Welcome to Ink Drop Interviews, ‘Another Wednesday – Another Author’. This week I had the privilege of interviewing a very talented and very busy writer, Karen Pokras Toz. But, before I introduce her to you, I’d like to take a brief minute to say thank you. On behalf of myself and the authors who have so graciously agreed to participate, I would like to give thanks. As a reader, you probably don’t know how much your support means to the writer’s you enjoy reading, and as a writer, you’ve been there… hoping people take that minute to read what you have written or what you have to say in an interview. You know what it’s like to be the new kid in town, an unrecognizable name, counting new followers, fans or book sales by single digit numbers. Each week the view count for Ink Drop Interviews increases, slowly, but it is increasing. The service I offer may not be grand scale, it may not reach thousands of viewers, but it does reach. I couldn’t continue to conduct these interviews without the help and the participation of the authors who volunteer to appear on Ink Drop Interviews. And the authors wouldn’t continue to volunteer without the support of the readers who drop by. And with that, we come full circle! To all of the authors and readers, a huge and heartfelt thanks!! Okay, enough babbling… This week I would like to introduce you to Karen Pokras Toz, author of ‘Nate Rocks the World’. When I first received Karen’s bio, I sat for some time trying to decide how I would introduce her. I mean, ‘author of Nate Rocks the World’ is impressive, but on a scale of accomplishments, Karen is so much more than an author. After a childhood in Orange, Connecticut, Karen attended Ithaca College where she received a Bachelor of Science in Finance. In addition, she attended the University of Richmond, receiving both her JD and MBA. Karen is a member of the Association of Independent Authors, Independent Author Network, and the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She is also affiliated with the Pennsylvania Bar. Karen is the 2011 Spokesperson/Honoree for the Eastern Pa. Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run, volunteers with the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia’s (USP) Occupational Therapy fieldwork program and is also the moderator for a ‘Mom’s with Special Needs’ board for BuxMontMommies. In addition, she crochets blankets for Project Linus and scarves for soldiers through Operation Gratitude. She recently published her debut novel, ‘Nate Rocks the World’, a book written for elementary school aged children and is in the process of publishing her second novel, an adult contemporary novel titled, ‘Invisible’. Aside from her occupational and educational successes, Karen is a wife and mother and lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and her three children, aged four through thirteen. I have to admit, with so many accomplishments to her credit, it is difficult to keep an interview to roughly ten questions, so I urge you to contact Karen using any of the links below if you would like to know anything that wasn’t covered in this interview. IDI – I love this question because I think I wait with bated breath for someone to answer it with some far-fetched, obnoxiously ridiculous answer (which I never get), but that’s just my over-active (runaway) imagination. I have heard of some famous writers who have equally famous eccentricities. Do you have any quirks or maybe superstitions that have become as integral to your writing as plot and character?
KPT – Hmm… I don’t know that I would call this eccentric, but most of my ideas actually take place in the shower. In fact, if I ever find myself suffering from writer’s block, I head for a good soaking. I don’t know what it is, but it works every time. I recently stumbled across a product called AquaNotes. Basically it is a waterproof pad and pencil set that hangs on your shower wall. I am constantly jotting down ideas in there. All I need now is a waterproof laptop, and I may never leave the shower!
IDI – When did you have your Eureka moment?
KPT – Fourteen years ago (almost to the day) there was a news story that piqued my interest. I could not stop thinking about ‘what if’s…’ I kept playing different scenarios in my mind. Before I knew it, I had an entire novel plotted out in my head. It took me thirteen years to put pen to paper, but as soon as I began writing, I knew I was addicted.
IDI – What are you working on now?
KPT – I’m working on two projects actually. I am revisiting my first manuscript (the one which brought about my Eureka moment), which I never published, called ‘Invisible’. It is the story of a woman who finds herself suddenly famous and thrown unwittingly in front of the paparazzi. I am also several chapters into the next book of the ‘Nate Rocks’ series. I am hoping to release both books within the next year.
IDI – I’ve heard very different opinions regarding genre-crossing. Your books, ‘Nate Rocks the World’ and ‘Invisible’ do just that.
KPT – Yes, I have crossed that line since ‘Invisible’ would be considered adult contemporary/chick lit and ‘Nate Rocks the World’ is middle grade. I don’t think as writers we should be limited. I think we should write what inspires us. Otherwise, it is too easy to get caught up in writing because we feel we have to, rather than writing because we are fulfilling a passion.
IDI – You mention fulfilling a passion. Within your writing, what is it you are the most passionate about?
KPT – The book that I have recently published, ‘Nate Rocks the World’, is about a ten-year-old boy who draws cartoons that come to life. As a mom of three children, it is important to me that my own kids love to read and appreciate books as much as I do. I decided to write this book in the hopes of making reading fun for kids, while inspiring them to have confidence in themselves. ‘Nate Rocks the World’ uses humor and adventure to show that everyone and anyone can accomplish great things. This book is the first of the ‘Nate Rocks’ series and is geared toward 7-12 year olds.
