Saturday, March 3, 2012

Author Interview with Chris Karlsen

Curling Up By The Fire would like to welcome Chris Karlsen, author of Journey in Time, which released last September.  For anyone interested in time-travel, this is the perfect novel for you as the main characters are transported back to fourteenth century England - an England that is preparing for war.  Take a look at the synopsis:

London attorney, Shakira Constantine finally agrees to spend the day with her handsome client, Alex Lancaster. While riding in the countryside, the couple finds themselves caught in a time warp and transported back to the 14th century- and an England preparing for war. Everyone believes Alex is the Baron Guy Guisard, a baron who died in the upcoming battle.

If they can't find a way to return to the 21st Century, Alex will have to sail with the army to certain death. Shakira will be left alone to survive in the alien and terrifying medieval world.


1) To start off, can you tell me a little bit about yourself?  How did you become interested in writing historical fiction novels?
I’m a retired police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement and worked for two different agencies. I’ve traveled extensively and found myself tremendously drawn to some places. I returned many times to those cities and/or countries. I love to read and am a huge animal lover. My husband and I have four rescue dogs and one rescue horse.

My father was a history professor and my mother was and still is an avid reader. I grew up with a love of history and books. In my travels I’d find myself fascinated with a place, its history and people. That led to my desire to write historical fiction.

2) Can you tell us a little about your novel, Journey in Time?
Time-travel was a topic often discussed in my family. My interest in it has continued. “Journey in Time,” is my spin on how a modern couple would survive in the medieval world.

My heroine, Shakira Constantine, is a London attorney. The hero, Alex Lancaster, is her handsome client. She’s not inclined to date clients but finally agrees to go riding with Alex in the English countryside. They’re caught in a freak lightning storm, which triggers a time portal and they find themselves transported back to 1355.

At that time, England was preparing for war with France. Alex is mistaken for Baron Guiscard, a baron who died at the Battle of Poitiers, in 1356. Both he and Shakira realize that history cannot be changed and history doesn’t care which man it takes. If they can’t find a way to return to the twenty-first century, Alex will sail with the army and to certain death. Shakira would be left alone in a very alien and terrifying, for her, world.
3) What inspired you to write Journey?  How much research was involved in the writing?
The combination of my interest in time-travel and history inspired me to write Journey. Medieval English history is something I’ve read a great deal about and I was keen on the Black Prince. I wanted to put him in a story as a support character but not write a story about him per se. I did an enormous amount of research for Journey. I read many books on the Hundred Years War, on armor and weapons, on the court of Edward the Third, and of course, on time-travel. I read several articles and books by theoretical physicists and astrophysicists and then put my fictional spin on the theory. 

4) What was your greatest challenge while writing this novel?
Two things come to mind. The first was trying to think of all the little details that affect the impression Shakira and Alex make on the people of the time and the differences Shakira especially has to adjust to. For instance, they had to remove their wristwatches before they rode into the baron’s holding. The English of 1355 is very different from modern English. Shakira in one scene is getting fitted for shoes by the cobbler. She’s wearing red polish on her toenails, which is quite startling to the cobbler and she has to come up with an explanation.

The second was choosing a theory for the Black Prince’s intention the morning of the Battle of Poitiers. I read the translation of Chandos Herald’s account of the prince’s campaign. Herald was the prince’s official chronicler. The theory I used for the prince’s plans conflicts with Herald’s writings. I like to be historically accurate in my fiction and logically, I’d say Herald’s version is likely closer to what the prince planned. But I went with a lesser theory because it fit the story better. 

5) In this novel, we are introduced to some very interesting and intriguing characters.  Who was the most fun to write about?  Which character presented the biggest challenge?
Alex was the most fun to write. In my first book, “Heroes Live Forever,” his character is the clever and witty sidekick. I adored his character and loved getting to show the different sides of him in Journey. It was fun to show him as a lover, as a strong man with flaws, as a man determined to defend the woman he loves. I enjoyed giving him scenes where the reader sees him tormented, funny, angry, and sad.

Shakira was the biggest challenge. I was very familiar with Alex because of Heroes. I changed Shakira’s past several times. I write a history for her and then go back and edit what I wrote out. It took me a number of rewrites to figure out what the problem was and I realized I wanted her stronger. She had to be not just intelligent but a bit cunning to survive a dangerous situation. She also had to be strong willed. Her past had to reflect that. Once I made that happen, as a character she flowed. 

6) You spent many years in the police force.  Can you share with us any pivotal moments that really shaped your life?
I’m not sure there are any “pivotal moments” that changed me but more the overall experience. The tragic things you see and handle those memories you have to stick in a closet deep in your psyche and lock away. You can’t dwell on them. For your own well-being, you have to move on. A lot of the funny stuff is what you talk about with other cops, the funny real characters you meet and the cops you work with who crack you up.

I’d say listening to hundreds of victims, witnesses and suspects over the years develops a strong sense of logic. What rings true, what doesn’t. The experience of spending years asking those folks why would you do that translates to my characters and their actions.

