Q & A with Karen Katchur in our Behind the Pages Group @karenkatchur

Karen Katchur joined us in our Goodreads Behind the Pages group to answers are questions about an exciting thrilling summer read Spring Girls (Northampton County #3).

Brenda: Welcome Karen! I didn’t realize Spring Girls was part of a series when I started reading it. I thought it worked well as a stand-alone!

Can you tell us a little about the series and what characters appear in each book? Should we read them in order or can they all be read as stand-alone?

Karen: Hi! Thanks so much for having me! Sure! So Spring Girls is the third book in the series, but each book can be read as a stand alone. I called the series Northampton County rather than by the detective’s name, Reed and Brassard, to stress the fact it’s about other characters rather than just the detectives, if that makes sense. With that said, Detective Parker Reed and Detective Geena Brassard will be re-occurring characters throughout the series. On occasion, I will bring in other characters as needed. For example, Carlyn in Spring Girls first appears in Cold Woods.

Lindsay: Hi Karen! Thank you so much for being here with us. I finished Spring Girls yesterday and LOVED it from start to finish!! Since I hadn’t read Book 1 or 2, I am also very curious about what Brenda asked as far as recurring characters. I adored Geena!!

What does your writing process look like? Do you plan your stories out first or simply start with an idea and let the characters take you where they want to go?

Karen: Hi Lindsay! Glad to hear you enjoyed it! As for my writing process, I wish I could say I was a planner! It would make my writing life easier. 🙂 I do, however, start with an idea and at least one or two characters in mind. I usually know how the story begins, the climax, and the ending. Although, the endings usually change once I get to know my characters better! I have to write several drafts before the story and characters come together for me.

Lindsay: I imagine it is much more tedious and difficult to write a continuation of a series that can be read as a standalone like you did with Spring Girls. Are there extra steps involved in your reviewing/editing process to ensure you’re providing enough background for the reader who hasn’t started with Book 1 to follow along?

Karen: Yes! It’s a balancing act for sure. In fact, I usually rely on my editor to help me with this. I know the stories so well, I sometimes forget that there are “new” readers to the series. So then my editor has me go back and fill in the gaps. 🙂

Brenda: I liked that you gave the characters a little something different to them. I thought that both Geena and Janey were strong interesting characters. How did you come up with the idea of them? How did you go about capturing their voices and developing them?

Karen: Thanks! I know this is kind of wonky, but I had the original idea for them, but it wasn’t until I starting writing that they came together for me. It’s like they tell me who they are. I don’t think I’m unique in this way, and most writers will tell you this. I think what happens as I write the plot, I think, well, how would a person react to this? I start with a general feeling or reaction, and then I go deeper. How will Janey specifically react to this situation she’s put in? Or what would Geena do in this particular circumstance? Their personalities eventually emerge.

As for their different voices, I think they just sound different in my head. I just cross my fingers and hope that it comes across on the page. I tend to write novels with several points of view.

Brenda: Which characters would you say were more fun for you to write or were more of a challenge for you?

Karen: Parker Reed doesn’t have a voice in Spring Girls, although he’s a character and Geena’s partner. But his point of view is prevalent in River Bodies (book 1) and Cold Woods (book 2), and I love writing in his pov. He’s a lot of fun. I think Janey’s character was hard for me to write. I constantly wanted to protect her. I also really enjoyed writing the scenes with the psychologist, Helen Watson. 😉

Brenda: You alternate chapters between characters. Did you focus on one before writing the other or did you write the story in the order they appear?

Karen: I wrote the story the way it appears in the book. The story comes out naturally for me that way. It’s like my subconscious knows when it’s time to write in a different character’s pov. I don’t question it!

Lindsay: What kind of research did you do while writing Spring Girls?

