Sunday, September 1, 2013

Author Chat Time! Check Out robgirlbooks' Mini-Interview with Karen Kondazian, Author of The Whip!!

I am so excited to share my interview with Karen Kondazian, author of the fantastic historical novel The Whip. Oh, how I loved my journey through the pages of Charley Parkhurst's life. A new hero was revealed to me. You can read my review HERE. First, here's a little bit about this wonderful epic tale of a girl who knew no limits. (Please note the synopsis is a tad spoilery. You have been warned, but check out those well-earned awards!)

The Whip Synopsis
The Whip is inspired by the true story of a woman, Charlotte “Charley” Parkhurst (1812-1879) who lived most of her extraordinary life as a man in the old west. As a young woman in Rhode Island, she fell in love with a runaway slave and had his child. The destruction of her family drove her west to California, dressed as a man, to track the killer.
Charley became a renowned stagecoach driver for Wells Fargo. She killed a famous outlaw, had a secret love affair, and lived with a housekeeper who, unaware of her true sex, fell in love with her. Charley was the first known woman to vote in America in 1868 (as a man). Her grave lies in Watsonville, California.

The Whip Awards
Best Western – 2013 International Book Awards
Best Western – 2013 National Indie Excellence Awards
Gold Prize – Historical Fiction – 2013 Global Ebook Awards
Best Western Fiction – 2013 Global Ebook Awards
Best Historical Fiction – 2012 USA Book Awards

Author interview time! I'm an even bigger fan of Karen's after reading her answers to my questions.

1. Charley is a bigger than life character. As you wrote her, did you find she affected your behavior or outlook?

Charley didn’t affect my behavior, unless you consider my addiction to playing with wild mustangs in Utah! What Charley did do though, was affect my outlook. She taught me that anything is possible. She also taught me that in every problem there is a gift in its hand. And that we create the problem because we need the gift.

2. The Whip is based on true events, but how did you decide to fill in the gaps of Charley’s story?

While doing research on all the true events of Charley’s life, I took a trip to Watsonville, California where she is buried at the Odd Fellows Cemetery. There, I interviewed some experts on Charley Parkhurst, who told me not only facts but also some of the rumors about her. I took those rumors and fictionalized them – blending them with the facts and built a story arc around it all.

3. The Old West chewed people up and spit them out. Did you discover any hidden gems during your research that surprised you?

First of all, women could have no dreams in those days – only men could have dreams. Typically, women could fill three roles. They could be a teacher if they were schooled, a wife and mother at best, or work as a prostitute.

The gem I discovered is that many women put on britches in the 1800s. Some even (approximately 500), fought in the civil war as men and few were discovered. Like Charley, this was their way to live their dream, or fulfill their adventurous side and experience feelings they aspired within themselves.

4. Now that you've added author to your repertoire, have you added any new writer quirks?

Yes, I now have to get out of the bad behavior of going to sleep at five in the morning. This is because the six-years and twenty-seven drafts it took to write the book got me into the habit of writing ‘til dawn. I find the quiet of the night inspiring. Also, being tired stops my inner perfectionist from intellectualizing and censoring my writing, thus enabling me to ‘vomit-out’ and channel my emotions easier.

5. What is your favorite part of the writing process?

My favorite part is when the writing Gods touch you and suddenly you go into a zone and realize that you’ve been writing for ten minutes and it feels like you’ve been floating and that someone else has been doing your writing for you. It’s the same ‘gift’ that gets actors addicted to acting - that sensation of leaving your body and allowing yourself to become an 'instrument' to something more than yourself. That’s what all artists dream of. Those special moments of creative bliss and freedom.

