Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meet Karen Olson, Mystery Novelist


If you like mysteries with original flair, great dialogue, and sassy humor, let me introduce novelist Karen Olson. I recently read Shot Girl, featuring newspaper reporter Annie Seymour, and thoroughly enjoyed it. (And as I may have mentioned recently, I don’t finish many of the novels I start.) Shot Girl opens with Annie musing over the dead body of her ex-husband. Who can resist that? Then it gets rolling when the police, while fetching flip-flops from her car for her, find a gun that matches the shell casings by the body. This fast-paced delightful tale is the last installment in the series, but Karen is busy writing another set of mysteries starring a tattoo artist. Sounds like more good fun. Karen was also sporting enough to answer a few questions.

What is the elevator speech for the novel you’re writing now?
The book I'm working on right now is Pretty In Ink, the sequel to The Missing Ink, which will be out in July. Since I'm still not sure just what Pretty in Ink is about (I don't outline and work by the seat of my pants), here's my elevator speech for The Missing Ink.

Las Vegas tattooist Brett Kavanaugh gets mixed up in the disappearance of a woman who was last seen in Brett's shop making an appointment for devotion ink to surprise her fiancé, whose name is not the name she wanted on the tattoo.

What is your best moment as a novelist?
While I'm writing and the story begins to build momentum and it takes on a life of its own.

What is your worst moment as a novelist?
Worrying about whether I'll get another contract.

If you could get one
do-over in your career, what would it be?
I might not have given Annie as much of a potty mouth. I had no idea how people would react to that, and while it's not gratuitous at all, I do know I've alienated some readers because of it. I do feel like I've got a second chance with The Missing Ink, though, and there is no cursing in that book at all. We'll see if it makes a difference as far as readers are concerned.

What was the last book you read that made you think “I wish I’d written that”?
Stewart O'Nan's Songs for the Missing.

Where can we find you on the web?
kareneolson.com and Wednesdays at First Offenders

Readers: Don't you think Karen should let her tattoo artist swear just a little? Do you have a tattoo? Would you read a mystery about a tatooist?

16 comments:

Rosemary Harris said...

Hi Karen,
I love the whole idea of the tattoo artist in Vegas and think it would almost have to be an eccentricity on her part not to cuss a little, but I know what you're saying about the potty mouth. Weird...we can murder characters left and right but heaven forbid we have a character say sh*t. Go figure.

Charlotte Phillips, Co-Author of The Eva Baum Detective Series said...

A tatoo artist who doesn't swear goes against stereotype. I like it. However, most mysteries contain at least one "oh sh*t" moment. Seems like at least one character react with a naughty word or two.

Mark and I have been asked at signings if there is any bad language in Hacksaw. I always find the question rather interesting considering the subject matter.

I now have a picture in my mind of a hulking tatoo artist tripping over a body and uttering, "Oh dear." The Missing Ink is on my list of books to watch for.

Karen Olson said...

I agree that a tattooist probably would curse worse than a newspaper reporter (maybe just a little more, though), but she's a nice Catholic girl and she just doesn't. I did use the word "ass" a couple of times, but in reference to the body part. But definitely no f-bombs at all. It was a challenge to create a tough woman character who doesn't curse, but now when I hear her voice, it's quite natural.

Marian Allen said...

I have a niece who's a tattoo artist. I don't know whether or not she uses bad language on the job, but I know that there are all kinds of tattoo artists, just as there are all kinds of accountants or all kinds of soldiers. Busting a stereotype is a creative thing to do, and will energize your character. Let me know when the book comes out and I'll buy one for my niece.
I just wrote a short story with tattoos playing a positive role for Southern Indiana Writers' GHOSTS: ON THE SQUARE... AND ELSEWHERE.... and my niece put a copy in her tattoo studio. Talk about odd venues!

Kaye Barley said...

