Meet Debut Novelist Karen Witemeyer

Karen Witemeyer is a deacon’s wife who believes the world needs more happily-ever-afters. To that end, she combines her love of bygone eras with her passion for helping women mature in Christ to craft historical romance novels that lift the spirit and nurture the soul. Her debut novel, A Tailor-Made Bride, was officially released June 1 by Bethany House.

Karen makes her home in Abilene, TX with her “hunky, computer nerd husband” who has heroically saved her sanity on several occasions when evil glitches arose to assault her laptop. They have three children who think it’s cool that their mom writes books, even if the people on her first cover have no heads.

Karen holds a master’s degree in Psychology from Abilene Christian University, where she works full-time as a Testing Coordinator. She administers ACTs, CLEP tests, etc., keeping the left side of her brain busy while the right side ponders her next plot twist. She’s an avid cross-stitcher, bakes a mean apple cobbler, and sings with a community classical chorus.

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Since Hannah, the heroine in Karen’s debut novel, starts each day with a cup of cocoa, I’ve got some ready for you. Help yourselves. And you’ll find mini marshmallows, whipped cream, and chocolate sprinkles for those who like to add toppings. Enjoy your virtual treat as you learn more about Karen and her journey to publication.

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Karen’s Journey Begins

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•When did you begin writing with a goal of publication? What was your first book, and how did it lead to your First Sale?

I’d always been an avid reader and liked to daydream about the stories I might write one day, but it wasn’t until my husband learned that his job was being downsized that I decided it was time to stop fantasizing about someday and get serious about trying my hand at writing. I picked up my pen in 2003 and set to work learning the craft.

In 2007, I took my first completed novel to the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) conference in Dallas. I arrived a day early and worked at the volunteer station stuffing envelopes. A woman worked beside me who shared my first name. That’s fun, I thought. However, as time ticked on, I picked up clues to her identity from others in the room. This was Karen Schurrer, an editor from Bethany House, my dream publisher. Only the Lord could have orchestrated such a meeting. I resisted throwing my pitch at her, but two days later, I sat at her lunch table and after everyone told her about their projects, one brave writer asked if we could send her our proposals. She said yes.

After the conference, I sent in my proposal and soon had a request for a full manuscript. Surely a contract was right around the corner since the Lord was at work, right? Wrong. The acquisitions editor rejected my manuscript. She considered the plot too unoriginal for launching a new author. Nevertheless, she complimented the writing and said there was one component to the story that she did like—the dress shop. Could I come up with a new idea surrounding a dress shop?

Now you have to understand, in the original book, the dress shop burned to the ground in the prologue. It didn’t even make it into chapter one. But publishing with Bethany House was my dream. So I started brainstorming, and even met with the editor in person at the 2008 ACFW conference where she gave me feedback and encouraged me to resubmit. By January 2009, Bethany House offered me a three book contract launching with A Tailor-Made Bride.

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Karen’s Milestones

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•You finaled in the ACFW Genesis contest in 2008. Please tell us about that experience, what it meant to you, and how you reacted when you heard the exciting news.

I was delighted to learn that I had finaled in the long historical romance category. The Genesis is a prestigious contest, and I hoped that placing well might lead to a contract. As it turns out, an editor was already interested in my manuscripts before the results were announced. However, that entry (then entitled Cloud By Day), which took second place, will be released this October as my second contracted book with Bethany House, Head in the Clouds.

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•Getting a book contract was your main goal, but you’ve seen your name in print in other ways. Where were you first published?

I have published two children biblical fiction pieces in Focus on the Family’s Clubhouse Jr. magazine.

I have had short pieces in two Cup of Comfort anthologies as well: A Cup of Comfort for Christians and A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters.

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•Your dream of selling a book came through in a big way. You received that three-book contract from your dream publishing company, Bethany House. When did The Call come? Where were you, and what were you doing at the time? How did you react to the news? Shrieking, sobs, or sighs?

