readBC ~ Karen Autio

We think British Columbia is a pretty special place to live and also a great place to create wonderful children’s literature. readBC is a series of short interviews introducing our readers to our authors and illustrators and their craft. Read the complete series here.
For a list of books created and set in British Columbia, visit this page.

Karen Autio
Region: The Thompson Okanagan region

Where did you grow up, and does that place affect your writing?
I grew up in a small town called Nipigon, near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Nipigon was full of Finlanders. My Finnish grandparents taught me to bake pulla (sweet yeast bread flavoured with cardamom) and made sure we had plenty of pickerel and a hot sauna during summers at the lake. Is it any surprise that my first two novels and my current work-in-progress are set in the Thunder Bay area and grew out of my Finnish roots?

When did you know you wanted to write children’s books?
I loved to write and illustrate stories when I was young. But at university I studied math and computer science, and began working as a software developer. After getting married, I continued programming computers for several years and then devoted my time to raising our children. When my youngest child entered Grade One, I decided it was time to dust off my long held dream of writing children’s books.

Karen Autio at Okanagan Lake

What is one piece of advice, or one thing you wish you had learned earlier, about creating children’s books?
When working on a story, as well as having fellow writers critique your writing, get feedback from students. Their honest reactions and suggestions are invaluable as you revise and polish.

What are you working on now?
I like to have a few projects on the go. I’m writing a sequel to Saara’s Passage, set in the summer of 1915. In Sabotage, Port Arthur is rife with suspicion of spies and enemy aliens when a serious accusation challenges Saara’s detective skills. I’m also working on an early chapter book and researching future novels.

Where do you do your work, and/or what’s on your desk?
My desk is on the second floor of our house, overlooking our tree-lined street, with a view of distant mountains. I actually write “on board” the Empress of Ireland, the Canadian Pacific steamship on which my first book is based. Under my chair, the floor is painted with a large picture of the Empress in her glory, worked on by my husband and son while I was out of town. What a fun surprise to come home to!

To learn more about Karen and her books, please visit her website.
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