Let Us Introduce You To...Karin Kaufman
J. Kent Holloway
I'm a big fan of today's guest, Karin Kaufman. I'll admit, I haven't read ALL her books, but I've read MANY of them and the ones I've read, I've enjoyed immensely. Karin knows how to spin a great whodunnit yarn with lots of charm, humor, and cunning. In my opinion, she could teach a masterclass on how to write a cozy mystery. She's great at creating likable (and not-so-likable, depending on their role in the story) characters that you just enjoy being around. Her puzzling skills are evident in the way she designs her clues, red herrings, and all the other elements necessary to set up a great whodunnit.
On top of it all, she's just a super nice Christian lady. She's one of my absolute favorite author friends, and I was super excited when she agreed to let me interview her today. But first, let's get to know Karin Kaufman a bit better.
Take a look at Karin's bio:
Karin Kaufman grew up devouring murder mysteries, especially of the cozy kind. Give her a mystery, a comfy couch, and her sweet rescue dog Dakota Grace at her side, and she’s in heaven. She’s the author of the Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mystery Series and the Juniper Grove Cozy Mystery Series.
When Karin is feeling whimsical, which is pretty much all the time, she writes children’s books. She’s the author of the Geraldine Woolkins Series, adventure tales for middle-grade readers and read-aloud families. Her passion is to delight and entertain children through stories of faith, peril, and hope. Lots of hope.
Karin has a great number of books to explore, and after this interview, I hope you'll give her a try if you haven't already.
You have several different series. Two cozy mystery series, two other mystery series, and a children’s series. For those who might not be familiar with your books, tell us about these series as a sort of primer.
People who advise writers often say to stick to one genre, but I can’t seem to do that! I’ve loved reading mysteries since grade-school days, so writing mysteries came naturally to me. And since I love both cozies and traditional mysteries—again, I can’t choose—I write both. My cozies are small-town, amateur sleuth novels, and my two traditional series focus on spiritual warfare. My children’s series, which began as an adult comfort-read series, is about a young mouse named Geraldine Woolkins and her often perilous adventures in the big, wide world.
I’ve read a few of both your cozy mystery series and enjoyed them immensely. Your most recent book is Counterfeit Corpse from your Smithwell Fairies Mysteries. Focus in a bit on the Smithwell Fairies Cozy Mysteries (my favorite series of yours, by the way). Who are your main characters? How do fairies play a part in this series?
I love injecting a touch of the supernatural in my stories (though not werewolves, vampires, and such), and I also adore Cicely Mary Barker’s charming and creative Flower Fairies drawings, and somehow I got it in my mind to put the two together.
The amateur sleuth in the series, Kate Brewer, has recently lost her husband, and along with suffering that loss, she’s come to believe that there’s no magic in life. Nothing good, nothing special. So when she discovers a little fairy named Minette hiding from the rain in one of her flower pots, her life is upended. At first Kate is afraid, then she suspects she may be losing her mind, and finally, she comes to realize that the world holds more wonder than she’s been led to believe. As Minette keeps telling her, there’s much more to life than what she can see with human eyes.
Your Juniper Grove cozies are a little more grounded in reality, but are equally as charming and fun. When it comes to writing mysteries, what do you find yourself more drawn too? Paranormal or more realistic stories? Why?
Oh, my. I can’t choose. I love both. I do find myself injecting paranormal elements in most of my series, though, because I believe the spiritual realm is very real.
I’m fascinated by your Geraldine Woolkins Adventures, geared for middle-grade readers (but naturally, enjoyable for adults as well). Tell us a little bit about this series. What inspired it? What’s the main focus of this series? Mystery? Adventure? Something in between?
Years ago, at my sister’s wedding in the foothills of the Rockies, my uncle and I spied a little mouse dashing along the ground with a prize in its mouth—a bit of cake. We started making up stories on the spot. We decided the mouse was named Nigel, which ended up being the name of Geraldine’s father in the books. There’s Geraldine Woolkins—the main character—her father, Nigel, her mother, Lily, and her annoying younger brother, Button.
One night a few years ago, remembering Nigel and trying to fall sleep, I came up with the entire first chapter of the first book in the series, The Adventures of Geraldine Woolkins. It was important to me to write a children’s book that didn’t skimp on language. No “See Spot run.” Children understand new words (in context) better than we think they do. They understand the sounds and the feelings they evoke. I wanted to give them credit, not talk down to them. So although a few of my readers complain that the books in the series are too wordy, I wouldn’t change my approach. Anyway, how do children learn a new word? By seeing it for the first time.
Who are some of your biggest influences in writing?
I grew up reading Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Agatha Christie, and then I discovered Elizabeth George and P.D. James. Wonderful books! But my all-time favorite mystery writer is Tony Hillerman, who wrote traditional mysteries set in the Four Corners region. Hillerman ignited my interest in writing mysteries.
What is it about mysteries that draw you to it? What do you think draws readers to them?
Well, first, mysteries are plain good entertainment. The best. I can still remember cracking open my first Sayers mystery. What a pleasure! And since, when I was younger, I loved reading mysteries, I wanted to try my hand at writing the kinds of mysteries I most enjoyed. I think people read mysteries, both cozies and traditionals, because they satisfy a legitimate need in all of us. In each mystery novel there’s a puzzle to be solved (fun!), and at the end of each, justice is served and goodness prevails.
Finally, for those aspiring writers out there who might be reading this blog post, what is the one piece of advice you’d give them concerning writing and publishing?
Finish the book. That’s the main thing. Don’t overthink it, just write it. Keep writing and keep learning. Oh, and don’t torture yourself over every little word. Let your creative mind flow—don’t slap it down, don’t argue with it. Unless you’re working on an MFA, polishing a book to death only cuts the heart out of it.
I’d also advise writers to go indie when it’s time to publish. Gather a team around you—cover artists, editors—and forge your own path. You won’t regret it.
Thanks Karin, for the great discussion. I know it might come as a surprise coming from a publishing company, but I loved the second part to Karin's answer: "Go indie." But she didn't stop there. She continued with "gather your team." If you're going to go indie...if you're going to self-publish...do it right. Don't skimp on a great cover. For better or worse, we DO judge books by their covers. And editing is doubly important. As even the biggest publishers with large editorial staff will attest, you might not be able to catch ALL the mistakes or issues, but you'll catch far more with a team by your side than if you go it alone!
Anyway, if you'd like to find out more about Karin, visit her website HERE. You can find her books on Amazon by going HERE!