I was at home when the call came. My husband answered the phone and handed it to me with a hopeful smile on his face. The voice on the other end was from my agent, Rachelle. She asked if I was sitting down, which I wasn’t, then told me the good news. This was just after the first of the year in 2009. Talk about ringing in the New Year right! I was ecstatic. I tend to react more inwardly than outwardly, so I didn’t shriek or dance around the house, but I did wear a goofy grin all day. Oh, and I had to keep sitting down every now and then to let the news fully sink in.

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•Did you hold a launch party? If so, what did you plan?

I did hold a launch party at a local frontier museum to fit in with my setting of 1880s Texas. It was a lovely day. There were no mile-long lines of people waiting for my autograph, unfortunately, but I had a good group of friends and acquaintances show up to help me celebrate.

We had giveaways – 3 baskets with themes from the book, i.e., my heroine loves to drink hot breakfast cocoa in the mornings, so we had a gourmet hot cocoa basket with a blue and white teacup and saucer and one of my Cup of Comfort books in one of the baskets. There were refreshments and a host of frontier games for the kids to play on the grounds.

The kids’ games were really a hit. They were all period games like hoop rolling, three-legged races, and a game called Graces. All of these games occur in the book as well during a Founders’ Day picnic. We even had a reporter from the local paper show up. He was particularly interested in the games and gave me a nice write up in Sunday’s paper the next day. Can’t beat free publicity!

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A Tailor-Made Bride is in readers’ hands. It’s also in yours. What were your thoughts and feelings when you held your book for the first time?

My editors kindly sent my one of the first copies off the press. It came in a plain manila envelope, and I thought perhaps it was a set of promotional items that I had ordered. When I opened it up, I beamed at my husband who was standing next to me in the kitchen. The kids came running in and my mother-in-law looked over our shoulders. In fact, I had to pass it around to everyone else before I could hide away and fully savor the moment.

It might sound odd, but my favorite part of seeing it for the first time, was the back cover. It was the only part I had not seen before. And of course, they did a splendid job with that as well. I could not be more pleased.

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•You’ve already received some great reviews. Having just finished your wonderful story, it’s easy to see why. Which of the reviews have meant the most to you?

I’ve had some really touching reviews from readers who have sent me notes through my website and from those who have blogged about my book. I feel so blessed. I think my favorite, though, has to be the first one I received. It was from Publisher’s Weekly, so I knew they weren’t just saying nice things because they knew me. 🙂 The entire review was positive, but some of the quotes that meant the most to me included: “Witemeyer’s debut will grab fans in the historical romance crowd. She blends lively writing, storytelling prowess, and enough romance to keep readers satisfied. . .Thought-provoking and entertaining faith-based fiction for sure.” How humbling and exciting to receive such a review. I thank God for pairing my story up with the right reviewer.

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•Selling that first book is an incredible experience, but some of my author friends say getting an offer of representation from an agent was almost more exciting than their sale. You have a highly sought after agent, Rachelle Gardner. How did you come to be her client?

Well, for me, everything seemed to happen at once. In 2008, Rachelle was just hanging out her agenting shingle, when I saw a note on the American Christian Fiction Writers loop that she was seeking historical romance manuscripts. Since I happen to write historical romance, I jumped on that lickety-split. She liked my project enough to hold me in her “maybe” file. For months. I was starting to get a little discouraged as the ACFW conference rolled around in September, but I made an appointment with her anyway, thinking it would be a chance to remind her of my project.

A month before the conference, I submitted another manuscript to the editor at Bethany House, and by this time, even though they had rejected my first book, they were showing serious interest in my second as well as the one that would eventually become A Tailor- Made Bride (which was still in the basic conception stage). I met with two editors from Bethany House at the conference prior to my meeting with Rachelle. And since I was able to report that words like “possible 3 book contract” had come up in the conversation, I had more to bargain with when I met with her. After the conference, we visited on the phone a couple times and e-mailed a bit. When she called to offer representation, I was thrilled. She was able to come on board to negotiate my contract when that time came, and that was a blessing.

