Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Interview with Author Karen A. Chase


Today I’m interviewing an amazing fellow James River Writer Karen A. Chase. Her latest work (one that makes me jealous both for the writing skill and for the adventure within), Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds.) is a travel essay and memoir. The e-book was released in October of 2011, and the photographic special edition print version was just released this past December.

Please tell us a little bit about your book. 
Bonjour 40 recounts my month-long excursion to Paris for my fortieth birthday. It’s a mix of journal-like entries with longer essays on turning 40, Paris and her people, writing, photography, travel and more. The latest special edition print version also includes over 100 full-color images I took while on the trip (I took over 2000).

What is the book’s genre?
It’s part travel essay, part memoir. Unlike travel guide books that help you choose when and where to go, this book was more about my impressions of Paris, on turning 40 in a fabulous city, and the joys of traveling alone or with a partner. There are, as one reader put it, some “mushy parts,” but mostly I hope readers will find it inspiring and a bit funny. I guess it’s more anecdotal like Peter Mayle’s, A Year in Provence, and not as weepy as Eat, Pray, Love.

Is this the only genre in which you write?
I like the challenge associated with writing different genres. Or to put it another way, I’m far too easily bored by monotony. So, in addition to my travel essay, I’ve written very technical bits like websites and brochures for freelance writing projects, and I’m currently working on a historical novel about the Declaration of Independence. I hope readers who will follow my work are interested mainly in good stories versus a specific genre. Ultimately, I hope that’s what I’ll give them.

What is it about this or these genre(s) that interests you?
Travel essays have a big draw, because I adore the idea of hitting the road and essentially being paid to do it. One cannot complain about a late flight, or a missed exit because it’s part of the thankless job of being on vacation (she said with tongue in cheek). Historical fiction is the same way. In fact, I’m such a believer in touring the historic places I feature in stories, that Shelf Pleasure, a website for women who like to read, finally gave me a column called Will Travel for Words. I also have my own blog, Compositions, about writing.
How did you come up with this latest book? 
With Bonjour 40, if I had to turn 40, I decided to do it gracefully in Paris. So I saved for a year, planned where to stay, took French lessons, etc. Then I set up a blog as a way to communicate about the trip with family and friends back home. It grew, an editor friend mentioned I might be able to do more with it, and so when I got home, I developed longer sections to reflect on bigger aspects of the trip. Et voila! Bonjour 40 the blog became Bonjour 40 the book.

What is your writing routine like?
I do much better with deadlines and structure. I set timeframes in which to finish sections or chapters, and I set aside my mornings (9-1ish) to write. I’m religious about it until a morning comes along when I slip and get into Facebook or Twitter first. Then my whole plan goes in the toilet. Then two days later I berate myself, I get up and ignore emails and social media until one or two o’clock. I do that for a couple weeks, feel great about the writing, and then social media sucks me back in to its evil vortex and I have to go through the same routine. I like chatting with readers, but I wish the social media world were only awake from 2–4 p.m. two days a week.

What is the most rewarding thing about having finished this latest book?   
When the e-book came out, it took off slowly, but then it started selling well and climbing the charts at Amazon. I thought, “Hey, I’m a writer. People are reading my words. YAY!” But it wasn’t until a year later when the print version came out and readers held it in their hands that they made comments to me like, “Look! You’re a writer, you have a book!” Same words, same book, but when they held that printed copy then I became an author. I’m both relieved and a little perplexed.

What’s next in the writing queue?
My novel about the Declaration has the majority of my focus. Almost three hundred pages of it are with my freelance editor in New York right now, and I’ll finish writing the rest of it while she’s pouring over what’s been written. I’ve been working on this book and the research for it for nearly five years (gasp), and writing steadily on it for the last six months. That’s a long commitment considering you aren’t allowed to find a publisher to pay you for fiction until the book is done. After it’s done and hopefully being published, I have a biography I’ve been asked to write, and I’ll be working on a novel I’ve already outlined about Woodstock. I need to feel groovy after being in 1776 for so long.

If Karen A. Chase absolutely had to turn forty, she decided she could do it gracefully in Paris… for nearly forty days. This stunning paperback version contains over 100 photographs, plus quotes and thoughts not found in the streamlined e-book version. What began as a blog to communicate with friends and family, became a travel journal filled with over a months’ worth of humorous and insightful glimpses into her Paris adventures, each of which could be read in about forty seconds. Journal entries are interspersed with Chase's own inspiring photography. Additional, longer stories richly fill in details allowing readers to reflect upon her experiences with food, travel, photography, Parisians, writing, and love in the City of Lights.

Karen A. Chase is a writer, designer, photographer, and traveler. Bonjour 40 is her first book, and she is currently working on an historical novel about the Declaration of Independence. She is also a freelance writer of historical fiction, poetry, and non-fiction.
Born in Canada, Karen has lived in the United States since 1990. As a professional graphic designer and copywriter, she has owned her own branding and design studio since 2004. An offshoot of that studio, called 224Pages, specializes in design for authors and publishers. Karen and her partner, Ted, live in Virginia with their two cats, Linus and Olive.

How can we buy your book?, i-Tunes and for the e-book, and for the printed version. I might start selling the print version out of the back of my car here in Richmond. I heard that’s how John Grisham got a publishing deal, so if you see me in Carytown next to the guy selling patchouli, stop by.

And now, some fun questions:
1) Favorite author?  Wilbur Smith
2) Favorite character in a book you’ve read? I loved Stuart Little and Jane Austen’s Emma. Both such hopeful, romantic optimists.
3) Favorite vacation?  I ache to visit the pyramids and the Sphinx, but I worry I’ll never get to see them. Egypt is the caretaker of some of the world’s greatest historical treasures, and they have a responsibility to everyone to create a thoughtful and peaceful environment so their culture can continue to thrive. Their leaders continually choose self-absorbed power over nourishing their own people and our collective human history. It’s shameful, really.
4) Coffee or tea? Coffee for mornings. Tea for evenings.
5) Favorite color?  Green.
6) Favorite dessert?  Pie. No, chocolate. Chocolate pie.


Will Travel For Words Column:

Author Website/Blog:


  1. Oh my .. love this! Thank you! I have to let Eva read this tomorrow she's just getting in bed or she will be so excited and not want to sleep! She has wanted to go to Paris since she was 3 .. she's planning on going when she's 10! She loves anything to do with Paris .. I NEED to buy her this book! She would love it on the Nook but I also want to buy the special edition print version .. Where will your car be parked?