Thursday, 26 July 2018

Interview with Karen J. Carlisle

You may or may not know this but today is Aunts and Uncles Day and so it seems most fitting to catch up with Karen J. Carlisle, fellow of The Scribblers' Den and the author behind Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire. I've managed to get her to take a break from her hectic schedule and answer a few questions about Aunt Enid and other projects she is working on. Why don't you get yourself a nice cup of tea and join us?

So Karen, most of your novels are in the Steampunk genre, what made you take a break from writing Steampunk this time?

I’d written three (slightly dark) steampunk books. I needed something a little more light-hearted. I delved into my WIP progress box for the steampunk adventure novel I had almost completed…
At the same time I was going through some old photos and reminiscing… and reading an article on garden gnomes. I wondered where mine had disappeared to. Then a few things fell into place. Could garden gnomes move? What colour would hydrangeas be in alkaline (Adelaide) soil? My brain made a point of reminding me that lemons were acidic...
Suddenly there was a story, several plot points, a Big Bad wanting to muscle-in, and Aunt Enid demanding they would not pass…
(Yes, my brain is that chaotic sometimes.)

It certainly sounds like a real 'brainstorm'! Now, you write mostly detective fiction, what are your influences and what qualities do you need to create a good detective novel?

I grew up on a steady diet of Agatha Christie, Ngaio Marsh and Sherlock Holmes. I‘d read almost all of them before I started high school (when I re-discovered fantasy and science fiction).

To create a detective novel, you need to know the solution first, so you can lay clues, red-herrings and distractions that make sense. It requires attention to detail, in both the mystery and characters, and just enough suspense to keep the reader interested.

Aunt Enid has the perfect qualities of a favourite aunt; nice cooking, home with doors always open and everything in the strictest confidence. Is she based on a favourite aunt of yours?

She is based on my own great Aunt Enid and my grandmother, both of whom I have very fond memories. As a child, we used to visit Aunt Enid’s house. She’d make lemon butter (curd) on her wood-burning stove, and had two enormous hydrangeas - one on either side at the bottom of her front stairs. My grandmother used to make toffees, ginger slice and fruit cake - and ride motorcycles during the war years.

Both ladies sound like poeple to inspire many adventures. But getting onto gnomes; gnomes are an integral part of the story. I'll be totally honest, I never really liked them, but the one I inherited with my house has taken on a new standing since reading Aunt Enid - I have even named him Manos (o vavos) Are you a fan of garden ornaments generally?

I think there are two types of people: those who love garden gnomes (or secretly do) and those who have a morbid fear of them. I’ve had various gnomes in the garden over the years. Back in the nineties, you could get ones with axes buried in their skulls… I always wanted one of those. It got me thinking… why did they have axes in their skulls? And why do some people have armies of them in the garden? Their story needed to be told.

I have mentioned to you before how I love the use of weather in the story and how I get the 'feel’ for Australia, was that a conscious intention?

Yes. In my author bio (see below) I state I am ‘not keen on South Australian summers.’ They are dry and hot. I’m an ex-Queenslander and I don’t cope at all in zero percent humidity, even after almost thirty years in Adelaide. I started writing ‘Aunt Enid’ as we were experiencing early heat waves last summer. It was hell! So, I decided to use the weather as a plot point - one of the keys facilitating The Dark’s entry into our world.

Yes, I remember you to the members of The Scribblers' Den about the Adelaide heat. Another element in the story is bees. If you had Aunt Enid's ability to talk to bees, what would you say to them?

“Thank you.”
I love bees. They are so important to pollination of much of our food crops. I have a chemical-free garden (I don’t spray insecticides etc) and I plant things in the garden for them - and they don’t sting me, as I’m allergic. We have an agreement.

I’m often asking them not to sting me. They seem to listen.

Aunt Enid has lots of charms and warning signs, like the hydrangeas, around her house. Are you superstitious in any way?

I wouldn’t say superstitious. I walk under ladders, like black cats and when asked, consider ‘13’ as actually my lucky number. I do think it’s interesting looking at how some superstitions originated.

Oh me too! I always find Saturday the 14th is when things go awry! I'm sure it's because I let my guard down.
Lemon butter, or lemon curd as it is called in the UK, features throughout the story. Do you have a favourite recipe you'd like to share with us?

There’s actually a recipe in the back of the paperback version of the book (along with the orginal short story that inspired the novel). ☺
I’ve also got a recipe video ‘Aunt Enid’s Lemon Butter Recipe’ on my youTube channel.

Did you know that July 26th is Aunt's and Uncle’s Day in the USA? Now that you do, will you do anything to celebrate?

I just found that out. I hadn’t previously known. I should do a blog post and an ebook sale to coincide with your book review blog post? Okay. Yep, I can do that.

Aunts and Uncles Day Celebration: July 26th, 2018:
Get an eBook copy of ‘Aunt Enid’ for US$0.99 via Smashwords (66% savings). Buy a copy (from )
Use the code: US23D at the checkout.

Oh wow! That's so generous of you Karen. I'll be totally honest with you, I thoroughly enjoyed Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire. Will we be hearing more from her in the future?

