Karma Lei is an American author born in Texas and currently lives in New England. She is married with two children. Karma is an emerging author and developing the Fasciata Series.
Q: Who is the real Karma lei Angelo?
A: She’s a little bit of everything: a mother, a wife, a nurturer, an explorer and adventurer. She’s a bit scared and nervous starting out with a new career again, but she doesn’t let fear stop her from going after her passions and dreams. She’s very driven and determined to succeed in whatever she sets her mind to.
Q: What made you choose to write under a pseudonym and where did you come up with the name?
A: I value my privacy and that of my family. I felt having a pseudonym would help keep my author life (business) separate from my home life (personal). “Karma Lei” is an anagram for “Amira Kel” and Angelo was my maiden name from 1996 to 2001.
Q: Your hobby is photography. I have seen some lovely work of yours on Instagram, especially looking at evidence of the golden ratio in nature. How long have you been interested in photography and what other hobbies do you pursue?
A: I remember being 3 or 4 years old and watching my parents develop film in a darkroom. I thought they were performing magic to make the images slowly appear on the photo paper. It fascinated me! Looking back through family photo albums and slides, I can see the world through their eyes; and, for me, it helps keep their memories alive.
I’ve had a couple of digital cameras over the years and use my Sony Alpha 33 DSLR to (attempt to) capture night-time photos of the stars and Northern Lights. I have attachable extension lenses for my iPhone which allow me to take macro, wide-angle, and fish bowl photographs. (I love the little details of things around me.)
Other hobbies include crocheting, woodworking, travelling, binge-watching crime shows on Netflix, gardening, helping others, and learning anything and everything I can. I did pottery several years ago and would love to set up a small work area in my basement. I inherited my mom’s stained glass and tools; I hope to create a few pieces this summer. I also have a small shop on Etsy. Basically, I don’t believe in limits and feel I can do anything I set my mind to.
Q: You’re a former civil engineer, now writer. What made you give it all up to write?
A: It’s a long story and a combination of several things over the course of a few years.
In 2011, I received a stipend and teacher’s assistantship to continue working on my Master’s degree in Civil Engineering at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. I decided to leave everything – my job, husband, kids, family, friends, you name it – and move from Texas to Rhode Island to finish my degree. I was set to leave on Wednesday, January 25, 2012, the day after my son’s fifth birthday.
My mom went into the hospital the beginning of January that year. Her health roller-coastered, and we found out she had Stage 4 lung cancer on January 19th. She was finally released from the hospital two days after that. But on Monday the 23rd she was readmitted due to complications from blood clots.
On Tuesday, January 24th, the day before I was set to drive from San Antonio to Rhode Island, I was wrapping gifts for my co-workers and preparing for my son’s birthday party that evening.
Then I received The Phone Call. My brothers and I were told to get to the hospital as fast as we could. She was dying.
I threw everything for my move into my car (clothes, boxes, plants, a cat), managed to squeeze one of my brothers in, and drove 450 miles to Texarkana. I honestly don’t remember much from The Phone Call to that evening other than there was a lot of crap in the car, it rained most of the way up there, and there was slushy snow in the hospital parking lot.
Two of my brothers were there with me in the hospital room; one was still driving from the Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina to Texas and didn’t make it in time. My mom passed away five minutes after I got to the hospital.
Words can’t – and will never – express the profound effect this has had on my life.
The day or two after her funeral, I was on the road to Rhode Island. I was determined to make her proud and continue to work on my Master’s. Things looked promising for a while; but eight months later, her brother died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack.
These two deaths killed my dream of getting my Master’s degree. I failed.
Eventually a turn of events led me and two of my brothers to New Hampshire. I worked at a civil engineering firm for a few years, but I developed several health problems from the stress and years of desk/computer work. And over this time, my love for engineering was slowly disappearing.
My father passed away on June 22, 2015. His death was the opposite of my mom’s: she died within days, he died within months. I was never close to my dad and there are regrets I have from my own stubbornness and anger I held towards him. However, both deaths affected me in more ways than I ever imagined.
By the end of that summer, I had completely lost my passion for engineering. By the end of that fall, I had stopped lying to myself about how I felt. I was failing – again – as an engineer and I had to be honest with myself. And on my mom’s birthday that December, I walked away from fifteen years of the same career field.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that would surprise us?
A: I’m legally blind in my right eye and only wear one contact lens in my left eye. I can still see, but I will never have 20/20 vision in both eyes.
