Monday, July 06, 2009

Interview with Karen E. Olson, Author of THE MISSING INK

Once again I'm so thrilled to have Karen E. Olson making a guest appearance here in Malaysia. Karen is the author of the new Tattoo Shop Mysteries, and her latest book THE MISSING INK will be released tomorrow! She is also the author of the Annie Seymour Mystery Series.

I have read THE MISSING INK and boy, I loved it! I am glad I have the opportunity to interview Karen so that she could tell us more about her newest protagonist, Brett Kavanaugh, a tattooist and shop owner.

Please join me in welcoming Karen!


For the benefit of readers who have not read any of your previous novels, how would you describe THE MISSING INK?
THE MISSING INK isn’t like my other novels, except that it’s a mystery. My previous Annie Seymour series is set in New Haven, Connecticut, home of Yale University. Annie is a newspaper reporter with a salty tongue and self-deprecating sense of humor. THE MISSING INK is set in Las Vegas, with all its glitz and glamour, and features Brett Kavanaugh, a tattoo shop owner who is very comfortable in her own skin. It’s a lot lighter and fun.

Which part of researching THE MISSING INK was the most interesting to you? How did this idea of a tattooist as a protagonist come about?
I read a fascinating book called WOMEN OF SUBVERSION: A HISTORY OF WOMEN AND TATTOO by Margot Mifflin that really inspired me when developing Brett’s character. The book explains how women in the late 1800s would get full body tattoos and become the tattoo ladies at the circus to make money. It traces the history of women and tattoo through to the present day. As for other research, I also visited a local tattoo shop with a friend who has many tattoos, and I spent a lot of time looking at YouTube videos and watching those tattoo shows on TV.

I can’t take credit for the idea of a tattooist protagonist. My editor asked me to write a new series, and she said they were looking for a tattoo shop mystery. Not knowing anything about tattoo, I hesitated, but then decided, why not? I’m so glad I did, because it was a blast to write.

How long did it take to develop the intriguing character Brett Kavanaugh?
I always start by writing a chapter, to find the character’s voice. I think it took a couple of tries before I finally heard Brett. I had a very short deadline, and I couldn’t take too long to develop her!

The four books in the Annie Seymour Mysteries Series

I loved all the books in the Annie Seymour Mysteries series. Annie kicks butt. How is Brett different from Annie?
The biggest problem I faced was not having her sound like Annie. I didn’t want readers to pick up the book and say, “Oh, she’s just rewriting Annie!” and then put it down. Brett had to have her own voice. The biggest difference is that she doesn’t curse. At all. Her tone is lighter, although she still has an edge to her. She’s much more together than Annie, especially in that she owns her own business and isn’t afraid of losing her job. She’s got a healthy curiosity, which she needs to solve the mystery. Brett also isn’t the loner that Annie is, she’s got a circle of good friends and colleagues. Honestly? I really like writing a character who’s not grumpy all the time!

Can you share what readers can expect from the upcoming installments in this series?
Right now, I’m contracted for one more book in the series. It will be called PRETTY IN INK and will come out in March 2010. In that book, an incident at a drag queen show escalates into a hunt for Brett’s newest employee.

What are you currently reading? Anything in particular that you've enjoyed lately? What other genres and authors do you enjoy reading?
I have just finished the second in Louise Penny’s wonderful Inspector Gamache mysteries, which are set in Quebec, Canada. I am also making my way through Stewart O’Nan’s backlist, having discovered his amazing LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER last year. And my friend Louise Ure’s new LIARS ANONYMOUS kept me at the edge of my seat. When I’m not reading fiction, I gravitate toward biographies of Henry VIII, his wives, and children. It’s been a lifelong obsession. Annie Seymour was named after two of his wives.

I'm sure you get asked this a million times: What is the hardest part of writing a novel? Why?
The ending. Wrapping it all up has to be done so delicately and I can’t allow it to be bogged down in too much explanation. Much easier said than done!

What are your 10 favourite books (fiction and non-fiction), and why?
  1. THE GREAT GATSBY (it’s the perfect novel)
  2. WUTHERING HEIGHTS (who can resist Catherine and Heathcliff? Twilight’s got nothing on this)
  3. CRIME AND PUNISHMENT (perfect crime novel)
  4. LITTLE WOMEN (love the sisters)
  5. MOBY DICK (had a great high school teacher who taught me to love this)
  6. TURTLE MOON (Alice Hoffman’s best novel ever, wonderful combination of mystery, romance, and paranormal)
  7. BEHEADED, DIVORCED, SURVIVED (great bio of Henry VIII’s wives)
  8. PRESUMED INNOCENT (perfect unreliable narrator)
  9. LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER (beautifully written, great story)
  10. GONE WITH THE WIND (I can read this over and over)

Thank you, Karen, for doing this interview! Please catch my book review tomorrow, which is the date of release of Karen's latest THE MISSING INK.

Alice sporting a tattoo on her left arm!
Tattoo courtesy of Chris Tock of Perpetual Tockism and
photo by Andrew

About THE MISSING INK: Brett Kavanaugh is a tattoo artist and owner of The Painted Lady, catering to high-profile clients in Las Vegas. But in her free time, she does a little investigating too - because murder really gets under her skin. . . .

When a girl makes an appointment to get devotion ink with the name of her fiancé embedded in a heart, Brett takes the job, but the girl never shows. The next thing Brett knows, the police are looking for her mysterious client and the name she wanted on the tattoo isn't the name of her fiancé.

An alliance with an unlikely partner leads Brett to a dead body, a suave Englishman, and an Elvis karaoke bar. And who is the tattooed stranger stalking her? Brett draws lines between the clues, unwittingly putting herself in danger. But she intends to see justice done, since death, like a tattoo, is permanent. . . . Read the first chapter of The Missing Ink

About Karen E. Olson: Born in New Haven, Connecticut, I grew up in the city's suburbs. Early on, I developed a love of books and great pizza. I wrote my first "book" when I was 9.

I went to Roanoke College in southwestern Virginia to study literature. In addition to reading a lot of dead white male British writers, I worked on the school newspaper. Woodward and Bernstein had inspired me, and I still wanted to write fiction, but thought I could supplement that with a newspaper job. [Read more...]

You can order THE MISSING INK at, Borders, or Barnes & Noble.

Related Posts: