Interview by Ceri Wheeldon
In the latest of our author interviews, Karen Espley who published her first book, The Impulsive Explorer, at the age of 58 shares the inspiration behind it.
A little bit about you:
I’m 58, single, no children, two cats (!) and living in Horsham.
When did you start to write?
I started writing after my trip to the Antarctic in 2000. And then when I went to Ghana in 2001, I wrote diaries to remind me of my time there and was a prolific letter writer back to my friends in the UK. And then when I went travelling around New Zealand and Australia in 2013, I started a blog to capture the memories and to share with friends and family.
What have been the challenges for you?
I don’t write fiction, only stories based on my own experiences. But I enjoy writing so it’s never a chore. The challenge is to know what to include and what to take out. And whether or not my books would have appeal beyond my friends and family who know me.
What did you do prior to this?
I am not a full time author – see my other biog I sent you with all the information about my work life.
When was your first book published?
My first book was a self published busines book – The Profitable Business – How to create a thriving business that works for you in seven short(ish) steps.
Published on Amazon in August 2018.
What is the title of your latest book?
The Impulsive Explorer – one business woman’s accidental journey of self-discovery on an expedition to the Antarctic. Published 30th March 2021
What was the inspiration behind your latest book?
Actually it was the blog I wrote when I was in NZ and Australia – people loved it and demanded to know when my next post was coming out. And it got me to wondering if I could turn it into a book and if it would have broader appeal.
I’d started writing the Impulsive Explorer many years ago, but it foundered after our house was burgled and I lost 15,000 words I’d typed that were on floppy disks and that were in the laptop bag that was stolen with the laptop.
I was given the push by friends after I posted a couple of articles on LinkedIn about the Antarctic and Ghana and a colleague I’d met in a mastermind group who records books for Audible read some of the book and said I should definitely start it up again.
I like to think I’m a witty writer and had this (rather grandiose) dream of being the female equivalent to Bill Bryson. I love regaling friends with my stories and even over the last 12 months, I got lots of friends and family getting in touch with me to congratulate me on my annual round up letter and how I’d managed to create an interesting page out of pretty much nothing.
What can you share with us about the plot – without spoiling the ending!
Plot – Middle class woman has challenging upbringing, toes the line, goes to Uni, into corporate world, faces the slings and arrows of sexism in the work place as she claws her way up the greasy career pole. Facing increased stress and workload, manages to bag herself one of two places on a trip to live on a Russian Base in the Antarctic circle. Has epiphany resulting in her leaving the corporate world to find a different way of living – one based on her terms rather than family or societal expectations.
Who are the key characters – and how do you hope readers over 50 will relate to them?
I am the key character! Along with the cast of others I meet on the way. Whilst I was 37 when it happened, the feedback I’ve had so far is that it inspires people to think about their own lives and what are they not doing that they have dreamed of. Two people have emailed me to tell me about the trips they want to take as a result of reading my book.
And they will relate to working life in the 80s and 90s and what our reality, as women, was in those days. And possibly the upbringing, though I hope that most people had a rather more positive upbringing than mine.
What do like the most about the character/s you have created?
Even though it’s me – I like that I have always seized opportunities when they’ve arisen and that I’ve not accepted the status quo.
Are there any key issues you wanted to draw attention to?
Seizing the day
The benefits of saving and the choices it gives you.
That you can change your past and create a better future.
What do you want readers to take away having the read the book?
I want them to be inspired. Not necessarily to go on mad adventures, but to take a look at their own lives and wonder if there are changes they can make or if there is perhaps a dream they want to bring to life and that you can do it.
What’s next for you – will there be a sequel with the same characters?
I’m hoping to write the following two books in the series
The Curious Explorer – about the next stage of my journey in 2001 – Living and working in the rainforest in Ghana and then with four others, travelling back to the UK through West Africa using only public transport.
The Escaping Explorer – about my midlife crisis at the age of 50 (2013) when I rented my flat out and went travelling around New Zealand and Australia in a camper van to try and work out what I was going to do with the rest of my life having had an annus horribilis in 2012
What 3 tips would you offer women looking to write their first book?
– Write about what you know – it’s a lot easier than trying to start from scratch
– Get it professionally edited. It costs money, but it’s so worth it to get an objective review of your book to make sure there is a story arc, to bring out more of some areas and cut back on others.
– Beta test it – get some people to read your draft to get their feedback on what they like/don’t like (and you’ll get some fantastic proof reading in too) oh and to get some reviews that you can add in to your book before it’s published.
You can read a sample of the book here – http://bit.ly/TheImpulsiveExplorerSample
And there is more information on my website – https://www.karenespley.com/