“I think if you sit yourself down and make yourself write, you can always refashion it later,” she said.
Smith, 63, of Hanover, has written more than 80 books since 1991. She said she’s written through death, operations, caring for sick relatives and other major life events.
While Smith has written primarily romance — her most recent novel, “Marry Dr. Maverick,” was released in October — she’ll take her first foray into mystery in December.
“After 20 years of writing romance, I thought I needed something more,” she said.
For Smith, the plot for her first mystery novel came easy for her. By writing what she knew, Smith wove local landmarks into her fictional story including Shippensburg University and Adams County Winery, as well as Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, York and Lancaster, inspired by the landscape and changing seasons.
“I think this is a beautiful area,” she said.
“Staged To Death” follows 30-something Caprice De Luca, a home stager from Kismet, Pa., (a fictional town between York and Harrisburg). Caprice tries to juggle her investigative work, business, family and budding love life while making a happy ending for everyone.
Smith has two other mysteries in the series planned, but she hopes there will be more. While the murder mystery in “Staged to Death” is solved, some loose ends are left dangling for her second book in the series, “Deadly Décor,” which will be released in June 2014.
Like a romance author delving into mystery for the first time, Smith sticks to what she knows in “Staged to Death.” Love is a constant motivator, moving the plot with its many threads forward.
“I thought it characterized my mystery from others,” Smith said, “I thought it would convince my romance readers to follow me into mystery because there’s still relationship satisfaction.”
Smith is inspired by ’60s fashion and music, and her main character, Caprice, is too. Smith said Caprice is a younger version of her, and it shows in Caprice’s interests in caring for animals, cooking and spending time with family. Smith has worked in a jewelry store, as a home decorator and as a teacher, and drew on her knowledge of previous professions for her novel.
“There’s some of my heart in every book,” Smith said. Smith admitted she had to do some research for the jewel-encrusted antique knives and swords that were featured in the book. She visited eBay to see how much the collectibles would cost, along with the history behind some of the pieces.
In an interview with the York Daily Record in 2001, Smith talked about pain motivating her writing. She had back surgery and was diagnosed with fibromyalgia. Through it all, she had her writing. She dictates her plot into a tape recorder, using cassette tapes, and she has a friend from Maryland type her novels for her. She wants to get a digital voice recorder, but hasn’t found one she likes yet, she said. Steve, her husband of more than 40 years, cheers her on, helping her with editing and promotion.
Marketing and promoting her books takes up a lot of Smith’s time — almost five hours a day. She is active on Twitter and Facebook, blogs regularly and has an email list with readers who aren’t social media savvy. She has two desktop computers, an iPad and a smartphone.
Smith firmly believes in gaining an audience one reader at a time, whether it’s through a Facebook group or a book signing. She has spent years engaging readers online and developing her base.
“Writing isn’t what it used to be,” she said.
Smith explained that a lot more writers are self-publishing, which means the market is flooded with ebooks.
“Without a big push or hitting it lucky, I don’t think you can get your name above the noise,” she said.
Smith said aspiring writers should probably have another job until they’re established, and that new writers should be open to both traditional and indie publishing.
“Economically, a writer can’t just do one anymore,” she said. While Smith has been published in a more traditional manner, she also has four original novels self-published. With the rise of eBooks, Smith noted that she’s gained a lot of younger, tech-savvy readers.
When she’s not writing, Smith loves cooking and gardening. She and her husband set aside two hours of the day to spend time together.
“The garden is the place I go to refresh, sit there and just breathe,” she said.
In January, she plants heirloom tomato and petunia seeds. Throughout the winter, she makes soup and around the holidays she bakes bread and cookies. She uses old recipes from her mother, and has included recipes at the end of “Staged to Death.”
Meet Karen Rose Smith
Name: Karen Rose Smith
Lives in: Hanover
Family: Married to husband, Steve, for more than 40 years. She has one son, Kenneth, who lives in Oklahoma.
Occupation: Full-time writer
Hobbies: Gardening, cooking, baking, caring for stray cats
Online: “Staged to Death” will be available in print in December. See more about Karen Rose Smith at www.karenrosesmith.com or search for her on Facebook. You can follow her on Twitter at @karenrosesmith
If you go: Smith’s book launch will be Dec. 3 on Facebook. She’ll have trivia and giveaways on her reader’s group page. Smith will also have a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. Dec. 7 at Books-A-Million in Hanover.