Author interview with Karen Musser Nortman of ‘A Campy Christmas’

Author Interview with Karen Musser Nortman

The Shoemakers and Ferraros plan to spend Christmas in Texas with Larry and Jane Ann’s brother and then take a camping trip through the Southwest. But those plans are stopped cold when they hit a rogue ice storm in Missouri and they end up snowbound in a campground.



What does Frannie Shoemaker get up to during the Christmas holidays? Does she have a chance to get away from solving mysteries to relax in the joy of the holiday season? Not likely! To share a little taste of Christmas in July, Karen Musser Nortman has dropped in to chat about the 6th novel in the Frannie Shoemaker series ‘A Campy Christmas’. Karen, it’s wonderful to see you again! And of course it’s wonderful to see Frannie and her companions as well. Can we expect to see all old favourites in this book?

Yes, they are continuing characters in the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries.



As we’ve previously chatted about Frannie and her friends I’ll link to our previous interviews at the bottom of this interview so we can move straight onto Frannie’s Christmas adventure. What inspired you to write in Frannie’s world at this festive time of year?

A camping friend of mine mentioned traveling in their motor home and being the only residents in a state park, The ranger locked the gate and went home for the night. Several others talked about being snowbound while camping so it seemed like a perfect start for a Christmas story.



*Laughs* As lovely as it would have been to have the state park to yourself being locked in would not be fun! And I can see some struggles too if your caravan got snowbound. Do you have much experience in the snow yourself? For instance have you tangoed in it?

No but that would have been a great addition to this book.



Perhaps it can be added to Frannie’s next festive adventures! This Christmas instalment of the Frannie Shoemaker series is a novella, and a bit shorter than the rest of the series. Has the shorter length changed how you’ve approached the book, or did you still find that this wonderful cast of characters directed the plot to where they wanted to go?

I think the plot is directed by their personalities.   They are a close-knit group of caring people.



And what did you want this tight-knit group to share with readers during Christmas?

The Christmas Spirit isn’t created by decorations and carols, but rather by human behavior.



What did you love most about giving Frannie the chance to share and explore the Christmas spirit?

It was a ‘feel good’ book to write and I think it has that effect on many readers.



Who doesn’t love feeling good? And by sharing Frannie’s Christmas adventures with us in July we have two marvellous opportunities to savour the good feelings in Frannie’s world this year. Karen, thanks for showering us with a little of the Christmas in July joy, and I hope to hear about Frannie’s other adventures soon!


Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘A Campy Christmas (ASIN: B018B79HSE)‘.

Want to find out more about Karen Musser Nortman? Connect here!

You can also catch our previous interviews with Karen:

Author interview with Karen Musser Nortman of ‘The Time Travel Trailer’

Author Interview with Karen Musser Nortman


A 1937 vintage camper trailer half hidden in weeds catches Lynne McBriar’s eye when she is visiting an elderly friend Ben. Ben eagerly sells it to her and she just as eagerly embarks on a restoration. But after each remodel, sleeping in the trailer lands Lynne and her daughter Dinah in a previous decade—exciting, yet frightening. Glimpses of their home town and ancestors fifty or sixty years earlier is exciting and also offers some clues to the mystery of Ben’s lost love. But when Dinah makes a trip on her own, separating herself from her mother by decades, Lynne has never known such fear. It is a trip that may upset the future if Lynne and her estranged husband can’t team up to bring their daughter back.



How much trouble can you get into with a time travelling trailer? Lynne McBriar is about to find out! Author Karen Musser Nortman has dropped in today to chat about the fears that Lynne faces to rescue her daughter in ‘The Time Travel Trailer’. Karen it’s wonderful to have you back here to chat about a book that we haven’t detailed before! In the past we’ve discussed how your books have developed from your love of RV travel. How did ‘The Time Travel Trailer’ evolve out your travels?

I became acquainted with a number of people, especially women, who were into restoring vintage trailers, and often even dress for the era. It was like a trip back in time. And I thought, why not?



I love the dedication and commitment of these women who even dress the part. Knowing your commitment to storytelling I’m sure you found it necessary to match their commitment to the eras explored with reams of your own research. What did you look into this time around?

