold.  I really believe that everything feeds the fire—so those attempts, and all the many drafts of WHILE HE WAS AWAY that I needed to move through before I finally wrote the draft that my editor at Sourcebooks Fire, Leah Hultenschmidt, chose to option, kept not only my writing life alive, but laid the necessary, stabilizing material on which to finally build a book.

I’m typically not a fast writer, so I hold on to the fact that history is filled with stories of writers and other workers who do their time, pay their dues, keep on keeping on.  Sure, there are those who publish quickly—and more power to them.  But there are many who process and produce their work at a very different pace.  I have to make peace with my pace, and the timing of things (over which we can only have so much control), because I have to keep writing.  Writing is part of me, of how I make meaning, whether I’m actively publishing or not.

6.  I'm glad to know that I'm not the only one who doesn't produce their work quickly. What are you doing to market your book? Since your book deals with military life, are there any special markets that you’re trying to tap into?

I feel blessed to have a wonderful publicist at Sourcebooks Fire, Derry Wilkins, who has done a marvelous job of connecting me with reviewers and bloggers.  I’ve LOVE these online blog interviews, and the opportunity to be so graciously hosted by others in the vreading and writing community has been one of the best parts of this publishing experience.  So . . . I’ve tried to blog as much as possible, and to share that information through other social media avenues.  I’ve also been to a few conferences, done a few signings—I was thrilled to sign at two of Oklahoma’s best independent bookstore:  Best of Books and Full Circle Books.  I had my first (live!) TV interview in Oklahoma . . . I learned a lot from that experience about how to be in front of a camera, how to breathe and relax, and how to let my belief in story-telling carry me (versus any concern about how I might be perceived).  

7.  That's awesome that you've really connected with the blogging community and your own community. What are you working on now?

I have three projects that I’m happily moving between:  I’m going to present another YA manuscript to Sourcebooks Fire, with hopes that they’ll like (they’ve expressed interest in the idea, which involves a teen with PTSD).  I’m also collaborating on a time travel series for elementary school kids with my good friend, the writer Carmela Martino (collaboration is a blast for me as a writer—writing can be a lonely venture, and it’s so nice to share the experience with someone I respect and enjoy).  And I’m working on a historical novel for adults.  All very meaningful and rewarding and just plain fun.

Oh . . . and lots of people have been asking for a sequel to WHILE HE WAS AWAY, so that’s brewing too!

Sounds like you've got a lot going on. Thanks Karen for sharing your advice. You can find Karen at her website and her blog

Karen generously offered a signed ARC of WHILE HE WAS AWAY for a giveaway.  All you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment by midnight on July 14th.  I’ll announce the winner on July 16th. If your e-mail is not on Blogger, please list it in your comment. International entries are welcome.

If you mention this contest on your blog, Twitter, or Facebook, please let me know in the comments and I’ll give you an extra entry.

Here's what's coming up. On Wednesday I'm interviewing Heather McCorkle and giving away a copy of her new book TO RIDE A PUCA. I was especially interested in this because it deals with Druids, something I'm really interested in, but don't read much about.

On Friday, I have a guest post scheduled with Erin Moulton and a giveaway of TRACING STARS, a summer middle grade tale.

Next Monday, I'm interviewing Carolyn Turgeon and giving away a copy of THE NEXT FULL MOON, a fairy tale retelling of a girl who grows wings. Carolyn is an established adult/YA crossover author and she has lots of great advice to share.

And don't forget our Tuesday Tips and Casey's Agent Spotlights on Thursdays.

Hope to see you on Wednesday.


Matthew MacNish said...

What a lucky bunch of winners, congrats!

Laura Pauling said...

Terrific interview!

And congrats to all the winners! :)

Barbara Watson said...

The premise of WHILE HE WAS AWAY sounds awesome. And I love that you focus on Penna and David growing by themselves while they're apart, Karen. That's important for YA readers to think about (and DO!!)--even if they aren't separated by oceans and continents.

Thank you for the opportunity for an ARC, and thank you for the interview!

Lisa Gail Green said...

I love hearing about the journey of other writers. What an awesome and timely topic, too!

Steve MC said...

Very impressed with the research, and a good healthy view on taking your time and putting the writing first.

