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Wednesday 5 April 2023

Interview with Karen A. Phillips by Jill Amadio


Karen A. Phillips

Debut mystery writer and graphic artist Karen A. Phillips comes by her first mystery through the inspiration of authors and publishers she works with by designing their book covers, as well as experiencing firsthand how important covers are in marketing books.
Her book website is and her covers site,, is bannered with some of her most eye-catching titles.
she lives in northern California.

Jill: Describe your journey to being a debut mystery author?
Karen: I have written stories since I was a child. And I am a voracious reader. One day I read a mystery and thought, “I can do at least this good!” And so my journey began. I started out writing short stories and being
accepted into anthologies. It’s a good way for a new author to develop craft and build confidence.

Jill: Describe your journey to publishing your book. Did you query agents or publishers?
Karen: I decided to self-publish because I have many self-published author friends and I didn’t want to take the time to find an agent and then wait two, or more, years to publish with a traditional publisher. I also know a lot of what it takes to self-publish as I have helped many clients on their journey.

Jill: Which form of book promotion has been the most successful for you?
Karen: I have tried word of mouth, social media posts, a blog tour, individual and co-author blog posts, spots in author e-newsletters, an in-person event with one other author at a library, and a book launch at a bookstore. I believe the in-person events to be the most successful, followed by social media posts, and lastly the blog tour (which incentivizes participation by offering a giveaway).

Jill: Has your personal background/hobbies/activities provided your characters such as Rocky with traits and plot points?
Yes, absolutely! I take boxing lessons and I am an artist. So, I gave those two traits to Rocky. The boxing, especially, gave Rocky a unique aspect to her character and provided interesting backstory.

Jill: Pitfalls and challenges along the way?
Karen: I did not keep track of how many drafts this story went through, but suffice it to say too many to count! It took me years to learn the craft, therefore years to write the book. One challenge I have is making the antagonist too obvious. Also, I tend to gloss over details the reader needs to know because it is in my head and I forget the reader can’t read my mind.

Jill: How did you decide how to organize the story?
I use Scrivener. I like the program because you can write a scene and save it as a separate file within the story and move scenes around as needed. I also used post-it notes on a 3-panel presentation board to plot out my 3-act structure. You can do this in Scrivener, too, but I like the tactile element.

Jill: Do you outline – seat-of-pants or outliner?
Karen: I’m a hybrid of the two. I start with an outline and then I let the story emerge as I flesh out each
scene. Ideas come to me as I write, and then I take a break, and more ideas come to me. Especially as I’m driving or trying to sleep!

Jill: Who are your favorite authors?
CJ Box, Kristin Hannah, Janet Evanovich, MC Beaton, Agatha Christie, Stephen King, Edgar Allan Poe

Jill: How has your life changed with your success? What do you wish you’d known before you published?
Karen: I am definitely not a bestselling author, but I do feel successful because I finally published my book! I wish I’d known early on how truly important it is to keep my butt in the chair and write on a daily basis. Even if I only write for five minutes, it is crucial to develop a habit. A writer needs to treat the craft as if it is a job, not a hobby.

Jill: Organizations you belong to, attend conferences, are you on a book tour?
Karen: I am a firm believer in belonging to a writing organization. A writer needs support, advice, help, and a shoulder to cry on. I attend conferences when I am able. Conferences are another opportunity to learn craft and
develop connections with writers (and readers). As for a book tour, no. I am self-published, so I will do some
in-person events locally.

Jill: Has your graphic design/book cover business inspired you to write your own book?
Karen: Interesting question! My book cover business has allowed me to meet many writers. I develop a friendship with each client, and I feel my life has been enriched because of it! My clients have inspired me to write. And gosh, I truly have a new appreciation for all published authors. Now I know how much work is involved. But again, my friends and colleagues have helped me every step of the way.

Jill: Where did the title come from?
The title is a nod to the sport of boxing – the one, two punch combination. The title also hints to how the victim died – the deadly combination of liquid and electricity.

Jill: Any advice/tips for other debut authors?
Join a writing group. It’s never too late. Groups such as Sisters in Crime national (they have “misters” too!), Willamette Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America. I can go on and on. There is a group for all types of writers.

Jill: What’s next in your series?
Book Two in the Rocky Nelson Boxing Mystery series will have a big surprise, which of course I can’t reveal. And Rocky once again finds herself in danger and she tries to right a wrong.

Karen A. Phillips lives in northern California and writes humorous, fun, action-packed mysteries. She has several short stories published in various anthologies. Her characters are engaging and fearless. A Deadly Combo is her first full-length novel featuring an amateur sleuth who boxes. Karen is a proud member of Sisters In Crime and Willamette Writers. . . . and yes, she does take boxing lessons.

  'A Deadly Combo'
Published by River Rock Press, 26 February 2023.

introduces Rocky Nelson, a feisty and intriguing protagonist. 

Sisters Rocky and Bridget are enjoying each other’s company at a vintage trailerfest until they stumble over a corpse. The dead guy is none other than the local trailer restorer Bridget was overheard threatening to kill. Mounting evidence leads police to focus on Bridget as a person of interest. Desperate to prove her sister innocent of murder, Rocky dons her own deerstalker cap and goes sleuthing until she runs into police detective Thompson who warns her off his case in no uncertain terms. But Rocky is tenacious if not stubborn. Combined with a 78-year-old father who becomes her sidekick, Rocky uses her courage and skills learned in boxing
lessons to protect her family and keep from becoming the killer’s next victim. 

Jill Amadio hails from Cornwall, U.K, like the character in her crime series, Jill was a reporter in Spain,  Colombia, Thailand, and the U.S. She is a true crime author, ghosted a thriller, writes a column for
Mystery People ezine, and freelances for My Cornwall magazine.  She lives in Connecticut. USA.
Her most recent book is
In Terror's Deadly Clasp, was published 16 July 2021. To read a review of the books click on the book jacket.

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