Sunday, July 29, 2012

Interview with Wodke Hawkinson, Writing Duo Karen & PJ

Karen Wodke & PJ Hawkinson 
 Suspense Authors

     Warning!! We have a special surprise for you this week but it's not for the squeemish! The interview takes place in the basement of an abandoned and derelict insane asylum ringed by a group of silent observers, former patients of the facility...this could easily be a setting from their novel, Zeke:
     “A row of dirty windows was set deep in the walls near the ceiling. Shafts of weak light filtered through the weeds outside. The first room stretched out on all sides to dark distant walls, one of which had several doors. This area seemed distinctly cleaner than the rest of the property, although it was still in poor overall condition. In the middle of the room were three metal tables with drains in the center; several deep sinks lined the wall next to some tall cabinets.
     Stacked along the shelves inside, they found rows of jars containing body parts suspended in formaldehyde. Next to the shelves stood a beat-up table lined with surgical pans and tools, gruesome reminders of the autopsies once performed here.”
     Okay, we might want to sit a little closer to each other. We've dusted the cobwebs off the chairs but keep your eyes open for creepy crawlers!

Reader’s Haven: Karen, PJ, welcome! Our readers are anxious to meet you both. Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Karen: People may not know that I spent years in a band and used to write songs before I started writing books.

PJ: I have been married for 35 years, have twin sons and two daughters who have given me 7 grandsons and 1 granddaughter. My husband and I use to go to Waynoka, Oklahoma and ride both dune buggies and 4-wheelers at the Little Sahara. Several years ago we bought a bass boat and now enjoy time on the water, catching and releasing fish as we compete with each other for the first, largest, smallest, and the last. I enjoy paint-by-numbers and envy one friend who has a natural talent for painting and needs no numbers. Above all else, I enjoy a good book. Even during the time Karen and I are writing novels, I am reading at least one book on my Kindle Fire and have another to listen to on my Ipod while mowing the lawn and other tasks that take more attention than the written word.

Reader’s Haven:  It's great the the two of you can write as a team. That's not an easy task. What made you want to become writers?

Karen: I love words. They fascinate me. I see them as building blocks or tools for expression. I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a child. But, I didn’t get serious about it until recently. I wrote some short stories and articles, but my first book was one for young readers entitled James Willis Makes a Million. After that, PJ & I began collaborating.

PJ: Like many people, I have always wanted to write but never had the time to dedicate. After reading the True Blood series by Charlaine Harris and the Twilight series by Stephenie Meyer, I decided to write Half Bitten (by PJ Hawkinson). I released the novel in 2010 under Trafford Publishing. As my first work, I now feel I can do better and am in the process of rewriting the novel, which will be titled: Half Bitten, Revamped, and published independently.

Reader’s Haven: (Deanna) Listen...did you hear that noise in the other room? If we stay here, close together, maybe it'll go away, whatever that was. I'm sorry. Just a bit jittery down here. Please share a bit about your new release without giving away any spoilers.

Karen: Like Betrayed, our latest novel, Zeke, is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea; because, it contains graphic adult situations and violence. Zeke has just been released on Amazon, Smashwords, and Barnes & Noble. It’s coming soon in paperback.

PJ: Zeke is a dark novel of sexual obsession about a guy who uses his looks, his smile, and a shallow charm to woo a naive college girl. She’s so hooked on him that she ignores numerous red flags and he talks her into leaving her home, going on the road with him. Once he has her isolated, his behavior grows increasingly deviant and erratic. Her folks refuse to believe she left willingly, so they hire a private investigator to track the couple. He thinks it’s a simple job, but as he trails them, he learns things about Zeke that lead him to believe his clients’ daughter is in danger.

Reader’s Haven: (Louise) Wow, I love a good suspense story! Do either of you write under a pen name?

Karen & PJ: We have both written solo books and those are under our own names. But all our collaborated works are produced under our combined last names: Wodke Hawkinson.

