Interview With An Author: Meet Kimberly Karalius '10

Nov 6, 2017

by Samantha Surrency '18

Kimberly Karalius ’10 was an English major who won several awards for her writing as a student. Since graduating, she has gone on to publish Love Fortunes and Other Disasters, her debut novel, along with several other major works. 

Love Fortunes and Other Disasters tells the story of Grimbaud, a town ruled by Zita’s love fortunes, which tell with 100 percent accuracy about a person’s fate in love. When the protagonist Fallon is told that her love will never be requited, she joins a rebellion to take down Zita’s reign, even though she will have to work with the notorious heartbreaker Sebastian.

Despite her busy writing schedule, Kimberly has taken the time to discuss with us her time at FSC, her writing career, and her first novel.

Why did you choose to attend FSC?

I fell in love with the campus from the moment I first saw it. Florida Southern was enchanting inside and out, with professors who were passionate about their subjects and a warm, welcoming atmosphere. Lakeland itself seemed like an adventure to me — not too far from home, but far enough to venture out on my own and enjoy my first taste of freedom living in the dorms.

What inspired you to be an English major?

I knew I wanted to be a writer more than anything, so choosing English as my major made sense. Since I’ve always been fascinated by philosophy, I had to make that my minor.

What was the English major like for you?

Being an English major at FSC was downright magical. I may be biased but I think it’s the best department — at least, for someone like me who has always been fascinated by the written word. Every professor was truly an expert in what they taught, whether it was mythology or Shakespeare. We always had a strong sense of community in our department; my best friends during college were fellow English majors. We book people tend to stick together! 

What professors did you have the best experience with?

Copies of Karalius' first two books and a miniature love fortune booth. Photo credit: Regina Rached.

Some of my favorite moments came from Dr. Mary Pharr and Dr. Paula Buck’s classes.  Dr. Pharr reawakened my love of Romanticism and Dr. Buck was a great mentor when it came to turning my fascination with mythology and fairy tales into serious study (which in turn helped me improve as a writer).

Did you study abroad as a student?

I spent a month in England through FSC’s study abroad program. I stayed at Harlaxton Manor in Grantham while taking a travel writing class. Our travels took us to many cities like York and Bath, where we had plenty of time to explore and make memories. I loved the trip so much that I ended up going to England again this past May and retraced my steps, staying in Grantham and taking the train to the cities I had such fond memories of from college. I even visited Harlaxton again, and it was just as I remembered!

What clubs or campus organizations were you a part of?

I was part of Cantilevers: Journal of the Arts for all four years, starting as a staff member my freshman year and becoming the Literary Editor. I was part of student government, representing the journal, and was a member of the English honor society (Sigma Tau Delta) and the philosophy honor society (Phi Sigma Tau).

What is your favorite college memory?

It’s hard to pick a favorite memory, but I loved getting lost in the stacks at Roux Library. The layout of the library is beautiful and I loved finding new hideaways to read in.

How do you believe FSC contributed to your success?

I felt fully supported by my friends and professors and knew that if they believed in me, I could believe in myself. Attending FSC helped me be unafraid to pursue my dreams.

How did it feel getting your first book published? What process did you have to go through to do that?

I first discovered Swoon Reads not long after graduating from the University of South Florida with my MFA in fiction. I had been in the middle of querying literary agents when I heard about Macmillan starting a teen romance imprint that would feature a very non-traditional process of selecting authors. Writers upload their finished manuscripts to the site and readers rate and review the manuscripts. Their feedback helps the Swoon Reads staff decide which books they will publish.

I wrote the manuscript that would become Love Fortunes and Other Disasters and uploaded it. I can still remember the moment when the good news arrived in a very sneaky email, and my first conversation on the phone with my editor! I had to keep my composure because the news came while I was at work, but as soon as I got home, I celebrated with a lot of happy tears and cake.

What is the most difficult part of writing a novel?

The beginning! I get so excited when I start a new novel, and that excitement sometimes clouds my judgement in terms of choosing the right scene to start with. But once I find the right foundation, writing the rest of the novel is easier.

“I felt fully supported by my friends and professors and knew that if they believed in me, I could believe in myself. Attending FSC helped me be unafraid to pursue my dreams.”
Kimberly Karalius

How does it feel to be represented by a big publishing house like Macmillan?