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•Rachelle is an agent who does a lot for her clients. Please let us about a special trip you two shared this past January.

I had the opportunity to visit Bethany House’s home offices in Minnesota along with another new Bethany author, Jody Hedlund, who is also one of Rachelle’s clients. Since both of us were going and Rachelle had never visited Bethany House, she asked our permission to join the party. Both Jody and I were thankful to have her with us. The people at Bethany were warm and welcoming, but when you’re sitting in on your first marketing meeting, it can be a little intimidating. Having Rachelle there added a bit of a buffer and gave her a firsthand account of the conversations so she could know exactly where we were heading.

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Karen’s Writing Process

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•With a three-book contract, you’ve had to deal with writing deadlines from the moment you sold. How do you do it? Do you have a streamlined writing process?

When I’m starting a new project, the first step for me is to brainstorm the main plot points of the story. Usually I’ve ideas percolating in the back of mind for a while, so this is the time to bring them forward and begin examining them more closely.

This blends with the next step, which is research. I have to research not only setting and occupations, but the plausibility of the plot points I’ve created actually occurring in my time period.

For example, in A Tailor-Made Bride, I wanted to be able to create the equivalent of a 19th century makeover, but I needed to discover if people of that era were even aware of the physical benefits of exercise and diet on health and weight loss. As it turns out, I found wonderful information about the social fitness movement of the mid-1800s and through Google Books, found actual scanned copies of physical fitness manuals from the 1860s. One of those is utilized by my heroine in the story. So, in this case, the research confirmed my plot idea and even gave me valuable details that I could incorporate into the manuscript.

Once I have the main plot points outlined and the basic research completed, I write a synopsis. This is usually about 5-6 pages in length—detailed enough to give me an idea of where I’m going and what big events will happen along the way while still leaving plenty of room for the characters to chart their own course within the parameters I have set up. After that, I type “Chapter One” and jump in.

I am one of those quirky authors who has to edit everything as I write it. I can’t leave a sentence alone without perfecting it. This makes my writing pace very slow, but I end up with a polished draft when I am finished and rarely do any re-writes until the manuscript hits the editor’s desk. My critique partners read over my chapters as I complete them, and I tweak per their suggestions as well. I average about a chapter a week, and my chapters tend to be around 7-9 pages.

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Karen’s Debut Novel

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•Please tell us about A Tailor-Made Bride.

Jericho “J.T.” Tucker wants nothing to do with Coventry, Texas’s new dressmaker. He’s all too familiar with her kind–shallow women more devoted to fashion than true beauty. Yet, except for her well-tailored clothing, this seamstress is not at all what he expected.

Hannah Richards is confounded by the man who runs the livery. The unsmiling fellow riles her with his arrogant assumptions and gruff manner while at the same time stirring her heart with unexpected acts of kindness. Which side of Jericho Tucker reflects the real man?


When Hannah decides to help Jericho’s sister catch a beau—leading to uproarious consequences for the whole town—will Jericho and Hannah find a way to bridge the gap between them?

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Karen’s Journey Continues

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A Tailor-Made Bride is in stores. What can your readers look forward to next?

The second book in the 3-book deal, Head in the Clouds, will be released in October and I am currently working on the 3rd book. These are all stand alone titles.

My current WIP, set in the late 1880s, asks the question – what happens after the prodigal son returns? So many times, we focus on the wonderful homecoming the lost son received from his father, but have you ever asked what life was like for him after the celebration was over? How did he relate to his bitter older brother or the servants and townspeople who were only too aware of his past arrogance and wild living?

