Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Interview with Karen Crumley

My wife and I met Karen Crumley at the OWFI banquet. Karen and Pam struck up a conversation about a book they were publishing. The book is a work of fiction. But the reality is: this fiction could turn into fact in a heartbeat. Karen and Jim are nice people. They’ve experienced a different slice of life than most of us city slickers.

I’m pleased to introduce Karen Crumley.

Thank you so much, Bill. I am very happy and honored to be featured on your blog!

Karen, sell our readers on why we should buy Weapon of Jihad. Sell the book to us as if you were pitching to an agent.

As Americans, we are becoming increasingly aware that we have definite enemies who would love to defeat us. Until recently, we were considered to be such a super power that nobody could dare attack. We suffered the folly of this mentality on 9/11. Since then, the world has become even more dangerous for us. We work hard to avoid terrorism and we must constantly do diplomatic posturing to counter a growing threat of nuclear attack.

But what if the weapon of choice was not a bomb? What if it was a postcard….laced with smallpox? What if these postcards were to be sent to one-third of the American families? And what if, after the epidemic has softened us up, a military attack was to be deployed across our southern borders? And what if the goal of that military attack was to bring the United States to her knees?

This is the story told in Weapon of Jihad. You say, “Nobody could ever pull that off!” Unfortunately, that statement would be false. The plot in this book was evaluated by the Air Force and they stated that it was, sadly, entirely too possible. Yes, we have enough vaccine for about half of our population. But it is all in Atlanta. Did you witness the H1N1 vaccine fiasco? How long did it take to get vaccine to your town? With smallpox, you have a four-day window between exposure and it’s just too late. We all know it would be impossible to distribute that vaccine that fast, especially when the entire nation is in the throws of a crippling epidemic. The virus would go through the population like a wildfire.

Weapon of Jihad is the story of such an attack and of the response mounted by a scattered remnant of brave Americans.

Wondering about a pandemic through natural germ evolution is scary enough. Add a planned event by America’s enemies, and the possibilities are eerie. You have a degree in microbiology. That gives you a keen insight as to whether an event like you describe is possible. What other sources did you use to validate your suspicions?

Yes, the questions brought up by this book began while I studied microbiology at Texas Tech University. The university is multicultural and there were many students there who were from other countries. In my classes, I noticed many students from Iran. What I observed was that there were two different types of Iranian students. Some were open and friendly to Americans. They enjoyed our culture and made friends with us. Others, on the other hand, hated Americans. They wanted nothing to do with us. I had a job that required that I work with one such Iranian. He would not even look at me and only spoke when he was forced to do so. I had two strikes against me. I was a woman and I was an American.

Shortly after I finished my studies at Tech, the Ayatollah called all of these microbiology students back home to Iran. These people had sat in my classes. They knew what I knew. What was the Iranian government going to have these people doing?

Then, after I had my first son, I went to start his immunizations. I noticed that smallpox was not on the list. When I asked why this was so, I was told that smallpox had been eradicated. In my mind, I knew that within twenty years or so smallpox would make a great biological weapon because most of our fighting force would be completely unprotected.

Then, when I began to research for the book, I was appalled to find that the possibilities were much worse than I could have imagined. We were wide open for an attack. The delusional opinion that nobody would ever attack us was a major problem. When the USSR was dissolved, the biological weapon research facility they had been running was simply deserted. A former employee of theirs who had become an American went to check on the facility. He found missing stocks of multiple biological weapons and about six guards who had not been paid in a year. Hmmm. So, all of our enemies now have stocks of smallpox, including Iran and North Korea.

The book was based on way too much fact, which is why some of it came true on 9/11. Fiction based on fact has a way of becoming prophecy.

The thought came to me about a situation I experienced. I was researching the differences between Sunni and Shiite views on the web for a novel I’m writing. After a week, I began to receive emails in Arabic from sources I didn’t know. Did this happen to you, and if so, how did you react?

Oh, yes! We had a web site called Weapon of On this site, readers could sign in and leave comments. There must be many people out there who cannot read English very well. They thought we wanted to do a jihad. They asked how they could help. They even invited us to join their group to do a jihad! On 9/11, the comments made me sick! “Good Job!” etc. was all they could say. I had had enough. I called the FBI and handed the web site over to them. I told them it might help to find some of the terrorists. I still have the contact they gave me in case I knew anything else.

Your husband worked for the USDA and ranched along the Texas border, a place that is becoming more dangerous day-by-day. You’ve since moved. Was it because of the hostility there?

Actually, we moved to come help run the family ranch after we retired. But, I do not miss the hostility. We had our house on a ranch broken into three different times. We found loaded automatic clips in the pasture. I never went out without my gun. We bought two very large, black Great Danes and the robberies stopped. We would find pieces of shirts that did not belong to us in the yard.

When we moved, we brought the dogs. They are bored now….nobody to chase. My friends who still live there tell me it has gotten much worse and that most of it’s not covered on the major news outlets.

My wife and I love each other dearly, but we’re not thinking of coauthoring a book. The two of you wrote Weapons of Jihad together. And you’re still married! What part did each of you play in collaborating?

Yes, we are still married….but it was very interesting while we were writing the book. One of the biggest fights we ever had was over the fact that he wanted to kill off my favorite character. After a while, I saw his point and the guy got beheaded.

We often talk about how we are so opposite. The plot is mine. I must be paranoid or something, but I can throw out a plot over anything. Some strange thing will happen and, before you know it, my writer brain will make a lot to do over nothing.