Reader’s Haven: What types of hero or heroine do you like best?

Karen: I like reluctant heroes/heroines best, the ones who may not want to do the right thing, but end up doing it anyway because, well, it’s the right thing! I like stories where an ordinary everyday person finds himself or herself in extraordinary circumstances, ones that require a burst of strength, resilience, or resourcefulness they didn’t realize they had until they have to access it.

PJ: I enjoy so many different genres of books that I find I can’t nail down any specific type of hero or heroine; they come in such a variety of manner; from male to female and human to animal. Plus, you can find them in the most unusual of character. On one hand you have Samwise Gamgee and on the other Aloysius Xingú L. Pendergast. Then there’s Lassie and Rin Tin Tin. I’ll have to pass on choosing a favorite type.

Reader’s Haven: Tell us about a typical day in your life as a writer.

Karen: My first daily action as a writer is to check email and social networking for messages or other things that need attention. Then, I usually go for a walk. When I get back, I address any writing/editing that needs to be done. Somewhere along the way, I try to squeeze in some promoting/marketing and networking with others of my ilk. (writers, lol) Usually, PJ and I spend some time on the phone going over revisions, new book ideas, or discussing promotional tactics, etc. I could be found writing at almost any time of day, though, depending on my schedule.

PJ: I do one of two things; first, I’ll get up early, work for a while, take a nap, and work some more; or, more typically, I’ll get up late and work late. There are some days I don’t even turn on the computer, but on those days, my mind is usually going over what we’ve already written, trying to come up with better wording or simply a better plot.

Reader’s Haven: Do your books have a common theme or are they all different?

Karen: I think they are all very different. There is a sort of unavoidable theme between Zeke and Betrayed in that each novel places our female main character in harrowing circumstances. But our short story collections contain a variety of genres, and our next two books are a sci-fi and a fantasy, respectively. So they will bear little resemblance, at least plot-wise, to each other or our other novels.

PJ: To date, our novels have had the common theme of men abusing women. But we have also written three short story volumes: Catch Her in the Rye, Selected Short Stories, Volume One; Blue, Selected Short Stories, Volume Two; and Alone, Selected Short Stories, Volume Three. These three books run the gamut of story lines and were very enjoyable to write.

Reader’s Haven: How long does it take you to write and then edit a story?

Karen & PJ: A story? Not very long, actually. A novel, a long, long time. Months. The editing is especially grueling and time-intensive.

Reader’s Haven: Do you have to be alone to write?

Karen: No. But it helps to have no distractions, although when I get deep into the writing process, I tend to tune out my surroundings.

PJ: Usually the only other person around is my husband and I have no problem writing with him here. In fact, he is extraordinary.

Reader’s Haven: How do you go about naming characters?

Karen: It varies. In Betrayed, we actually used the names of our children for some of the characters.

PJ: I don’t have any technique. Usually I just grab a name from the air and fit the character to it; unless it’s a main character and then I might have someone in mind and pick a name appropriate for the face.

Reader’s Haven: Is it easier to write about the characters if you find pictures of them before you write or do you write then find character pictures?

Karen: In Betrayed, we did use pictures as inspiration for our characters. We know exactly what Brook and Lance look like, as well as each of the gang members who abducted Brook. The lesser characters, we didn’t do that with. But I think it’s a good idea. We do it with places as well. For instance, in Zeke, we know all the stops he and Sue made on their road trip, but we changed the names of most of the towns. And some of the abandoned buildings they explored do (or did at one time) exist, but may not have served the purpose we ascribed to them, and are not necessarily where we located them. Before starting our upcoming fantasy novel, we will be doing extensive world-building and planning of characters in advance of writing. Pictures will be useful in that endeavor, as well as diagrams, maps, and a ton of imagination.

