Thursday, July 26, 2007

Karina Fabian Chats about Her Experiences as a Mother, Wife, and Writer.

As part of my goal to refocus this blog to be more about being a wife, mother, and aspiring author, a writing buddy of mine offered to be interviewed on what it is like for her as a wife, mother, freelance writer, author, and editor. Karina Fabian is a homeschooling mother of four children and military wife. In addition to her own published works, she and her husband, Robert, recently edited the award-winning Catholic Science-fiction anthology Infinite Space, Infinite God, which I will chat with Karina about when she stops by The Book Connection ( August 9th.

Let's hear what Karina had to say about her life as a wife, mother, and writer.

1. You didn't actually start writing seriously until after you had become a mother. Why the wait?

I've always loved telling stories, and even wrote a novel in college, but something about being an officer in the Air Force drained me emotionally. I could not make myself write more than a few erratic and not especially productive efforts. So when I became pregnant with my first child, Steven, and quit the active duty Air Force for the Reserves, I was very excited about trying my hand again at writing. We were living in Japan at the time, so I wrote a story or two and put together the parish newsletter, but I didn't get serious until we moved back to the United States and I had more opportunities with magazines.

2. So often in our society, work for the sake of income is emphasized, but writing--especially fiction--doesn’t pay well. Have you felt the need to justify your career choice?

I'm pretty blessed in that we haven't really needed the extra income. Rob's income is sufficient for our family. We both came from families who had far less income yet managed to spend responsibly, so we're often surprised at our affluence. As a result, I've never been under pressure to generate extra income from that standpoint.

However, I did go through a stage where I felt the need to establish a paying career. Part of it was that peer pressure--when I wasn't devoting myself to my kids, I should be generating an income. Part of it was a concern that if something happened to Rob, I had no back-up to care for our family. Part of it was that kind of identity crisis I think all moms go through to some degree--am I more than just Mom? So for a couple of years, I worked very hard to write for income--mostly articles about parenting and pregnancy. My clients ranged from Fit Pregnancy to Fredericksburg Parent. Fiction was an aside, and even then, with an eye to sell.

At first, I was energized by the income, but after a while, it became a grind. I tried branching into other venues, becoming a religion and science writer for, but it was, well WORK.

So I took my concerns to Rob, and God bless that man and may I always be worthy of him, he took out some life insurance so that if he died suddenly, I could have time to get myself together, and told me to write what I love--fiction. That was three years ago, and I haven't looked back.

3. What do your children think of your writing career? Do they like, resent it, are they indifferent to it?

They love my stories and are proud of the work I do, though I suspect they get annoyed that I spend so much time in front of the computer when I make them limit their own computer time!

My oldest son recently had an evaluation where he was asked to make up stories based on some pictures. In one, Steven took what I'm sure was a major left-turn from the expected answer, then explained, "I'm using my mother's universe here. She's a writer, and in her world…" He's already working on his own stories and imagines characters with rich backgrounds. If you'd like to hear his stories to the evaluator, go to my website and check the blog. I'll tell you this--I had to walk out of the office in order to laugh!

4. What do you want your children to remember about you as a mother and writer?

I want them to remember us laughing. I want them to remember us sharing books and enjoying reading and telling stories. I also want them to remember that even something as fun as writing is work. But most of all, I want them to remember that Mom loved them and valued them above everything.

5. You homeschooled your children for the past five years, but next year, they’re entering public school. Did your growing writing career influence this decision?

Somewhat. This past year, my career has taken off: Infinite Space, Infinite God won the EPPIE Award, and I've gotten heavily into the world of marketing. I've joined several writing groups like the Lost Genre Guild and helped found the Catholic Writers' Guild, of which I'm now president. I've created a fun new universe with a dragon detective, and have written several stories, an award-winning serial and a novel. Plus, I'm a regular at several author chats and host one of my own, FabChat.

However, our entire family situation is changing: We're moving to a more remote area, but living on base, which is an incredible opportunity for the kids. We're financially able to put the older kids in Catholic school. We're discovering there are some things that I'm not teaching well; perhaps someone else will be able to help them understand. It was not an easy decision to stop homeschooling--we fought it for a year--but now that the decision is made, we're all excited (if a little nervous) about the upcoming school year.

6. What has been the biggest challenge in balancing your writing career and your family life?

I'm an "obsessive" personality. If I get into a project, I throw myself in whole-heartedly and can forget the rest of the world. About once a year, I write a novel--and it will take me a month to do because it's all I want to do. The house gets messy, the kids watch too much TV, we all get sick of pizza (yes, it's true! You can get sick of pizza!)… Then I go nuts trying to play catch-up when I finally finish my project and come up for air.

Next year, I plan to discipline myself to office hours while the kids are in school. It will be an interesting experiment. I haven't had a regular work schedule since the Air Force. Ironically, in this case, the challenge will be limiting my writing time, not making myself work the full time.

7. Is there anything you would change in how you approached your decision to become a full-time writer and editor while you are bringing up your children?

Career-wise, I might have joined some useful writers groups earlier on. I was on AOL's writers' chat for a couple of years and while fun, it didn't help me. Catholic Writers' Online really got me started, and I've discovered several more wonderful groups since then. I find I’m not the kind of writer who works well in a vacuum; I need others to bounce ideas off of, to alert me to opportunities, and to inspire me.

For balancing motherhood and work, I'm not sure. Any changes would mean changing my personality, and I don't think that's going to happen. I may have put less emphasis on nonfiction writing for pay; but then again, writing for a paycheck helped me develop some good writing habits.

Overall, I'm very pleased with the way my career is developing. Anything I'd do different--like get an agent or a contract with a major publishing house--are not matters of approach but things I strive for, and have been from the beginning.

8. What is the best piece of advice you can offer to other mothers who are also juggling a career and motherhood?

Love what you do. Remember, however, Priority One is your children. You will have your writing for as long as your mind and fingers work, but you get children for 18 years, then they're gone.

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Blogger Vicki M. Taylor said...

Wow, Karina. Congrats on the Eppie win and I hope that you continue to follow your dreams. How great of your husband to enable that opportunity. Mine did the same thing. Having a partner who believes in you and your writing makes all the difference.

Cheryl, thanks for bringing Karina here so that we could get to know her better.

10:50 AM  

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