Naomi Milliner

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Better than ‘Good’ Karma

One of the most enjoyable books I read this past year is GOOD KARMA by debut novelist Christina Kelly. I fell in love with its perfect blend of humor and pathos and its memorable cast of eccentric-but-relatable characters. What immediately won me over, though – even before page one – was Christina’s “Dear Reader” intro…GoodKarmacover

Your unusual “Dear Reader” intro tells of your publishing journey. Was it your idea to include it?

It was my editor’s idea, but I really enjoyed writing it. It allowed me to let the reader get to know me a bit. Also, I hope it gives someone who has considered writing a novel the courage to start.

Your intro implies that Catherine was a surprising choice – to you – for your heroine. Had you originally expected it to be someone else’s story? Did your original vision change as you wrote the novel?

Yes, before I started writing, I thought it would be Ida Blue’s story. I was taken by the idea of a “pet psychic” who understands that she has no psychic power, but just wants to help people however she can. Once Catherine and Ralph arrived at my fictional community, I knew they would intersect with Ida Blue, but I didn’t know how. I had a vague plot worked out, but my characters didn’t cooperate and started acting on their own.

How early on did you come up with your perfect title?

I’m so glad you like the title “Good Karma” as much as I do. My working title for the first two years of writing was “The Gates.” My original idea was to have the entire novel set within a gated community. The metaphor, of course, was that my characters were trapped (in different ways) in their routines and relationships. As the character of Karma the dog became more active and brought several characters together (with the help of Sequoia), I thought good karma fit nicely.

Do you have a “Karma” in your life?gussiebeach

Do we ever. Gussie is our eight-year-old rescue Boston terrier. She’s obsessed with chasing tennis balls and is stubborn, but hilarious.

One of the main things you explore – with the perfect blend of humor and pathos – is what happens after the passion is gone after decades of marriage: Is it worth fighting for/reinventing… or is it too late? Did you know the answer (for Catherine) when you began, or did she let you know as her tale unfolded?

I did not know the ending before I began. In fact, I don’t think I even knew it until I wrote the final scene.

What was your biggest challenge in writing this novel?

Continuing to write when I questioned whether it would ever get published. Honestly, I think this is why having a writing group is so important. My friends really encouraged me when I might have given up.

What was your biggest surprise?

My biggest surprise has more to do with marketing than writing. I had always avoided any form of social media, so it was a challenge when my HarperCollins team recommended I join Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. It has been a slow learning curve, but I’ve quite enjoyed connecting with old friends and meeting new ones. Who knew?!

One of my favorite characters, Fred’s wife Lissa, is… dead. You wrote: “He tried to imagine a life, even a dog, with anyone else.” What made you decide to make Lissa so vivid and vibrant after killing her off?

I imagined her as such a spirited woman. When I wrote from Fred’s point of view, I knew he would hear her, so I thought the reader should too.

One of the most heartbreaking lines is when Fred’s dog immediately takes a liking to Catherine and licks her: “Catherine suddenly remembered what it was to be loved.” Could you speak to the importance of dogs and their unconditional affection and loyalty – both in your book and, perhaps, in your own life?

Ha! Our Boston terrier is perhaps the least affectionate dog on the planet. Perhaps I was writing about a love that I wanted.

How did you come up with the unique character of Amity, who creeps in other people’s homes?

I have plenty of friends (myself included) who love to go to real estate open houses and binge watch HGTV’s house hunting shows. I think most of us can relate to the feeling of wanting to live other people’s lives, if only for an hour or an episode.

What do you want most for your readers to take away?

That it’s never to late to find your voice or the love of your life. Also, of course, that good karma is always lurking out there, ready to surprise you.

Could you give us a sneak peek into your current project?ChristinaKelly2

Yes, I’m delighted that I’m about five chapters into my next novel. It’s about a long-married couple who are on a road trip to see their family. Hard to imagine, but my new cast of characters feel livelier than the last. Put on your seatbelts because it’s going to be fun.

To find out more about Christina, check out:
Author page:
GOOD KARMA is now available from HarperCollins:
… and Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound, or wherever books are sold.


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