It’s an honor to be part of the Macmillan author family, and a little surreal since a publisher I’ve known all my reading life is now my publisher. A dream come true!

How did you come up with the idea for your debut novel, Love Fortunes and Other Disasters?

Knowing that Swoon Reads was a teen romance imprint, I wanted to write a novel literally about Love! The town of Grimbaud came soon after, and a girl named Fallon who received a bad love fortune and decided to do something about it.

How difficult was it to write different types of characters? Were any challenging to write? How similar are characters like Fallon and Sebastian to you personally?

Writing different kinds of characters is one of the best parts of storytelling. Each character offers a different perspective on the story being told, so I love spending time with each one, whether they are major or secondary. In some ways, Zita herself was challenging. For a good portion of the book, she’s a foreboding presence pressing down on the town of Grimbaud until we get to know her.  I don’t have much in common with Fallon and Sebastian (which made them so much fun to write!). If anyone, I can relate most with Hijiri as a fellow shy person driven by her dreams.

What is the writing process like for you? Do you have a set routine for your writing?

In the past, I’ve always jumped headfirst into my novels with just enough planning to get started. I loved discovering the characters and plot as I went. However, I recently started planning and plotting my novels more extensively and it’s been helping me develop stronger drafts. I’m a fan of bulleted lists so I mainly use those when I’m plotting. I try to write a certain amount of words a day rather than go by pages or chapters. I work around my job, so a lot of my writing happens at night. I personally love writing in the morning much better, so it’s a treat to wake up early sometimes on the weekend to write and then have the rest of the day to do what I need to.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Did any influence you in your writing?

My favorite authors are Francesca Lia Block, Mervyn Peake, and George MacDonald. Francesca Lia Block was my first introduction to the subgenre of magical realism, where magic seamlessly blends with real life (and no one seems startled by it); I realized that those were the types of stories I loved to tell when I wasn’t writing fantasy. Mervyn Peake helped me realize that I love my characters with a lot of quirk and strangeness. George MacDonald wrote wonderful fairy tales that remind me how much I love bringing wonder to my readers.

What’s it like going on a book tour or a blog tour?

Around the time my first book Love Fortunes was released, I was invited with three other Swoon Reads authors to go on a book tour. Seven cities, from San Francisco to Saratoga Springs! It was thrilling to meet readers and booksellers from other states — people you wouldn’t normally meet face to face. But it was tough having to get on a plane every morning with only a few hours of rest before the next book event began in the evening!

Blog tours are done entirely at home behind a computer. Book bloggers participating in the tour send me their prompts or what they’d like me to provide them. Sometimes they ask for an excerpt from my novel, and other times they ask me to write a guest blog post about something pertaining to the story itself.

Kimberly Karalius '10. Photo credit: Regina Rached.

What does a day in your life look like? What do you do at work and in your free time?

I wake up around 5:30 a.m. to eat breakfast and get ready for work. When I get home from work, I exercise, eat, and then pull out my laptop and write. Even though it’s a small window of time to write, I often meet my writing goals because I’ve been waiting all day to write the next installment! In my free time, I love going to theme parks. I have an annual pass for Disney World and I try to go at least twice a month!

Your books are now in the FSC library. Did you ever think as a student that one day your writing would be in the place where students like you spend so much time studying?

I had hoped, but the reality of my books having a home in Roux Library is surreal. I hope that students will find and enjoy my books as they go about their studies, just as I discovered some of my favorite authors during my time exploring the stacks at FSC.

Would you ever be open for a movie adaption of your books? Who could you imagine in the lead roles?

Absolutely! I would love to see that happen. The hard part about writing teen fiction is that any of my picks for roles grow up too quickly to play them. Though I’m pretty sure Jeff Goldblum could handle any role, no matter the age of the character.

What do you have to say to people who don’t think English, or the arts in general, are legitimate choices for a college major?

They may not know how much opportunity a career in the arts can offer. For example, being an English major isn’t just about books and stories. We learn the art of effective communication and analysis, both critical skills for any type of job. What you do with your major largely depends on your goals for your future, not on the subject matter being studied. Plus, if you enjoy what you study, you’ll learn and grow a lot more!

What advice would you give to current students or young alumni?

Be tenacious, especially if you want to write. No one can write your book but you — and in writing, putting word after word on paper, you become a stronger writer in the process.