Karen Bergreen is the author of Perfect is Overrated, which was just released this month, and Following Polly, which pubbed in 2010. Karen is a stand-up comedian and former lawyer who lives in New York City. Here, she talks to fellow She Writer B. Lynn Goodwin, author of You Want Me to Do What? Journaling for Caregivers about Following Polly, which was her debut novel. The interview originally appeared on Lynn's website, www.writeradvice.com.
B. Lynn Goodwin: In Following Polly, your main character, Alice, is stalking a girl she knows from college--and then the girl ends up dead, and Alice becomes the main suspect in her murder. What gave you the idea for the plot?
Karen Bergreen: Actually, I've always had a fantasy about following someone--someone I would pick at random. And I thought it would be fun to create a character that would do this. But much more obsessively. And then I had to make the character have a history that would justify behaving so strangely. So I created a tragic history. And poof: there was Alice. My next step was plot. Alice following random people would never give the story any arc, so I had to make the character who would be interesting enough to follow. Poof: Polly. The plot still needed to move, so I had to kill off Polly and then . . . you get the picture.
B. Lynn Goodwin: Alice’s biting wit and ironic awareness comes through so clearly on the page. Do you have any tips for helping a character do that?
Karen Bergreen: Find your own funny--and I do believe everyone has it--and risk it. Put it on the page. I wasn't sure if everything I wrote would work; you have to take a leap of faith.
B. Lynn Goodwin: What is your advice for how to find an agent and major publisher in the midst of the digital revolution?
Karen Bergreen: That can be really hard. Talk to everyone you know. Develop social media relationships with everyone in the business. See if friends and virtual friends know anybody. If you have a decent relationship with another writer, ask them for a favor.
B. Lynn Goodwin: What advice about craft and message would you give to a) mystery writers, and b) writers in general?
Karen Bergreen: Don't be married to your words. If someone you trust (agent, publisher etc.) tells you to get rid of something or to change it, be willing to do that. I had to do that with one plot element, and it makes for an interesting discussion when I speak at book clubs.
LG: What is your new project about?
KB: My new book, which just came out this summer, is called Perfect Is Overrated. It's about a freshly divorced mom who gets over her postpartum depression by solving all of the murders in her daughter's preschool--it's funny, I promise. And there's some romance, too, because it's fun.
Visit Karen's website at www.karenbergreen.net to learn more about her and her work. You can also find her on Twitter (@karenbergreen) and Facebook.