Friday, April 12, 2024

Karen E. Olson

Karen E. Olson is the winner of the Sara Ann Freed Memorial Award and a Shamus Award finalist. She is the author of the Annie Seymour mysteries, the Tattoo Shop mysteries, and the Black Hat thrillers. Olson was a longtime editor, both in newspapers and at Yale. She lives in North Haven, Connecticut.

Olson's new novel is An Inconvenient Wife.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

The phrase “an inconvenient wife” was something Henry VIII said to describe his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, when he was trying to divorce her but she was stonewalling the process. Most of his wives were “inconvenient” in some way at some point in their marriages, and as my book is told from the point of view of four of the wives, it has always felt to be appropriate as a title and sets the stage for the reader.

What's in a name?

Since the book is a fictional retelling of history, I played around with the actual names of the historical figures: Henry VIII becomes Hank Tudor; Katherine Parr becomes Kate Parker; Catherine of Aragon becomes Catherine Alvarez; Catherine Howard is Caitlyn Howard; and Ann of Cleves is now Anna Klein. I didn’t change Thomas Cromwell’s name, but I did change Thomas Culpepper to Alex Culpepper because there were a lot of Thomases in Tudor England and I didn’t want to confuse the reader.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your new novel?

My teenage self would be thrilled. My Tudor obsession actually began when I was 14 and read a biography of Elizabeth I. The only real surprise would be that it’s crime fiction, a genre I didn’t read until I was in my twenties.

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

Endings, definitely. The beginning is a blank slate with endless opportunities. By the middle of the book, though, I start to wonder how I’m going to stick the landing, since everything has to come together and make sense. That’s when the rewriting and revising happens.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

Since I’ve written about the world of billionaires, it is most definitely not my life. However, Kate’s background is more humble, more middle class before she gets involved with her husband’s world. She had to work through school to pay for her education and she worked in public relations to pay her bills. Also, as a woman of a certain age, I am able to relate to Catherine and how she faces growing older. So I do bring some of myself into my characters.

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

I love spending time on Zillow looking at real estate. When imagining Hank Tudor’s estates and Anna Klein’s inn, I bounced from magnificent house to magnificent house with swimming pools, oceanfronts, tennis courts, picturing my characters’ physical world.
Visit Karen E. Olson's website.

The Page 69 Test: An Inconvenient Wife.

--Marshal Zeringue