In my story, I play on those very questions. My hero is a man recently released from prison who has returned to his faith roots and rededicated his life to the Lord. The heroine is a woman who has been disappointed by men in the past and has little tolerance of those who don’t meet her high standards. In an effort to make a clean start, Levi hides his past and Eden believes she has finally found a man of honor and integrity. But when his secret is revealed will both their futures be shattered?

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Five Authors Karen Most Admires

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~ Francine Rivers – anyone who could create a masterpiece like Redeeming Love leaves me in awe.

~ Deeanne Gist – I love her blend of romance and fun.

~ Tamera Alexander – I admire her spiritual depth and characterization.

~ Julie Garwood – I adore her rugged Highland warriors and feisty English lasses.

~ Julia Quinn – I strive to emulate her use of humor in storytelling.

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Five Places Karen Would Like to Visit

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I love the mountains and other places where the beauty of nature leaves me breathless and my soul praising the Creator.

~ It would be fun to visit a dude ranch in Wyoming or Montana and spend some time with authentic cowboys.

~ Yosemite – I visited as a teen, but I would love to go back, to hike and rediscover those gorgeous waterfalls.

~ Colorado – anywhere in the Rockies

~ A tour of the ancient castles of Europe

~ Switzerland – to see the Alps when the wildflowers are in bloom

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Karen’s Question for You

I love a strong hero in the books I read. His personality and the way he treats the heroine can make or break a story for me. How would you describe your ideal romantic hero?

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Learn More About Karen

Visit her website ~ www.karenwitemeyer.com

Friend Her on Facebook ~ Karen Witemeyer

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About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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18 Responses to Meet Debut Novelist Karen Witemeyer

  1. Keli Gwyn says:

    Welcome, Karen! I’m delighted to have you as my guest and loved learning more about you and your journey to publication.

    How neat that you were one of Rachelle’s first clients. I think it’s also way cool that you worked with Bethany House and had come close to getting a three-book contract deal on your own. Still, I’m sure it was a huge relief to have Rachelle oversee the deal.

    I’ve hiked the Alps when the wildflowers were in bloom. Talk about feeling close to God! Those memories are some of my fondest.

  2. Laura Frantz says:

    Hi Karen, I have your book here at the top of my stack and can’t wait to dive in! It’s really interesting to get to know you better here – your writing path has had some interesting twists and turns – like a good novel:) Keli brings out the most intriguing things with her interview questions. I wish you God’s best in all you turn your hand to!

  3. Sherrinda says:

    Hi Karen! I love that you live in Abilene. I lived there for 2 years while my husband finished his Bible degree there. He worked part time at a little church on Palm St. as a youth minister. The town holds so many sweet memories and we are working on our daughter who will be a senior next, trying to get her to go there. (Praying hard about that!)

    I have to say I absolutely LOVE the cover of your book. The headless books are appealing and the color of yours is so pretty! And the story sounds fabulous!

    As for heroes, I love the strong, no nonsense type. I suppose you could say the “alpha” male with a soft underbelly is my favorite. 🙂

  4. Jody Hedlund says:

    Wonderful to see you on Keli’s blog, Karen!! Doesn’t she do a great job with her interviews?

    I’m trying to sneak in a little bit of reading of your book when I can in between my editing! And I’m really enjoying your style and the story! You’ve done such a great job defining your characters and bringing them to life with unique traits.

  5. Susan mason says:

    Hi Karen,

    Lovely cover for your book. In fact, I’ve seen it just recently. I think it may have come up as a “recommended” read on Amazon – based on other books I’ve read. I was definitely tempted to buy it just from the cover! And now here you are on Keli’s blog. Funny how these things work!

    Congratulations on landing a contract with your dream house. You must have been very focused and determined. As soon as I have some extra pennies, your book will be on my list.

    As for heroes, I love strong, protective ones who also let the heroine have her independence.

    Have a great day!

