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Thursday, 8 September 2011

Author Interview with Karen Pokras Toz

Hello Karen, please tell us about you, as a writer.

Well – I wasn’t always a writer. I enjoyed reading as a child and had many stories floating around in my head that I wanted to write. Unfortunately, I was not very good at writing, or at least I didn’t think I was very good. Math was my subject. I always believed you were either a math person or an English person, and so I never pursued writing. In school I studied finance, accounting and law. My writing was always with numbers. Thirteen years ago, I heard a news story on television and began creating a novel based around this single event – all in my head, of course. I’m not sure what made me decide it was time to put pen to paper, but at some point last year I began writing. I am now hooked!

Your middle grade book is NATE ROCKS THE WORLD; perhaps you’d you give us some insight into it in a few sentences.

This is the first book in the NATE ROCKS series, about a quirky young boy who draws cartoons that come to life. NATE ROCKS THE WORLD uses humor and adventure to show that even kids can accomplish great things. The book is geared toward 7-12 year olds.

How did you come to write this particular book?

I knew I wanted to write a fun book that would encourage kids to read. The inspiration really came from my children. My oldest son is an artist, my daughter is very creative, and my youngest loves to role-play. I sort of combined all three of these traits to come up with my main character, Nathan Rockledge.

Do you have a favourite character from the book? If so, who and why this particular one?

That is such a hard question because I really love all of my characters. Of course I love Nate, but I think Nate’s mom is my favorite. She tries so hard to cook and sew be the perfect mom and housewife, stumbling every step of the way. I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t a little bit of me in her.

Where can people buy your books?

NATE ROCKS THE WORLD is available online in both print and digital copies from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, the Apple Store and many more outlets.

For a complete list, please visit my website:

What qualities does a writer need to be successful?

For me, determination, focus and commitment are key. Everyone has a story to tell – I truly believe that. There are so many resources out there to help you along the way. Grammar, style, and technique – those are all things that can be developed over time with the right guidance. It took me 13 years to realize that.

What’s your working method?

I am a morning person. I like to try to get up an hour earlier than I need to, make my coffee, and get writing. I do write sporadically during the afternoon when it is quiet, but nothing beats that morning time for me.

What’s the single biggest mistake made by beginner writers?

Well, speaking as a beginner, I would say rushing has been my biggest mistake. Also – it is worth the investment to have both a professional editor review your manuscript, and a professional designer to create your cover.

To what extent are grammar and spelling important in writing?

Grammar and spelling are so important! Mistakes jump off the page at readers and can be major distractions and turn-offs. You want your reader to drift into your story without having to re-read sentences. Hopefully, between my editor and myself, I won’t be eating my own words!

How much do you revise your MS before sending it off?

I honestly lost count!

Many authors see marketing as a bind. What's your opinion on this, and how do you deal with it?

Marketing certainly takes away from writing time. I am doing all of my own marketing. I really don’t see any way around having to market your own material – especially for a debut novelist such as myself. It has definitely been a challenge, as I have no previous experience in this arena. However, at the same time, I have found it quite rewarding and have developed some wonderful relationships. Trying to find the right balance between marketing time and writing time is key.

If there’s a single aspect of writing you find frustrating, what is it?

Definitely editing – and editing – and editing some more. As a writer, I always find myself asking if my manuscript is finished. Should I add anything, should I take something out, have I caught all my typos, is the tense consistent, and my personal favorite: are all the commas in the right place? Even with a professional editor giving the manuscript a once over, it is a never ending and exhausting task.

Is there a particular feature of writing that you really enjoy?

I love writing dialogue. I think it is because with dialogue, I can just get straight to the point without worrying about setting up the scene correctly... or maybe it is because with three kids, I can rarely get a word in edgewise!

What are you writing now?

I’m working on two projects actually. I am revisiting my first manuscript, which I never published, called invisible. It is the story of a woman who finds herself suddenly famous and thrown unwittingly in front of the paparazzi. I hope to release invisible by early 2012. I am also several chapters into the next book of the NATE ROCKS series.

Do you have a website or blog where readers can visit?

I have both! I love to blog. I write about my daily life as a mom, writer, wife... basically it is just me rambling about whatever happens to be on my mind at any particular moment. Every week, I post a ‘Friday Five’ where I sum up what’s been going on in my little world and can be found at If you read something you like, let me know! Comments really make my day.

I also have an author website . Here you can find information about my book, including reviews, a free chapter download, and purchase information.

Given unlimited resources, where would you do your writing?

That’s an interesting question. I think I could probably write anywhere as long as I had a quite space, my laptop, and a large carafe of coffee!

Where do you actually write?

I write at home – often in the living room or in the bedroom. I find those rooms to be the most peaceful. I like quiet when I write. We are in the process of setting up an office in one of our spare rooms, so perhaps I will enjoy writing in there as well.

Thank you so much for having me!
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