• Mayra Calvani
  • Talking Craft with Chris Karlsen, Author of ‘In Time For You’
Talking Craft with Chris Karlsen, Author of ‘In Time For You’
Written by
Mayra Calvani
February 2016
Written by
Mayra Calvani
February 2016


I was born and raised in Chicago. My father was a history professor and my mother was, and is, a voracious reader. I grew up with a love of history and books. My parents also love traveling, a passion they passed onto me. I wanted to see the places I read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa. I am a retired police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. My desire to write came in my early teens. After I retired, I decided to pursue that dream. I write three different series. My paranormal romance series is called, Knights in Time. My romantic thriller series is Dangerous Waters. The newest is The Bloodstone Series. Each series has a different setting and some cross time periods, which I find fun to write.I currently live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband and four wild and crazy rescue dogs. 

Q: Congratulations on the release of your latest book, In Time For You. To begin with, can you gives us a brief summary of what the story is about and what compelled you to write it? 

Sisters, Electra and Emily are horseback riding in the English countryside with Electra’s fiancé, Roger. The sisters go off to collect flowers and find themselves caught in a time warp. When no clue to their vanishing turns up, Roger, learns a disturbing truth about the specific area the women disappeared from: that there has been past incidents of a time passage opening and there’s a link to specific place and time. He realizes what has occurred. What neither sister knew, was Roger is a time traveler himself. He was brought forward in time from a medieval battle he was engaged in.

He knows he must go back and search for the sisters who face grave dangers in the medieval world they’ve been transported to. Complicating his search is the fact that they are in a time that England was a war with France and Roger is French. He was fighting the English when he was transported. If he is caught while searching for the sisters, he will face death as an enemy on English soil or imprisonment as a prisoner of war.

It’s the story of how the two sisters use their intellect and resourcefulness to survive and adjust to a very alien world. It’s about how in the craziest and most frightening of circumstances, love can make its way into our hearts.

*Roger was the antagonist in my previous book in this series, Knight Blindness. Although he was the antagonist, he was not a villain. He was a French nobleman fighting for his king and country. I liked Roger as a person and a character and at the end of Knight Blindness decided to give him a story of his own. Electra and Emily the two female heroines in In Time For You are sisters to the heroine in Knight Blindness.

In Time for YouQ: What do you think makes a good romance? Could you narrow it down to the three most important elements? Is it even possible to narrow it down?

For any genre, I’d say compelling characters. The author must be passionate about creating well-rounded fulfilling characters in order for the reader to be and that includes the antagonists. For romance, the story must show a genuine relationship between the hero and heroine. To me, it can’t be he’s so handsome and she’s so beautiful and the two are carried away by just the sight of the other. The two need to laugh and respect each other, more than making love in the story. Those scenes are a lovely addition but the story must show the love grow and develop. Third, I’d say a good romance has a well-rounded world for the characters to occupy. Whether it’s terrible or beautiful or both, they have friends and family and enemies, all sorts of people they come into contact with. They shouldn’t function in a vacuum, so to speak. I love giving a story a variety of characters. I also like to use setting as a character at times.

Q: How did you go about plotting your story? Or did you discover it as you worked on the book?

I start with an outline. I’m not married to it. I usually veer far from what I originally put down and will let a storyline take me to a natural progression. I like being surprised by my characters and how they react. They don’t always do what I thought they would at the start.

Q: Tell us something interesting about your protagonist and how you developed him or her. Did you do any character interviews or sketches prior to the actual writing?

I have four protagonists in this story, which is unusual I know. Originally, I planned on the story surrounding Electra and Roger. I didn’t have to do much on them prior, especially on Roger, as he had a great deal of page time in Knight Blindness and a lot was known about him. Electra had several scenes in it as well. What I found was I couldn’t ignore or downplay Emily. I had not done a lot with her prior to the book, in fact, almost nothing. She grew in personality as I wrote. I needed to give her a hero and I gave her Simon. Simon was the best friend to Stephen, the English knight who came forward in time with Roger, in Knight Blindness. Simon is seen a great deal in Journey in Time. He became the perfect hero for Emily. They were the unlikely couple. Simon wasn’t always very nice in Journey in Time and he’s a bit of a tough customer. Emily is the youngest sister and is rather naïve and sweet natured compared to Electra. They both have a steep character arc, which I enjoyed giving them.

Roger and Electra are powerful characters from the start. For her, I was able to show how someone in her position (a modern woman) might handle being dropped in such an alien world. Medieval times were not kind to women. With Roger, I used the situation to show his intellect and resourcefulness.

Q: In the same light, how did you create your antagonist or villain? What steps did you take to make him or her realistic?

In Time For You hasn’t a antagonist/villain per se. It is the time and place that are the enemy of the hero and heroine. When I’ve written villains in the past, I generally don’t write a straight up evil person with no likeable features. I think the most interesting villains are those we occasionally find ourselves liking, men like Tony Soprano come to mind.  I like to give the villains a setting as well. They have associates, likes and dislikes, often they are men and women of great taste-think of the James Bond villains.

I will mention odd quirks they might have. In my book, Silk, the killer couldn’t stand to be around people when they were eating. The sound of people eating drove him bananas. In Golden Chariot, I named some of the music the villain listened to and the heroine, to her disgust, discovered she listened to some of it as well. I also gave him a surprise scene where, even though he’s a brutal killer, he shows extreme kindness to a down and out war veteran of his country who is begging.

