Today we’re starting with Koreen Clemens; wife, mother of two, high school English teacher, and writer from Colorado. I met Koreen through The Next Big Writer where she helped my story more than I can ever repay.
You’re a high school English teacher with two kids of your own. How do you manage balancing work, family, and writing?
Because I’m the queen of procrastination, I think my busy schedule helps me focus. I get up and go to school, teach (try to avoid getting strangled by students who don’t see the point in reading Tale of Two Cities) and grade papers (my penance for making them read the classics). When I get home, I either work on my own writing or hang out with my family. It’s great when I sit by the fireplace and write while my kiddos work on something like homework. It also helps to have such a dedicated and understanding hubby (thanks for not committing me yet).
Tell us a little about your current WIP? Where did the idea come from?
My current project is about a girl who, while driving/texting, ends up killing a friend from school and injuring another friend. I read a news story about a girl who injured a couple of boys at her school because she was texting while driving and I wondered what happened to her. But more I wanted to know what would’ve happened if she’d killed someone. As a teen, I’m not sure I could cope with accidentally killing someone close to me.
Are you working on any other projects concurrently? Or is there a next project in mind?
Oh, I have more projects than minds. I’m working on the sequel to my novel, Blurred Horizons called Blurred Descent. The problem with this one is that it has a pretty intricate plot which carries into a final installment (Blurred Resolutions). It’s 90% finished, but I have to work out some of the details and that takes more focus than I have right now. I can’t find enough time to sit down in one chunk and work on it. So I’ve dubbed this my summer project.
You always post music quotes on your blog. Do you listen while you write? What sort of music helps inspire you?
Yes, music helps get the creative juices flowing. My favorite mood music is alternative. Most of my ideas come while I’m driving. I plug in my iPod and let my mind wander (maybe that’s why all those people shake their fists at me and I thought they were rocking out to their favorite hair band).
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
This is a tough question. I’ve written stories since I was a little kid. The first story I can remember writing was called “How the Eagle Became Bald”. My problem was that I wasn’t any good, or at least that’s what several of my teachers told me (not all of them but too many for my poor little self-esteem). Granted one of the side effects of moving all the time was that my grammar and spelling left something to be desired.
The first time I even thought about authors, at least in the modern sense of the word, came when I was in college. I had to take a creative writing class for my English degree (my papers bled with red ink even then so I didn’t feel very creative). One of my assignments was to go and see a writer who was on a book tour. The author, I wish I could remember his name, started his speech by asking if anyone in the audience wanted to become a professional writer. The auditorium, packed with English majors, raised its hand in a collective gesture. I didn’t. The last thing I wanted was to be one of those starving, depressed sorts.
Actually I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up which is why I like writing so much. I can be a teenager, someone in history, or any other profession I want.
What’s the first book you remember reading?
Besides some picture books we had around the house, I didn’t start really reading until I was in 8th grade. School novels bored me. I was the worst kind of fake reader, but my BFF was into romance novels at the time. She loaned me a book by her favorite author, Johanna Lindsey called Tender Rebel. It was steamy, the guy was perfect and it was everything a thirteen-year-old like me pictured for her future. Yes, I was the girl who had posters of NKOTB all over my room (I’m still waiting for Joey to profess his love to me).
For those of you too young to remember New Kids On The Block, here is a little flashback for you… http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTEef7EcnJQ&feature=related
Have any specific authors inspired you?
Stephen King. I started by reading his editorials in Entertainment Weekly and thought his sarcasm was hysterical. His book, On Writing, helped me move away from the bleeding papers into something people could at least decipher.
You recently had a contest about embarrassing moments. I think it’s only fair that you share one yourself.
I went into this in a little more detail on my blog, but one of my most embarrassing moments came in high school. We’d recently moved to a new town and I walked into the men’s bathroom at McDonald’s to find a cute boy standing at one of the urinals. Later, when I started school, he ended up being at my table in science class. Nothing like starting out as “Bathroom Girl”.
List three fun facts about yourself (ex. I can fit 27 grapes in my mouth.)
1) I am a closet (or not so closet) SciFi geek. I’ve been to a Star Trek convention. In my defense, I went for Stargate, not Star Trek. I love it so much I bought tickets for me and my family to eat breakfast with the cast (Michael Shanks will also be professing his love to me any day now). It was great. Battlestar Galactica is another favorite. Terminator, The Matrix, and yes, I’m a Star Trek fan too. Chris Pine did a great job playing Kirk.
2) My dad was in the NAVY when I was growing up so I moved around quite a bit. By the time I graduated high school, I’d gone to something like twenty schools.
3) I love hanging out in coffee shops, but I can’t stand the taste of coffee. But can we say–Starbuck’s Carmel Hot Chocolate–yum.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started writing?
That patience is a virtue I need more of. I didn’t realize just how long the whole publishing process took and I’m only at the starting line. I began the query process in November and now I’m only to the partial request step which is an even longer wait. Then, if I make it, there is the full request and another few months. And that’s just to find an agent. Then we have to start all over again with publishing houses.
What’s one question that you wish I had asked? Answer?
Q: What, besides my hubby, has been the biggest help in my writing process?
A: Writer’s critique groups like The Next Big Writer. It’s funny because I’m an English teacher, so I should know how to write. But I got some really get advice just by having other writers read my work. They helped me find gaps in my story and picked out some of my weak writing. I can usually (not always) pick out grammar mistakes, but I can’t get inside my reader’s head to hear if I’m making any sense. Thanks to all my peeps for sticking with me.
And thanks to Candice for asking about what makes me tick.
Thanks to Koreen for talking with the world and sharing a little about her writer’s life. We’re looking forward to seeing her on the shelves. But for now, you can visit her blog: Koreen’s Korner.