I wanted to use a camper model that existed at least as far back as the Thirties so I researched the 1937 Covered Wagon camper, corresponding with a man who owns a restored one. In the past I was a history teacher so enjoyed researching the decades visited by the trailer.



*Laughs* It’s very important to keep those history teacher skills up researching each new novel. You never know when you may be called to teach again! What do you hope that readers take from this fictional brush with history?

That every time has it’s own problems — our experiences are not new.



That is so very true. On the topic of new, what does your current writing project entail?

I’m working on a third book in this series (the second is “Trailer on the Fly”) which will take the time travel trailer along Route 66.



Well, if you’re going to write about Route 66 you should do it in the style of all of the eras! When you have a spark of inspiration, like time travelling along Route 66, do you know where the route of the story will take you, or does it unfold as your start travelling down it?

Usually I don’t know how it will end–or if I think I do, events pop into the story that changes the outcome. It’s an exciting process.



How have you harnessed that excitement of writing and used it to fuel your author brand and self-publishing strategies?           

My biggest audience are RV campers. My slogan for my mysteries is “Camping Can be Murder” and I have a flag I put by our campsite that says that. I usually hand out a couple of copies of my books in every campground and have gained a lot of readers that way.



Getting right into the heart of the readership is absolutely fantastic! You are so lucky to be able to connect with your readers on such a personal note, and I’m sure all of those interactions also fuel more books. What a winning combination! For those authors still working on the connection with their readers, what advice do you have to help them?

Don’t give up.



And with such a wonderful example of the joy of fostering relationships with readers, I’m sure our other authors reading here today have been inspired pick up their word processors and write through their motivation struggles. Karen thanks so much for bringing us up to speed with a taste of ‘The Time Travel Trailer’ and I look forward to catching up with you in the future to chat about your journey down Route 66.


Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘The Time Travel Trailer ( ASIN: B00P1RPB6K )‘.

Want to find out more about Karen Musser Nortman? Connect here!

You can also catch our previous interviews with Karen:

Author interview with Karen Musser Nortman of ‘Trailer on the Fly’

Author Interview with Karen Musser Nortman


Lynne McBriar owns a vintage camper that is a time portal. Although she is reluctant to use it, a tragic story from a client moves her to travel back ten years to a Sisters on the Fly gathering in Missouri and try to save the life of the client’s friend. In doing so, she endangers her own life and causes other changes in the time line she didn’t expect.



Vintage camper trailers travelling through time can only mean one thing. Karen Musser Nortman has returned to to chat with me about an instalment in her Time Travel Trailer book series. Karen, it’s lovely to see you again today, the last time we caught up was in October 2016 to chat about ‘To Cache a Killer’, the fifth book in your The Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries series so it’s good to see that there’s a new tale that we can bring to the minds of readers today. What was in your mind when you started thinking of the story within the pages of ‘Trailer on the Fly’?

This is the second book in the series and one of my readers liked the first so much that she wrote and suggested a sequel involving the Sisters on the Fly, a group of women who enjoy outdoor adventure and restore vintage campers.



In our last interview you mentioned that you are a keen camper, which inspires your novels. Have any of the women that you’ve met from your travels directly inspired this group of women that you follow within this book?

Some characters are loosely based on people I have met; others are a combination.



Do you think that some or even all of the personalities of these characters where heavily influenced by the plot, or instead do you feel that the plot was more influenced by the strength of personalities within these female characters?

I think that the plot was definitely informed by the characters, just as in life, I feel that the actions of people have more effect on the course of their lives rather than overarching or outside events.



Were you inspired by any events in your life while constructing these events within your plot?

The setting is a Missouri State Park based on the actual park, Johnson’s Shut-Ins south of St. Louis which did have a flash flood because of a breach in a dam. I have attended events sponsored by the Sisters on the Fly and been amazed by these independent women as well as entertained by their activities such as a ‘cowgirl prom.’



*Laughs* Who wouldn’t love the idea of a cowgirl prom! I want to go to one! As this book has largely been inspired by your own travels, have you found that there was much place for research with this book, or its predecessor?

I had researched the trailer model, a 1937 Covered Wagon, when I was writing the first book.



What do you feel is the most important aspect that readers should take away from this adventure of time travelling trailers?

Things aren’t always as they seem.



