Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Interview with Author Karlene Petitt

Please welcome Karlene Petitt, an author, airline pilot, mother, and grandmother. Karlene is known to work in her garden in her bikini. How cool is that! I met Karlene at a Bill Bernhardt seminar and found her to be a bright, fun-loving, and interesting person. I hope you will, too.

Bill… Thank you for the interview and also for sharing with your readers that I garden in my bikini. I laughed. When you have a large and busy family, and you’re a pilot writing a novel, you learn to multi-task. Sometimes that means to enjoy the sunshine ‘guilt free’ it is in the garden working. The neighbors seem to enjoy it.

This question crossed my mind the moment I met you. With two master’s degrees and many opportunities, what took you into the world of an airline pilot?

Actually, the pilot career came first. And mine was an unusual start based on a challenge. When I was 9 years-old my girlfriends and I were playing the game called careers. The career choices were to become a stewardess, nurse, school teacher or librarian. All my girlfriends landed on the ‘stewardess’ spot, but not me. I said, “I don’t care, I’m going to be the pilot anyway.” One of my girl friends enlightened me that I could not be a pilot because ‘girls’ couldn’t fly planes, her dad was a pilot. That was the challenge I needed, and from that moment forward, I had made my career choice. The masters followed with the thirst for education, and writing… it has been part of my soul for a very long time. But like many I said, “one day I am going to write a novel.”

You’ve had an outstanding career flying mostly Boeing aircraft, including 747 and 757. Now you’re finishing training on Airbus A330 for Delta. You’re in the middle of a very impressive career. There has to be conflicts between flying, writing, and family life. How have you handled the stress?

The stress of life and to how to handle it…I’m thinking of a title for a best seller. I’m not sure in the early years I handled it all that well. I just operated at full speed, and sacrificed my health in the process, mostly due to the lack of sleep. Even if we don’t feel stress, long term stress will impact the physical body.

Today I am older, and hopefully wiser, and I take proactive measures to do it all, and work to eliminate the stress. Not only do I exercise daily, but I make a point to sleep, and get massages regularly. One thing about being busy… if you love what you’re doing, the only stress you feel is from the things left undone…that you don’t want to do. Schedule 2 hours a day to work on the things that need to be done, and then spend the rest of the day feeling guilt free at your computer writing! Or… if you have the means, hire someone to do them for you. I now have a housekeeper clean my house the day before I get home…A well earned gift for working hard. This frees up my time to write, or study.

When conflicts arise, I just prioritize. Sometimes that is harder to do than other times. But everything always works out.

I agree. We need to prioritize each day, making time for exercise, rest, and the other key elements of our lives.
Tell us about Flight for Control. I’ve only read the sections you submitted at our seminar, and I found the writing piqued my interest. What gave you the idea for the novel, and do you typecast your characters after real people?

The idea for Flight for Control was inspired by recent airline crashes that have occurred over the previous two years, the current economic stress, and the resulting cutbacks at all the airlines. As you know there is a great deal of stress occurring in the world today, and pilots are not exempt. I wondered: What would it take to push a pilot to their limits? What is that limit? What if someone in the TSA had their own agenda? What if terrorists took control of our planes via the flight crews?

As far as typecasting my characters… you could say that many of my characters have personalities that I have met, or worked with, in real life. Not that I created a character out of a particular person, but have adopted traits, a voice, and some portion of their personality. And more importantly… which character am I? Writers, create multiple characters in your story and keep the readers guessing.

What have been some of your toughest writing stumbling blocks, the areas you’ve had the most difficulty grasping, and how did you conquer them?

My greatest obstacle has been to find the time and money to attend a writers retreat, or conference. But once I finally made that commitment and attended the Hawaii writers’ retreat and the ensuing conference, I realized that without the retreat and conference, I doubt my novel would go farther than my living room. To all aspiring writers… there is so much to learn. The retreats assist you in honing your skills, and the retreats teach you how to move your novel from your computer to the bookshelf. My first retreat was with William Bernhardt, an incredible teacher, and I was provided an incredible foundation.

I started out as a blank slate. I thought earning masters degrees and writing training programs gave me the ability to write a novel…. Wrong. Honestly, there is nothing I haven’t grasped. There is a lot I didn’t know and still need to learn, but I think the willingness to listen and be open to advice makes all the difference between success and failure.

The question on the minds of every unpublished author is: How do you find an agent? Can you share your game plan with us?