I wrote the book first and then had him read it. He told me that I needed this and that. I did not really want to do this and that with it, so he jumped in and added his wonderful characters. The General is his character and he did all the war scenes. If you think all the gory stuff was his, think again. I was dealing with three teenagers at my house at the time. They would infuriate me over something and I would go kill off a bunch of people.

Tell us why you’ve republished this book after so many years, and what is Purple Sage Publishers?

We republished this book at this time because much has changed in the world since we wrote it the first time. At the time of the first writing, we only had thirty thousand doses of old vaccine available. Now, we have enough to vaccinate half of our population. This is a false security though because it could never be distributed in time to help at all. When we wrote the book, we put in a completely fictional government for Iran and Iraq. At the time, Saddam was in power. We had taken Saddam out and wrote in that Iraq would become a puppet government under Iran. As we watch, this is all forming up the way we wrote it. We really did not mean to write prophecy!

It is my hope to influence the government with this book to at least distribute the vaccine to regional outlets. It is just stupid to leave it where it is. I would love for this story to become a movie or to have enough people to read it so that there could be a public demand for moving the vaccine.

Purple Sage Publishing is our publishing house. We fully intend to publish more books, especially now that we are retired and “not busy”.

At OWFI you attended a workshop on how to put your novel on Kindle. I understand after the workshop you actually went to your room and published on Kindle. That’s amazing. For us technically challenged, how hard was that to do?

I could hardly believe it myself! Of course, most of the credit for this has to go to my friend, Wendy Pausewang. I dragged her along to OWFI. She was interested in beginning to write. But, she just happens to have a degree in computer science. In fact, she was the best student of her class. So, when we went to the workshop, we took notes and she just kept saying, “Oh, this is easy.” We decided to have a lab on it. I had the file for Weapon of Jihad ready, so we just followed the instructions and threw it onto Amazon as an ebook. She did make it look easy! Now, we are putting it into CreateSpace so I can also sell it as a paperback. I will tell you that I could probably have done it myself but it would have taken a bit longer that the eight hours it took us together.

Do you have another novel in process? If so, when will you have it finished?

Well, of course! I’m a writer! Actually, I have two other nonfiction books that are finished and ready to publish. I will be attacking that as soon as I finish with Weapon of Jihad.

One is called Big Brown Box in the Brush-So You Want to Live in the Country. It is my story of being a city girl who is thrown into country life. Did you ever watch Green Acres? Well, I broke into choruses of that song on a regular basis when I lived on the ranch. It has chapters like Snakes, Critters, Bugs, Ranch Kids and it is written in Erma Bombeck style. The truly sad thing is that there is not an ounce of fiction in the book. I actually survived all of the fun events in that book, even being shot by a potato gun. It is why I am who I am.

Another book is called Growing Up Weird- Confessions of a Closet Medium. It is the story of a woman who, through many instances of being surprised by her gift, has become more experienced and wishes to pass on her wisdom to her grandchildren who are also showing the gift.

The book I am presently writing another fiction book called The Hole in the Sky. It is a good vs. evil story. I describe it as a Stephen Kingish Christian thriller. When I wrote the opening chapter, I placed it in a certain place on our ranch. After I wrote it, I could not go to that place at night without being creeped out. So, I scared myself! I guess that is good. Well, Stephen King scared himself too. I don’t know what that says about me. But I really do enjoy writing things that send a chill down a reader’s back.

In conclusion, what advice can you give aspiring authors about marketing and publishing their books in today’s environment?

I have tried finding agents and publishers. It is a game in itself. But, I enjoy writing, not playing games like that. Let me see. I write a query letter. IF the agent or publisher is in a good mood when they read it, they ask for the first fifty pages. Once again, IF the publisher is in a good mood, they will ask for the rest of it. EVEN IF they like it, they want you to change it into something else that they want. When they finally decide it is right, it will still take three years to get it onto the bookshelves. They price it so high that nobody can buy it. I still have to do the promotion. I make 30%.

OR….I can write what I want, be sure it is good and corrected, and put it up on Amazon. I get to write what I want to say and it gets published and for sale within a few days. I can price it low enough to be affordable by many more readers. After all, that is why I wrote it. I want it to be read by many people. I still have to do the promotion, but I get 70%.

Why would I want to do anything but use Amazon? Oh, it would be a feather in my cap of some kind to be published by a big publisher. But, that is not why I write. I just want it to be read. Of course, I realize that this is my own opinion. All writers should pursue their own goals.

You’ve stated the dilemma I’ve struggled with for four years. On one hand, I want to be recognized as a writer of quality fiction. I’ve viewed having an agent and being published by a major house and a symbol of quality. But the new world of publishing has opened up an avenue to place a novel into the hands of readers quickly and efficiently. And I agree with you. You still have to do most of the marketing yourself regardless of which way you go.

Thank you for sharing Weapon of Jihad with us. I’m sure the book will open a lot of eyes.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog. I enjoyed visiting with you about our experiences in writing. I look forward to reading more from you in the future!


Gloria Teague said...

I got to speak to Karen only briefly during the OWFI conference. Nice lady. The subject of the book sounds unfortunately too relevant for our world today, which a sad statement for the planet's population. After reading such a good interview, the book is sure to be one we'll all want to read. I wish this writing couple the best of luck both with the book and the marriage. (If I wrote a book with my husband, someone would be going down...and it wouldn't be me! ;-)

Bill Wetterman said...

Gloria, Pam and I have no intention of writing a book together. We critique each others work though and are still doing fine.