Very true, and I’m keen to see how that plays out within the pages. Apart from highlighting the truth that the things are not often as clear-cut as one might expect, what did you find most satisfying about writing this novel?

As a former history teacher, I am fascinated by cause and effect in history. Even on the individual level, it’s interesting to consider how small changes might have brought about others.



I have to admit that looking back on little choices in history and considering ‘what-if’ is endless enthralling for me too! Are you already working on another exploration of the enthralling nature of small changes or perhaps the nature of individual cause and effect within the Time Travel Trailer series?

Yes, I’m writing the third book in The Time Travel Trailer series, as yet untitled, which involves Route 66.



I’m sure that Route 66 has so tales to be inspired by that it might be hard to choose just one! When you start working on a new writing project do you always picked where you want to end before you start writing?

I don’t know how it will end. Even if I have a fairly detailed outline of the plot, as the small details are fleshed out, they often require changes in events or characters.



And do you ensure that all of these small details line up within editing yourself, or is editing a process that you like completed by a third party?

I do a great deal of the editing. I write with Scrivener and there is a speaking feature so that I can have the chapters read back to me. This really highlights errors, awkward wording, and other problems. I also use the word count feature, which will tell me how many times every word is used to avoid over use of some words, passive verbs, and adverbs.



Software like Scrivener almost acts like your own editing team so I can see why you try to tackle the majority of editing yourself. Before I let you return to the time where you time travelling trailer has landed, I’d like to take a few minutes to show a little more of the person behind the pages with our quick fire question round questions. Let’s kick it off with: What is your day-job, and how does it influence your writing?

I am retired but was a history teacher for 22 years, which has been useful in my time travel series. I also spent 18 years as a test developer. I found my training writing test items has been extremely useful when I work on my camping mysteries. Multiple choice test items require several well thought out and believable wrong answers as well as a reasonable and defensible right answer. So does a good murder mystery.



It sounds like you’ve been in mystery writing training for 18 years without even knowing it! Now to something else we may not know, where is the line between insanity and creativity?

I believe that insanity is destructive–of relationships, balance, life goals, self, etc. Creativity should never be.



Wow, thanks for taking up the challenge of defining the line from that question. I love those fascinating insights of that great answer. If they made a movie from your book who would you choose to play the main characters?           

I would choose Meg Ryan to play Lynne McBriar.



I haven’t seen Meg in anything for a while, but I certainly feel that she’d do a fabulous job with Lynne! What is your favourite flavor of ice-cream?

Tin Roof Sundae.



I could go for one of those right now :). Finally, is there a single line from your book that you feel will make readers want to delve into the world of time travelling trailers today?           

My first reaction was resignation, and then, a few moments later, out and out panic. What if my trailer got washed away? I would never get back to my own time.



Karen, thanks for joining me today to chat about your experiences within the writing world, and I look forward to seeing you in the future with another camper classic!


Excited to read the book we discussed today? Find it here on Amazon: ‘Trailer on the Fly ( ASIN: B01EPGYMD0 )‘.

Want to find out more about Karen Musser Nortman? Connect here!

Author interview with Karen Musser Nortman of ‘To Cache a Killer’


Geocaching isn’t supposed to be about finding dead bodies. But when retiree, Frannie Shoemaker go camping, standard definitions don’t apply. A weekend in a beautiful state park in Iowa buzzes with fund-raising events, a search for Ninja turtles, a bevy of suspects, and lots of great food. But are the campers in the wrong place at the wrong time once too often?

Today I’m joined by Karen Musser Norman, author of ‘To Cache a Killer’ the fifth instalment of the The Frannie Shoemaker Campground series. Karen, thanks for joining me today. Now, what sparked the idea that drew you back to revisit this series?
In the series, a group of friends camp together, usually in state parks, and occasionally stumble over dead bodies. When we camp, we enjoy geocaching, and it seemed like an interesting twist if this kind of hunt for things other people had hidden turned up something unexpected — like a murder victim.

I’m guessing you haven’t run across your own murder victim when you were camping yourself, but have you spent time in the state park that this book is based on?
“To Cache a Killer” takes place at a state park loosely based on Backbone State Park, one of Iowa’s most beautiful areas. Yes, we have camped there several times and also geocached there. Campgrounds are rich in mishaps and challenges, which provides a lot of material for my books.

