SURFSIDE - For years, Karen Olson slowly worked away at writing her first book. Now, with the publishing of "The Path Between," Olson's dream has come true, but in some ways, it has only just begun.
For several years, while working as an English teacher and later as a school secretary, Olson worked on an academic calendar, so she only had about six weeks during the summertime to commit to writing each year.
"I would take those six weeks as a block of time and write, so it took awhile to get the book put together," she said recently at her Surfside home.
Once finished, Olson sent the story into the annual Pacific Northwest Writers Association Literary Contest, mostly for feedback, but it ended up taking the top prize in the adult genre category, causing her confidence to rise and her interest in getting it published that much greater.
Book signingSurfside author Karen Olson will sign copies of her new book at Independent Books in Long Beach on Saturday, Sept. 25 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Olson said that her sister told her about the "Publish America" label, based out of Baltimore. She had been searching for a publisher for some time, sending out manuscripts and such, and she took a chance and contacted them via e-mail.
"They do everything by e-mail," she said.
She sent them a hard copy of the story at their request and received word last December that they wanted to publish it.
"They are a small press, which means that their authors do a lot of the salesmanship," Olson said.
Part of this salesmanship aspect includes visiting book stores to see if they'll stock the book or host a signing.
"It's a matter of trying to get it into as many places as I can," she said. "I'm just looking for any avenue and every avenue."
Published under her writer name, K.J. Olson, "The Path Between" is scheduled for release on Sept. 24, and is available on-line at major book outlets like Amazon and Borders. Locally, Olson will be signing copies of the book at Independent Books in Long Beach on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. She also plans to donate a few copies to local libraries.
"The Path Between" is a fantasy, a struggle between good and evil, "as I suppose most fantasies tend to be," she said. "But it also goes a little bit below that, with the struggle of the hero to understand his world and himself, and his place in that world."
She explained that one of the "movers" in the story is the "God of the sea," and how much influence he may or may not have on the events that occur in the story.
"I'm not particularly a religious person but I am, I like to think, a spiritual person," she said. "And so mythology has always been of interest to me. I tried to mix that in with the story as well as putting it into some mystical, fantastical, historical context."
Olson said that the story is perhaps something that she has worked towards throughout her life, in terms of understanding the influence of the spiritual or religious things in people's lives. She said that this allows her to come from a more analytical viewpoint.
"... though I certainly respect the viewpoints of others," said Olson, who received a degree from Pacific Lutheran University, where her husband was also a professor for many years.
In all. Olson said it took around two years to really put the story to paper, mostly due to the time constraints, but also to give her enough time to do the necessary research that helps her in creating the different aspects of the story.
"When I do write, I try to do some research into perhaps a time period or a country," she said. "Some of the names in this particular story are somewhat Scandinavian, as is my background."
She said this led her to doing a lot of research on Scandinavian myths, folk legends, history.
"And though that may not find itself in the story specifically, it does give me a context from which to draw - to form characters, to form a country, to form a language."
This is not the first book Olson has written - only the first one that's been published. Prior to "The Path Between," she wrote another fantasy story which she tried to get published as well, but to no avail.
"I think it was just the luck of the draw," she said of having one published and not the other. "It's really hard to break into it [the publishing industry]. And I stumbled into it, almost a fluke."
Now that she has her first book published, Olson said she plans on trying to build on this, hopefully having other books published in the future.
"I am working now to get the first one that I wrote in shape to send off to see if they want to publish it," she said. "I also have ideas for a third fantasy."
Olson said that though linked through their style, the stories are not connected, though she hasn't ruled out a sequel to either.
"I would, I think, like to go on with the story in this one, but I haven't quite figured out all the logistics of that."
Now retired, Olson has a lot more time to dedicate to this end of things, which is her goal. She feels that even if she doesn't make any money on it, as long as people read it, she'll be happy.
"The monetary aspect has never been that important to me," she said. "The important thing was to see it in print, to see it published, to see it out there. Obviously I would like to have it be successful - as any writer is, you want to have people read what you write. So in that respect, I hope it does well."