Karen Eisenbrey , what’s your damage?

By E.R. McTaggart

As we continue to celebrate our book, Heathers, we profile a number of the writers involved in the project. Today it’s the turn of Karen Eisenbrey author of “Hat“.

Eisenbrey writes of things we have all felt: turning ourselves invisible to avoid discomfort and disliking/hating our names. Remember not raising your hand even if you knew the answer to avoid being conspicuous?

~ Review on Amazon

Your story, ten words or less.
21st-century Cinderella story with a garage-rock twist.

As an editor, I did not think of that. Smart. So, as a writer, what else are you working on, and what do you hope to come of it?
Too many projects! I have nine novels more or less finished: six in a genre I call “roots fantasy” and three that are romantic science-fiction with a sense of humor. I say “more or less” because I’m always going back and tinkering. I’m on the point of querying with the first of the fantasy novels, Crane’s Way, and possibly also one of its follow-ups, Daughter of Magic. These are character-driven, warm-hearted books that have gained a lot of loyalty among my beta readers, so I would love to get them out into the world where they might find a wider readership. I only have so much stomach for querying and promotion; it’s slow going.

I’m also just starting on a revision of the most recent SF book, Endurance, a space adventure inspired by Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic disaster — hard sci-fi with heart. I’d like to believe I’m not the only one who wants to read something like that! I’m making notes for a new fantasy novel (I’m thinking of calling it Death’s Midwife). And I’ve just started a story I hope will find a place in Mermaids.

That’s an awful lot. I suspect you don’t watch as much TV as me. As a reader, what two books did you read this year that you’d recommend to someone else (maybe one indie/unpublished, one published, if you’d like)
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace (published)
An obsessive, detailed, hilarious story about obsession, addiction, depression, and death.

The Sum of Our Gods by Benjamin Gorman (indie)
Joe is cursed to have coffee with Yahweh every week. Yahweh is a cranky old deity who mostly complains about his family and co-workers (other gods). Half the book is the domestic drama of Joe and his family, the other half an action-adventure in Asgard, where all deities (ever) live and work and scheme and fight for control.

Have you considered becoming one of those guys who writes back-of-the-book synopses? Those are some helpful, succinct review. So, it’s high school in 1987. Identify yourself.
In any era, I would be that quiet, bespectacled band-geek girl with her nose in a book and few (if any) friends, getting good grades without working that hard and making plans to escape. If it’s 1987, I’m probably listening to some kind of proto-grunge that nobody else is hip to yet. But I’ll look square and squeaky-clean.

Are you sure that isn’t just the popular crowd in high school circa 2007?  Tell me about a place that made you or shaped you.
That would be Bickleton, WA, a little hamlet (pop. 90, elev. 3002 ft) in the Horse Heaven Hills of south-central Washington State, 30ish miles from the next nearest town.

We arrived when I was 3 months old and my parents moved away when I was 26, so the place looms large in my memory and has colored my writing. As a physical place, it’s starkly beautiful: dryland wheat and cattle country, semi-arid shrub steppe. When the sun sets, it colors the whole sky, and when it gets dark, it’s really dark — hardly anyplace like it for stargazing. Stands of Ponderosa pine and scrub oak grow along the creeks, so it’s not treeless, but mostly pretty open country.

The town itself is about a mile long and half a mile wide, with one- or two-story commercial buildings along the main street. It was a more going concern in 1910, but by the time I came along, it was pretty sleepy. There was a gas station/grocery/coffee counter, garage, hardware store, post office, tavern/pool hall, Grange hall, IOOF Lodge hall, Scout hall, and volunteer fire station. And a phone booth.

When I was in high school, there were probably 85 students in grades K-12, most of them from surrounding farms. My dad was the minister, so we lived in town. Smalls town folks take care of their own, but also nose into each other’s business. We were sort of outsiders, what with not being from there for generations, and then the preacher’s family is always regarded . . .  I want to say warily. I was shy and a little weird, so that didn’t help socially, but I’m not really sure there was anything anyone could do about it. Politically and theologically, Bickleton was and is much more conservative for the most part than I could ever be, so there was a certain amount of watching what we said. By the time I was in high school, I was feeling very constrained. With the help of my older brother, I’d discovered rock music, which helped me feel like there was a place for me, and I could hardly wait to get out and find it! Much of my adult self is a reaction against the Bickleton mind-set, but also much of my strength comes from my roots there.


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