Karen Monahan Fernandes graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst with a degree in English, and spent her junior year studying abroad in the UK. Since then, she has written professionally as a newspaper journalist, an editor in educational publishing, and a software technical writer. Writing Strega was a true adventure, and one of her favorite journeys.
Your real name and pen name?
One and the same.
Please share some of the best memories of your childhood
Some of my best memories from childhood are with my dad. He always took time to enjoy the simple, fun moments with me. He always pointed out the beauty around us—singing birds, flowering trees, the full moon. Even when the world is crashing down around me, I can always see a glimmer of light. I have my dad to thank for that.
About your education? What career did you plan during your education days?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I fell in love with literature and writing in high school. I went into college very open-minded, but I naturally migrated to English literature classes. At one point, I was a Wildlife and Fisheries Conservation major. I love nature, animals, and biology. But my love for literature won out in the end.
What languages you can speak and write?
English is the only language I can confidently speak and write. I took years of Spanish in high school and college. My in-laws are from Portugal, and I’ve been passively learning Portuguese for years, but Rosetta Stone is definitely in my future!
What is your biggest source of inspiration in life
My husband and my son. They inspire me to be the best I can be every single day.
What hurts you most in this world
Children that suffer physical/emotional abuse of any kind. It breaks my heart like nothing else.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced? How did you overcome it?
I’ve faced quite a few challenges in my life (major health issues, losing my dad, losing my brother), and the way I overcome them is to focus on the positive things in life. There is always something to appreciate, admire, be thankful for, be in awe of. When we keep our eyes on the darkness, we slip into despair. So I turn my eyes to the light when I need to rebuild myself.
If you had to live a day of your life as one of the living or dead personality, who would it be and why?
Cleopatra. The world was such a different place back then (in good and bad ways), and I’d love to witness and experience all the subtle nuances. Cleopatra was as compelling as any fictional character, so hers would be interesting shoes to step into for a day.
What is your favorite genre and why?
I love just about any story that involves a little magic. Supernatural. Paranormal. Mystical. Fantastical. Epic. Anything that takes me out of my world and on an awesome journey.
When did you start writing? What is the purpose of your writing?
I’ve been writing since I could hold a pen in my hand. I’ve been a sponge for good stories my whole life. I love to write (and read) as an escape into a different world. Writing allows me to express the ugliness of real-life struggle and pain with beauty and grace. Creative expression (writing, art, music, anything creative) is magical, transformative, and so therapeutic.
Which of your work has been published so far? Would you like to share a synopsis of your work?
I just published my first novel, Strega (Book I of the Strega Series), in December 2013.
When high school senior Jay Bonifacio finds her grandmother brutally murdered in their small-town home, the scar left by the death of her parents years earlier is ripped open. She is devastated, but she is not nearly as terrified as she should be. Jay is a Strega. Like her mother and grandmother, she is a descendant of the original Strega of ancient Etruria—gifted women of the woods bestowed with godly power, and the world’s first witches. With the truth withheld from her all her life, Jay is blindsided when her power is unbound. Demons are coming for her. They killed the people she loved most to get to her, and they won’t rest until she is dead. Forced to embrace her identity if only to survive, Jay uncovers a past life when her ruthless enemy’s hatred for her was born, and she rediscovers an eternal love that has burned throughout lifetimes. Fighting for her life, she is drawn back into an ancient battle between the virtuous and the wicked that threatens to destroy her and all of humankind.
What are your forthcoming writings? What are your future plans?
I’m working on Strega Book II now, which will be released in October 2014.
What four top most things you take care of while writing a book?
Pace. Plot points. Character development. General awesomeness.
Pace: I like a fast pace when I read, so naturally I like to write that way too. I love when a book makes me wish I didn’t have to put it down, and that I had enough time for just one more chapter.
Plot points: Plot points are essential – the way they present individually and the way they are woven together. If I don’t care about the plot points in my story, I can’t expect that my readers are going to care either. I have to be excited, scared, fascinated, swooning, longing, if I want to conjure these feelings in my readers.
Character Development: My characters have to feel real, like you could potentially run into them on the street they feel so genuine. My characters are constructed from fragments of people I’ve met throughout my life, people that fascinate me, terrify me, mystify me, and generally make me feel something special or unique. So they are, in essence, real to me, and I try to write them with that genuine integrity.
General Awesomeness: After all these essential elements fall together, I run through my manuscript countless times, making sure that everything I’m trying to say is said with hand-picked, perfect words and phrases that make me erupt with the exact emotion I’m after.
Your dream destination on Earth?
Tuscany. There’s a reason I’m drawn to write about the ancient cultures and lore from this region of the world. Something about it fascinates me. I dream of a month-long vacation there with my family, and riding a bike through the Tuscan hillside (stopping for a bit of wine and cheese along the way).
Your origin of birth and other countries you have visited/ stayed. What best things you liked in these countries around the globe?
I was born in the US. My family is from Ireland. My traveling resume is far from complete—there are so many places I want to visit. I’ve been to Ireland and the UK. I love seeing the world through different perspectives. I love meeting new people and stepping into their everyday normal lives (immersing myself in new foods, music, art, landscapes).
Your favorite time of the day?
I love quiet mornings. I love having coffee with my husband before the rest of the world around us is awake. I love seeing the sun come up each day. It’s always a miracle.
Your zodiac/ sunsign?
Your favorite color and why?
Green, because it’s the color of new life. Even in the dead of winter, green reminds me of spring and all the new life that will soon pop up out of the soil.
Your favorite book and why?
I love The Hobbit. I was so young when my big brother Tom read it to me (a treasured memory), and it really shaped my imagination. Adventure. Dragons. Noble quest. What more could a girl ask for?
Your favorite celebrity and why?
My favorite celebrities are charitable, philanthropic ones. With so much money and power that could be used selfishly or selflessly, it is admirable when they take the high road and use their reach to help make the world a better place.
Your favorite food?
Some quickies: Sun or Moon, Laughter or Smile, Morning or Evening, Coffee or Tea, Mountain or Sea, Long Drive or Short Drive, Silence or Conversation, Water or Fire, Air or Earth, Mars or Jupiter, Moon or Sun, Tulip or Rose, Red or Blue, Left or Right, Glance or Stare
Sun or Moon: Sun
Laughter or Smile: Laughter
Morning or Evening: Morning
Coffee or Tea: Morning coffee; afternoon and evening tea
Mountain or Sea: Sea
Long Drive or Short Drive: Long Drive
Silence or Conversation: Conversation
Water or Fire: Fire
Air or Earth: Earth
Mars or Jupiter: Jupiter
Tulip or Rose: Tulip
Red or Blue: Blue
Left or Right: Left
Glance or Stare: Stare
What three words come to your mind for each – Technology, Life, God, Humanity, Terrorism, Racism, Childhood Abuse, Love, Parenting, Old age
Technology: power, reach, connection
Life: beauty, love, light
God: power, light, magnificence
Humanity: raw, challenging, evolving
Terrorism: rattling, darkness, pain
Racism: ignorance, insecurity, fear
Childhood abuse: punishable, horrific, unforgiveable
Love: precious, gift, miracle
Parenting: privilege, gift, miracle
Old age: wisdom, journey, gift
State your signature line/ tagline/ best quote
The last line of your autobiography would be…
She loved fiercely, treasured every moment, annihilated every obstacle in her way, and she lived happily ever after.