My game plan is this… write my novel, rewrite, edit, and reedit until there is absolutely nothing I can do to improve it, and then I will attend the Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference in Seattle, July 22- 25th and pitch it ‘live’ to agents. I was told in Hawaii by an agent from New York, “It’s all about how you write it.” I will also follow Heather’s advice on the ‘how to.’ Heather has been sharing her journey of ‘writing to publication’ on her personal blog Heather now has an agent and will be pitching to editors in New York next month. She has a ton of information to share with all.

Life is about continual improvement and growth. To bring life to our novels we must adapt that philosophy, and never give up. Do what ever it takes. You can believe that I will never give up on this journey. I have far too many novels and stories that need to get out, and they will.

Social networking is a must for new authors. You’ve managed to establish a blog, twitter account, Facebook, and other networking connections. How difficult were these networking tools to create, and how hard are they to maintain?

They were not difficult at all to set up. The most difficult part is jumping in that pool, but once you’ve committed, then you find out how much fun it is, and yes… how time consuming too. Time is the greatest issue. But I have met so many wonderful people on twitter and Facebook. I wish I had more time to talk to them. I met another pilot/author, who was Flight to Success’ featured Fabulous Flyer on May 14th, Nate Carriker. Many of my Friday Flyers are via twitter.

During my conference last summer, I also met three wonderful ladies and we began a blog together: Jule, Linda, Heather and I have come together to share our journeys and experiences. Sometimes we have a theme, other times we discuss whatever comes to mind, but we always have something for other writers, like ourselves, to connect with. A combined blog really helps on the time commitment, one day a week is very doable.

Since I have been in a five week, very intensive training program learning the A330, I had to put my novel on a shelf to simmer. That was very challenging because I have lived with it for four months. However, I did not want to lose touch with my ‘right’ brain so I created a blog that would connect writing with my training. The response has been overwhelming. And fun. Yes… a ton of work. And this blog is how I studied. And if you’re so inclined to earn an A330 type rating… you too can read and pass the training.

Is there another novel coming after Flight for Control? And, is there anything you’d like to share with our readers about your writing adventure so far?

Yes, there are many more novels to come! I have two more aviation thrillers in the works, followed by a series, similar to Stephanie Plum’s, but with a female airline pilot and her humorous adventures. Shifting gears a bit, I also have a Young Adult novel, Twist of Faith, ready for a major rewrite.

I have found a new home within the writing community. The opportunity to meet fellow writers, work with authors such as William Bernhardt, and watch my novel grow, is an opportunity of a lifetime. Bill, your support to your fellow writers like myself, is so much appreciated.

A message to your writers, don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot make it. Dedication, hard work, and commitment… you will get there, just don’t ever give up. One day at a time and in no time you will have your novel complete.

Thanks for sharing with us, Karlene. I highly recommend looking at the The concept works at so many levels. I also thank you for your willingness to be open and share from the heart. I’m sure will see each other at conferences over the years, share a cocktail, and autograph each others’ books. Success to you and friendly skies.


Delia Latham said...

Karlene, thank you for your kind comment on my interview. I'm fascinated by your very full life and career(s)! Your comment about coming up with time and money to attend a conference really hit home for me, because that's where I've been for several years - aching to attend the ACFW conference, but not quite ever being able to afford it...yet. I'm hoping to make it next year.

Thanks for sharing so much about your writing journey - I truly enjoyed your interview!

Lela said...

Great interview, Bill and Karlene. Looking forward to the books, and the cocktails!

Karlene Petitt said...

Delia, thank you so much for your comments. You know, I put off taking the writers conference plunge because I could never justify the price or afford the time. Then last summer I realized that if I wanted this second career bad enough... I had to do it. I was worth it! And I looked at it as an investment in myself that will pay off in the long run. I am so thankful I went. I met wonderful people and life lessons. If there is anyway you can do it, I hope you too will find your way.
Hope to meet you one day!

Karlene Petitt said...

Hey Lela, Thank you! So... will I see you in Tulsa June 4th? And... how about Seattle? Drinks for sure!

Karlene Petitt said...

Bill, Thank you so much for the great interview! I'm honored that you asked me, and appreciate it so much!! Hope to see you in Tulsa!

bwetterman said...

Thank you, Karlene. I'll see you the 4th, and you can meet my wife. She's coming too.

Margaret said...

Bill, I think you really hitched your blog to a star this time. I am writing this comment with my wife's google account. consider it virtual cross dressing.

Karlene Petitt said...

Margaret's husband, Thank you for the nice comment! Love the virtual cross dressing! :)