Absolutely. There’s always a story behind the story. I grew up on all those I-walked-20-miles-to-school-uphill-both-ways stories from my parents but my mother’s stories were always a little more intriguing. She grew up, one of seven children, during the Great Depression and told stories of what it was like going hungry (especially when she wanted us to clean our plates). The story that really caught my attention though was the one about her father taking her to a wealthier family’s home to become their maid when she was only twelve years old. That story became the catalyst for my novel’s storyline. Of course my novelist’s mind took off in an entirely different direction from my mother’s life story but I used much of what I remembered from her story telling to flavor the historical part.
I love the sound of it! Is that a picture of your mother on the cover?
Yes, it is. It’s one of my favorites taken well before I was around. Mom had a great sense of humor and was lots of fun and this picture just reminds me a lot of her personality. She wasn’t bad looking either.
She's an intriguing figure! In the novel, Ruby’s parents are carnival workers. Where did you get that idea?
My grandparents were actually carnies and in researching family history, my cousin discovered they were also circus performers. I remember receiving a baseball from my grandfather when I was quite young and my mother said it came from the carnival booth he’d owned. Back during the Great Depression and WWII, people saved their pennies to go to the carnival and escape for a little while from the worries the era produced for them.
Wow, that's an interesting ancestry touch. The setting for Ruby is Cleveland, Ohio. What interesting facts did you uncover in your research?
Cleveland has a fascinating history (think Elliot Ness for one). In light of the upcoming 2016 election and the Republican National Convention that will be held in Cleveland, I looked up some of the information on the 1936 RNC. Alf Landon from Kansas was nominated at the convention and ran against the incumbent, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Ruby makes a trip downtown and runs into some of the convention goers.
You are known as the Wandering Writer. Where have you been wandering lately?
LOL. We have literally been around the world. We took a world cruise at the beginning of 2015 that started in Fort Lauderdale went west all around the globe and ended up back in Florida. It was 108 amazing days. The highlight was a safari at Kruger National Park in South Africa. If you check out my blog, go to the travel index and click on the world cruise links and you can see and read about our great adventure. After that, it was scuba diving in Grand Cayman and next up a road trip out west to Yellowstone and Mt. Rushmore.
I always enjoy reading about your travels. Are there spiritual themes that you like to write about?
Each story seems to take on its own theme and Ruby was no exception. Forgiveness and salvation are two of the threads that run through the story. Ruby receives a letter from her love interest that tells the “butterfly story,” a message of salvation and God’s care for us. Circumstances do not define us but what we do with them does. If we follow God’s leading, we are cocooned in his love and he will help us through those difficult times.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6,7
This has always been a verse that I return to over and over. You see, my mother passed along her worry gene to me and I have to keep reminding myself to leave things in God’s hands. I don’t advocate tattoos but if I were ever to get one, I’d have “Pray first” tattooed on the palm of my hand.
Is there a favorite meal your family enjoys and would you like to share a recipe?
We were always great fans of my mother’s meatloaf and I’ve tried to copy it as much as possible. Unfortunately she never made it the same way twice. It was always kind of a clean-out-the-refrigerator recipe.
Here are the basics:
- Meatloaf mix from your grocer or butcher (equal parts ground veal, pork and beef)
- Season with garlic parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (I sing the Simon and Garfunkel song, Scarborough Fair, to remember these) then a little garlic powder.
- Throw in some chopped onion and either sweet pickle relish or chop up some sweet pickles.
- A couple of tablespoons of ketchup and mustard, an egg, and enough bread crumbs to soak up the liquids.
- Now Mom would also hard boil a couple of eggs and bury them in the middle of the loaf so that when you sliced it there was a slice of egg in the center of your portion.
- Shape the mixture into a loaf and pat it down into a loaf pan.
- Bake for about an hour at 350 F or a little longer if it’s a big loaf. You can usually tell by the color of the loaf if it’s done.
- Serve with baked potatoes and green beans or my favorite, spinach.
And if you want to make my aunt’s homemade noodles. . . well, I never did figure out all her handfuls and pinches.
When is your next book coming out and can you tell us about it?
I’m not exactly sure of the date just yet. A lot depends upon how much writing time I get on the road. But I am working on the second book in the Annie Pickel series. Pickledilly will pick up where In A Pickle left off and starts out with Elma and Annie taking a trip to London. Of course they will get into trouble, they always do, but when they return, Annie will have a challenge to face concerning her farm and someone who wants to take it.
After that, I will get back to work on the Casey Stengel Mystery Series. I have at least two more titles and story lines in mind for Casey.
Follow my blog and my Facebook page where I will keep readers updated on my progress.
Such a fun series!
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Karen has lived in Northeast Ohio most of her life. Karen and her husband, Bob, have raised five children and now have nine grandchildren. A graduate of Ohio State University, Buckeye blood courses scarlet and gray through Karen’s veins. Every football Saturday a large Brutus the Buckeye can be seen displayed in their front yard next to the OSU flag. Those neighbors who are not Wolverine fans are amused.
In 1987, Karen published her first small essay in an adult Sunday school take-home paper and there’s been no stopping her penchant for writing since. Her writing areas are as eclectic as her reading preferences. She has written essays, articles, and columns for newspapers, regional and national magazines, and online e-zines. She has contributed to several compilation books and along with five other writers who all met online, she has published two non-fiction books, A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts and A Scrapbook of Motherhood Firsts. Karen’s first love of writing however is fiction and she now has five published novels, the latest, Ruby, A Novel.
While there’s no place like home, Karen and her husband are world travelers. The couple has set foot on all seven continents and in 2015, circumnavigated the globe on a 108 day world cruise. Her travel adventures are posted at her blog, Writer’s Wanderings. Exploring the works of God’s hands has been a blessing and a joy and supplied memories to treasure forever.
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KAREN is giving away a copy of RUBY a Novel. The giveaway is only available to U.S. addresses. To be entered in the book giveaway, leave a comment along with your email address. You can enter the book giveaway twice--once on each spotlight post.