At some point, I decided to follow my strange curiosities and turn them into books – and it worked. I’ve supported myself as a writer since the days of floppy discs and FedExed manuscripts to New York. I’ve written fiction, memoir, kids books, and creative non-fiction, a.k.a. non-fiction narrative with a rich memoir filling, humor frosting, and self-help sprinkles. Shouldn’t we all describe our work as cake?
I also live with The Man of the House, my partner of nineteen years and husband, who is computer savvy and internet-shy, and Desmond Jones, a Great Pyrenees-Labrador Retriever we rescued from the Great Pyrenees Rescue Society. These dogs shed like hell, but are as sweet as can be. I highly recommend them. What’s a writing life without a daily walk?
It’s challenging to talk about myself,
so I’m going to switch tenses for the bio officielle:
KAREN KARBO is the author of fourteen award-winning novels, memoirs and works of non-fiction including the best-selling “Kick Ass Women” series. Her first novel, Trespassers Welcome Here (1990) was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and a Village Voice Top Ten Book of the Year. Her other two adult novels, The Diamond Lane (1991) and Motherhood Made a Man Out of Me (2001) were also named New York Times Notable Books – and were just re-released in beautiful editions by Hawthorne Books. Her 2004 memoir, The Stuff of Life (2004), about the last year she spent with her father before his death, was a New York Times Notable Book, and a People Magazine Critics’ Choice. Her short stories, essays, articles and reviews have appeared in Elle, Vogue, O, Esquire, Outside, The New York Times, salon.com and other magazines. Karen is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Fiction, an Oregon Book Award for Creative Nonfiction, and a winner of the General Electric Younger Writer Award. Recently, she was one of 24 writers selected for the Amtrak Residency.
Living in France
What happens when you say yeah, no, not happening to life as you know it? You might end up in small, charming apartment in the south of France. On habite ici maintenant. We live here now. This has been the phrase on our lips every day since May 15, 2019, when we moved in. We’ve uttered it to the candied peanut man at the farmer’s market and to our regular waiter at the Sola (one of two local watering holes in town) and a cheese monger from Bourg-en-Bresse, near Lyon, whom we met one night at our favorite tapas place. He wanted to practice his English. Parce qu’on habite ici maintenant, we wanted to practice our French. When we told him about our move he said, “But what about the taxes!” We said we had two words for him: Donald. Trump. He said, “I have nothing for that.”
But there’s more to it than that…
But there’s more to it than that. Like all immigrants, we were seeking a life that suited us better. Our apartment is over a nougat shop and across from the boulangerie. In the morning, we wake up to the street cleaner, and the burble of French. We eat croissants, yogurt, and raspberries for breakfast and hang our clothes to dry out the window. In the afternoons, I take my laptop to the Sola, where I order un grand crème, a coffee with milk, and work on my book. When I leave, the manager gives me a thumbs up and says in his heavily accented English, “Got it all under control?” In the late afternoons, we go for a swim then, with snarly hair and sandy feet, stop for a glass of Perle de Collioure at the St. Elme.
This is our new life. We don’t have a car. We share a closet. I have one shelf for books. Every day we embarrass ourselves speaking French. The administrative tasks – validating our visas, opening a bank account, registering our businesses – qualify as part time jobs. And we are yet to be hit with our first wave of social contributions, taxes, and I’m sure that will test our resolve. We had no idea that we’d weather a pandemic here, but weather it, we are. And soon, when we move across town to the ugliest house on the prettiest street, as the locals like to say, we may have more than one bookshelf and closet, but we’ll still be here, in our new home. On habite ici maintenant. We live here now. And I can’t imagine being anywhere else.
Ten Delightful Things You Didn’t Know About Me
(and if you did, thanks for keeping my secrets):
I’m a master scuba diver. My favorite dive happened off the south coast of Maui, where a strong current sent me through an underwater world for an hour, swimming over coral gardens and down a shallow sand canal accompanied by a pair of green sea turtles.
I’m a Californian by way of Michigan. We moved to Los Angeles when I was one year old, which I don’t remember, but I do remember my dad designed the hood ornament for the Lincoln Continental and toys for Mattel. I was an unofficial toy tester – dream job for a six-year-old.
I once spent a week at the Grasse Institute of Perfumery in France to learn the basics of perfume making to write an article for Budget Travel. It completely reaffirmed my love of Chanel No. 19.
I skipped first grade. In second grade I wrote my first novel, entitled “What Next?” about five people who don’t like each other and get stuck in an elevator. It was ten pages long. I still think this is a great idea for a novel.
I have been around the world.
My husband and I were married by “Elvis” at the Graceland Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas. For $199 Elvis walks you down the aisle, gives you away, sings 2 songs, and performs the ceremony. Bouquet included.
I was voted “Most *&%#&$” in the senior class. I’m still not sure what that means.
I am more afraid of roller coasters than sharks. I’m a PADI-certified shark handler, trained in the Bahamas by an Australian named Derek.
Jobs I’ve held: child model for Barbie, dog groomer, papergirl, sailboat varnisher, waitress (Knott’s Berry Farm’s Chicken Dinner Restaurant), hotel maid, art house movie theater popcorn seller, movie reviewer, author.