Karen Odden – Member Spotlight

Meet Karen Odden.  What happens when a fictional teen, then a (real) high school English teacher, and the talent of world-renowned authors Mary Stewart, Phyllis Whitley, and Daphne DuMaurier influence your career path early in life? For USA Today bestselling author, Karen Odden, it led to international acclaim and legions of readers across Australia, Europe, the United Kingdom, and North America who are devoted to her multi-award-winning novels.

An avid reader at a young age, Karen was enthralled by a popular YA mystery series, featuring two intelligent and highly inquisitive girls as amateur investigators. “I was ten when I wrote a short story that borrowed most of its elements from the Trixie Belden novels. I really wanted to belong to a club like the Bobwhites!”    
 “The first person to tell me I could write was Bill Polito, my high school senior English teacher.” Karen never forgot how much his support and praise meant to her. “As a small thank you for his encouragement, I fashioned Tom Flynn, my straight-talking, intrepid newspaperman for the Falcon after him. Tom Flynn appears in all of my books.”

After high school, Karen attended Cornell University then earned her Ph. D. at NYU. Her career path included multiple positions in publishing, with McGraw-Hill, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, and the legal publisher Clark Boardman Callaghan. She also worked in marketing for an ad agency. Much of her professional experience, including her work at Christie’s auction house in New York City, proved valuable in writing her novels. 

Family and professional demands soon led to a number of changes in Karen’s life. “My family moved to Arizona in 2003. George and I married in 1990 and moved six times in

thirteen years—two different apartments in New York City, then houses in Mount Vernon, Milwaukee, where I taught English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Moves to Connecticut, and finally Arizona followed,” she said.

“I grew up in Rochester, New York and went to college at Cornell, in the land of snow, rain, and gray skies. The first morning in our Arizona house, I took my coffee outside and looked at the big blue bowl of sky and all the sun and thought—like Scarlett O’Hara!—as God is my witness, I’m never moving again. Sure enough, we’ve been here longer than we’ve been anywhere.”  

Relocating to Arizona opened more opportunities, too—personally and professionally. “I am an avid hiker now. I never was before. And, I make annual pilgrimages to the Grand Canyon and Sedona with girlfriends.”  

“My first serious attempt at writing a novel began around 2006 when I was home with my kids and decided to give it a real try. I wanted to write about something that hadn’t been done hundreds of times already, and I had written my Ph.D. dissertation on Victorian railway disasters—so I thought, I’ll put my heroine and her mother on a railway train in 1870s London, run it off the rails, and see what happens.”

Her fascination with the Victorian age and a fondness of independent-thinking women is evident in her work. “My first three novels, A Lady in the Smoke, A Dangerous Duet and A Trace of Deceit, each feature a different young woman protagonist—an earl’s daughter, a pianist, and a painter—who is drawn into a mystery when someone she loves is injured or murdered. All three (protagonists) become amateur detectives because of those crimes. The stories have deeply personal stakes, and follow in the vein of some of (my) favorite books written by Mary Stewart, Daphne DuMaurier, and Phyllis Whitney. The novels are set in 1870s London, with seedy Whitechapel, rowdy music halls, dangerous railway accidents, and the smelly Thames River.”

Her first three novels have something else in common. They have all won the coveted New Mexico-Arizona Book Award. Her first book, A Lady in the Smoke, won for best e-book; A Dangerous Duet for best historical fiction, and A Trace of Deceit for best mystery. She was awarded a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts in 2021 and garnered many other prestigious accolades.  

The debut book in her new series, Down a Dark River (November 2021, Crooked Lane Books), “…features a former thief and bare-knuckles boxer named Michael Corravan, who becomes an inspector at Scotland Yard and is faced with a series of murders of beautiful young women whose corpses are placed in small boats and sent floating down the Thames River,” she explained. “To develop Inspector Michael Corravan, I spent hours reading male protagonists in The Bourne Identity, Faithful Place, and the Bosch novels, and Victorian police reports—all written by men, of course—out loud, to train my ear.” The next book in the Michael Corravan lineup, Under a Veiled Moon, will launch on November 8, 2022.

Karen’s essays have appeared in the academic publications Studies in the Novel and The Journal of Victorian Culture, (published by Cambridge University Press), the Barnes & Noble Classics Series, and numerous books and anthologies.

Karen is a member of the Sisters in Crime Grand Canyon Writers chapter, and active in other Sisters in Crime organizations, also. She assists with the social media group for the Sisters in Crime’s national association and has served as a chapter secretary and program committee chairperson. Her seminars and classes attract writers from around the globe and she has earned high praise from her appearances for multiple Sisters in Crime chapters, the Society of Southwestern Authors, Friends of Scottsdale Library, and dozens of book clubs and writers’ organizations nationwide.

In addition to being an instructor for Arizona State University’s prominent writers’ conference, Desert Nights, Rising Stars, Karen shares her experience, knowledge and skills in webinars and workshops on the craft of writing, as a way of giving back to the writing community that has given her so much.

To connect with Karen, learn more about her and her upcoming appearances and books, or sign up for her informative newsletter and give-aways by guest authors, go to her website: www.karenodden.com.

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