Check This Out: Love, God, and Mexican Pastries

With me on the blog today, for the first of two holiday giveaways (’tis the season) is one of my Secret Gardener VCFA classmates, the wonderful Karen Ripley. Karen is here to talk about her recently released young adult novel, Love, God, and Mexican Pastries, a Gallina Roja publication. You can find the synopsis here.

   

One of you will get a copy of Karen’s book. But we’ll discuss that later. Let’s talk to Karen!

El Space: Four quick facts about yourself?
Karen: (1) I had to fill the Santa cookie jar with old, leftover Halloween candy because I ate all the cookies.


(2) Yesterday, I went to an exercise class with my t-shirt on inside out.
(3) My kindergarten report card says, “Karen is great at napping.”
(4) My sixteen-year-old daughter and I goof off by practicing kickboxing in the kitchen when we’re making dinner.

El Space: What was the inspiration behind this young adult novel? Why was it important for you to tell this story?
Karen: ***BIG spoiler alert. Don’t read this if you are like me and don’t want to know the ending of a book before you read it.*** This novel is based on a very personal experience. Many years ago my young niece became pregnant and decided to place her baby for adoption. We’re good friends and I watched in awe at her faith as she courageously went through all heartbreaking steps and placed her beautiful daughter with a loving family. I asked myself over and over, how could someone make such a sacrifice? I don’t know if I ever answered that question, but this novel is me searching for that answer.

El Space: Your novel has gone through quite a metamorphosis. I’m so glad you hung in there with Melina [the main character]. How did critiques and your editor help you shape the story?
Karen: When I started writing, I read and heard advice such as trust your reader and make sure your character is likable. I thought that along with cutting out the adverbs, I was doing all of that. But when my critique group pointed out scenes that weren’t moving the story along and my editor said my character was starting to bug her, that’s when the real revision started. It was a lot of serious work but it also made me really proud of my writing.

El Space: How did the characters change as the story developed?
Karen: Probably the biggest change for me was coming to really love my characters. Starting the book, I knew some characters were going to do some rotten things and in many of my drafts, some of the characters, maybe all of them, felt more caricature-like than real. It wasn’t until I got to know their back story completely that I could understand them and I saw them develop. Recently, my daughter was reading my book, and said, “I’m so furious at Marcus right now.” And my first thoughts were, He’s really a good guy who’s just messed up.

El Space: What were the challenges of writing this novel?
Karen: Probably the biggest challenge was and is overcoming my own doubts and fears. I started this novel over a decade ago. I’ve needed to learn a lot about writing and it’s taken a long time. It’s so easy to doubt your abilities when it takes years and years to get a novel out. I put the manuscript aside for a solid year and worked on another novel after a very painful face-to-face rejection with an agent. Looking back, a year off was exactly what I needed to be able to come to the story with new eyes; but I really struggled with feeling like a failure.

El Space: How did you select the title?
Karen: Ha! 😄 Really, it was like the whole writing process, trial and error, critiquing, revision. I tried lots of cheesy titles such as: Love Story and The Right Forever. After bunches of cheese, I threw out Love, God, and Mexican Pastries almost as a joke. My daughter really liked it, my editor loved it, and that’s how it came to be.

El Space: Who designed the cover? How did you feel about it when you first saw it?
Karen: Shawnda Craig was the cover designer, and she’s amazing. As an indie author it’s different than traditional publishing where you usually don’t get to consult with the cover designer, but Shawnda and I chatted about different concepts and went through several drafts. When she sent me two covers I loved, it felt like seeing the first snowfall of the year.

El Space: What are you hoping teens or other readers will take away after reading your novel?
Karen: I’d love readers to finish the book with a feeling of hope and a joy in family.

El Space: What books have inspired you lately?
Karen: I’m reading about book marketing lately. Make a Killing on Kindle by Michael Alvear has a lot of great advice for indie authors. I enjoy reading to my grandson, though he’s 18 months and only sits still for a couple of pages. I love reading Long Ago, on a Silent Night by Julie Berry to him. And every night I try to read something beautiful, and lately it’s been The Keeper of Lost Things by Ruth Hogan.