Karen Kondazian's Bio
Karen Kondazian’s career as an actor, writer and producer is as diverse as it is long. She was born in Boston, Massachusetts. At the age of eight Karen was chosen to be one of the infamous children on Art Linkletter’s Kids Say the Darndest Things. The opportunity to miss school during tapings was all it took for Karen to abandon her life’s goal of becoming a CIA spy and focus on acting.
She completed her schooling at San Francisco State College, The University of Vienna and The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts (LAMDA), after which she began her career in New York. Her first professional work was in the award winning production of Michael Cacoyannis’ The Trojan Women at the Circle in the Square Theatre.
Her theater career has included starring opposite Ed Harris in Sweet Bird of Youth, Richard Chamberlain in Richard II (dir. Jonathan Miller), Stacy Keach in Hamlet, (dir. Gordon Davidson), Ray Stricklyn in Vieux Carre (West Coast Premiere-Beverly Hills Playhouse, dir. Clyde Ventura, which she also produced). She also starred in Eduardo Machado’s off-Broadway play, Broken Eggs (World Premiere, dir. James Hammerstein).
She won the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Award for Best Actress in The Rose Tattoo, in which her work as actor and producer so impressed Tennessee Williams that they became friends and he gave her carte blanche to produce any of his work in his lifetime.
Other awards and nominations include Ovation, Drama Critics Circle, LA Weekly and Garlands for: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Berkeley Rep.), Orpheus Descending (Fountain Theatre, dir. Simon Levy), Night of the Iguana (Old Globe, dir. Jack O’Brien), Lady House Blues, Freedomland (South Coast Rep, dir. David Emmes), The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (Fountain Theatre, dir. Simon Levy), Master Class (Fountain Theatre, Odyssey Theatre, Lobero Theater, dir. Simon Levy).
She has appeared as series regular lead in CBS’s Shannon and guest starred in over 50 television shows and films including, TNT’s James Dean with James Franco (dir. Mark Rydell), NYPD Blue, Frasier, Steal Big Steal Little with Alan Arkin, Yes Giorgio with Luciano Pavarotti, and played Kate Holliday in Showdown at OK-Corral (David Wolper’s award-winning series).
Karen is a lifetime member of the Actors Studio and a member of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. She is also a member of Women in Film.
Kondazian is a multi-award winning novelist. Her debut novel, The Whip, won the USA News Award for Best Historical Fiction and also the National Indie Excellence Award for Best Western. It was featured on the cover of Publishers Weekly. She is also the author of the best-selling book The Actors Encyclopedia of Casting Directors, with a foreword by Richard Dreyfuss. Her long running weekly column, “Sculpting Your Own Career” appeared in L.A. STAGE, BackStage, and DramaLogue.
She currently resides in Los Angeles, California.

Official Website of The Whip & Karen Kondazian

The Whip audio book trailer. Audio book narrated by Robin Weigert (Calamity Jane/HBO's Deadwood)

Buy the Paperbook Book, Kindle & Audio Book on: Amazon
Barnes and Noble

I have to thank Karen for taking the time to answer my questions. I wish you all the success in the world with sharing Charlie's amazing life! 


  1. Hi, Robyn.
    That was a very interesting interview and a promising book. I have never read Western but reading about a woman, pretending to be a man and fighting, and love. It sounds like a good start. :)
    Plus I love it's based on a true stroy.
    I will add this book to my TBR.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Have a great week and an amazing month.

    1. I actually thought of you when after I finished reading this because there is real heartache and loss and I remember the "guilty pleasures" Feature and Follow where most people chose erotica and you chose characters dying. That was so funny. I think Kaykay was right there in your camp. I hope you're settling back home nicely. I'm still unpacking, but I plan to make September rock! Have a great week, Athina!

  2. Great Interview Robyn, westerns aren't really my thing, but then again neither was historical romances untill recently might give it a go.

    1. Right, you recently picked up historical romances. There is definitely romance in this one. That and the thrill of driving the horses were some of my favorite aspects. Thanks for stopping by, Jodie!

  3. Hi Robyn,
    Thank you so much for your beautifully written review of The Whip... and the invitation to do the interview with you~
    I noticed in the comments above that the readers don't enjoy 'westerns.' Frankly, neither do I...The book takes place in the 'old west' but the river that runs through the book is really about 'forgiveness' and how a lone woman survived all the losses of her life...survived and thrived.

    Karen (Kondazian)

    1. The adventure and heartache made me forget that I'd never read an Old West story. The Whip was far outside my norm, and I'm so glad I took the leap. I also realized how often I write off books because they fall outside my comfort zone. I hope to see The Whip on the big screen one day, Karen.

  4. I'm so happy you were able to interview Karen, Robyn. I know what an impact this book made on you and how much you loved it. :) It's definitely something I, and my kids, would like to read. I really enjoyed the interview as well. Karen seems to have quite a personality. :) I especially liked her answer about every problem having a gift in hand, and that we create the problem because we need the gift. Quite a positive way to look at life! Love it! Thanks for sharing this!

    1. I smiled the whole way through Karen's answers. Sometimes I wonder what character I would be in these gripping stories. I should mention there is abuse, racist driven violence, and sex. I even covered my eyes a couple times, which proves a bit less effective for books than movies. Hmmm. But Charley's strength is amazing! I'm finally responsible for adding book to your TBR list! Ha!!

  5. "Yes, I now have to get out of the bad behavior of going to sleep at five in the morning. This is because the six-years and twenty-seven drafts it took to write the book got me into the habit of writing ‘til dawn."

    This is a great interview, Robyn. It's fun, inspiring, as well as educating. I already added the book to my TBR. The idea of a woman pretending to be a man is interesting, and character's dying (LOL), I know I'll enjoy it.

    Thanks for sharing. How are you doing?

    1. Haha! You and Athina certainly have a morbid streak. I know you can write a bad guy I hate and still can't wait for more from him. The Beach Man is plain scary and still ... not exactly charming, what's the word? Captivating! This book wasn't my norm, no vamps zipped in and out of the scenes, but Charley is one amazing character.

      I'm still unpacking and searching for things I didn't label. I was in the middle of a book I can't find. Grrh. I don't have a writing space yet, but I'm sleeping and for me everything else will fall in line after that. Are you gearing up to move?