PJ: Generally, I have someone in mind prior to writing; other times Karen has a vision of who our character should look like. In Betrayed, we went online and found pictures of the villains that aided us in creating their characteristics. We also found pictures to use for Lance and Brook. However, Zeke went simply by our imaginations, with no visual aid.

Reader’s Haven: We love hearing the method authors use to create their worlds. Maps seem to pull in readers for a fantasy story. How do you pick locations for your stories?

Karen & PJ: Sometimes we choose places we’ve been before. Betrayed is set in Kansas and Colorado; we live in Kansas and have both spent time in Colorado. Other times, we research areas or create them in our minds, like the planets and cities in Tangerine. We tend to take artistic liberty with actual locations, though. It all comes down to the storyline as to where we set the location, who are characters are, and how they portray themselves.

Reader’s Haven: What are you working on now and what should readers be looking forward to from you in the future?

Karen & PJ: We originally released Tangerine on our own. It has since been picked up by a publisher who wants some rewrites on it. So, out of necessity, revisions on Tangerine are on the front burner. After that, we plan to write the fantasy mentioned earlier and release some short story singles. On the back, back burner, our fourth collection of short stories, Night Roads, still patiently waits.

Synopsis of Zeke:

     Zeke is a dark novel of sexual obsession, psychological manipulation, and looming peril.
     Sue Cox is a naive college student who falls for the exciting new clerk at the local used bookstore. Captivated by Zeke’s brooding good looks and menacing but irresistible charisma, Sue capitulates to his will, leaving her wide open for exploitation. Zeke begins to exert subtle control and entices her to leave town with him. As they travel, his behavior grows more deviant and increasingly volatile.
     After Sue’s car is found deserted in an outlying cemetery, the police dismiss her parents’ concerns since it appears Sue left willingly. The Coxes immediately hire William Falstaff, a small-town private investigator. He begins his inquiry with only two objectives: first, to verify that Sue’s departure is voluntary, and second to provide her family with information on her whereabouts. A simple case; however, he soon finds himself locked into a chase to save Sue’s life. Will he find her in time or will she become another victim of a cunning sociopath?


     Sue looked with horror at the darkened recess in the wall. “Me? Well, okay, give me the flashlight.”
     “No, just stick your hand in there.”
   “Are you serious? There is no way in hell I’m putting my hand in that hole. There could be spiders in there, or a rat.”
     “Listen, I'm looking for something, Sue. I read about it online. There's supposed to be a map hidden in this place somewhere. A treasure map. My hand won’t fit so you have to do it. Now, just reach in and see if it's there.”
     “I’m not sticking my hand in there!” Sue pulled back, but he seized her arm and jerked her closer.
    “Put your damn hand in that hole and see what’s in there,” he demanded. “I’m not kidding, Sue. Do it or I’ll drive away and leave you here.” He glanced at the crowd in the doorway. “With them.”
     “You wouldn’t, would you? Zeke...” A chill rushed down her back.
     He took Sue’s arm in an iron grip and forced her hand into the black cavity, ignoring her struggles. She squealed with revulsion and clenched her fist tightly. Other than some wispy cobwebs and fine powdery dust, the hole was empty.
     “Well, what’s in there?” Zeke asked, holding her in place.
     “Nothing!” Sue cried. “Nothing but dirt and spider webs!”
     He released her arm and she swung out at him; her fist connected with his upper arm. “Don’t ever do that to me again!” Her voice was filled with hatred.
     Zeke’s response was immediate. He grabbed her shoulders and shook her violently. The flashlight dropped to the floor in the process and rolled around a little, its light playing across the walls. The only things visible in the blackness were the beam of the flashlight piercing the gloom and the silhouettes of the watchers at the door. Zeke released her as he bent to retrieve the light.
     “What the fuck did I tell you? You brainless whore! Don’t. Ever. Hit. Me.” In a state of fury, he threw the light at her. It missed, bounced from the wall near her head, and broke.
     “Shit! Now look what you've done!” Zeke towered over Sue. He grabbed her and pulled her toward the doorway, cursing her and calling her names. Sue jerked away from him and stumbled, but he caught her before she fell to the floor. She tore free of him.
     The ghostly people had vanished, perhaps frightened by Zeke's rage. The open doorway was a rectangle of light and Sue charged for it, Zeke on her heels. She lurched out of the blackness into the autopsy room, which by comparison looked almost welcoming and safe. Zeke stormed into the room seconds later, his face contorted with an anger he struggled to control.
     Crying, Sue backed into an autopsy table and cringed away from him. “Why are you doing this to me?” she shrieked. “You’re scaring me!”
     Immediately, a change passed over Zeke’s face and his features settled into an expression of sorrow and remorse. “Oh god, Susie,” he choked, his hands hanging at his sides. “I’m so sorry. It was an automatic response. It comes from my childhood. You see, my dad used to beat me and I’m still not over the effects of it. I just reacted without thinking. I would never hurt you.”
     “But you did hurt me.” Tears ran down her cheeks as she held her arms where he had grabbed her.
     “I didn’t mean to, honey.” Zeke was contrite, his eyes moist. “I didn’t know what I was doing. I kind of lost it there for a minute. Come on, bunny. You know I wouldn’t hurt you on purpose.” He edged over to Sue and timidly put his arms around her. He pulled her to his chest and murmured comforting words into her ear.