In Knight Blindness, where Roger, the hero from In Time For You was the antagonist, I wanted to present a man who believed in his cause. He saw the hero as his country’s enemy and it was his originally intention to kill him.

Q: How did you keep your narrative exciting throughout the novel? Could you offer some practical, specific tips?

The first thing I do when I start a chapter is decide what event is going to happen that in some way changes the story, it has to change the character(s) in some way or change the world around them. That is a great way to keep up the pace as they, the characters, must react.

Second thing I do is ask whether a scene is really needed. What am I accomplishing? Not every scene will be action packed but again this plays to number one, if the two people or more are interacting then there must be a reason. If idle talk must be used, then it is only while I’m moving them from one point to another. That said, I try to limit those moments. Those are good places to add a line of humor or a romantic observation, if the story is a romance.

Q: Setting is also quite important and in many cases it becomes like a character itself. What tools of the trade did you use in your writing to bring the setting to life?

As I mentioned in those same words, I see setting as a character. I like to bring in weather. With weather you get smells, sounds, feel, sight, and sometimes taste. If they’re in the woods, I use the trees: is there a canopy from the lush trees in bloom or is it winter? Does ice cover the bare branches and moonlight reflect off them or is it fall and the leaves are like an orange blanket, slippery when wet. Does the forest embrace the characters or drive them to find a clearing?

Are they on the water with a spray of salt hitting them, stinging them as they’re trying to escape somewhere? Is it making their desperation worse?

I like to bring in medieval architecture when doing time travels. The mix of natural light with torchlight, the smell of smoke from the torches and candles, the tall fireplaces with carved surrounds of mythical creatures, the imposing tapestries, this can be very intimidating to a person not used to that world. Does the room reek of body odor or smell like fresh cut grass from newly laid rushes on the floor?

Throughout my stories, I try to continually bring in the environment. I think how it affects the characters really helps bring the book to life for a reader. I want them to feel cold when the characters do and scared when the heroine is walking down a torchlight corridor of a strange castle. I want the reader to wonder along with the characters why the birds suddenly stopped chirping as they stepped from one place to another.

Q: Did you know the theme(s) of your novel from the start or is this something you discovered after completing the first draft? Is this theme(s) recurrent in your other work?

I honestly don’t think of myself as writing a “theme.” I just will have a story in my head that I want to tell and hope to do it in an entertaining way. If there’s a theme, and I’m not sure this counts, my theme is about writing heroines with great strength of character, they all have a lot of intestinal fortitude. They aren’t women who cry and sob and do nothing while they wait for rescue. They’re proactive. I like to write women who are equal to the heroes in intelligence and courage.

Q: Where does craft end and art begin? Do you think editing can destroy the initial creative thrust of an author?

Tough question. I don’t write for a major NY publishing house. I know some who do and an author friend has her stories deeply “redone” after editing. To me, and this is just me, that dances a little too close to stepping on an author’s creative process.

I’ve also seen writers who are slaves to rules. I like to follow them up to a point, but at the end of the day, to me, I think many can be broken if done well. If the reader isn’t confused and the story isn’t harmed, then I don’t see the purpose to slash and burn rules. Sometimes a sentence fragment is a creative choice! I think it’s okay to start a sentence (once in a while) with ‘and’ or ‘but’.

One of my favorite authors is a major violator of head hopping. She does it very well. I wouldn’t do it. That is one of the rules I do tend to take heed of but she’s exceptional. I believe editing her out of her stylistic approach would have her craft.

Q: What three things, in your opinion, make a successful novelist?

Commitment: be willing to sit your butt in a chair for hours and hours and write when there’s so many more fun things you might want to do.

Diligence/Learn the craft: diligence in doing research when it is needed and not just writing something off the top of your head and hoping it’s historically or otherwise correct. Diligence in learning the craft and learning what is lazy writing and what make compelling story telling.

Acceptance: accept that you must promote. Amazon has hundreds and thousands of books listed. You must promote to get your name out. Acceptance that not everyone will love your book and you will get bad reviews. Move on. Don’t lose heart.

Q: A famous writer once wrote that being an author is like having to do homework for the rest of your life. What do you think about that?

I like Oscar Wilde’s comments on writing. One of my favorites is: “I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon, I put it back again.”

I also like Hemingway’s: “All writing is rewriting.”

Q: Are there any resources, books, workshops or sites about craft that you’ve found helpful during your writing career?

I like Stephen King’s “On Writing.” As far as workshops and books, Donald Maass has the best workshops IMO. I’ve been to his several times and they’re incredible. His books are available also. One is “Writing the Breakout Novel” and another is “The Fire in Fiction.” Another good workshop is taught by Bob Mayer. One of the best conferences I’ve been to if you write thrillers or mysteries etc. is Thrillerfest. They always have a great lineup of authors.

Q:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with my readers about the craft of writing?

I would strongly suggest to all that you get into a critique group. You really need to have other “eyes” see your work. Your story will often not be coming across the way you want and having the group look at it can help.

Read a lot. Definitely read books in the genre you want to write in to get a “feel” for what reader expectation is.

When you read a scene you find especially well done and compelling, dissect it. By that I mean, as a reader look at it and figure out what it is you like the most, what makes this scene special for you and keep those qualities in mind for your own stories.

Develop a tough skin. There’s a lot of rejection in this business. There’ll always be people who dislike your book and there’ll be bad reviews. It’s the nature of the beast. Let it go and move on and don’t let the negative aspects get you down.

IN TIME FOR YOU is available on:








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