Kristin Lenz said...

I'm not a huge reader of romance, but this sounds like a wonderful multi-layered story. Congrats and good luck with your new projects, Karen!

Carina Olsen said...

Ahh! This book sounds awesome :D The cover is gorgeous. :) Thank you for this awesome post and giveaway. :)
Love, Carina

Gigi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gigi said...

I'm really looking forward to read While He Was Away, after reading this amazing interview, I really love this part "I learned more about war than I’d EVER imagined I would learn. And I have to say, I was changed by the experience. That’s what writing should do for a writer" And that is what a book do for a reader. I love how we can learn about emotions, about relationships and stuff while we read. Thank you so much for the giveaway. Fingers crossed.
GFC follower.

Karen Schreck said...

Thanks so much for all your kind comments, everyone. It's such a pleasure to be in conversation here at Literary Rambles. I love reading multi-layered stories, too, Kristin (so I suppose that why I tried so hard to right one), and yes . . . I absolutely believe in doing research throughout the whole course of the writing journey, while at the same time keeping up the writing so the momentum of plot, character, and setting development doesn't flag!

Please do feel free to connect with me further here at Literary Rambles, or over on facebook and twitter! I'd love to keep the conversation going.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Sounds like a lot of work went into that book. I'm a military brat and I know my mother struggled while my father was serving in Vietnam. Good luck with your book, Karen!

Ali B said...

Great interview, and the book sounds interesting. I love the author interviews on Literary Rambles and look forward to learning about authors and their writing process, background and current and future projects. Thanks!

Unknown said...

That was a great interview. It sounds really interesting. I love when things are simmering just under the surface. Research is the best way to achieve that. Great interview!

Stina said...

While He Was Away sound like my kind of book. And I hope Source books jumps on the PTSD story. I would love to see more of those in YA.

Liesel K. Hill said...

This sounds like a fantastic book! I'll TBR it! Thanks for the interview as well. It was great! :D

Jemi Fraser said...

Great concept - relevant, timely and dealing with such important issues. Sounds like a winner!

Beth said...

When I was in grade 3, I wrote in an orange notebook too! Harriet the Spy was a real inspiration.

And what a thrill to be interviewed on live TV. Congratulations!

Sara @ Forever 17 Books said...

I've been really wanting to read this one! Thank you for the giveaway! :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

While he was away sounds like a great book. I am waiting to read the book I won on your blog. Thanks a lot!

Natasha said...

Sounds really good!! Thanks for the chance to win!
natasha_donohoo_8 at hotmail dot com

Rosi said...

This sounds like a really timely book and one that would be a great summer read. Thanks for the review, interview, and giveaway!

Na said...

I like long distance relationships are challenging but not impossible. Communication is so important. Great post!


Anubha said...

great interview... and the book sounds awesome... :)


Linda A. said...

I live in a military town and I am interested in learning more about the effect of deployments on children. Your research is impressive. I'd love to read your book. Please include my name in the drawing.

Mary Preston said...

I'm certain that the research will enhance the story. Always appreciated.


Carmen said...

Any book that draws attention to what soldiers and their loved ones go through (God bless them!) is a winner to me. I'd love to read this one.

cerickson at integra dot net

Jen said...

I've been dying to read this book!:)


Veronika said...

I love the book cover so much! I've heard about this book a lot and can't wait to read it!
GFC follower: Veronika
+email subscriber

verusbognar (at) gmail (dot) com

Karen Schreck said...

Thank you so much for all your encouraging comments, everyone! I've been writing for a long, long time, and I've always felt the writing process is healing on many levels--personally, and in my more immediate understanding of relationships. But WHILE HE WAS AWAY allowed me to feel healing and understanding on a much broader level--it expanded my sense of community on a global scale, really. Day by day, I grow more grateful for the long process of writing . . . the work is worth it.

Crochet Addict UK said...

Sounds like a really good read and highlights a lot of things people just aren't aware of. I would love the chance to win
susand1408 at gmail dot com

Reading Mind / The Loyal Book said...

I'm so glad that writing this book helped you! The premises are really good and I love the feeling I get from the cover!

aliasgirl at libero dot it

Jenna Cooper said...

Sounds like a really heart-wrenching book, excellent interview!