Kareila Stetz-Waters

Credit: Paul Hawkwood

 I first met Karelia Stetz-Waters when I moderated for her in a Facebook group in which she was the featured author. We struck up a conversation there and have been Facebook buddies ever since. By profession, she is an English professor at a rural community college and has a BA from Smith College in Comparative Literature and an MA in English from the University of Oregon. According to her website, she lives in Portland with her wife, Fay, her pug dog, Lord Byron, and her cat, Cyrus the Disemboweler.

Welcome Karelia. Thank you for joining me in this interview process. I took a look at your website as I was forming your questions. I see you have a new book coming out soon, called The Purveyor. I feel a strange affinity already to your main character, Adair Wilson. You almost spelled her name right, LOL! 

I grew up near a small community called Adair Village. It used to be a military camp. That’s how I arrived at the name Adair for the protagonist in The Purveyor.  How did you arrive at the name Adaire?

LOL…Just lucky, I guess.

The Purveyor deals with a very serious topic. Tell us about your upcoming book and the characters that populate it.

In The Purveyor, Adair Wilson (the beautiful and mysterious professor from The Admirer) goes on a recruiting mission for Pittock College. She visits a pair of conjoined twins who live in an isolated religious community in Utah. Shortly after Adair brings them to Pittock, they are abducted by a human trafficker known only as the Purveyor.  The Purveyor has discovered a wealthy buyer who is interested in adding these rare girls to his collection of priceless wonders.  Always an activist and champion of the under-dog, Adair is devastated by the girls’ abduction and sets about trying to save them. 

Your book must have required a great deal of research. Tell us how you investigated the topic.

A few years ago, I taught African literature (continental Africa, not African-American.)  One of the books I taught was Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them. The book deals with human trafficking.  As I did more research into the subject in preparation for the class, I was shocked to learn that there are more people enslaved now than before the Civil War.  I was also interested in the fact that human trafficking is one of the few issues where conservative Christians and liberal activists find themselves working side-by-side for the same cause.  I expect people will pick up The Purveyor because it’s an exciting read– titillating even – but I hope, along the way, my readers learn more about the huge human trafficking problem. 

Tell us something about you that not many people know.

I am very good at fitting into tight spaces and reaching behind things. If you have lost an important ball bearing behind the refrigerator, you want me there.

My cat Toby causes me to have use of your hidden talent…too bad you live too far away to be useful to me! Okay, some easy questions: coffee or tea, glass half full or half empty, dark or milk chocolate?

Coffee. Half full. Milk chocolate (even though I know dark cholate is better for you and more sophisticated.)

In your bio, you list that your interests as include large snakes, conjoined twins, corn mazes, lesbians, popular science books on neurology, and any roadside attraction that purports to have the world’s largest ball of twine. How did you develop such a broad spectrum of topics that fascinate you?

I love to read nonfiction, and I’ve always had a taste for the slightly creepy. I am also interested in slugs, tide pools, medical mysteries (provided they can’t possibly happen to me), and those really strange-looking fish that live way, way at the bottom of the ocean.  

What is your favorite way to pass your time when not writing?

I love a good party, a weekend away with my wife, live jazz at the local pub with my friends, or a night on my parents’ back porch talking and watching the stars.  I love people!

I sometimes ask authors if they plan out the plot or if they let the story take them along on it’s own journey. When I saw this picture on your website, I knew I didn’t have to ask that question. Instead, I’ll ask what process do you follow in developing and then writing your story?

I am currently at work on my sixth novel, and I think I’ve finally got the process down.  The three key features for me are outlining, handwriting, and letting my work sit. I outline the novel on index cards taped around the wall of my office. That way I can see the whole plot at one glance. Then I write the entire book by hand. I feel more creative when I write by hand. After I have transcribed and edited the book, when I think it’s perfect, I let it sit for six months. When I return to it, I always find things I want to change.  

If I wrote my novels in longhand first, nobody would ever get to read them…including me. My handwriting leaves a lot to be desired. (grin)

Writing is a multifaceted process, including planning, writing, editing, rewriting, publicizing, and so forth. What is your favorite part of the process?

The best, best, best part is hearing a reader tell me they enjoyed the book.  That is such an amazing honor!  After that, my favorite part is handwriting the manuscript.

I agree…hearing your book entertained or kept someone awake past their planned time for bed is absolutely the best part. How long does it take you to write a book?

About three years.  I spend one or two years researching and writing. Then I let the book sit for half year. (I never send out my work without letting it sit for at least six months.) Then it usually takes another few months to work with my editor.  I usually have a couple projects going at the same time, so that I can work on one book while another sits.

What kind of answers do you hear to this question? Sometimes I feel like I write really slowly, and then sometimes I feel like I’m rushing through the process.  

Answers run the gamut from a couple of months to a couple of years. Like each book it’s creation time is unique, I think. I’ve had some that I’ve written very quickly in about a month of full-time writing and others that took much longer. (That doesn’t include the editing that seems to take forever!) What was the last book you read for fun?

Sandra Moran’s Letter’s Never Sent and A Billion Wicked Thoughts: What the Internet Tells Us About Sexual Relationships by Ogi Ogas and Sai Gaddam. 

