From Children’s Magazines to Psychological Thrillers: The Retreat by Karen King

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the retreat

By Karen King

Karen King has been published for over thirty years, in a variety of genres for both children and adults. She loves writing about the complexities of relationships. Her first three books for Bookouture were romances where relationships came right, she has now turned to the darker side of relationships, writing two psychological thrillers about relationships that go badly wrong . . .

I’m often asked when I started writing but I can’t really specify a date as I’ve made up poems and stories as far back as I can remember. When I was about nine I sometimes sent them off to the kiddie’s corner of a local newspaper or the letters page of The Bunty, where they occasionally got published.  However, it was years later, when I had three small children before I started writing as a career. I sent an article titled ‘Beating the Dole Queue Blues’ to Jackie magazine, it was published and followed by a request for more articles, which I was happy to supply. When the editor asked if I’d like to have a go at a photo strip story, I agreed although I’d never attempted one before. I asked for a sample script so I could see their House Style and studied it carefully before attempting my story. To my delight it was accepted, and I went on to write more both for Jackie and other teen magazines. Then I sold a short story to a children’s magazine, and was asked to write regular comic strips. I’d never done these before either but figured that they wouldn’t be that different to the photo stories so agreed and once again asked for a sample script which I studied carefully. I now had regular writing work.

By the mid-eighties I was earning my living writing for a range of licensed character magazines including Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine, My Little Pony, Barbie and Winnie the Pooh. In addition to comic strips and stories I was commissioned to write activities, quizzes and games. Every time I had to write something new I asked to see a sample script then studied the sample carefully before writing my own. Commissions to write cassette books around licensed characters such as Henry’s Cat and Teddy Ruxpin followed and then annuals.

 My experience at writing activities gave me the confidence to come up with a proposal for an activity book, titled Christmas Fun, and approach Scholastic with it. Happily they liked it and gave me a contract. That was the first time I received royalties for my work. To my surprise and delight Christmas Fun became a bestseller. Other activity books for Scholastic followed. The royalties of these books weren’t enough to provide me with a regular income though so I accepted commissions for picture books, educational books, early readers, joke books and plays. Most of the work for the first twenty years or so of my writing career was commissioned for a fixed fee. The deadlines were usually tight and required me to give up my copyright, but it provided me with a regular income. However, I promised myself that once my children had grown up and I had the opportunity to immerse myself in a longer piece of writing I would have a go at writing a romance novel.

Finally, that opportunity came, so supplementing my income by teaching writing, I settled down to write a romance novel. Titled Never Say Forever, it was inspired by a trip to Spain and was initially published as a People’s Friend Pocket Novel and in Large Print by Ulverscroft. Later it was republished by a small independent American publisher, along with another romance novel, The Millionaire Plan. These were both republished by Accent Press who contracted me for three more romance novels. I was nearing the end of that contract and about to move to Spain with my second husband when I was approached by an editor at Bookouture and asked to write for them. Six more romance novels followed, three for Headline who had taken over Accent Press, and three for Bookouture.  

A couple of years later I decided that I wanted to try my hand at writing a psychological thriller and my Bookouture editor was happy to agree. In November 2020 The Stranger in my Bed was published and went on to become an Amazon Kindle International Bestseller.  My fifth psychological thriller, The Retreat, is published by Bookouture on 13th October and another one will be published in May next year. 

I’m often asked what advice I would give a new writer, and two things always come to my mind. One, be flexible and never be scared to try something new, and two, know your market and know your reader. These two things have helped me have a long and varied writing career.

(c) Karen King

About The Retreat:
the retreat

Relaxation. Recovery. Revenge…

The sunlight sparkles on the bright turquoise of the pool, next to the freshly painted house with its trailing pink flowers and terracotta roof. I feel a jolt of pride. My partner José and I have dreamed of this moment, opening our perfect home nestled in the mountains of southern Spain to its first guests for a few days of total relaxation.

We’ve worked so hard for this, pouring all our energy and our savings into renovating the old farmhouse. I’ve started over, begun a new life. This place is my escape from everything that happened before.

But a stab of fear pierces my happiness as our guests arrive and I recognise Saskia. She was my best friend many years ago… before she betrayed me. She says she’s truly sorry, and wants us to start again. Maybe she’s telling the truth – but can I really forgive her?

Then things start to go wrong when I discover our beautiful water fountain stained a deep red. It feels like a warning. And my worst fears are confirmed when I find a note in my bedroom. My heart pounds as the black capitals scream at me, revealing my terrible secret.

Saskia swears she has nothing to do with it. Which means that someone else here knows the truth about me. And they’ll stop at nothing to get their revenge…

Order your copy online here.

About the author

Karen King was born in Birmingham and has always enjoyed reading and writing. She’s been published for over thirty years, in a variety of genres for both children and adults. She loves writing about the complexities of relationships. Her first three books for Bookouture were romances where relationships came right, she has now turned to the darker side of relationships, writing two psychological thrillers about relationships that go badly wrong. Karen now lives in Spain where she loves to spend her non-writing time exploring the quaint local towns with her husband, Dave, when she isn’t sunbathing or swimming in the pool, that is.

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