IDI – And what would an author interview be without the question, ‘Where do you get your ideas’?
KPT – As I mentioned before, a news story was the inspiration behind my first manuscript, ‘Invisible’. However, for ‘Nate Rocks the World’, I knew I wanted to write a fun book that would encourage kids to read. The inspiration really came from my children. My oldest son is an artist, my daughter is very creative, and my youngest loves to role-play. I sort of combined all three of these traits to come up with my main character, Nathan Rockledge.
IDI – We all draw from within and I believe there is an element of ‘us’ in everything we write. How much of you will a reader find in any given book?
KPT – There is plenty of me to be found in ‘Nate Rocks the World’. The question is, am I the mom who can’t cook, the annoying sister, the dad who tells the same stories over and over, or the child who is the last one picked for a game of kickball at recess? I’ll never tell!!
IDI – I believe one disadvantage for writers who are still raising a family is time management. I know when I first began writing, my family didn’t view it as ‘a real job’ and it took some time to make them understand that just because I was ‘in the house’, I was still ‘working’. Aside from your many outside activities within the community, you are the mother of three young children. How do you handle the responsibilities of family and work when it’s under one roof?
KPT – Ah – that sounds just like my house! Confession time – I cannot multi-task. Some people are pros, but for me it is just a complete failure. This is how I got into the habit of getting up an hour earlier than everyone else. Once the kids are up and around, my writing time is over. I can do other things, such as answering emails and catching up on blogs, but I cannot seem to get back into the groove of writing with the hustle and bustle of an active household. I do have other quiet moments during the day; when they are at school, camp, or an activity. I try to make the most of those moments, knowing that once my brood is back, my attention is back to them.
IDI – I’ve heard it said that once you know the rules, hard and fast, then and only then can you break them. Which ones do you find yourself breaking the most and does it work in your writing?
KPT – For as long as I can remember, I was told not to write contractions. It was drilled in me over and over (and over). So when I wrote ‘Nate Rocks the World’ I spelled everything out. I proudly sent my manuscript out to my editor. Her biggest complaint? I should have used more contractions! Her reasoning was that I was writing in the voice of a ten-year-old, and how many ten-year-olds do you know that would say ‘I cannot’ instead of ‘I can’t’. It was an important lesson for me. Pay attention to your character, not the rules!
IDI – I’ve already touched on some of your social and community involvements; is there anything you’d like to add?
KPT – Well, my kids keep me pretty busy. I also blog, crochet and garden. In addition, I am an advocate for the Arthritis Foundation. I am the 2011 Spokesperson/Honoree for the Eastern Pennsylvania Chapter of the Arthritis Foundation for their annual Jingle Bell 5k walk/run to be held in December. If anyone is interested in joining Team Toz to benefit arthritis, we’d love to have you! Please visit my blog for more information. (Link below)
IDI – What was the best advice ever given to you, and by whom?
KPT – When I first began ‘Invisible’ I hired a writing coach. I had never really written anything before other than technical accounting articles (wake up!) She told me I had a very young voice and that she could see me writing middle grade or young adult. She also told me to think of my first five pages as ‘real estate’. At the time, I had my house on the market, so I knew exactly what she meant. If I wanted to sell my house, I needed to present it perfectly. First impressions mattered.
IDI – What advice would you give to new/unpublished authors?
KPT – Well, since I am a new author, it is the same advice I gave myself… dream big. I know it’s a cliché, but it is something I tell my kids all the time, so I figure I should follow my own advice, right? Just to be clear, I am not talking about money and fame. For me, success is not measured that way. You have to set goals – keep them reachable and then push yourself even further. Make as many contacts as you can, use the Internet, join critique groups, get a writing coach if possible, educate yourself, keep up with the industry, and just keep writing.
KPT – I have both! I love to blog. I write about my daily life as a mom, writer, wife… basically it is just me rambling about whatever happens to be on my mind at any particular moment. Every week, I post a ‘Friday Five’ where I sum up what’s been going on in my little world and can be found at http://kptoz.blogspot.com. If you read something you like, let me know! Comment’s really make my day. I also have an author website www.karentoz.com . Here you can find information about my book, including reviews, a free chapter download, and purchase information. Thank you so much for having me!
If you would like to contact Karen: http://www.karentoz.com Twitter: @karentoz Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/karenptoz Karen’s work can be found here: Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Nate-Rocks-World-Karen-Pokras/dp/1463510829/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1309694474&sr=8-1 Print (direct from publisher): https://www.createspace.com/3602508 Nook, Sony Reader, Kobo, Apple and others: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/70662