Yes. I have an idea for a story on how Agnes became a Protector. There are a couple of clues in ‘Aunt Enid’ as to when it will be set.
But first I need to finish my steampunk adventure, ‘The Department of Curiosities’…

I can't wait! You recently co-wrote a song and I believe even had one inspired by your stories would you like to tell is something about that?

Ah, yes! That was a blast.
Last year Richard Ryall, of The Littmus Steampunk Band, contacted me to see if I would review some CDs. I agreed. I like them (you can read the review on my blog post: Friday: Sounds and Pictures - )

Earlier this year he asked if I was interested in writing some lyrics. I was intrigued. How could I resist such an opportunity? I wrote ‘The Gadgeteer’ and Richard completed it with music. The Gadgeteers appear in Viola Stewart’s last adventure, The Illusioneer. We meet them in Venice as they ‘greet’ English tourists. The Gadgeteers are a not-so-secret Society determined to convince Queen Victoria to allow free trade of technology in Great Britain. The song questions their motives.
You can buy a digital copy of my song from my webpage:

You can buy the album via Bandcamp - - or contact Richard via his webpage if you would prefer a CD (posted within Australia).
I’ve also just finished filming for the music video of their song, ‘She Writes Books.’
I’m looking forward to more collaborations with Richard and the Littmus Steampunk Band.

They are an exciting band, that's for sure, and it must be an honour to participate in such a project. So, what can we expect to see from you I'm the future?

More steampunk, more mysteries and some fantasy.

First I must finish The Department of Curiosities’, then decide which to revisit first - Aunt Enid or continue onto the second DOC novel. I’ve also got a fantasy story/series bubbling away in the background, and at least two stand-alone novels, set in both my steampunk and fantasy worlds.

You can follow updates either on my webpage ( ), sign up for my newsletter or get sneak peeks via my Patreon page.

Well, it's been great sharing a cuppa with you. I hope you have a great winter there in Adelaide.

As you know, it's summer where I am and I'll be retreating to the mountains to avoid the heat for a week or two and hopefully get some writing done. I'll be sure to catch up with you when I return, in the meantime, enjoy the read!





Twitter: @kjcarlisle (

Amazon Author Page:






Karen J Carlisle is an imagineer and writer of speculative fiction – steampunk, Victorian mystery and fantasy.

She graduated in 1986, from Queensland Institute of Technology with a Bachelor of Applied Science in Optometry and lives in Adelaide with her family and the ghost of her ancient Devon Rex cat.

Karen first fell in love with science fiction when she saw Doctor Who as a four-year old (she can’t remember if she hid behind the couch). This was reinforced when, at the age of twelve, she saw her first Star Destroyer. She started various other long-term affairs with fantasy fiction, (tabletop) role-playing, gardening, historical re-creation and steampunk – in that order.

She has had articles published in Australian Realms Roleplaying Magazine and Cockatrice (Arts and Sciences magazine). Her short story, An Eye for Detail, was short-listed by the Australian Literature Review in their 2013 Murder/Mystery Short Story Competition. Karen’s short story, Hunted, featured in the ‘A Trail of Tales’ exhibition in the 2016 Adelaide Fringe.

She writes full-time and can often be found plotting fantastical, piratical or airship adventures.

Karen has always loved dark chocolate and rarely refuses a cup of tea.

She is not keen on the South Australian summers.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

REVIEW: Aunt Enid: Protector Extaodinaire


Manos, the gnome from my home.
I never really liked gnomes, but I'm looking at Manos in a whole different light these days, and I'm thinking of planting hydrangeas outside my door. Karen J. Carlisle and her latest book Aunt Enid: Protector Extaodinaire are to blame!

I've watched this book grow from the beginning when Karen J. Carlisle announced to the writers' group The Scribblers’ Den that she was writing something not Steampunk. Knowing her Steampunk fiction well, I was really looking forward to reading Aunt Enid: Protector Extraordinaire. What do you know? I won a copy of the ebook in her Facebook book launch. (I would have bought it anyway so this was just an extra bonus!)

Aunt Enid is a feisty octogenarian with an uncanny ability at winning bingo, a garden full of gnomes and a freezer stuffed with scones. Kind of like anyone's favourite aunt really, except that Aunt Enid has a secret; she is protecting all of Australia and perhaps even the world. It isn't until the people around her start getting hurt that her secret is discovered by her niece Sally. Agnes, her bingo buddy, seems more interested in matchmaking than helping the cause. Will she survive her toughest battle yet and save the ones she loves? Ask Red the garden gnome, he knows.

Well I wasn't at all disappointed. Karen writes in a style that is suitable for all ages, her characters are engaging and lovable, there are enough clues to keep you wondering whodunnit and plenty of tension to make to turn the next page. I particularly love the references to Australia, even though I have never been, I feel I got a real taste of the country. I would like to see more of Aunt Enid. Grab a cuppa and snuggle up in a cool corner of the garden and get carried away on a fun adventure!

Find Karen's book via her website: