Karen Kondazian is the debut author of The Whip, a novel about Charley Parkhurst, who was the first woman to vote in America while dressed as a man. Karen’s spent the last month doing both a physical and a virtual tour to celebrate the release of The Whip. I could tell you more about her–and about Charley–but I think I’ll leave that to her.
1. The Whip is your first novel. How did you enjoy the process of writing a novel and how much of your acting career influenced your writing?
It took me six years and 27 drafts to complete The Whip. I’m not sure you can call that enjoyment (possibly more was blissfully the morning…and for some reason that was when my best work occurred. Perhaps it was because I was tired and did not struggle and obsess to write well. I just let it flow, come what may. The writing process, I found, is so much like the acting process. As an actor, you do intensive research, you create a back story for your character, and you let your mind dream the character in situations. How is the character the same as you? How is the character different from you? There is something called ‘sense memory’ in acting where a little thing, like a smell, sound, face or music can trigger an emotion. So in emotional places in the book, as an example, I would choose a detail that triggered an emotion in me, and allow the emotion to write for me. I let myself become an instrument, a channel. Unconsciously, I used everything I knew as an actor for my writing. In fact, I recommend writers to take acting classes to experience new tools for their writing.
2. What was your creative process like when writing The Whip? What happened before sitting down to write the novel? How did you decide you were ready to write the book?
Twenty years ago, I actually wrote a screenplay called The Whip. It needed work but nonetheless, William Morris Agency took it on and it was optioned by a Canadian producer, Kevin Sullivan. At that time, there was no cable television, where something like The Whip would have been appropriate… so all of the big networks turned it down for content reasons. Flash forward to 2005: A writer friend of mine had been nagging me for years to turn the screenplay into a novel. I had been thinking about it and reading books about writing novels, and such. Then my mother passed away. And I needed to escape into something, so I took pen to legal pad and began to write.
3. What do you think is required for a character to be believable? How did you create yours in The Whip?
For me to believe in a character, I have to deeply care about what happens to them. And as in life, when someone reveals their vulnerability, their wounded child inside, you begin to understand their actions and can have compassion for them. So I always try to write from the character’s point of view, the real truth about how they feel about themselves; the part that is covered and rarely shared with the world.
4. What do you want your book to do? Entertain people? Provoke thinking?
I’ve always believed that a novel should be a good read. A great story. A page-turner. Something that you literally can’t put down. Something that makes you sad because you are reaching the last few pages. Something that you find yourself thinking about weeks or even years later. Something that can reveal the truth about yourself. And that can inspire and transform. The Whip is about surviving terrible things in this life, and how one woman was able to pick herself up out of the mud and manure, survive, and even thrive.
5. What kind of research did you do to write this book?
Anything and everything about the 19th Century and about Charley Parkhurst. Of course, I used the Internet, the library, interviews in Watsonville, California (her home and burial place), books on the language and the culture of the west. The research never seemed to end. I even went as far as having to look up many of the words in the dictionary, to see what date they came into use in America.
5. What obstacles did you have in trying to tell your story?
Always keeping the logic clear. I often had to rearrange characters and situations and dates, as I would discover more research about the times. For example, in one instance, I had to change where a character was going (Sacramento, California) because I found out about a devastating plague that had hit the city at that time, driving everyone out of town and killing thousands of people. I also had to keep in mind to always make sure that the character’s personalities grew through the years, but stayed within the truth of who they were and the unconscious ‘intention’ of their life.
6. Are you working on any books/projects that you would like to share with us?
I’ve begun writing a fictionalized memoir called Looking For Jack Kerouac. I have had such a bizarre and fascinating life, having almost died two times and once almost killed. I’ve met some incredible people–both magical humans and monsters. And like most people, experienced dreadful losses. But I have survived it all. And through it all, have been protected somehow. And that’s what I want to write about. I believe that we are all protected, sometimes by not receiving the things we dream of. I believe that one of the lessons we must learn is to trust what life gives us and take it in our hands as a gift.
7. Where can our readers find out more about you and The Whip?
If you want to know more about me personally, my website is www.karen-kondazian.com
If you want to know about The Whip, my blog, book tours, reviews, articles, and where to buy The Whip (as a print or e-book… available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble) you can visit www.thewhipnovel.com.
We’re also on Facebook (www.facebook.com/thewhipnovel) and you can follow us on Twitter: @TheWhipNovel and @KarenKondazian
8. Is there anything else you wish to add?
Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” I suggest the daring adventure!
To purchase your copy of The Whip, click here.