What kind of mishaps and challenges have you written about over the course of the series?
The whole series is based on camping, but each book has a different activity focus. The first, “Bats and Bones,” is a holiday weekend trip; the second, “The Blue Coyote,” features a visiting story teller and a flea market; in the third, “Peete and Repeat,” the campers are bicycling and checking out a nature center; the fourth, “The Lady of the Lake,” is about an old legend and a nearby county fair; and “To Cache a Killer” focuses on geocaching.

As this is the fifth book in the series, I’m assuming that most of the characters are returning. What has been so compelling about these characters that keeps you returning?
Yes, I have a continuing cast of characters since the book is part of a series, although not all of the characters are in every book. I wanted them to be good friends with, at the same time, enough personality differences to create occasional tension or conflicting goals.



When you are working through this character tension and conflicts, do you use any specific writing practices to keep you in the writing game?
I write early in the morning, generally in my recliner on my laptop. I shoot for a minimum of 500 words a day.

That’s a pretty solid goal and it sounds very achievable sitting in a comfy recliner. Do you get involved in the editing process?
I do a great deal of rereading and editing. My software has a feature that reads my work back to me and I find that very helpful. I also have three beta readers–a fellow writer, a friend and retired librarian, and a former boss who is also a camper. They are all very honest and give me lots of helpful advice.

Do you feel that you have also absorbed writing advice from what you have read over the years? Who are you favourite mystery authors for example?
Two of my favorites are Martha Grimes and Louise Penny. They write more serious mysteries but both have an ongoing cast of amateur detectives who are great characters. I think memorable characters are the thing I love most in books.

I agree, memorable characters are really important. For you, who is the most memorable literary character?
I think Melrose Plant from the Martha Grimes books.

That is an awesome character name, I just love how it rolls off the tongue. What’s the most unusual name you’ve ever come across?
We once bought a house that had belonged to a woman named Orpha Zaicek.

I like that one too, nice rhythm. Now talking about rhythm, do you feel that your experiences in the workplace have also helped you find your rhythm for writing mysteries?
I am retired but was a secondary teacher for 22 years and worked for a testing company for 18 years. My testing experience was very helpful in writing mysteries, because standardized test questions require several alternative solutions that are believable but demonstrably wrong, just like mysteries.

Have the readers that have responded to your work acknowledged a sense of believability in the series? Does any of the reviews stand out to you in particular, perhaps your first one?
I don’t remember the first one, but I have gotten a real boost from several. One was from a man who said he heard about my books in an Australian campground! A woman wrote that she hated anything outdoors and had no desire to go camping but loved the books anyway.

Others have said they recognized a lot of the characters from their own camping trips. On the other hand, it is annoying to get one for three stars that says “didn’t read it.” But I find reviews generally beneficial, even if they are negative.

Do you have any tips for authors looking to reduce their negative reviews?
Polish your work as much as you can.

That’s good solid advice. Have you seen any great advice from other authors that you also think might be helpful?
You can edit a pile of crap, but you can’t edit a blank page — Elaine Orr

Very very true. If there’s nothing there to work with it makes it bordering on impossible. Do you have a good quote that you think sums this up?
Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘Press On’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race — Calvin Coolidge.

Man, that Calvin has a way with his wise words. So true. Okay, that’s too many serious questions in a row for me, so here’s an irreverent one, can you stand on your hands unassisted?
I can barely stand on my feet unassisted.

*Laughs*, I find that whole upright thing a challenge too at times!
As I child, I dreamed of becoming a figure skater or ballerina, but I have absolutely no natural grace or coordination.

That’s a shame, but it’s never too late. I know of people who have undertaken ballet as an adult and as a result have become very graceful. Both of those professions do seem to require a significant amount of grace. Did that desire for grace also extend to your reading as a child?
I read all 36 Oz books and also loved “Little Women.”

Okay, so I think that you can say that it probably did. I always think there’s a bit of grace at least in Little Women. Is there a book that you wish that you would have written?
“To Kill a Mockingbird”

That is another stand-out choice. Well, Karen that pretty much wraps it up from me today. Thanks for spending a little time with me to chat and I wish you the best of luck with your promotion of ‘To Cache a Killer’.



Want to find out more about Karen Musser Nortman? Connect here!