    Sue Mason

  6. Thanks, Keli, for allowing me the chance to appear on your blog. It’s lovely. You hiked the Alps with the wildflowers? Oooo…do you see the green tint of my skin? Envy is creeping in. LOL

    Laura – Thanks for your encouraging note! I hope you enjoy Tailor-Made when you get the chance to read it.

  7. Sherrinda and Susan – Thanks so much for your compliments on the cover. Didn’t the art department do a marvelous job? They not only created a gorgeous cover, but they also completely captured the personality of my story. I couldn’t have been more pleased.

    And I’m with you on those heroes. I love the tough guys with the soft hearts. I think you will both like Jericho. He’s just that kind of guy. A little crusty on the outside, but softhearted and warm on the inside.

  8. Oh, Sherrinda – I forgot to comment on your ACU connection! I love meeting new people who have a tie to Abilene and ACU. I still work for ACU as the testing coordinator, so if your daughter wants to come up and take the ACT to try to get some scholarship money, I’m your gal.

  9. Jody – So great to see you here! How’s that editing going? I hope you are making good progress. I’m glad you are enjoying Hannah and Jerich’s story. I’m looking forward to reading yours in a few more months. Yay!

  10. What an inspirational journey you’ve had, Karen! Your book sounds wonderful 🙂

    I agree with you on heroes. I love a strong hero, who can be vulnerable and funny.

    I saw that you wanted to visit Colorado one day. That’s where I live. You should definitely come here, it’s beautiful!

  11. Lori Benton says:

    Hi Karen! Tailor-Made Bride sounds wonderful. I look forward to reading it.

    “I love the mountains and other places where the beauty of nature leaves me breathless and my soul praising the Creator.”

    Amen! I grew up on the east coast and moved to Oregon in 1993. Now I can’t imagine living out of sight of mountains.

  12. Hi, Cindy. I’ve visited Colorado a couple times, and it always leaves me wanting to go back. I grew up near the ocean in California, yet I’ve always been drawn more to the mountains. Maybe I’ll make it up that way a gain before too long.

  13. Lori – thanks for dropping by. I have family that live in Oregon, and whenever I visit, I’m always amazed at how green everything is. Green doesn’t last long in Texas. Not enough rainfall. No too many mountains here, either. We do have gorgeous sunsets, though, and nothing can beat the fields of bluebonnets blooming in spring. I live for spring in Texas. Too bad it’s already over. Spring here only last about a month. Then summer hits with its heat waves. Oh, well. It’s home, and I love it anyway. (grin)

  14. Hi Karen,
    I apologize for being a little late to your interview, but I’ve been so enjoying meeting new authors on Keli’s blog. Your writing journey definitely sounds heaven-blessed, and I love the premises of all your stories. I can’t wait to get hold of “A Tailor-made Bride.”

    As for heroes, I’m a beta-hero girl all the way. I love bad-boys, but they need to be lost bad-boys. My ideals are the strong-but-sensitive men, guys who act like guys but are science and computer geeks, artists, animal-lovers and caretakers. Guys who turn to Jell-O when the right woman comes along. I’m married to one of those–and I can’t make myself fall totally for the true alphas–not that they don’t have their rough charm too.

    Good luck and God bless, Karen. I wish you all the best with your book(s)!

  15. Thanks, Lizbeth. I know what you mean about those beta guys. I married one, too. He can be stoic like those alpha males at times, but usually he’s a fun-loving, supportive, computer geek who makes me smile and knows how to nugde me out of my comfort zone just enough to help me grow. I wouldn’t trade him for anything.

  16. So nice to learn more about Karen and her journey to publication. All the best on the release of your debut novel. I hope you get a chance to visit castles in Europe. You’ll never forget the experience of going far back into the past as you take in many centuries of history. I love to read and write historical fiction, too. Pat

  17. Quilt Lady says:

    I love the strong hero that stands by the heroine no matter what problems that they have! He’s right there for her!

  18. Alison says:

    Congratulations, Karen! As for a hero, I think kindness is a much underrated virtue.

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