The Short Version:
Karen E. Hoover has loved the written word for as long as she can remember. Her favorite memory of her dad is the time he spent with Karen on his lap, telling her stories for hours on end. Her dad promised he would have Karen reading on her own by the time she was four years old … and he very nearly did. Karen took the gift of words her dad gave her and ran with it. Since then, she’s written two novels and reams of poetry. Her head is fairly popping with ideas, so she plans to write until she’s ninety-four or maybe even a hundred and four.
Inspiration is found everywhere, but Karen’s heart is fueled by her husband and two sons, the Rocky Mountains, her chronic addiction to pens and paper, and the smell of her laser printer in the morning.
More than you ever wanted to know:
I was born in Gardena, California November 7, 1970 and lived four happy years there. My father was the chief accountaint for Honeywell, which you think would mean I was great with math. I'm not. Well, I am good at doing basic math in my head rather quickly, but nothing beyond that. Despite my best efforts, I barely passed Geometry in High School. But I regress. My father worked for Honeywell, my mother stayed home—I think. Hey, I was young and she's dead so I can't ask her. So, here's the important part. Every night my father would come home from work and sit down and read with me. I remember sitting in the rocking chair, leaning against his strong chest and hearing it rumble as he read Green Eggs and Ham (which he hated. He thought it was disgusting.) and Are You My Mother. He'd also recite poetry, like Lewis Carroll's Jabberwocky. He swore he would have me reading by the time I was four, and he pretty much did. I wasn't a great reader, but I knew my ABC's enough to be bored all the way through Kindergarten.
Three months after I turned four he died suddenly of a heart attack three days before we were to move to Kennewick, Washington to be near my grandparents. We went ahead and moved anyway, sending our stuff ahead in a truck with someone while we flew on a plane, my father's casket in the hold beneath us. I remember asking Mom where he was and she told me beneath my seat, and I looked, but he wasn't there. She had to explain that he was actually beneath the floor. My poor mother.
In Washington we lived near Grandma and Grandpa on their one hundred acre farm. I loved it. We roamed that place from one corner to the other, and despite being told repeatedly to stay away from the canals, we spent quite a bit of time up there as well. It's a miracle we never drowned. My little brother and I spent many hours playing make-believe, which we called "space," and climbing trees to the tippy-top. It was a wonderful place to live. When I started school, I breezed through kindergarten, but when I got to first grade I struggled. I discovered I didn't like reading. Of course it didn't help that they were reading boring books, but it was more than that. Books reminded me of my father and that hurt, so I avoided them. When they were placing kids in their individual reading groups, they put me in the lowest one and I scraped by.
One day, my mom pulled me aside at home when I expressed my displeasure at having to read, and she reminded me of all those times Daddy would read to me after working such a long day. She reminded me about how much he loved the written word and how badly he had wanted me to be a good reader. She also told me that if I could learn to read and read well, that it was like I was keeping a piece of him alive in me. That struck home more than anything else did, and from that moment on, I threw myself into reading. Within a month I had gone from the lowest reading level to the highest and I haven't looked back since.
When I was eight Mom decided we needed to move to Oklahoma to be near my daddy's nephew. She thought we needed a father figure in our lives, and he has been a dear, dear part of the family ever since. I loved Oklahoma. We lived in a little town called Noble after spending a year in Norman while our house was built. My grandparents followed soon after and we bought 45 acres together so my grandfather could farm. The only problem was farming ing in Oklahoma clay is far, far different than farming in Washington soil. My mom always said he died a frustrated farmer. I finished elementary school there, going to two elementary schools and a middle school, which was fourth through sixth grade. I didn't have a ton of friends, but the ones I had were choice. They were awesome. I was also a tomboy and got into fights looking out for my little brother on a frequent basis. He still reminds me of how he was tormented because his sister had to beat everyone up for him. (Sorry, bro!) But still, we had fun. We kept playing space, and after our mom remarried and our step-dad taught us how to use a jig saw, it just opened up more doors of opportunity for play. We made crossbows and swords and shields and guns and all kinds of things.
