More About the Author
Karen Truesdell Riehl's writing achievements are remarkable, given the award-winning author's lifelong battle with dyslexia. She was unable to read until the age of ten. Her published works now include a memoir, Love and Madness: My Private Years with George C. Scott, telling of her 30-year hidden liaison with the international film star, six novels, eight plays and a radio comedy series, The Quibbles, available from ArtAge Publications at http://www.seniortheatre.com/product/the-quibbles-radio-shows/. Her children's play, Alice in Cyberland, was an award winner in the National Southwest Writers Contest.
Karen's nonfiction novel, Helga, was selected best nonfiction book (military and politics) by the 2015 San Diego Book Awards. When the author met Helga in 1977, she was an elementary school librarian, a 1948 German immigrant. Asked about her experience during the war, Helga quietly revealed she had been a "Jugend," a member of Hitler's child army,Ten-year-old Helga is forced to join the Hitler youth weekly meetings. Lies and treats are used to build her allegiance to the Fuhrer. As the war draws nearer to Berlin, Helga is sent away to a Youth Training Camp. Her slow disillusionment and harrowing escape home, is a coming-of-age story of a young girl's survival of Nazi mind control.
In the romance novel, Hello Again, a finalist in the 2015 San Diego Book Awards, Shannon Taggert falls in love with Nate, a graduate student teaching assistant. But there's another woman in Nate's life, Tally, the daughter of Walter, his mentor and benefactor. Before meeting Shannon, as Walter lay dying, Nate promised to marry his daughter.
The Ghosts of Fort Ord was inspired by living for a month near the abandoned military base.
After having lived for several years in Terre Haute, Karen was inspired to write a story about scandals in a fictional small town in Indiana, Freedom's Sins.
Saturday Night Dance Club, was inspired by a true story of four couples, from the 1900's to 1930's, touched by the Great War, organized crime, the Depression and the threat of another war, finding sanctuary in their weekly dance club.
Drawing from her personal experience, Karen wrote Bad Girl: A Play. The Safe Haven Home for Unwed Mothers provides shelter from a judgmental society, but reveals its hypocrisy as well. The young women from all levels of society, rich and poor, share only their shame.
My nonfiction novel, Helga: Growing Up in Hitler's Germany, is based on my interview of a former member of the Jugend, Hitler's child army.
My many overnight weekend getaways on the famous Queen Mary has me busily writing The Ghosts of the Queen Mary. I look forward to publishing it in the autumn 2014.
I love to hear from readers of my books. Email me, follow me on twitter, or friend me on Facebook.
I love to hear from readers of my books. Please email me or friend me on Facebook.
Here's an in-depth Q/A interview I recently published on Smashwords:
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
My hometown is Seattle, Washington, the setting for Saturday Night Dance Club. You can read about my 7-months in New York, living with an actor who later became a film star, in my memoir, Love and Madness: My Private Years with George C. Scott. In Freedoms Sins I drew inspiration to write a novel about small town scandal from living in New England and Terre Haute, Indiana. I now live in Carlsbad, California, one of the settings for my latest two novels, Hello Again and The Ghosts of Fort Ord. Experiencing life in different regions of the country widens my understanding of the characters I create.
What's the story behind your latest book?
Hello Again, a romance novel, is currently available as a preorder from Smashwords, with a publication date scheduled for Valentine's Day, 2014. It's the story of Shannon, a young woman about to graduate from college, who falls in love with Nate, a graduate student teaching assistant. Shortly before graduation day Shannon discovers Nate is engaged to marry Tally, the daughter of a man who's been like a father to him after his own father died. Nate promises to break his engagement when he heads back home to see Tally. But fate and faint-heartedness get in the way of that promise. Shannon discovers she's pregnant. Nate marries Tally, and Shannon raises their son alone, telling him his father is dead. After twenty years of separation, fate steps in again to bring Shannon and Nate back together, this time carrying with them the baggage of lies and broken promises.
What are you working on next?
My next work is a play, a comedic drama titled, Bad Girl, based on the true story of my own experience in the Florence Crittenton Home. In this fictionalized account, it's 1958 and eight girls await the births of their babies in a home for unwed mothers. They find solace from their friendship and gallows humor. As they leave the home, they say goodbye to their special sisterhood, determined to face the future as stronger women. The 50's were an unforgiving, harsh time. The girls in the home suffered pain and indignities few can imagine today. This is a true story and one I hope many will read and see performed.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
My computer is waiting to catch up with my storytelling.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
When I'm not writing, I'm thinking about my characters and the next chapter of the book I'm working on. Reading, taking walks, or enjoying a movie with my husband occupy me the rest of the time.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
I don't remember the first one, although I do remember the thrill of it. I am a dyslexic, and reading and writing came hard and late. So when I began to put words on paper that made sense and were spelled correctly, it was a huge victory.
Who are your favorite authors?
Contemporary: Laura Hillenbrand, Ken Follett, David McCullough,
Classic: William Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, A.A. Milne, Mark Twain
What is your writing process?
I let my characters guide me. No plot outline... they tell me where they want to go.
How do you approach cover design?
I send a synopsis of my books to Ronnell D. Porter. He's a fine creative artist.
Which of your books is your favorite and why?
My favorite is Saturday Night Dance Club, the first book I wrote 12 years ago. In the bottom of an old trunk I discovered a box of early 1900's photographs and memorabilia that had belonged to my grandparents and other family members. From that box and the stories my parents told me, I was able to piece together their lives. I gained a lot of respect for them, realizing the hard times they encountered during the country's first world war, a flu pandemic, the Depression, the rise of organized crime during Prohibition, and the approach of another war, following Hitler's rise to power in the 1930's.
Describe your desk.
My desk is hard to describe because it's hard to find. I'm much more comfortable and productive sitting in a crowded corner with my computer, surrounded by piles of paper, a telephone, odds and ends, a very comfortable chair.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
All of it. I love to create. I love to write dialog. I love to wake up each morning with a story in my head waiting to be written.
What do your fans mean to you?
A book is meaningless without a reader, so we are nothing without our fans. My goal is to establish as many personal contacts with readers as possible. Only a few writers become rich and famous. My greatest satisfaction comes not from the money coming in, but from the feedback from readers who love my books. With every book I write, I envision the response of my readers to my plot and characters.
When did you first start writing?
I sat down to write my first book, a memoir of my hidden life with George C. Scott, shortly after we said goodbye for the last time. I knew little about writing at the time, and George was still alive, so I put away the manuscript for a few years. After he died I finished the book and was fortunate to find a publisher of a paperback version of Love and Madness. This was before eBooks were born. Ten years later I published it on Smashwords.