Author Profile: West Liberty writer Karen Musser Nortman combines camping, family history interest to create time travel series

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Karen Musser Nortman is a busy writer and an active member of Iowa indie author scene. She resides in West Liberty and is an eager promoter of all those trying to get their stories out in the world.

Meanwhile, she has plenty of stories of her own to tell, including a series of novels featuring a camping trailer that is also a time travel device. In this e-interview, she reveals how her love of camping underpins her writing, what she looks for in a time travel novel, and what she’s working on now.

Q: Tell me how you came up with idea for “The Time Travel Trailer.” Have you always had an interest in time travel stories?

A: We are die-hard campers, and I became interested in the recent trend to restore vintage campers. It occurred to me that one would make a great time portal. At the same time, I am a grandmother, and for your grandchildren, you are a person who started life at 45 or 50 or 60. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize that our own grandparents were once naughty children or rebellious teens or first-time parents with interesting lives, until it’s too late to ask them about it.

I had one grandmother who, according to the family lore, enrolled in engineering in Colorado in the early 1900s. There must be a lot more to that story! But it’s too late to find out. My maternal grandfather emigrated from Denmark to Argentina in his late teens, learned blacksmithing on a ranch, and ended up in Minnesota. How did that happen? I have no idea. So I thought it would be really great if you could travel back in time and observe your ancestors at different stages of their lives.

Q: Dinah reads a lot of time travel fiction in the novel as she tries to figure out what’s going on. What is your favorite time travel novel and how did it influence your book?

A: I love some time travel books, but the time travel has to figure into the plot. I read the first Outlander book and it was good, but nothing was affected by the fact that the main character time traveled from the 21st century. In Stephen King’s “11/22/63,” the time travelers attempt to affect history, i.e., the Kennedy assassination. Because of that book, I wanted to explore travel to more recent decades, but not to change major events. Nathan Van Coops writes a series beginning with “In Times Like These” that deals with every day people and events and is very well done.

Q: You also write mysteries with a camping theme. Are there different challenges for you as a writer when penning a straight ahead mystery versus a time travel story?

A: Both begin with “What if ...?” We’ve seen lots of puzzling events in campgrounds and most, if not all, have reasonable explanations. But sometimes we entertain ourselves with more outrageous stories. Maybe that guy is a serial killer on the run from the law. Maybe this bone in the firepit is human. And a mystery is born.

But straight mysteries need to follow the accepted laws of science. With time travel, you make them up. They do need to have some sort logic and consistency. Can a person travel back to other times in their own life? Can they take things with them or bring things back? And so on. It’s very easy to paint yourself into a corner with some of the rules you make up.

Q: I understand the next entry in this series is due out this fall. What can you tell me about that story? Do you see the series continuing beyond the third book?

A: I don’t have a title for it yet, but it involves Route 66 through Missouri in the 1950s. At the end of the second book, the McBriars loan the trailer to a museum, because they are concerned about the risks of using it. The museum wants to loan it to another display in Texas, and the family feels it is safer for them to deliver it than for someone that doesn’t know its powers.

I didn’t see the story continuing beyond the first book, but several readers demanded it and one even sent me several story ideas. So, yes, it will probably continue beyond the third book.

Q: What are you working on now or next?

A: As I said, the third Time Travel Trailer book is in the works and I just finished a novella that is a prequel to the Frannie Shoemaker Campground Mysteries called “We Are NOT Buying a Camper!” After the time travel book, I will probably work on the ninth campground mystery, “Grilling the Suspect,” and involving a barbecue contest.

Q: Given that you are an indie author, what’s the best way for folks to find your books?

A: They are all available on Amazon both for Kindle and as paperbacks. Some of them also are on the Barnes & Noble and iTunes sites. Five of the mysteries and both time travel books are in digital audio on Audible.com. More information is on my website: www.karenmussernortman.com.

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