Monday, 7 April 2014

Meet A Writer Monday Presents...

... Karen A. Wyle

1. Tell me about your book Division and where you got your inspiration for it.

Conjoined twins are presented from birth with the compelling necessity of cooperation. Their only choice, if they cannot be surgically separated, is whether to struggle with this fate or to embrace it. Viewing this situation through my usual science fiction lens (see question 13), I wondered how a pair of conjoined twins might cope with the unexpected possibility of separation -- an option about which they might plausibly disagree. . . .

I initially thought of this book as "Jodi Piccoult meets science fiction." (To be more precise, I first wondered whether Piccoult would ever write such a story, and then realized I could do so myself.) However, Piccoult's novels usually revolve around a legal proceeding and conclude shortly after its end, while this novel follows the characters for some time afterward, exploring the consequences of the trial court's decision.

2. Do you admire your own work?

This question reminds me of a passage from Isaac Asimov's Opus 100, a collection of excerpts he put together as his 100th published book, with extensive commentary before and after each one. At one point, Asimov mentions that he reads his books after they're published: ostensibly to catch any remaining errors, but also because he likes his own writing. After all, he explains, he has to read his books as he writes them, and then reread them as he corrects and proofs and proofs again. "If I didn't like my writing," he asks, "how could I stand it all?"

I do like my writing, most of the time. I don't sit down and reread my books from cover to cover after publishing them, but I frequently have occasion to dip into one and reread a passage -- and more often than not, I'm pleased with what I find. "Did I really write that? It's pretty good!" Still, if I were to spend many hours reading my own work, I'd want to follow it with something looser and more colorful in style -- the sort of wildly creative prose that my older daughter, Livali Wyle, produces. (Unfortunately, none of her fiction is currently available to the public -- yet.)

3. Do you enjoy giving interviews?

I do! -- especially when I have many questions to choose from (thank you, Sonnet!), so that I don't have to repeat answers I've given in the past.

4. If you were the ruler of the world, what laws would you make?

I'd focus more on un-making laws, and on preventing unnecessary laws in the future. I'd consult my brilliant husband, who's drafted a constitution or two for fun, about what structures and specific guarantees would best protect individual liberty and initiative, while thwarting the intrusive busybodies who seem to end up inhabiting government at every level.

5. If you had to do it all over again, would you changed anything in your latest book?

I'm not sure whether the prologue was worthwhile (though I'm not sure it isn't). I might also play around with some alternate endings, and see any of them rang particularly true.

6. Sunrises or Sunsets?

I'm not a morning person by choice, so I see more sunsets. . . . When I do see a particularly stunning sunrise, it makes up for being awake that early.

7. Would you break a law to save a loved one?

Hell, yes. My only worry is that my law-abiding habits might slow me down for a crucial few seconds.

8. Is there a message in your novels you want the readers to grasp?

I'm not sure I'd call it a message, but I hope my books reflect and encourage a degree of fondness for human beings.

9. Who is your favourite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?

I'm leery of declaring favorites, but one of my favorite authors is Mary Doria Russell. She's utterly brilliant with dialogue and character development. Her first novel, The Sparrow, contains some of my favorite people, even though they have the slight disadvantage of being fictional.

10. If you could change places with any of your favourite fictional characters and change one of their choices, who, what and why?

I'm currently rereading a very impressive fanfic, Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky (available, and ongoing, at There's a heart wrenching scene involving Harry Potter and a phoenix, and I'd be at least tempted to have it turn out differently. (The author apparently made major changes to that chapter after it was written, and I'd love to know whether it started out in the way I'd find at least temporarily satisfying.)

11. If you could try out any job for a day (real or fictional) what would you like to try?

I'd like to spend a day as a chocolate taste tester.

12. If you could learn one random skill, what would you learn?

My older daughter tried to teach me to knit. My brain is utterly incapable of absorbing the process. I'd love to be able to knit, to occupy my hands with a relaxing task that ended up producing sweaters and blankets and scarves and whatnot in my choice of colors and patterns.

13. How did you chose your genre?

I've been reading science fiction most of my life. (I often have difficulty remembering what's already been invented.) It comes naturally to me to imagine a science-fiction twist to some personal or political event or situation. That said, I've ventured into semi-fantasy territory with my afterlife-based family drama Wander Home -- and I may someday tackle historical fiction.

14. What’s next for you?

I'm editing the rough draft I produced in last November's National Novel Writing Month (another near-future SF story). Also, for a change of pace, I'm using my legal expertise to write Closest to the Fire: A Guide (for Writers) to Law and Lawyers.

15. What sort of environment do you write in? (e.g. quiet room, a cupboard with headphones on, in a death match with the cat for control of the keyboard)

I do most of my writing in a very cluttered office, sitting in an office chair at an ergonomically unsuitable old-fashioned desk. Every other Wednesday, I join my writing group (a year-round offshoot of National Novel Writing Month) at a restaurant and work on a small and uncooperative laptop.

16. How do you handle working with an editor without letting pride get in the way?

I've wondered whether I could manage that. I don't actually know, as I'm fortunate in being able to self-edit. (That statement reminds me of all the American Idol contestants who believe, despite all evidence, that they're talented singers . . . but a number of reviewers have praised the editing of my books, so I don't think I'm deluding myself.) I'm something of a control freak, and as an attorney, I'm used to taking a position and defending it. I might well be an editor's worst nightmare. However, I've sometimes wished I had (and could identify and afford) a good developmental editor to help me see fundamental structural problems and fresh possibilities.

17. Are you scared of sharing a story idea because someone might steal it?

I still have this fear to some extent, though less than I used to. I tend to be cagey about my plots until I'm almost ready to publish -- at which point I assume I can probably get my book out before anyone who might try their own take on my idea. (I am sometimes curious about where other authors would go from the same starting point.)

18. How do you deal with brilliant ideas that pop up while you’re writing something else?

I write them down, file them, and hope to remember to browse through the appropriate folder some day. (I almost always have writing materials available -- in my purse, in my coat pocket, on my nightstand, and even in the shower (AquaNotes waterproof pad and pencil).)

19. If you had to give up one sense which one would you give up and why?

It'd be either smell or taste. Without smell, I'd effectively lose much of my sense of taste -- and being unable to smell has its hazards. I might hope that the sense of smell could fool me into thinking I was tasting my food, and give up taste.


Conjoined twins Gordon and Johnny have never let their condition keep them from living full and fulfilling lives. Gordon looks forward to many years of closeness and cooperation. Johnny, however, faces their future with increasing restlessness, even dread.

When the boys are in their teens, the new technologies of accelerated human cloning and brain transplants are combined into a single medical procedure. Someone whose body has suffered such extensive damage as to make normal life impossible may -- with court approval -- be cloned and then given a brain transplant into the clone body. With Gordon's unwitting assistance, Johnny realizes that this procedure provides the chance he had never dared to hope for -- the chance to live in a "normal," separate body.

But Gordon considers their conjoined life a blessing, rather than a curse. He has no intention of accepting separation -- not without a fight . . . .


About Karen

Karen A. Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but moved every few years throughout her childhood and adolescence.  After college in California, law school in Massachusetts, and a mercifully short stint in a large San Francisco law firm, she moved to Los Angeles. There she met her husband, who hates L.A.  They eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. They have two brilliantly creative daughters, as well as a sweet but neurotic dog. Wyle's fiction tends to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.




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