It's not like we didn't have some of the electronic things kids have now. We did. Back then instead of a playstation we had an Atari and played games like Pac Man and Donkey Kong, Q-Bert and Pitfall. We had a blast. But we lived in the country. There were no other kids to play with unless they were two or three miles away. After so many hours of watching tv or playing on the Atari, Mom would make us go outside and play and then lock the doors so we couldn't come back in. She had to. Oklahoma is HOT, and if she didn't we'd go outside for five minutes and run back in with any excuse we could think of. What made it even worse was I hated shoes, so I would run barefoot from shade to shade, because the clay in the sun would bake your feet.
Summers we spent reading books from the library, as many as they would let us check out. Those were the years I discovered fantasy. Madeleine L'engle's A Wrinkle in Time; Edgar Rice Burroughs John Carter of Mars series; C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia. I also discovered mythology from the library, and I'm not talking just Greek or Roman myths. I read mythology from Japan, from China, from India and from the Native Americans. Fascinating stuff. I loved it.
When I was almost fourteen, my mom and step-dad decided they needed to move to Roosevelt, Utah for a business opportunity for my step-dad. We went. We stayed three months. They divorced, and we moved to Bountiful, Utah, where I spent the rest of my junior high and high school years, going to South Davis Junior High and Woods Cross High School. Bountiful was nice, and I made some great friends, but I missed the country. I still do, actually.
I played the flute all through junior high and high school and got myself a music scholarship to Utah State University. I had offers from a couple of other colleges, but I had my heart set on USU, so off I went. My second quarter in I got mononucleosis and the doctor told me I was so sick I needed to go home, that I'd be wasting my time and money if I stayed in school. So . . . I went home. It took me six months for my brain to start working normally again and to regain some energy. It was frustrating, to say the least. After a few tries going back to school at Weber State University (then College), I decided to go on a mission for my church.
I had always hoped if I went on a mission that I would go somewhere like Germany or Scotland. Somewhere cool. When I got my papers, I was called to the Connecticut, Hartford mission. I will admit I was a little disappointed at first. I'd never really been to the east. I was a western and southern girl through and through, but once I got out there, I realized how awesome it was. So much history! Although I did spend the first six months with my feelings hurt all the time. Westerners talk around things. They don't come straight out and tell you stuff very often. Easterners say it like it is. I came to appreciate it, but it took a while to realize that just because they didn't like my hair didn't mean they didn't like me.
I spent eighteen months traveling between Rhode Island, Connecticut, different parts of upstate New York, and a bit of Vermont, then came home. A few months later, I met my husband on a piano bench and fell in love. That man can SING! We met in September or October and he proposed to me on Christmas Eve. We married the following July.
After seven or eight years of being married and being unable to have children, we decided to adopt and went through the foster system to find our boys. We went from zero kids to three overnight—a three month old, a two year old, and a three year old, the older two like little wild animals let out of a cage. It was a challenge. I wasn't getting any sleep because of the baby and then the older two destroyed everything. I literally could not let them out of my sight for an instant. I thought I was going insane.
After seven months we lost the baby to his birth father (they all had different dads and the same mom), and though that was one of the hardest things that has ever happened to me, I realize now that it was a blessing. I had the chance to know what it was like to be a mother to an infant. When he came to us, he couldn't even turn over, and by the time he left he was starting to walk. I know all about four a.m. feedings and teething, screaming infants. I've experienced it. But though I adored that baby, the two children who needed us, and who I needed the most, were the two who stayed. They have come so far from those days of smearing feces and dismantling everything in sight. Now they are very polite, loving, kind-hearted young men. Do they still have challenges? Yes. But are they worth it?
Beyond that, I just continue to write. I've had some health challenges and heartaches along the way. My mother, who was my best friend and lived with us for six years, passed away suddenly from pancreatitis and a heart attack in 2008. That just about broke me. A year later I found out I was bipolar and in 2011 I found out I was diabetic. Things are not easy, but the thing I have learned about life, is that no matter how much is thrown at you, the most important thing you can do is keep climbing up out of the mud and get back on the horse. You just keep moving forward and pray you're headed in the right direction.
Just like writing. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I just know it. Well, you can figure it out. I'm sure it applies to everyone differently. For me, it's just remembering to move forward, no matter what.