Taking the Publishing Plunge with Karen Autio

How did CWILL BC members get their first big breaks in the publishing world? In this series of interviews with local writers and illustrators, we ask what advice they would offer and what mistakes they would never repeat — an inside look at the publishing process, from the creators’ point of view. Please feel free to tell your own publishing tales in the comments section below.

Karen Autio

What was your first book?
Second Watch (Sono Nis Press), a novel about Saara, a young Finnish-Canadian girl who dreams of travelling to Finland to meet her grandparents. Saara’s journey takes her on the fateful last voyage of the Empress of Ireland steamship in 1914. Second Watch recreates one of Canada’s worst maritime disasters in this tale of hardship and hope, faith and family.

Did you have a mentor in the publishing world, or did you do it all on your own?
I was most fortunate to be selected as a delegate to the British Columbia Festival of the Arts – Literary Arts Program in 2000 and in 2002. There I was mentored by Nikki Tate, and then by Andrea Spalding. Both of these talented authors have continued to mentor me as I’ve made my way as a writer.

What is your favourite publishing moment?
August 30, 2004, when I received that dream-come-true phone call from Diane Morriss at Sono Nis Press to tell me she wanted to publish Second Watch. The last words she said to me on that call were, “Have fun celebrating tonight!” It was no less thrilling in 2005 when I found out she wanted to publish the sequel, Saara’s Passage.

Do you have a career highlight?
My week-long author tour in Alberta sponsored by the Peace Library System was a highlight this year. I travelled 900+ km to give 12 presentations in libraries and schools, as far west as Bonanza and east to Grimshaw. And of course, receiving emails from readers is always rewarding. One young reader wrote me to say: “I really liked the main character Saara. I think we would be friends if she was real.”

Karen Autio Alberta Author Tour 2012

How did you handle early rejections?
Better than I would have if I hadn’t been part of a writers’ group that prepared me for rejections. Don’t get me wrong: the rejections still hurt. But I learned that some of the rejections were good rejections, in that they were personalized, with helpful feedback on how to improve my story.

What project are you most excited about now?
Sabotage, coming out in 2013. It’s the sequel to Saara’s Passage, and the final book about Saara. The novel is set in 1915 when Canadians were suspicious of all enemy aliens, especially Germans, who were viewed as potential spies and saboteurs. For Saara and her brother, plots, prejudice, and acts of sabotage get frighteningly close to home as they solve a mystery.

I’m also excited about family stories I discovered on our trip to Germany this spring. Who knows where they’ll lead!

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