Karen Pullen spends several days each week cooking breakfast and cleaning rooms for strangers! That’s because she owns a bed & breakfast! She took time out from her guests to answer a few questions about her latest work, Cold Heart.
Sandra: What’s your new book/work in progress about? What inspired you to write it?
Karen Pullen: Cold Heart, a sequel to the first Stella Lavender mystery Cold Feet, is set in the same locale: small-town, half rural and half suburban. I wanted to create a diverse set of characters and pull them together around this crime. Just to mention a few: there’s a bodybuilder, a retired Navy officer, a caretaker, a bookkeeper, a restaurant owner, a wealthy widow, her teenage daughter. Stella’s sexy grandmother Fern is back, seducing every man over 50.
Sandra: What do you think the hardest emotion to elicit from a reader is? Why?
Karen Pullen: It’s very hard to make a reader laugh without being forced, artificial, or clichéd. Readers have commented that my writing is humorous, but I have no idea how to tell someone to write funny. Here’s a few sentences from Cold Heart that Margaret Maron said made her laugh out loud:
A very pregnant woman stood in the driveway, glowering … Her rosy cheeks and round belly contrasted with heavy black eye shadow, long hair teased into a pouf, and acrylic nails painted like silver foil. That rarely seen Blessed-Mary-meets-Jersey-Shore look.
That is Stella speaking. She has a wry way of expressing herself.
Sandra: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?
Karen Pullen: I couldn’t help giving Stella my own jaundiced views. For example, two characters in Cold Feet are right-wing religious scammers. They get their just due, of course. But Stella’s attitudes toward them offended a reader or two!
Sandra: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.
Karen Pullen: I committed a felony. You can read it here.
Sandra: You have to flee the country. Where are you headed to and why that location?
Karen Pullen: The Kerry peninsula of Ireland. I’ve been there twice, for a week or more each time, and loved it. It’s beautiful, green hills dotted with sheep, the foaming sea crashing against the rocky shore. The Irish like Americans, the pubs are welcoming, and artists don’t pay taxes on their earnings. Sometimes when I need a distraction, I google real estate in Dingle.
Sandra: Due to oppressive taxation you have to move into a tiny house. What are the ten books you aren’t giving up?
Karen Pullen: I love the idea of a tiny house, and follow several tiny house blogs to see examples from all over the world. Getting rid of all my crap stuff, paring down to minimal possessions, and living a simple life has its appeal. But discarding my precious books would be so painful! Still, I’ll answer the question.
First, I’d keep these seven biographies of writers, because I like reading about their lives, struggles, friends, lovers, enemies, and culture:
Hemingway: A Life Story by Carlos Baker
Charlotte Bronte: A Writer’s Life by Rebecca Fraser
The Life of Graham Greene by Norman Sherry, volumes 1, 2 and 3
Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell is This? by Marion Meade
Gellhorn: A Twentieth-Century Life by Caroline Morehead
And then a short-story collection by the very best:
Family Furnishings: Selected Stories, 1995-2014 by Alice Munro
A book of five spy novels by the very best (is an omnibus cheating?):
John Le Carre Omnibus (The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Call for the Dead, A Murder of Quality, The Looking-Glass War and A Small Town in Germany.)
Finally, my mother’s book: Psychology of Women: Behavior in a Biosocial Context by Juanita Hingst Williams.
Sandra: Is your protagonist more likely to go insane or end up in prison? What would it take to push them over the line?
Karen Pullen: It wouldn’t take much to push Stella into prison. She has unconventional ways of getting information and she repeatedly defies her bosses at the SBI. In an early draft of Cold Heart, she broke into a house and stole some CDs. Eventually, though I loved the scene, I decided it went too far, and found a way for Stella to get access to the CDs with the owner’s permission. Still, the owner doesn’t know that Stella pocketed them! She’d rather ask forgiveness that permission.