Author Influences with Karen Long

Thrilled to be joined today by Karen Long, author of The Eleanor Raven Series talking about the books and authors that have influenced her life..


Which authors/books did you like to read as a child?

My school library owned a complete set of Jean Plaidy novels based on the early lives of famous women. My favourites were ‘The Young Elizabeth I’ and ‘The Young Mary Queen of Scots’. I must have read them several times as I recall the school librarian kindly asking me if I could reduce my loan enthusiasm as others may like to read the books too. I still own my original copy of ‘Arabel’s Raven by Joan Aitken, which is responsible for my corvid obsession, and will reread it whenever I need a cheer up. Most relevantly I read ‘Nancy Drew’, ‘The Hardy Boys’, ’The Famous Five’ and ‘Secret Seven’.

Were you good at English at school? Did you like it?

I loved English classes at school and later at university. I’d say my understanding of literature is far stronger than my ability to use grammar and punctuation correctly. My English teacher was elderly and nervous but her teaching of William Golding’s ‘Lord of the Flies’ and Ted Hughes’ poetry determined my academic future. I went on to study English Literature at university.

What genres do you like to read? Have they had an impact on the genre you write?

I consume considerably more popular science than fiction. Bookshop beelines are to History, Medicine, Forensics and Natural History, all of which provide veracity to my writing. I spend a great deal of time researching the science behind my storylines and, although I admire writers who believe the constraints of feasibility should not apply to the needs of a storyline, I personally like fiction that does.

If you were to write a different genre what would it be and why?

If I had the knowledge and ability I would love to write a wildlife companion. I spend way too much time looking for bugs, birds and mammals but have none of the skills required to study them. I am neither stealthy, nor possess keen eyesight: a must for the naturalist.

Did any author’s work encourage you to pick up your pen and write and if so who, what and why?

I think it would be Agatha Christie. Although the manners and motivations seem dated now, her stories are fabulous. I read ‘The Murder of Roger Ackroyd’ as a teenager and fell in love with the concept of the ‘unreliable narrator’. I think that was the first time I began to look at the novel as a way of understanding another mind, rather than just a character.

Are there any authors who, as soon as they publish a new book, you have to get it?

I always buy Bill Bryson’s work because his self-effacing humour and subject selection is excellent, and anything written by Dennis Lehane.

Which books have you read that have made you think ’Wow, I wish I had written that’ and what was it about the book?

‘Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantell. It combines sublime prose with excellent characterisation. Even though you know the story outcome, her re-imagining of Cromwell’s cunning personality and political machinations, while maintaining an empathic character, is astonishing. She is the mistress of the metaphor. Yes, I wish I had that ability.

Have any of your plots/characters been influenced by real life events/people? (Be careful, I don’t want you getting sued!)

Both of my novels have an authentic element. I read an article in a Toronto newspaper about a young woman, who witnesses had seen being thrown into the back of a van. When the police finally forced the vehicle to stop and rescued the woman, it transpired she had paid for a ‘red letter kidnapping day’. You only have to ask, “What if?”. This became the central idea of ’The Safe Word’. The second book in the series, “The Vault’, has a character that plasticises his victims, based on the actions of Carl Tanzier, who abducted the corpse of Maria Hoyos and embalmed her using plaster, wax and wire. His obsessive desire for her was not dampened by the fact that she had decomposed. Plastination is a technique developed by Gunther von Hagen, which preserves in exquisite detail, the dead bodies of people and animals. Look no further than real life!

Thank you Karen for taking part and for the brilliant answers.  Wolf Hall has been on my TBR list for a while and after reading this I will have to bump it up the pile!


About Karen Long

Karen Long was born and raised in the English midlands, educated at Bangor University and taught English and Drama for fifteen years.  During her teaching years she studied biology and neurology with the Open University and this interest in medicine, forensics and forensic psychology is reflected in her writing.  She is an enthusiastic traveller and has spent time in Toronto, which became the backdrop and inspiration for The Safe Word.

She is a keen amateur naturalist with a deep and abiding love for the crow family.  She has dedicated time, love and several fingers in an effort to rehabilitate crows, magpies, rooks and ravens.

The Safe Word is Karen’s first novel and was an Amazon bestseller.  It was joined by the second in the Eleanor Raven series , The Vault, in December 2014.

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