Karen: I love doing research! It’s one of my favorite parts of writing. With Spring Girls, I interviewed a psychologist who also worked with children with behavioral disorders. Always go to an expert in the field if you can! Other types of research that I really enjoy are the forensic techniques and investigation procedures. I find it’s so interesting how weather and environmental factors can really create some nightmares for the investigators, and how it impacts the collection/destruction of evidence. Oh! I also had to research about organic farming. That was definitely a rabbit hole for me. I’m not a gardener at all, but it was so fascinating to learn about companion plants and the theory behind it.

Brenda: Why did you decide on the setting you used and how important was that to the story for you?

Karen: I love this question, because all of my ideas start with the setting. For whatever reason, I have to know where the “crime” is committed and how the environment and weather impacts it. For Spring Girls, the idea came when I heard about a local lake that had to be drained to fix some bridge or something. Anyway, I grew up near the lake and spent time ice skating and fishing in it when I was a kid. So of course, I started to wonder what they’d find when it was drained. Bodies! And it just so happens when I was writing the book, we had a particularly rainy spring season. It was like 20-something days in a row of rain! It was so unusual, I had to put it in the story somehow.

Brenda: We often talk about the setting being a character. I thought the sense of time felt like a character here and in a way it did with the Spring Strangler and Girls. Why did you pick spring and how did you go about creating that sense of time and feel it gave the story?

Karen: Yes! Setting is hugely important in all 3 books. I specifically chose small towns in Northampton County where there are lakes, rivers, and of course mountains. Nature is so unpredictable, and there’s always an underlying sense of danger even on the most beautiful of days. In Spring Girls, we just happen to have a particular rainy season at the time I was writing it. I couldn’t help but wonder what that would do to crime scenes, and how it could hinder an investigation by destroying evidence. See answer to question 10 for more about setting!

Brenda: I thought you perfectly paced the story with the reveals and twists. After the who was revealed it became all about the why for me. It created some great suspense to the story. Did you plan for the why from the start and know how the story was going to end or did it change as you were writing the story?

Karen: I didn’t! The ending changed a couple of times. I tend to write in layers, getting to know the characters and stories with each draft. By the time I was wrapping up the final draft (before my editor read it), I had a good grasp on the why part of the mystery. I think the twists and turns come up naturally, and then I go back and fill in any holes or see where I can add more suspense once I know the story in its entirety. I hope that makes sense!

Brenda: What do you look for in a suspenseful page-turner? Do you find you write what you like or what you think readers like?

Karen: Hmmm. I think in the early stages when it’s just me and my computer, I write the story for myself. Once I turn it in to my editor, then we make the necessary edits with more of the reader in mind. I like dark, suspenseful reads. I don’t have to be shocked by a huge twist or anything, but I love a good character-driven whydunnit

Brenda: How do you go about picking the titles and covers of your stories? Did you have more of a say in it or someone else?

Karen: When I was putting this series together in my mind, I was also watching a lot of the tv show, The First 48. It’s about detectives in different cities in the US, trying to solve murders in the first 48 hours. In the tv show, they name their cases for each episode, like “Murder Man,” or whatever. I loved this idea so much. So I had my detectives name their cases, and they just worked out as great titles for the books, too. This doesn’t always happen. Usually, an author and publisher brainstorm ideas for the title until they come up with one that satisfies all involved. As for the covers, I love them! But I didn’t have anything to do with designing them. The publisher’s art designer did a fantastic job with nailing the series. I especially love the Spring Girls cover with the girl’s floating hair in the water. So creepy!

Brenda: What do you want your readers to get from your books? Is there anything you would like us to know?

Karen: Oh gosh, I don’t know. I write to entertain! And if readers think about the characters long after they close the book, I would love that. Crime impacts so many people outside of law enforcement. I wanted to write a series that reflects this. In a way, I wanted to give voice to not only the detectives, but also the victims, families, even the communities where the crimes occur.

Lindsay: Will there be a Book 4 in this series?🤞

Karen: I have an idea for book 4 percolating in the back of my mind. But right now, I’m working on something different. It’s a stand alone crime thriller, and I’m having so much fun writing it! So about book 4–I hope so!

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