From non-fiction to fiction
By Laurie Fagen
As a long-time non-fiction writer, Karen Randau of Payson has been a wordsmith for a variety of nonprofits, high-tech firms, hospitals, food banks and more. With a degree in journalism, she’s spent most of her career developing marketing copy, and was marketing director for Charter Hospital and Hope Community hospitals in Phoenix, and marketing communications manager for Texas Instruments in Austin, and Intel in both Austin and Phoenix. Randau has been affiliated with the international nonprofit Food for the Hungry in Phoenix since 1990 in a variety of positions, including newsletter editor; founder of the Communications Department; manager of content and marketing for the website; senior director of church and volunteer ministries; and now as communications director. But there wasn’t a lot of time for reading fiction.
“Family and work consumed most of my time, so pleasure reading held a distant spot in my priorities,” she recalls. “I’d wait until my son and husband were on a Boy Scout trip and spend the weekend lost in a great book or three.”
Mysteries with “lots of action and a little romance” were her first choices. Chances are they were written by Janet Evanovich or Nevada Barr, featuring a woman named “Anna Pigeon,” who she says “leads the kind of life my characters do.” She adds she’s “consumed all of the books by Kris Neri, Deb Ledford and Hank Phillippi Ryan.”
Now, with her son grown and her career well established, she’s been wondering “What’s next for me?” It appears mystery writing might be the answer.
“My son came home from a camping trip one day and told me about a creature he and his friends saw on the abandoned ranch where they spent the night,” she recalls. “By the next day, I had a concept for a mystery novel all worked out in my head, featuring that creature. I wrote the first draft in the next few months and had it edited twice. Then I decided I should probably learn how to write novels, so I took a class and rewrote my manuscript again. A year later, my fifth ‘final’ draft is in review. Here’s a blog post I wrote about my journey: karenrandau.com/journey/.”
The manuscript is called “Hushed,” about an Arizona forest ranger and his county sheriff father “who must stop a ruthless murderer before the killer annihilates them and their family.” She says it has a forest creature in it.
Meanwhile, Randau has non-fiction books in print, including Life Doesn’t Have to Hurt, 1991, Thomas Nelson Publishing: a mother and daughter tell their story of abuse and betrayal and offer insights on how to recognize and deal with child sexual abuse; Conquering Fear, 1992, Word/Rapha: advice on overcoming crippling fear, used in the Rapha recovery program; and Panic Attacks, 1992, Word/Rapha: advice on overcoming panic attacks, used in the Rapha recovery program.
Meanwhile, she’s also writing her blog, where she interviews published mystery authors.
She says she learned that “novel writing is different than any other kind of writing,” and gives this tip to Desert Sleuths members:
“Even if you’re an accomplished writer, start your novel by learning about mystery structure, plot and character development and point of view. It will save you a lot of time. Once you do the proper up-front planning, you can focus on what you love most: writing a top-notch mystery.”
For more on Randau, visit her website at karenrandau.com.
Laurie Fagen, 2014 president of Desert Sleuths/SinC, is working on a crime fiction manuscript with a young radio reporter protagonist. She has short stories published in the past two Desert Sleuths’ anthologies, and isan Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine honorable mention winner. A former community newspaper publisher, Fagen is also an artist, art promoter and jazz singer.