7) What shaped your career as a writer? How did you go from law enforcement to writing?
I’m an only child so I spent much of my youth alone, much of that time I read. Many of the books had my imagination working at warp speed. I wanted to be a writer for many years but didn’t have the confidence to try. I played it safe and got my degree in business, then I sort of fell into police work by accident. The economy was slow at the time and the police department was hiring and they especially wanted women to apply. I never lost my desire to write. When I retired, I started studying the craft and was determined to give it a shot.

8) You spent a lot of time traveling in your life.  Favourite place?  Why?
I’m going to say England. I love the history. I love the beauty of the country. From the air, it’s like a green patchwork quilt. I enjoy the different architecture...Norman castles, Tudor buildings, Georgian structures, and thatched cottages. I couldn’t watch Lord of the Ring without thinking of the Cotswolds.

9) To be honest, I had the same experience watching Lord of the Rings and I love England as well. Why did you choose time travel as the subject of this novel?
As I mentioned earlier, time-travel was a topic often discussed in my family. I’ve talked about it with friends many times. Some want to go forward and some of us want to go back. I see a tendency to romanticize the idea. I thought if I could go back, I’d want to be invisible because I envisioned the problems I’d encounter otherwise. But for fun, I could send my characters to another time and give them all the troubles I imagined. 

10) What are 3 things that are 'must haves' when you write? Do you have any writing rituals?
Rituals-no. I am not a superstitious person by nature. I do have “must haves” at my desk. I have to have something to drink handy, water is a must. I usually have coffee, raspberry soda or tea too. I must have my research binders handy. I fill three-ring binders with research material for every book I write. I want those near at hand as I write to consult. I also always have a notepad next to me. I must jot down notes or ideas as they come to me or they vaporize into the cyber space of my mind.

11) Can you share with us any projects that you are currently working on or plans for the future? What can fans expect next from you?
Next up: Book one of another series is being released in mid March. It’s called Golden Chariot. It involves nautical archaeology and artifact smuggling. The story is set off the coast of Turkey (one of my favorite countries). I just finished the first draft of the sequel to Golden Chariot.

Now, I am beginning book three of my Knights in Time series. This next book is called “Knight Blindness,” and the hero is a character from Journey. This is also a time-travel.

12) Favourite authors? Role models?
Fave authors: John Sandford, Michael Connelly, Joe Wambaugh, Julie Anne Long, Julia Quinn, Deanna Raybourne, and Bernard Cornwell.

As role models for writing I appreciate the above authors for a variety of reasons. I think Sandford, Connelly and Wambaugh write terrific dialogue, especially cop dialogue. Julie Anne Long writes a beautiful, lyrical love scene. Julia Quinn writes such charming characters and always with humor. Raybourne’s hero and heroine are so engaging as they exchange their differences of opinion. Cornwell writes fantastic action scenes and his settings are well drawn.

13) What do you like to do when you are not writing? What is your ultimate luxury?
Travel is my ultimate luxury. There’s so many places I want to return to and so many yet to see. If I lived a dozen lifetimes, I don’t think I’d see everything I want.

When not writing, I read. I take belly dance lessons and I’ve just started to take yoga. I’m struggling off and on with learning Turkish from a Rosetta Stone program. I’m not very good at it and conjugation is really difficult for me. I have a Turkish friend who emails me with different phrases. I try to translate them and then send a Turkish phrase I’ve created and back to see it I did it right. I rarely do!

14) Is there anything else you would like to share with your readers?
I hope you enjoy both books: “Heroes Live Forever,” and “Journey in Time.” I loved writing the characters, going deep within their hearts and mind for their actions and reactions. I’d be thrilled to know you laughed with them, cried with them, got angry when they made terrible mistakes but always cared what happened to them and wanted them to succeed.

Please drop by my website to see trailers for the books and I’d love to hear from you and learn your thoughts on the stories.

Thank you Stephanie for this opportunity to share info about my books with more readers. I’ve enjoyed doing this interview and appreciate your time.


  1. Hi Stephanie,

    I hope your followers like the interview as much as I had fun and liked answering interesting questions about the challenges writing "Journey in Time."

    1. I enjoyed this interview as well. I always love learning more about the authors of the books I read about and it was a lot of fun. Time-travel is definitely a favourite of mine.

  2. What a great interview! My gosh, is Chris ever a busy, busy lady!! It's no wonder she can do belly dancing lessons, she's used to moving all the time, LOL! Kudo's to you, Chris :D
    I've got your books on my wishlist, and will get to them eventually - they sound just too yummy to miss ;)

    Gena Robertson

  3. Hi Gena,

    Thank you for complimenting the interview. I am busy but I'm not one who can stand to sit and veg. I have to be doing something. The belly dance lessons are a hoot, although I suspect my instructor who's so graceful wants to tear her hair out when she sees me clumping about.
    I'd love to hear what you think after you read the books.
    Have a super weekend,

  4. Terrific interview, Chris and Stephanie!

    You've got quite a background!