Q: Taken from your bio and I quote, you are a: Plum defier, dust bunny slayer, minion ruler, cat slave, former civil engineer, new author, INTP, Pisces-Tiger, Qapla! So, you’re house proud, have kids, have a cat that owns you, earned a civil engineering degree, you like to write, you are in introverted intuitive thinker, born in the year of the Tiger and are a Pisces who enjoys Star Trek. Now please tell me what a plum defier is?
A: Earlier this year, I read Stephen King’s On Writing. In the book, he says: “Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence…Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that’s nice.”
My brain had processed those words as “plums defy”. Defiant plums. I realized later it was “deify”, but I fell in love with defying plums. It was a beautiful combination of words.
For me, being a “plum defier” means: paying homage to Mr. King, his advice, and other authors he recommended; crafting my words carefully, creatively, collectively; and, fearlessly following my own writing voice and imagination.
Q: Tell us about your crime fiction thrillers in the Jardine trilogy. Your main character’s life, AJ is in danger, not knowing whom she can trust both within her inner circle and the possibility of being in the sights of a serial killer. There are several car accidents that point to a sinister plot to eliminate key individuals. The plot is impressively complex. Where do you start with such plot and how do you keep track of all the threads?
A: When I first came up with the idea of my story, I had stereotypical good guys and bad guys. Then I realized that was dull and boring. As the story and characters developed, I made them more complex.
AJ is after a serial killer/hacker who is after a drug cartel who is after AJ. She begins to question her ethics as she gets to know the serial killer. She is falling in love with her partner, Tony; but she doesn’t know if she can trust him after she finds out he is a double agent for the cartel. There are other intricate elements in the books: multi-culturalism, PTSD, ethics, etc.
Also embedded in the trilogy (and the entire series) is the Fibonacci and golden ratio theme; numbers play a vital role in the telling of the story. It is part of a highly elaborate Code which is revealed in Book Two. (The depth of Fibonacci doesn’t stop there and will be revealed over time. )
I originally started out with a simple outline and short synopsis of what I wanted to happen in each chapter. However, as the characters told me their stories, I began having problems keeping the details straight in my head, and noticed mistakes in my plot.
At one point, I had read that J.K. Rowling kept a timeline graph of her story and characters. Her method intrigued me. So, I created a massive Excel file that listed every character in columns and the dates in rows. It has been vital to keep all the sub-plots organized.
Q: What made you release all three books at once? Were you aware that you would have been better off a) having a launch team to get those reviews, and b) releasing the books over a period of time?
A: I had originally thought about releasing the books over a period of time, but I changed my mind. The Jardine Trilogy is part of a larger story in the works. This trilogy is told from her limited third-person perspective; and readers will find out the rest of the story in the next two books, as told from the perspective of the serial killer and AJ’s partner.
I had not heard of launch teams until about a month ago. I just recently joined the Facebook page and will explore/learn all I can for my next book release. My future books will be published differently and done one at a time.
Q: I love your covers. Who was the artist and where did the concept come from?
A: I came up with the concept and attempted to create the covers myself, even going so far as to teach myself Adobe products. (I could see it in my head, but couldn’t translate it on the computer.) I found it was taking away my time from writing, researching, and reading. I finally realized I was making a huge mistake. I broke down and listened to the advice of others: have someone else do it.
I found my designer, Emily Snowdon, through a Facebook fan page for the band, Starset. (Listening to their music has been instrumental in developing my books.) She and I collaborated for a couple of months until we felt we had three separate polished covers and one combined image of all three.
Emily has been amazing! She is professional, patient, and polite. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with her and hope to use her for future book covers.
Q: How do you plan to market your books now that they have been published? What is next for you as an author?
I’m still learning about marketing and publishing and I know I may be making some mistakes along the way. But I will use those mistakes to learn and grow. I have many books to read about these topics, especially the ones you posted and recommended through the One Stop Fiction Authors’ Resource Group Facebook page. (A huge THANK YOU for those is in order! You do an INCREDIBLE job with the pages!!)
I’m taking the summer “off” from writing to travel, spend time with family, and catch up on dozens of projects I’ve put off for the last year. I will continue to work on my social media, build my website, read more books, and research everything I can. When my kids start school, I will begin writing Book Four and will publish that in 2018.
I’m not where I want to be (yet), but I’m getting there.