Please give a warm welcome to the new 2020 Debutante Tech Guru, Karen Osborne! Karen’s debut novel Architects of Memory will be published by Tor in January. Karen is a writer, visual storyteller and violinist. Her short fiction appears in Uncanny, Fireside, Escape Pod, Robot Dinosaurs, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. She is a member of the DC/MD-based Homespun Ceilidh Band, emcees the Charm City Spec reading series, and once won a major event filmmaking award for taping a Klingon wedding. Karen lives in Baltimore, MD, with two violins, an autoharp, five cameras, a husband, a tiny human and a bonkers orange cat.
Here’s a sneak peek of Architects of Memory, and keep reading for an interview with Karen:
Terminally ill salvage pilot Ash Jackson lost everything in the war with the alien Vai, but she’ll be damned if she loses her future. Her plan: to buy, beg, or lie her way out of corporate indenture and find a cure.
When her crew salvages a genocidal weapon from a ravaged starship above a dead colony, Ash uncovers a conspiracy of corporate intrigue and betrayal that threatens to turn her into a living weapon.
If you could tell your younger writer self anything, what would it be?
I’d tell her that a writing career is a marathon, not a sprint, and that if she wants to be successful, she’d better get her sneakers on.
Once upon a time, I thought that turning 25 was very far away, that turning 30 was incredibly unrealistic, and that age 39 was impossibly, unthinkably old. I remember thinking that I had all the time in the world—at the same time that I truly believed that if I wasn’t published by 25, than everything—sob!—was over. Of course, I didn’t have a novel by 25. I was too busy working for a local newspaper. I wrote one by 29, but it never got revised, as I was about to be beyond busy working eighty hours a week at my wedding videography business.
I didn’t see it at the time–we rarely do–but those decades were crammed full of things that would end up having a massive impact on the development of my prose. Life pushed me. I went through some of the worst months in my life—and some of the best. I learned to tell stories that had an impact on readers, viewers, and customers. I learned to work hard, and best of all, I learned to deal with rejection. When I returned to fiction at age 35, I felt like a different person. My writing felt deeper and better. I liked it more. I had a tougher constitution to handle rejection. I started selling. I kept selling.
I love it when a 25-year-old hits the bestseller list. I’ll always be in the front row, cheering at the accomplishment of their big dream. But let’s be honest—some of us need a bit longer in the bullpen. Some of us need the slow cooker instead of the Instant Pot.
I recently re-read the novel I wrote at 25, to see if any of it is salvageable. (It’s not.)
But that’s fine. It was just another mile in the marathon, a mile I needed to run to get to where I am today. Now I’m looking at the finish line—and the start of a new race. I’d better get a new pair of sneakers.
Tell us about one of your proudest writing moments.
My daughter was born in late July, and since then, my life has been a sleepless, hectic, Escheresque maze of bottles, spit-up, lullabies, and laundry. I love my baby like nothing else I’ve ever loved in the history of the known universe, sure, but that doesn’t rule out feeling like I’ve regressed from a serious, put-together professional to an exhausted troglodyte with projectile vomit in her hair, forgotten by the world at large.
The newborn months are no joke, and you don’t understand how hard they are until you’re experiencing them. And I don’t just have my sweet, lovely baby to keep alive—I’m also on deadline. The sequel to Architects of Memory is due this fall, and while I’ve been juggling naps and tummy time, I’ve been rewriting space battles and tightening up emotional arcs.
This brings me to the proudest moment of my career so far. No matter where my career goes—if I win awards or flame out or belly up to the midlist—I’m going to treasure the moment this week where I was sitting on the couch at four in the morning, covered in spit-up, the baby napping adorably on my chest because she wasn’t napping anywhere else, hitting the midpoint in my manuscript revision and realizing: I’m totally going to make my deadline.
It’s a small moment, really. No award. No applause. Not spectacular at all. But for nine months I was terrified that being a mom meant the end of all my dreams, when in reality, it just meant that I was going to get a chance to work towards becoming a total badass.
It’ll take a while. But this is a good start, and a pretty proud moment for me.
Tell us what you’re looking forward to reading.
In 2016, I attended Viable Paradise, a science fiction and fantasy writing workshop on Martha’s Vineyard. The week had a profound influence on my path as a writer: it gave me courage to pursue a writing career and real tools for the road. It also introduced me to the SF/F community, which is a lovely place full of fantastic people with incredible imaginations.
Some of the people I met that week have books coming out in 2019 and 2020, and I read two of them in their infancy at Viable Paradise: specifically, A.J. Hackwith’s The Library of the Unwritten, first in what promises to be a fabulous and classic fantasy trilogy set in and around Hell’s Library, with a cast of characters you can’t help but absolutely love. There’s also Valerie Valdes’ Chilling Effect, which is one of the most charming, funniest space operas I’ve ever read (just ask the psychic cats). At any rate, I am dying to find out how these books progressed through revisions, the querying process and the editing process, and tell everyone how wonderful they are.
I’m also looking forward to reading a number of other new debuts: Sarah Pinsker’s Song For A New Day, K.M. Szpara’s Docile, Tyler Hayes’ The Imaginary Corpse, The Last Watch by J.S. Dewes, Gravity’s Heir by Sara Bond, and that’s just for starters.