I had an interesting discussion in my last interview with Caren Werlinger about reviews. Do you read your reviews? If not, why not? If you do, what do you take away from them?

I’m relatively new to publishing, so I haven’t really developed a policy yet. What do you recommend?

I read every one of them and then put them aside. I don’t dwell on either the good or the bad ones. Everyone has a personal opinion. I like to hear them all, but don’t have to agree with each and every one of them. I relish the good ones and do think about whether the bad ones have validity, or if my work is just not their taste. Tell us about your other books. 

The Admirer is the prequel to The Purveyor. It’s about serial killer with an amputee fetish and Helen Ivers, the brave but troubled college president who tries to stop him.  More than that, it’s a story of redemptive lesbian love.

On October 31, 2014, I’ll also earn my English professor street cred with the release of my literary YA novel called Forgive Me If I Told You This Before.  Forgive Me If I Told You This Before is about the daughter of an Estonian immigrant who comes out of the closet during the Ballot Measure 9 era, one of the most violently anti-gay periods in Oregon history. 

Recently, I also signed a contract with the Forever Yours imprint of Grand Central Publishing.  My novel, Something True, is about a closeted real estate developer who falls in love with the woman whose coffee shop she is trying to close down. Something True is the first F/F romance acquired by this imprint.  My agent said that lesbian romance was “unprecedented” in mainstream publishing, so I’m very proud to have broken into this market.  The publication date is set for some time during the winter of 2015.

Congratulations on this amazing achievement. Tell us a bit more about how this came about.

I have a fairly prestigious agent. (She represents Barack Obama’s first memoir.) However that has not been a guarantee of easy success. She’s represented some of my work that she was unable to sell.  However, she was able to place Something True.  The lesson I took away from this is to keep trying and to write from the heart.  Something True is classic lesfic romance. It’s also the last book I expected to break into mainstream publishing, but it did.     

Who is your favorite character that you’ve written and why?

I love Adair Wilson, particularly in The Purveyor. She is much more vulnerable in The Purveyor than she was in The Admirer. At the beginning of the novel, she is very sick. She is also heart-broken because she believes that her lover, Helen Ivers, has abandoned her. In capturing Adair’s grief I really fell in love with her character.  

You have a very responsible position now. But having gone through high school and college, I’m sure you’ve had a variety of jobs. What was your strangest/most fun/worst job?

One summer I had a full time job doing nothing but reading the Amherst Alumni Quarterly. I was supposed to be gleaning information about wealthy alums. It was like reading a stranger’s Facebook feed for forty hours a week. 

If you could live anywhere other than where you are currently living, where and when would it be?

I’ll give Paris a try : )

Your books all seem to be quite different. What is the source or inspiration for your plot ideas?

Up until recently, failure has been my inspiration and my motivation. In the past eighteen months, I signed four contracts with three different publishers, but before that that it was rejection after rejection. I kept trying new genres in hopes of finding one that would sell. Then I sold four books almost simultaneously.  You know what they say…I was an overnight success after ten years of hard work.

Recently Amazon began offering unlimited kindle borrowing for $9.99 a month. What impact do you foresee that having on authors and their book sales?  Will you be offering your books into the Kindle Unlimited program?

I could see it cutting into profits, but I could also see it improving exposure. As an English teacher, I’m fairly enthusiastic about anything that gets people to read, but I do worry about revenue going to corporations and not individual authors. As I launch my career, I’d be open to putting my older works on the Kindle borrowing program. For example, a reader who borrowed The Admirewould then have to purchase The Purveyor. What do you make of this new development at Amazon?

I try to keep cost of my books reasonable so more people can afford them. I am concerned that the ability to borrow books so readily with so little reward for the author and small publishers who don’t charge $9.99 or more for an e-book will unfairly impact the many indie writers and small presses and possibly drive them out of business. I am also concerned that it will be harder than ever to achieve a #1 best selling book when the top spots on the Amazon lists are clogged with the Amazon Unlimited books. I hope Amazon will eventually make separate lists for the top 100 borrowed in a genre as well as the top 100 best selling. For those interested in learning more about this subject, Sarah Ettritch wrote an interesting article about it here: http://www.sarahettritch.com/ebook-subscription-services/.

This is the last question. What question would you ask yourself if you were doing this interview?

What were you like as a child?

Hmm…good one! Thanks for the suggestion—now you get to answer it!

I was loving, shy, and obedient. I also had a bit of a dark side.  Sometimes I think this was because my mother was a war refugee, and I grew up with stories of her flight from Estonia. Sometimes I think it’s just natural inclination. I remember sitting around with a bunch of friends at work talking about the National Geographic.  I said, “Remember when you were a kid and you’d go through all the National Geographic magazines just looking for dead bodies?”  Apparently, I was the only one at the table who did that.

LOL…I suspect that may be true…and I suspect it might tell us a bit about where your books got their start.  Thank you so much for the opportunity to get to know you a bit better.

You can learn more about Karelia and her books here: www.kareliastetzwaters.com and can purchase her books here:  




© JEN 2014