Interview with Karen Prince, author of “Switch!”

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I’m happy to present the next author in my list of interviewees, Karen Prince.  She hails from Zimbabwe, and her book, “Switch!” reflects that heritage.

Thanks for coming to visit, Karen.  I am so glad you stopped by!

 My first question–What influenced you to write your book?

A whim, really, or a new year’s resolution. I kid you not. I sat on my friend’s verandah and said “This year I will give up working for an unappreciative boss and find another job, and while I am looking for that perfect job, I will write the book I always wanted to write.” I fondly imagined that I would sit at my computer and bang out a book in six weeks or so. Well, what a shock! It took at least six months of intense research and an online course just to learn how to write a good book, and then another year to write it. But I had the best time ever.

As for what influenced the actual content of the book. In a way, I was writing what I know. I have been a voracious reader all my life, mostly of fantasy. Anything from the epic “Wheel of Time” series by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson to the more offbeat and quirky “Discworld” series by Terry Pratchett. Add that to a childhood spent mostly in rural Africa which is practically like living in a fantasy. Between the awe inspiring wildlife, the lack of technology and the terrors of a bush war that raged for most of my childhood, there was plenty of fodder for a good yarn.

It’s a life so much different than we technocentric  folk imagine.  I think that is the draw for many of us.  And Terry Pratchett’s “Discworld” is one of my favorite series.

Do you have a favorite character or theme–any book or movie?

Madam Medusa from Disney’s movie ‘The Rescuers’. She was just perfect, from the way she sashayed when she walked to the way she took off her makeup leaving that tiny pinprick eye. And the way she answered the phone; “Madam Medusa’s pawnshop boutique!” She really cracked me up. More recently I would have to go with Aria from ‘Songs of Ice and Fire’ by George R.R. Martin which your readers may recognize as ‘Game of Thrones’ if they haven’t read the books. That girl really has spunk. Oh . . . You mean from my book? That would be like choosing a favorite child. I love all four of the main protagonists, from the over privileged city boy, Ethan, to the quiet and unassuming Jimoh, as well as the two potential heros in between. And then there is the incorrigible witch and her less than saintly leopard.

Loved that leopard.  You’re right–not sure if I would trust him.  I know it’s hard to choose a favorite when you’ve created all of them.  I liked the hyena-boy myself.

Do you have any other books in progress, or that you plan to write?

I have started on a sequel. I saw a hilarious illustration of a baboon sitting under a tree painting her fingernails and I got to thinking, what if she had got hold of some of the magic my protagonists carelessly left lying about in Switch! and started to get progressively smarter and start having urges to be better groomed. Where would it all end?

I love it!  What a great storyline.  Do let me know when it comes out.

Have you lived in Africa your entire life?

Yes, I was born in Africa, as were my parents and my grandparents. I have never delved any deeper than that into my ancestry in case I come up with pirates or something.

If they’re anything like Johnny Depp, I wouldn’t have a problem with it…

Did you grow up with the African mythology prevalent in your book, or did you have to do a lot of research?  Oh, some of this question is answered in an earlier question…

The Tokoloshe, which feature heavily in ‘Switch!’ were as much a fact of everyday life as ghosts are for westerners and probably with as many variations. From a mischievous character whose toxic farts would incapacitate you so that he could tickle your feet, to an evil entity conjured up by a witchdoctor to cause real harm. Mostly they were believed to be about knee high, hairy, lived in crevices under river banks and would come and get you if you were naughty. I did do a lot of research on the other mythological creatures in ‘Switch!’ but since the premise of the story is that the magic alters the DNA of a creature over time I did not always stick closely to the original myths.

The beauty of fiction. 

I’m sure there is a lesson you wish to convey to your reading audience in “Switch!”.  Would you like to say what it is?

No! No lessons from me. I wish I could offer you something deep and finely nuanced about not being too quick to judge or what it takes to be a hero, but this is more of a what if? story. I would like the reading audience to be entertained and surprised and occasionally appalled, and to wonder what they would have done given the same set of circumstances. But most of all I would like them to make up their own minds what they take from the story. I love what Philip Pullman, one of my favorite fantasy authors, said:

“The meaning of a story emerges in the meeting between the words on the page and the thoughts in the reader’s mind.”

How very true.  It was a very entertaining story, and I hope a lot of people read it.

Another question:  Outside of writing, what do you like to do?

Mostly I like swanning about on a yacht, but since that is not about to happen, when I’m not reading I design things; anything from party invitations to hospital pediatric wards; murals and all. At the moment I am enjoying designing websites. I have just launched a new one called books4youngadults.com where you can find YA books by genre so that science fiction fans don’t have to search through all the chick lit to find a good read, and vice versa. It’s just a simple list of current bestselling books or books I have read and loved, with a cover image and a description. A bit like wandering into a shop for young adults and being able to browse and read the blurb on the back of books without being told what someone thought of them. Of course there is a link to Goodreads in case someone wants to read reviews, and an Amazon buy link.

Nice!  I’ve gotten as far as signing up for a website–and there it sits.  No time or talent to figure it out.

Well, seems I’m all out of questions.  Please let us know where we can find you in the etherverse, and also where we can find your book.

I have my official website with a map of the Kingdoms of Karibu where ‘Switch!’ takes place and I blog about nature, fantasy and interesting African snippets when I come across them. http://www.karen-prince.com/

Link to ‘Switch!’ on Amazon: http://bit.ly/Switcheroo

Link to some cool imagination kick starters on Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/realKarenPrince

Great!

We welcome comments and questions.  Feel free to leave either, or both.

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