The tables are turned

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Several weeks ago, right after I published At This Moment, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Rich Strack for the Times News. Rich writes features and columns for the daily newspaper, as well as covers sports. I am the lifestyle editor there. It was an experience for me to be on the other side of the questions this time, but I think Rich did a great job, and I’m really happy he was the one to write this story. And do me a favor, remember his name. Rich is also an author and has penned a fantastic story set in both during the Civil War and in the present day. I’m looking forward to having that book (autographed of course!) on my bookshelf soon.

Thanks again, Rich, for doing a great job telling my story.

Two hearts lost and found

Local writer’s debut novel portrays troubled romance

By Rich Strack, tneditor@tnonline.com

“… I’m not making believe we’re not a couple. I don’t see the need for it. I’m not in this for the women. I’m a musician, not a gigolo.”

“You don’t want to be both?”

He shook his head.

“Aww,” she purred. “Too bad.”

He looked up surprised.

“What does that mean?”

“You’ll see.”

Sometimes life gives you what you need, even if you don’t believe you deserve it.

In her first novel, “At This Moment,” Karen Cimms depicts an unlikely romance between a shy and emotionally vulnerable girl and an angry rock star wannabe.

In the above scene, Billy McDonald tries to infer his commitment to Kate Daniels, but she kicks in her defense mechanism because of a lifelong struggle to protect herself from being hurt once again.

For Cimms, the realization that her book has been published culminates an effort that began three years ago on July 18, her birthday.

“I guess you could call it giving a gift to myself,” she says. “I began writing the morning of my birthday and by the time my husband came home that night, I was still writing and still in my nightgown. I got up and did it again the next day, and the next, too. By then, I was determined to stick with it.”

Cimms, who reads as many as 20 novels a month and works as the editor of the Lifestyle section of the Times News, explains that Billy McDonald, a main character in “At This Moment,” is a composite of people she had encountered in the music business.

“I met my husband, Jim, who at the time was the lead guitarist in a Southern rock band and I got to see some of the darker, wilder side of being in a band. My character, Billy, was raised by alcoholic parents who leave him with visible scars and a propensity toward violent behavior. The presence of drugs, alcohol, a controlling female agent in the music business make fighting inner demons even more difficult for him.”

Cimms says that Kate Daniels, who is “thrown together” with Billy during a freak snowstorm, grew up in what appeared to be a normal family.

“Unlike Billy, her scars are invisible, inflicted by her mother who tries to control Kate by constantly telling her that everything she does is wrong. Despite her perceived shortcomings, what she really wants is to live a normal life as a wife and a mother and to feel wanted.”

The thin thread that holds Billy and Kate loosely together is their need to move past their bad childhoods and their desire to be loved.

The longtime Jim Thorpe resident had more difficulty writing Kate’s character into the novel than Billy’s. She hopes her creation of a complicated young woman will draw empathy from her readers.

“Like Kate Daniels, we don’t like to look inside ourselves,” she says. “It’s like peeling off a scab we shouldn’t be peeling because we are opening up our vulnerability, and that’s something we don’t like to do.”

The process of writing a novel is not only time consuming, it requires sacrifice.

“My husband, Jim, took away most of my house responsibilities so I could dedicate more time to my writing. I couldn’t have done this without his support.”

She also credits Joyce Maynard, her favorite author.

“When I started reading Joyce Maynard’s books, our lives seemed somewhat parallel. We both had kids around the same age and we were both married to creative men. We connected on Facebook a few years ago and I got the chance to do an interview with her. I was thrilled when she reached out to congratulate me on publishing my book.”

Before her final manuscript was printed, the story was passed along to “beta” readers, sometimes friends and family members, but most often strangers who offer their constructive criticism.

“One of my early readers was making meatloaf for dinner one night and she sent me a message saying she missed Billy, who happens to love meatloaf. Seeing that my character could make a lasting impression like that really meant something to me.

“I also hired a professional editor to help polish my story and do a line and copy edit. One of her suggestions was that I consider omitting the prologue I had written for ‘At This Moment.’ I really liked it. It was powerful, but after a lot of thought, I took her advice and removed it.”

Cimms said that in publishing, when an author removes or rewrites a passage that means a lot to her, it’s called “killing your darlings” because it’s a difficult thing to do.

She has already completed the second and third novels of what will be a three-part series that chronicles the troubled relationship between Billy and Kate over a 25-year period.

“We All Fall Down,” the second book, is due out in the fall.

Cimms was asked what she hopes her books will accomplish.

“I’m not gauging my success by how many books sell,” she says with a smile. “What matters is that this story touches the hearts of those who read it.”

“At this Moment”
by Karen Cimms is available on Amazon in both print and e-book, and online at Barnes and Noble, Kobo and Apple iTunes in e-book.

Cimms can also be contacted at her
Facebook author’s page and on her website KarenCimms.com.

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