Reader’s Haven: Great excerpt, makes me want to grab a copy now! Readers, find out more about them and their books below:

Sites for Karen & PJ

Our site for readers & other indie authors: 

Zeke Buy Links

Half Bitten Buy Links



James Willis Makes a Million Buy Link




Twitter: @WodkeHawkinson

Contest: We’d like to give away an e-copy of Zeke via Smashwords coupon to one lucky commenter. Thank you for having us!

Click on the links below to read an excerpt of Wodke Hawkinson's books:

Catch Her in the Rye Short Stories Volume One: Doctor

Blue Selected Short Stories Volume Two: Blue

Alone Selected Short Stories Volume Three: Troll




James Willis Makes a Million


  1. I read betrayed and loved it so I can't wait to read this one. Jackie

  2. Great interview! Very interesting to read about a writing team. Seems as though that would be a complicated process, but they seem to have a cooperative system that works. And I loved the setup of the spooky setting. Really looks like a great read!

  3. Hi everyone! Wow, we have a crowd down here. Watch the spider webs above your head, we tried to clear them all away. I don't think Zeke will show up here but maybe he's hiding out down here someplace!

    Karen and PJ, thanks so much for hanging out with us! Great interview and the story sounds like one to read with the lights on!

  4. Hi Karen & PJ! I can't wait to read Zeke and Betrayed. Bring on the suspense, thrills and chills; my kind of read.
    *Sits down next to Deanna. She glances my way as PJ talks about Zeke; her eyes widen as she looks at my head* (Deanna laughs. "What the heck is that on your head?") ("It's my Energizer Light, LED Head Beam. I found it on Amazon. It's dark and spooky down here. And the excerpt scared me.) *Looks toward the door. The shadows squatter as the light shines their way.* ("See it worked.") *Smiles smugly*

  5. I tried to leave a comment - it disappeared! Great interview and excerpt! Love you, Karen! (Hello, PJ!)

  6. Love you too, Hera! Good to see you on here!

  7. Great Interview, I do not think I have ever read an interview by a team. The book sound really good.

    Thank you for the chance to win.

  8. This book sounds so good I definitely want to check it out. I hope I win but even if I don't I'll for sure read it :)

  9. Congratulations Lindsay! You've won the drawing for a copy of Zeke. PJ or Karen will be contacting you. ~Louise

  10. It made my day to see that I won!!! Can't wait to read it!! :) Thank you PJ and Karen for writing it and Reader's Haven for hosting this :)