Karen Wamhoff Schutte was born and raised on a farm/ranch in the Big Horn Basin in Northwest Wyoming. The oldest of four daughters, she attended the first eight grades in a two-room school house, then riding a bus to high school in Greybull. She studied at the University of Wyoming, earning a Bachelor’s degree in Design Marketing; she owned and operated Interiors by Karen for twenty-five years. She and husband Michael have four grown sons and numerous grandchildren.
Upon retirement from her chosen career of design, Karen felt compelled to record her family’s history of German immigration. As the oldest grandchild and great-grandchild on her mother’s side, she dove into the historical research, armed with many family stories. The unexpected result was her first novel, THE TICKET. Because it was so well received, this inspired her to proceed with the second novel, SEED OF THE VOLGA. Her historical research into the family background revealed several surprising findings, one of those being that the family carries far eastern blood markers.
Karen has released her third historical novel of the family saga trilogy, FLESH ON THE BONE. This novel joins in the journey of life with Jake and Raisa, children of the first two novels. Painstakingly, they chart their path through the Roaring Twenties, the poverty and helplessness of The Great Depression and then send their only son off to fight in WWII. Karen has begun working on her fourth novel, THE TANK COMMANDER and she plans for three more historical novels. “When I sit down to write, I visualize the characters, the story, the setting, and then—I paint a picture for the reader with my carefully chosen words.” Schutte further elaborates, “Writing to me is an unintended, emotional release, an emotional journey, and a cherished gift that I have discovered at this late date in my life. I hope I have enough years left to accomplish all that I have planned.”
Karen's first novel, THE TICKET was awarded 1st in historical fiction by the Wyoming State Historical Society in 2013. In 2014, her work was awarded with the PEN AWARD from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers.
BooksAndAuthor.com: Why do you write?
Karen Schutte: Expressing my 'Mind's Eye'--to create, to share the story, and to make a difference by reminding my readers of the lessons we can learn from our heritage. I visualize when I write---I am that person, at that moment--'it' is happening to me and I hear, taste, smell, feel, and see events unfolding around me.'Writing to me is like releasing all of this information, this energy, this passion---and the dessert is that people like what I say and do! Just doesn't get any better than that!
BooksAndAuthor.com: Who are your literary influences?
Karen Schutte: SO MANY: James Michener; Jeff Shara; Thomas Keneely; E. L. Doctorow; The Bible; Betty Smith (Tree Grows in Brooklyn); Charles Fraizer; Ursala Hegi. Learning to read as a child opened so many doors for me
BooksAndAuthor.com: THE TICKET started three books. Who are Karl and Katja Kessel?
Karen Schutte: Karl and Katja were my German maternal great-grandparents who emigrated from Austria/Hungary in 1907 to homestead in rural Wyoming. I knew them--I was their first great-grandchild. They had such an amazing story, I had to tell it.
BooksAndAuthor.com: Did you set out to write a trilogy?
Karen Schutte: No----I didn't even set out to write a book. I intended to 'document' all of the wonderful and timely family stories that I had learned as a child and later as an adult. THEN--I began to ask--Why? How? Where?---those questions opened a whole kettle of fish as I began my journey, first as a sleuth--pouring over the historical research and documents. Then, entire scenarios and conversations began to fill my head and I HAD to write. The Trilogy evolved because the first three books are based on my maternal family stories.
BooksAndAuthor.com: SEED of the VOLGA takes place in 1765. How much research went into these books?
Karen Schutte: I have always been a history buff (math not so much)! Digging into the historical research is so rewarding, so much fun---I love digging up the 'bones'! Researching Seed of the Volga--traced the Schmidt/Steiner family back to 1743 in Kemel, Germany, then to the settlements along the Volga River in Russia. They emigrated to America in 1907. I delve into the frightening and uncertain path most immigrants were forced to walk as 'new' Americans. Two amazing facts evolved from the research---(1) We have documentation which strongly suggests that we are descendants of the Hohenzollern Royal German family. (2) I thought I was full German. We discovered we carry Far Eastern blood markers--most probably from the Mongolian tribesmen who raided and raped the German people/settlements along the Volga.
BooksAndAuthor.com: FLESH ON THE BONE, takes place in the roaring Twenties,and just a few years later few years it's Great Depression -- From your perspective, how did your family hold together from the "High life" to the world of "Soup lines"?
Karen Schutte: Like everyone, my grandparents were stunned, terrified, and then panic set in as they struggled to put food on the table during this time. It didn't take them long to realize, the big city was not the place to be, if they were going to survive. Scraping enough money together to get back to Wyoming was a challenge but once back on the farm with family and friends, they made it through. Everyone was in the same boat---the one with the hole in the bottom!
BooksAndAuthor.com: Explain each book title; THE TICKET, SEED of the VOLGA and FLESH ON THE BONE, as it relates to that book. THE TICKET.
Karen Schutte: Karl Kessel was given the gift of a ticket to America. This was the motivating factor that changed the course of his life and gave him the opportunity he would never have in the 'old country'. SEED OF THE VOLGA: This title refers to two things---(1) The 'seed' of the people who left the Volga to emigrate to this country to make a new life (2) The 'seeds' they brought with them of their hardy Red Turkey Wheat---our winter wheat. FLESH ON THE BONE: Hard times, Hard relationships can wear a person down to the flesh on the bone!
BooksAndAuthor.com: What did you learn from writing these books?
Karen Schutte: First, I learned that I had the ability and the fortitude to actually write a book and that my readers actually related to the stories I told. I learned that I LOVED the entire process from the research to rewriting a raw story fifteen times. I initially thought I would hate to rewrite, but actually I love every opportunity I have to go back and perhaps re-arrange what I have written, add more 'color', more action to flesh out the story---to make it all that it can be. I love to paint a visual picture with my carefully chosen words!
BooksAndAuthor.com: What have readers been saying?
Karen Schutte: Oh gosh--my readers are so great, so generous with their support. I hear things like:" I started reading The Ticket and finally at 3 a.m. HAD to lay it down so I could sleep." "It's obvious that you do your homework--I like nothing than a good story and I have one in my hands!" "Seed of the Volga touched me deeply--it is my grandparents story as well. Thank you for writing this book!" " Just finished your third book---again, an excellent story, well-told and written!" "It was like living my childhood over. What a great story you tell!" "I've read all of your books. When is the next one coming out?"
BooksAndAuthor.com: What do you hope to achieve with your books ?
Karen Schutte: I want to encourage, to plant a seed of curiosity in people to research their own heritage. I want to entertain my readers with a 'good' story that doesn't vanish when they finish the last page. I want my work to make a difference--I want to leave my mark in this world!
BooksAndAuthor.com: What was the last book you read?
Karen Schutte: Jeff Shara's "The Last Full Measure"----his series about the Civil War. I love the way he writes---tells the historical story but uses characters as his vehicle in telling it--- keeping the reader engrossed.
BooksAndAuthor.com: What's next?
Karen Schutte: #4 - THE TANK COMMANDER. I just finished the initial manuscript and it is now beginning it's round of my talented, qualified editors. This is actually the 'finale' to the trilogy. My maternal uncle was a Sherman Tank Commander for Generals Patton, Hodges, and Oliver in the European Theatre in WWII. He later served in Korea with the 300th Armored Field Artillery Battalion where he came close to death yet again. He saw horrific war action and was haunted by the nightmares and memories until the day he died. "There are no unwounded soldiers in war!" #5 - THE GERMAN YANKEE. This is my first novel dealing with the paternal side of my family stories. My great-grandfather left the military service in Germany to emigrate to America in 1860--just in time for our Civil War!