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The Dime Box is a late night page turner!

My friend and former boss, Karen Grose is a published writer. Her first book, The Dime Box kept me up late into the night reading. I couldn`t put it down! I recently interviewed her about her book.

I’ve known Karen Grose for about 15 years. She was my immediate supervisor and mentor and still a friend. In 2012, she left TDSB to finish her PhD and then went to work for TVO.I knew Karen had written an educational resource about the future of education, but when I found out she’d written her debut novel, I was very excited for her. When her work colleague, Steve Paikin (yes that Steve Paikin) posted on twitter that “The Dime Box is an intense page-turner. I read it in one sitting and couldn’t put it down!”…well, that sensational review peeked my interest. Steve Paikin is correct. I was literally up late reading in bed. I couldn’t put it down. I haven’t done that with a book in a long time. I sat down with Karen recently to talk to her about her book and the process that brought her to the final product.

How’s retirement?

Fantastic! There’s so much more time for friends, family and travelling and to follow our passions. Much like you’re doing with your business, Wooly Conversion, which by the way I think is fabulous! I’m working part time and writing.

First, tell us a little about your novel.

Set in Ontario, The Dime Box is the story of a young woman accused of murdering her father. It’s my debut novel, suitable for all ages and it’s a thriller/mystery.

When did you decide you wanted to write fiction because this is not your first published book.

From the time I was a child, I loved to read. There is something amazing about the feel of a book in our hands and getting lost in a good story. I also loved to write. As educators, we have the opportunity to do that every day whether it’s writing classroom or school newsletters, helping students find their voice in their own writing, or crafting report cards.

Report cards?

(Laughter). Remember those large empty boxes of space where we could write reams of personal comments about the progress of students? They were so much better! Anyway, I’ve always wanted to write a novel and I truly believe everyone has a great story to tell. But like everyone else, life got busy and my journey into writing fiction came a little later.

What was the inspiration behind Greta’s story?

I love novels with strong, feisty female protagonists and Greta is no exception. Her story is one of resilience, heartache and triumph. I fell in love with Greta and I hope you did too. Though purely a work of the imagination, Greta’s story is inspired by the students I had the privilege of serving in the Scarborough Board of Education, the TDSB and at TVO. Beacons of light, I’m so grateful they generously shared their stories.

I’m also interested in social issues we need to take action for everyday to build a more inclusive and just society. Poverty, marginalization, gender, domestic violence, the search for identity, adoption, and how we, as a society, define family. These themes are interwoven into the novel. Finally, I like books that keep me up at night turning pages! To do this, the characters in The Dime Box are forced to face significant moral dilemmas and make difficult decisions.

How did you decide the structure for your book? I.e. Greta revealing her story to the detective a bit at a time.

That’s a great question. I’m guessing more experienced writers may lay out a structure before they begin to write, but as a new writer the structure came clear as Greta’s story unfolded. There were many times in the thick of writing I played with different structures to consider how they might impact plot, character development and the themes in the story.

Curiously, the foundation of the book reflects two of Canada’s finest pubic institutions-the justice and the education system.

So true. As an educator, I could totally relate. There were times I was laughing out loud. Describe a typical writing day.

I like to write every day. I find if I don’t, I’m not as present in the story as I want or need to be. My two favorite places to write are at the kitchen table and at the cottage. There’s nothing like sitting in the dead dark of night beside a lake to get the creative juices flowing.

What has been the most challenging and exciting part about writing a novel.

The process of writing the first messy draft is really exciting. Though I have a sense of where the story is going, as the plot emerges and the characters jump off the page and interact with each other, they begin to develop their own voices and want to make their own decisions and choices. It’s surprising and it’s fun to go with it.

Besides for being a new author and trying to get the word out, the biggest challenge I’ve faced are the days I get a block or my imaginary friends stop talking to me or a specific scene in the story doesn’t flow the way it needs to. At first, this was frustrating, but I’ve learned as drafts evolve, I can go back to those tricky scenes and write them with the detail, colour and depth they needed. Writing my second novel now, I keep it top of mind.

I understand that you had a lot of help in editing and guiding you through this process. What kept you motivated?

I’m forever indebted to the many people who read early drafts of The Dime Box. All acknowedged in the back pages of the novel, they kept me motivated when I wanted to give up or didn’t think I could push through the twenty-seven drafts it took to get to the end. As The Dime Box moved closer to completion, I learned a lot from my editor, Adrienne Kerr. She’s remarkable. When someone with her expertise tells you honestly where a novel is strong and where it falls down, it can only get better. Every story needs an editor and a great editor makes every great story better. Canadian author Lawrence Hill was also a mentor through the developmental process of The Dime Box. He taught me a lot of the power of storytelling and the craft of writing itself.

I really wanted to hear more about Greta’s journey to discovering who she is. Do you think there will be a sequel?

From the email I’m receiving from readers aged 14-87, that is the most asked question! I have to think on it. Maybe? Yes?

What’s up next for you?

I’m writing my second novel. Untitled at this point, I’m through the first messy draft and am now digging deeper.

Finally to find out a little bit about your tastes in books and reading, can you tell me your 3 favourite books in no particular order?

That’s really tough. Whether writers self-publish, go indie, hybrid or publish traditionally, I’m in awe of the amazing artistic talent out there.

I loved The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and The Shining by Stephen King.

Books I recently enjoyed: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, The Woo Woo by Lindsay Wong, Born a Crime by Trevor Noah and Becoming by Michelle Obama.

Up next are: Crow Winter by Karen McBride, The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead and Immigrant City by David Bezmozgis.

Where can we find The Dime Box?

It can be ordered online at Amazon, Indigo/Chapters, Barnes and Noble, Walmart and Waterstones, as well as from your local independent bookstore.

I’ve heard of a number of bookclubs choosing to read The Dime Box and you visit!

I have and I’m loving it. It’s so much fun to meet readers, do a reading, participate in the discussion and answer their insightful questions about the novel, it’s themes and the craft and business of writing. I appreciate the support I’ve received from former Scarborough and TDSB friends I’ve worked with.

What if someone wants to connect with you? Can we find you on social media?

Twitter: @kgrose2




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