   

El Space: What will you work on next?
Karen: I’ve got a middle-grade story about a spunky girl who goes to battle with her bus driver. Another middle-grade story about a young cowboy who competes in the rodeo is in a rough-draft state. Also, I’ve done a little free writing on another YA novel but so far that’s just mush.

Thanks, Karen, for being my guest!

Looking for Karen? You can find her here. Looking for Love, God, and Mexican Pastries? (Or all three in a different context?) Click here.

One of you will be sent a copy of Love, God, and Mexican Pastries simply because you commented. Winner to be announced after next week’s giveaway.

Katie insists that you read this book, because it’s the best book ever and you should also feel that way, ’cause she is always real with people and that’s how she feels.

Christmas giveaway image from thefrontporchgourmet. Author photo by Sara Brewer. Love, God, and Mexican Pastries cover courtesy of the author. Other book covers from Goodreads. Santa cookie jar from ebay. Kickboxing image from clipart-library. Failure sign from teachertoolkit.me. Other photo by L. Marie. Katie is one of the Capsule Chix, a product of Moose Toys.

41 thoughts on “Check This Out: Love, God, and Mexican Pastries

  1. “Karen is great at napping.” I loved this! Great interview, ladies. I can relate to your editor telling you the main character bugged her. I had an editor once tell me my heroine was too mean. Congratulations, Karen! Thanks for hosting, L. Marie.

  2. Churros…yum.
    I agree, that book cover really hits the mark, Karen. Congrats on the release.
    L. Marie, your Secret Gardener buds (get it?) are a great group we get to meet via your blog interviews. Thanks!

  3. Oh, I’m so happy to see this interview and know this book is out in the world. It’s a wonderful story, and everyone, young and old, should read it!! And the cover – perfect! Great interview, Karen and Linda.

  4. What a wonderful interview with an amazing writer. To see our fellow classmates on this blog fills me with so much joy. Thank you for interviewing Karen. She is still as funny as I remember 🙂

  5. Hi L. You are so kind to be helping out authors and giving away their books. Blessings to you, my friend.
    Boy can I ever relate to just about everything Karen shared here. I love how she expressed her feelings openly, which I greatly related to. An author does this can likely cause readers to feel strong emotions for her characters.
    Congratulations and good luck with your book, Karen. I love the title, btw.

    • I’m always glad to feature authors, Lori. And I also can relate to what Karen shared. I’ve worked on some projects for years. So glad to see her book out in the world! 😀 😁

      • L. Is AMAZING! 🙂 Agreed! I hope she is showered with blessings. And you too Lori! Thanks for your kind comments. I hope you get that same shower of blessings. 🙂

  6. L. Marie, you are one of the most generous authors I know. Thank you for the gift of your interview with Karen. I went ahead and read the spoiler alert, and it made me think that my teen grand-daughter may like this. I won’t buy it yet, in case I WIN!

    Thank you, Karen and L. Marie, loved this!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Marian. I’m grateful to God. 😀 😁
      I added you to the list! Three more of my classmates are coming! They’ve been in the blog before, but I’m giving away another set of their books.

  7. This was an excellent interview. I especially loved Karen’s explanation of how critiques and the editor’s comments helped shape her story. It also took me about ten years to finish my second novel (which won’t be out until April 2021), so I understand her doubts and the long, slow process of forming characters and a story.

  8. I am awfully late on reading this delightful interview (blame it on the “bug” our Thanksgiving guests shared – bummer), BUT, delightful it is. Thanks for hosting this, L. Marie. Best of luck, Karen, and thanks for sharing so much of yourself and best wishes for this book. “Love, God, and Mexican Pastries” – what a great title.

    • Oh no! How are you feeling now, Penny? I remember one Thanksgiving most of my family came down with the stomach flu. Three days of misery. The only person who didn’t succumb was my sister-in-law!

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