My first thought was "Whaaat? A tattoo artist who doesn't cuss? c'mon." But. Marian is right. There's that nasty ol' stereotyping that I just KNEW I was so above. But you know - I have a terrible potty mouth, and if I don't hear someone say a bad word once in awhile I tend to think they're all too good to be true. And being the cynic I am, think the whole too good to be true thing is a bit phony.
Well.
don't I sound like Miss Crotchety this morning???! LOL. I am a tad grumpy, truth be told.
Karen? The book sounds fascinating, and I'll be taking a look.
thanks!
Kaye

Rosemary Harris said...

Et tu, Kaye? And you and Karen look like two of the sweetest little ladies on the planet! maybe next time all three of us are in the next city we'll go out and get rowdy!

Kaye Barley said...

let's do it!
Is it O.K. if I shout a few Yee Haws? Won't embarrass you??

Rosemary Harris said...

Please, we're writers, we take rejection well and we don't embarass easily. Yee Haw! I'll let you and Karen lead the way on the cussing, though, I don't really get going unless I'm on the highway and someone cuts me off. Then my inner Annie Seymour comes out!

Naomi Hirahara said...

The thing that annoys me is that there is a double standard when it comes to cursing, whether it be the writing itself or the author.

It's cool and hilarious if a guy drops an f-bomb in a panel, but heaven forbid (how's that for strong language!) if it's a woman. I've seen an older woman take issue with a younger woman's curse words in a poem--and this was at poetry slam in NYC!

This can be a real issue for some readers.

Good luck with your book(s), Karen!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Hey Karen!

I absolutely adore Annie and your Annie books are turly truly some of my favorites. I can't resist a good reporter book--and yours are great.

Anyway--tattoos? SOunds--hilarious.

As for the choice of words. I am trying to be really careful about it, since I know there's big concern about it. ANd I actually find it makes me work harder to come up with what someone really thinks--not just a tossed off expletive.

At some point, though--there's always a place where my main character's trademark "rats!" just doesn't seem strong
enough.

On the other hand--I say to myself: you might regret putting them in. But you won't regret leaving them out. My two *&^%$### cents.

Can't wait to read the new one!
xxoxo Hank

Rosemary Harris said...

At New England Crimebake this past November one of the panelists at the Saturday evening banquet entertainment dropped the f-bomb. I was on the panel - as was Harlan Coben, Hallie Ephron and 3 or 4 others. I couldn't even remember hearing it because so many people were laughing, but one participant compared it to an episode of The Sopranos..so you can never tell how people will react.

BillieJohn said...

This is just BARELY on topic, but here in my zappy little town, the tattoo parlor has its logo painted on the big glass storefront, and there is a TYPO IN IT!!!

Big painted letters arcing across a 6-8 foot window proclaim "FOREVER YOUR'S TATTOO STUDIO"

Come on...would you really get a tattoo from a shop with a typo on its own window sign?

Billie
http://otpblog.blogspot.com

L.J. Sellers said...

Yes. But I wouldn't pay them to edit my manuscript. We're all good at different things.

Tom Cooke, NUECES MEANS NUTS said...

I promise you if someone were sticking a needle in my bod and drawing with it, I for one, would curse. I would curse loudly with enthusiasm and volume.
But I'm a guy that doesn't like the idea of voluntarily having my skin punctured.
I don't use much profanity in my writing or in my life. My dad always pounded me with the old saw, 'profanity only shows your lack of communication skills". He was an English Lit major so what do you expect.
I know it is old school, but even now if the cursing is excessive it tends to jolt me a bit. I know dialogue must reflect the morals, education, skills etc. of the character, but when I look back at some of the detective novels of the past, I rarely find more than an occasional damn or hell. I know that dates me but what the s#@%.

Theresa de Valence said...

What fun! Another author to add to my Must Read list.

Karen Olson said...

Hate to break it to Tom, but I was an English lit major. Anyone can curse. Anyone. Hey, it can be fun and a huge stress reliever.

There have only been a couple of times while writing the new books that I said, hmmm, what would she say here? There are no "oh dears." But there's a couple of "freakings."