A storybook life: Manatee woman is best-selling romantic suspense author

Bradenton Herald – Mystery. Suspense. Romance.

You can find it on the pages of books, on Kindles and in one of its many sources — the vivid imagination of River Club resident Karen Rose.

Rose, 45, is an award-winning author whose books have appeared on the best-seller lists of the New York Times, USA Today and the London Sunday Times.

The writer was recently nominated for a 2010 RITA Award for romantic suspense. She’ll find out if she wins in July.

“It’s kind of like the Oscars for writers,” said Rose, who has been nominated for the award six times during her short creative fiction career. She won her first RITA in 2005.

Impressive as that sounds, there’s more: Rose’s 11 books have been published in 18 languages, including Norwegian and Japanese.

“The Japanese ones are pretty cool,” said Rose, who is working on her 12th novel.

Her biggest fans are in Germany and the United Kingdom, where she is known as a thriller writer.

In the United States, her books can be found in any major bookstore, classified under romantic suspense.

Rose said her books are a mix between “Law & Order” and “ER” — full of romance, emergency responders, detectives and murders.

Her latest novel, “Silent Scream,” released in paperback in the United States this week, recently debuted at No. 2 on hard-back best-seller list in the UK. It’s just one of her several top 10 books in the market.

“Silent Scream” features the return of David, a character Rose’s book fans have been pining to read more about. David, introduced in Rose’s first book and who appears in subsequent novels, is a firefighter who is thrown back together with a semi-old flame, so to speak, during an arson/murder investigation in “Silent Scream.”

As most romance novels dictate, there’s a drop-dead gorgeous heroic hunk. That’s David’s calling card.

Surprisingly, though, he doesn’t like that about himself.

“He considers it more of a burden,” said Rose.

Rose’s books are inspired by a little bit of everything — friends, imagination, real-life stories and overheard conversations at coffee shops.

“Silent Scream,” for instance, was inspired by Rose’s time writing in a local coffee shop.

Being a mystery writer, though, she wouldn’t say which coffee shop. But she did say this: “It turns out that local coffee shop is the first place where people meet on the Internet.”

And it’s also the place where she overheard many interesting conversations.

From those conversations, she came up with a plot that includes an evil blackmailer who hears conversations and uses them against people.

A writer’s road

As successful as Rose is, getting her first book published wasn’t easy. There’s a right place, right time and a lot of luck approach to it, Rose said. Ironically, when Rose started writing, she had no plans to be published.

She did it for fun.

Growing up in Maryland as a shy little girl, she embraced books, reading often, she said. But later, her love of books was derailed for a career in chemical engineering.

“There was a thing my mother always said, ‘Marry someone you love, but be able to take care of yourself,’ ” Rose said.

Taking her mom’s advice into consideration, chemical engineering sounded like a good option. Rose liked chemistry, she could make good money and the University of Maryland offered her a full scholarship to study it.

After college, Rose got a job in product development with Procter & Gamble in Cincinnati.

“We made Metamucil taste better,” she said of the projects she worked on, which included Pampers, Crest and Always.

Frequent travels on the job recharged Rose’s love of books. She would read them during plane rides. Rose gravitated toward romance novels. Oddly enough, the more she read, the more book scenes began to fill her mind, but they weren’t from any books she read.

“I thought, ‘This is really annoying,’ ” she said. “I didn’t think I was insane or anything.”

But the scenes would wake her up at night and pop up in her thoughts during business meetings. She had to get it out, she wrote.

She hasn’t stopped since.

It was Rose’s husband, Martin, that encouraged her to get published.

She received “good” rejections at first. The kind that weren’t the standard rejection letter with terms like “not appropriate for us at this time.” Her’s had more substance, with editors telling her they liked her characters and plot but she needed to work on pacing, etc.

Her husband encouraged her to join the Romance Writers of America to help her work on her writing technique.

Eventually, life brought Rose and her family to Manatee County, where, after a couple jobs later, she was able to live out her life-long dream of teaching at Manatee School for the Arts. She taught chemistry, physics, precalculus and creative writing. She worked on her own writing on the side.

“I always tell kids do not quit your day job,” said Rose, who now writes full-time. “You have to have a day job because until you can support yourself, being a starving artist is not fun.”

She sold her first book, “Don’t Tell,” in 2001, just before she started teaching. She rewrote it five times before she turned it into her agent. The book was published by Grand Central Publish two years later to help launch its new romance program.

For her second book, “Have You Seen Her?” Rose used the scenes that flashed through her mind before she got into writing.

The book became her first USA Today best-seller. Her third book, “I’m Watching You,” won the 2005 RITA Award for Best Romantic Suspense.

Rose’s world, full of love for her husband, two children and her novels, seems like a story-book life itself. She credits her husband for that.

“I’ve been very blessed,” she said. “I have a husband whose supportive, who saw my future in ways that I never would have — in ways I would have never had the gumption to consider on my own.”

But there’s still another thing she’d like to accomplish on her to-do list: a movie deal for her books.

She said there’s been interest in making that happen, but things haven’t come together yet. And if they do, there’s the question of who would play David.

“Nobody could play him,” she said jokingly. “Nobody’s that handsome.”

Not even George Clooney?

“George Clooney in his ‘ER’ days probably could have,” she said.

published May 28, 2010

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