Author Revealed

About Karen Halvorsen Schreck

Q. What is your birthdate?

A. 1/4

Q. Previous occupations

A. Waitress, window washer, UPS assembly line worker, house cleaner, editorial assistant, graduate teaching assistant, freelance writer, advertising copywriter, professor, parent.

Q. Favorite job

A. Writing novels and being a parent.

Q. High school and/or college

A. Wheaton Academy and Wheaton College.

Q. Name of your favorite composer or music artist?

A. Johann Sebastian Bach

Q. Favorite movie

A. I honestly can't choose one.

Q. Favorite television show

A. It's a tie: The Dick Van Dyke Show, Northern Exposure, and maybe Band of Brothers. But then there's Call the Midwife. And Mad Men. Downton Abby, Firefly, Wonderfalls . . . sigh. I should have just said again that I honestly can't choose just one!

Revealing Questions

Q. How would you describe your life in only 8 words?

A. Read. Imagine. Listen. Learn. Seek. Love. Write. Pray.

Q. What is your motto or maxim?

A. Open eyes. Open hands. Open heart. Open mind.

Q. How would you describe perfect happiness?

A. Is there perfect happiness on this earth?  I don't think so—though we're granted glimpses of eternity.  For me, a deep experience of happiness comes when I'm with people I love and we are content, maybe walking by water (preferably a large and salty body of it) or sitting in comfortable chair by a fireplace (crackling with a fire made of cherry and birch wood).  Also something delicious to eat and drink—that's often a part of the experience, too.  Good conversation and companionable silence.  A great book.  Poems read aloud.  Music playing, and the quiet that comes after.

Q. What’s your greatest fear?

A. My greatest fear is that I will be overcome by fear.

Q. If you could be anywhere in the world right now, where would you choose to be?

A. So hard.  I love to travel.  Italy is the first place that comes to mind—Rome or the coast.  New Mexico, which in some places makes me feel like I’m walking around in a Georgia O’Keefe painting.  Denmark, Croatia, Japan, Kenya, because these are places I’ve always wanted to go.  But right now I’m at home with my family, and eager for nothing more than a quiet, contented night, and a book in bed, and then restful sleep.  I’m happy to be right where I am.

Q. With whom in history do you most identify?

A. I don't really identify with anyone specifically, as much as admire and learn from people who've gone before. Hildegard of Bingen, Emily Dickinson, Anne Frank, Rosa Parks, Flannery O'Conner are individuals who immediately come to mind. But there are so many more.

Q. Which living person do you most admire?

A. My two children. That’s what my first response is. And then a host of brave folks floods my thoughts, including Malala Yousafzai, and the others like her, unknown to the larger world, who are committed to peace and the education of women. But then I think of people living with illness and pain, people living on the streets, and people who appear to be keeping it perfectly together every day, and I wonder at how each and every one of us is someone to be deeply admired. Plato’s familiar adage, right? “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

Q. What are your most overused words or phrases?

A. “And then . . . “ I have this bad habit of beginning new paragraphs with “And then.”

Q. What do you regret most?

A. I most regret my tendency toward self-consciousness. I wish I had earlier learned that it is all right, and in fact necessary, to take risks and make mistakes

Q. If you could acquire any talent, what would it be?

A. I would love to be more at fully at peace with my physical self. So I guess I would love to have been a talented dancer—as long as the art form was modern dance. Perhaps I can still find my way toward this through yoga, though. Hoping so.

Q. What is your greatest achievement?

A. Being a mother.

Q. What’s your greatest flaw?

A. See #5 and #10.

Q. What’s your best quality?

A. I’m a good listener. I’ve also been told time and again by others that I’m intuitive and sensitive. Sometimes these last, however, can make life a bit difficult.

Q. If you could be any person or thing, who or what would it be?

A. I don’t really play “could be” like this. I could say dolphin, otter, or eagle, but then I think I’d rather just watch these creatures for hours at a time. Or I could say Mary Magdalene, meeting Jesus in the garden. Or I could say my mother, so I could understand who she was. Or I could say myself all over again, only knowing what I know now. I guess I’d go for any of these “could bes.”

Q. What trait is most noticeable about you?

A. People have historically commented on my hair, but as I age, I think it’s not so much noticed. Which is fine by me. People also say I carry a kind of sadness, which inevitably makes me sad, whether I am or not. Maybe my attitude of listening? I’ve been told that, too. I’ll take that.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional hero?

A. Whoever is the main character in whatever best book I’m reading. For instance, right now I’m rereading The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman for the third time because I’ll soon be teaching that book, and I’m over the moon for Lyra.

Q. Who is your favorite fictional villain?

A. Not fiction, but Shakespeare’s villains take the cake. Also, for me, at least, Flannery O’Conner’s.

Q. If you could meet any historical character, who would it be and what would you say to him or her?

A. Normal 0 false false false EN-US JA X-NONE /* Style Definitions */table.MsoNormalTable {mso-style-name:"Table Normal"; mso-tstyle-rowband-size:0; mso-tstyle-colband-size:0; mso-style-noshow:yes; mso-style-priority:99; mso-style-parent:""; mso-padding-alt:0in 5.4pt 0in 5.4pt; mso-para-margin:0in; mso-para-margin-bottom:.0001pt; mso-pagination:widow-orphan; font-size:10.0pt; font-family:"Times New Roman"; mso-fareast-language:JA;}Jesus, and I would say hello, and then see what happens, listening and watching and using every other sense available to me as the moments passed.

Q. What is your biggest pet peeve?

A. The way screens dominate our lives so that we can’t even look away when other people talk to us.

Q. What is your favorite occupation, when you’re not writing?

A. Yoga. And going for walks.

Q. What’s your fantasy profession?

A. Could I be a great painter (who doesn't have to worry too much about surviving financially) living in an exotic location surrounded by friends and family? I’ll be her.

Q. What 3 personal qualities are most important to you?

A. Kindness, loyalty, wisdom.

Q. If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your days, what would it be?

A. Black beans made the Guatemalan way, served with corn tortillas, guacamole, and brown rice, please.

Q. What are your 5 favorite songs?

A. Amazing Grace and all those many, other great hymns and spirituals. Any of Tom Waits’ ballads. “The Flower Duet” from Léo Delibes’ Lakmé. Just about all of Paolo Conte’s repertoire, and all of J.S. Bach's. A fair amount of Kate Bush.

On Books and Writing

Q. Who are your favorite authors?

A. Impossible to say, but off the top of my head: Marilynn Robinson, Alice Munro, Edith Wharton, Toni Morrison, William Shakespeare, Emily Dickinson.But really:  Impossible to say.

Q. What are your 5 favorite books of all time?

A. Cruel choice!I guess:  Home, Marilynn RobinsonBeloved, Toni MorrisonSo Long, See You Tomorrow, William MaxwellThe Things They Carried, Tim O'BrienA Good Man is Hard to Find, Flannery O'Connor,The English Patient, Michael OndaatjeTo the Wedding, John BergerThe BibleI'm stopping now!

Q. Is there a book you love to reread?

A. So many, but one in particular comes to mind: So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell. All the grace in the world, in a slim, sublime volume of gorgeous prose. I love this book. It is a dear friend.

Q. Do you have one sentence of advice for new writers?

A. Read, read, read, and reread. And don’t give up.

Q. What comment do you hear most often from your readers?

A. Please write a sequel.