Episode 7: Writing Community – Interview with Karen Dionne

by Gabriela Pereira
published in Podcast

Welcome to our very first podcast interview. My goal with these interviews is for you to hear directly from top authors, agents, editors and book industry experts. It is such a pleasure to be interviewing the fabulous author, and a good friend, Karen Dionne, for our first interview.

Karen is the internationally published author of Freezing Point, Boiling Point, and The Killing: Uncommon Denominator. She is also the co-founder of Backspace, a writing community I first discovered through the Backspace Conference back in 2007.

When I attended that first conference, I was a total newbie and had no idea what I was doing or what this industry was all about. The Backspace community welcomed me with open arms and I owe a lot of the progress I made as a writer from the people I met at that conference (among these awesome people were Karen and my awesome agent). Since then I’ve spoken at a Backspace conference, and I’m thrilled to have Karen as a writer-mentor and friend.

In this interview, Karen shares her insights about writers and community. Karen is indeed an expert when it comes to creating and maintaining a writing community, with years of experience running the Backspace community, participating in various writing associations and creating amazing conference experiences like the Backspace Writers Conference (currently on hiatus) and the Salt Cay Writers Retreat. Tune in below to hear her advice about joining a writer’s community, or creating your own.


About Karen Dionne

Karen Dionne is the internationally published author of Freezing Point, a science thriller nominated by RT Book Reviews as Best First Mystery of 2008. A second environmental thriller, Boiling Point, about an erupting volcano, a missing researcher, and a radical scheme to end global warming published from Berkley in January 2011.

Karen is cofounder of the online writers community Backspace, and organizes the Salt Cay Writers Retreat held every year on a private island in the Bahamas. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and the International Thriller Writers, where she served on the board of directors as Vice President, Technology. Karen has been honored by the Michigan Humanities Council as a Humanities Scholar for her body of work as an author, writer, and as co-founder of Backspace.

In this interview…

Here are some of the topics and questions Karen and I discuss in the interview.

Writers & Community

  • How Backspace came into being, why it started, and the mission behind it.
  • How the community has grown and changed as a community over the years. Surprises that happened along the way.
  • Keys to creating a supportive, drama-free community and some of the major “wins” that can come from being part of a community.
  • How writers can find critique groups and writing buddies. Where to go to form these connections.
  • How to navigate online communities without getting lost in the crowd.
  • Potential pitfalls when forging these connections, and tell-tale warning signs to look for.


Of course, no conversation about community would be complete without at least touching on conferences. When it comes to conferences Karen knows all the ins and outs because she’s organized and attended so many of them. Here are some tips and advice Karen shares about conferences:


  • What to look for and how to choose the right conference, especially if it’s your first one.
  • How to prepare in advance so you make the most of these events.
  • Conference etiquette and faux pas that writers should avoid.

Writing and Books

  • Writing science thrillers and what a “science thriller” is exactly.
  • Crafting fiction within the constraints of science (or the constraints of writing a book based on a TV show).
  • How community has influenced Karen’s writing process, especially with The Killing, which is based on an existing show.
  • Karen’s current work-in-progress and what it’s like to work with critique partners through the process of a draft.

Plus, Karen’s #1 tip for finding and cultivating a writing community.

Resource Recap:

Want to learn more about Backspace or join this awesome community? Head on over to the website. Also, there’s still time to apply for the Salt Cay Writers Retreat this fall! Check out details at the website. This is a week-long retreat focused primarily on the craft of writing and it happens on a private island in the Bahamas.


Into thrillers? Check out Karen’s books:
Freezing Point, Boiling Point,
and The Killing: Uncommon Denominator.

Where can you find Karen on the web? Learn more about her by visiting her website, following her on Twitter or connecting with her via Facebook, LinkedIn and Google+. Also, check out her Instagram and Pinterest pages.

Link to Episode 7

(Right-click to download.)

If you liked this episode…

Head over to iTunes, leave a review, and subscribe so you’ll be first to know when new episodes are available. Also, if you know anyone who might enjoy this podcast, please share!

Until next week, keep writing and keep being awesome.



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