A few years ago, a good friend of mine told me that what I was writing sounded a lot like Karma Brown’s books and recommended I read them. I followed her advice and devoured Karma’s early novels. She quickly became a must-read for me and, as a fellow Canadian, I was inspired by her success.
As I followed her on social media, I learned that in addition to writing great books, Karma is also a fabulous human being that is always ready to help support and champion other authors. In February 2020 (remember the before times when we had in-person events), Karma came to Vancouver for an event for RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE and I got the chance to meet her in person where she confirmed all of the assumptions I had made about her.
Karma’s writing has had a big influence on my own and, for that, I will also be grateful my friend recommended her books. In addition to admiring her writing style, I have always been impressed by Karma’s writing routine. She is part of the #5amWritersClub which is a group of dedicated early birds that is up before the dawn to get their words written. The best I could ever manage was 6am and that’s okay according to Karma’s latest book. THE 4% FIX is her first non-fiction book and it is all about finding that one hour a day to accomplish something for yourself. Be it at 5am or 6.
I’ve been so grateful for Karma’s support for my debut and am thrilled to feature her interview here today. When you are done reading this, please go out and get her books. They are fabulous, just like Karma.
How long, on average, does it take you to finish writing a first draft of a novel? What does your writing schedule look like?
I have written a first draft in as little time as 3.5 months, and as long as 5 years! It depends on what else I have going on in my life—book commitments and otherwise—and how tight my deadlines are. Generally I’m up around 5 a.m. to write most days of the week. That’s my quiet focused time—just my laptop, the dog and a hot coffee—and it has allowed me to churn out a lot of words over the past decade.
How did publishing your first book change your writing process?
Publishing my first novel gave me a peek behind the industry’s curtain, which was invaluable to my understanding of how the process works. About why deadlines are so important and just how many talented people are involved in taking a book from manuscript to finished novel. Knowing that helped me see how I fit into the system, and it also tempered my expectations.
My number one takeaway has been this: the only thing I have complete control over is the writing, and so that’s where I try to keep my focus.
Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it while on a deadline?
I know many will disagree with my position, but I don’t believe in “writer’s block.” That doesn’t mean that I haven’t had days–weeks, even—when I’ve felt stuck with a character or a plot point, or like the first draft’s inevitable “mucky middle” has me in its quicksand clutches. When I’m stuck it usually means I either haven’t done my homework (for me that looks like clarity on character motivations), or I’m trying to push the story in the wrong direction. Most often a long walk with the dog or some other form of exercise shakes things loose, and if not, giving myself a few “hands off” days away from the book typically untangles the knot.
What advice do you have for aspiring writers? What do you wish someone had told you before you got into this industry?
I’m hesitant to give advice, because what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. But a tip I might offer—aside from being an avid, diverse reader—is to follow your curiosities and be willing to try anything once when it comes to your writing. If you’ve never plotted a story before, give it a go. And if you’re a die-hard plotter, maybe try writing a chapter or two without a plan. As for what I wish someone had told me before I got into this industry…probably to avoid reading reviews. Not everyone will love every book, and that is just fine.
ABOUT KARMA BROWN
Karma Brown is the bestselling author of five novels: the #1 bestseller Recipe for a Perfect Wife, Come Away with Me (a Globe and Mail Best Book of 2015), Globe and Mail and Toronto Star bestsellers The Choices We Make, In This Moment, and The Life Lucy Knew.
She is also the author of The 4% Fix: How one hour can change your life. A National Magazine Award–winning journalist, Karma has been published in Chatelaine, Canadian Living, SELF, Redbook, and Today’s Parent, among others. She lives just outside Toronto with her husband, daughter, and a labradoodle named Fred.
Author Website: karmakbrown.com/
ABOUT THE 4% FIX
An award-winning journalist, avid reader and new mom, Karma Brown dreamed of writing her first novel. But between diapers and tight deadlines, how could she? Like so many of us, she felt stretched taut and hyper-scheduled, her time a commodity over which she had lost control. For Brown, the answer to this problem was to rise earlier every day and use that time to write. Although she experienced missteps along the way, after committing to her alarm clock and an online community of early risers, she completed a debut novel that became a national bestseller.
In The 4% Fix, Karma Brown reveals the latest research about time management and goal-setting and shares strategies that have worked for her as well as for others. Refreshingly, her jargon-free approach doesn’t include time-tracking spreadsheets, tips on how to squeeze in yoga exercises while cooking dinner, or methods that add bulk to those never-ending lists. How will you use this one hour—only 4% of your day—to change your life?
ABOUT RECIPE FOR A PERFECT WIFE
When Alice Hale reluctantly leaves a promising career in publicity, following her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. However, she is determined to become a writer–and to work hard to build the kind of life her husband dreams of, complete with children.
At first, the old house seems to resent Alice as much as she resents it, but when she finds an old cookbook buried in a box in the basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook”s previous owner: 1950s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she begins to settle into her new surroundings, even as her friends and family grow concerned that she has embraced them too fully: wearing vintage dresses and pearls like a 1950s housewife, making elaborate old-fashioned dishes like Baked Alaska, and drifting steadily away from her usual pursuits.
Alice justifies the changes merely as research for her novel…but when she discovers that Nellie left clues about her own life within the cookbook”s pages–and in a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to Nellie”s mother–she quickly realizes that the housewife”s secrets may have been anything but harmless. As she uncovers a more sinister side to Nellie”s marriage and with pressure mounting in her own relationship, Alice realizes that to protect herself she must harbour and hatch a few secrets of her own…