Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Kari Cole!

I can hardly believe it, but we’ve reached the end of our series of guest blogs and interviews with the Rebelles, the 2017 Golden Heart Finalists!! Our final guest is the lovely Kari Cole, whose manuscript CONSTANT CRAVING has been nominated for Best Paranormal Romance two years in a row!!

Kari is a two-time Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® finalist, winner of both the 2015 Daphne du Maurier award and the Toronto Romance Writers’ Catherine. She lives in Upstate New York with her college-sweetheart, two way-too-smart-for-their-own-good sons, and a ridiculous labradoodle named for the bravest of Star Wars heroes, Artoo. She has a MBA from the State University of New York at Buffalo and has worked in sales, marketing, and human resources.

Kari writes paranormal romantic suspense, urban fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is a member of several RWA chapters, including: Fantasy, Futuristic, and Paranormal; Kiss of Death; the Golden Network; and the Capital Region Romance Writers, where she serves as Treasurer.

Here’s a blurb for CONSTANT CRAVING:

She’s no one’s prey, but the alpha means to capture her heart.

Who’d think to bring silver bullets to a wedding? When Izzy Meyers arrives in Montana and discovers her human foster brother is marrying into the local werewolf pack, she wishes she’d brought a whole suitcase full. Werewolves are monsters. She should know . . . she is one.

Luke Wyland never planned on being the alpha of his pack, but he’ll do anything to protect it. Rogues are hunting and killing in his territory, and it’s up to Luke to stop them. Finding a mate who wants nothing to do with him is a complication he doesn’t need, but letting Izzy go isn’t an option.

Raised to hate shifters, Izzy is confused by her intense attraction to the domineering alpha and her growing affection for the werewolves. As she and her foster family are thrown into the danger engulfing the pack, Izzy partners with Luke to destroy the traitors threatening the people she loves. But to survive, they must trust in themselves and each other, or lose everything.

“She should know…she is one”—what a great line!! Fabulous conflict, too! I can see why this has done so well with its readers!

Okay, folks, Kari’s going to sit down for a chat with me today, so grab a chair here under the big Montana sky, and grab a slice of wedding cake. Friendly werewolves welcome, too!


Welcome, Kari! It’s great to have you with us! So, tell us a little more about your Golden Heart book (for both 106 and 2017!!) and the process of writing it.

CONSTANT CRAVING is the first book in the Apex Predator series. Versions of it have been swimming around my brain for a long time. I was fascinated with the idea of a crashed helicopter pilot stuck in the snowy mountains. I had a dream where a female pilot looks out a cracked windshield to see a pack of wolves emerging from the woods. Instantly, she feels a connection and knows she belongs with them. I woke up and said, “Oh, she’s a werewolf.” A little while after that, I saw a video of Illinois Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth—who has since become a Senator—utterly destroying a shady businessman during a congressional hearing. An Iraq War veteran, Senator Duckworth, lost both her legs in combat while flying a Blackhawk helicopter. Ding, ding, ding! I now knew who my heroine was. Izzy, too, is a veteran combat pilot, who uses her skills to great advantage to help save the day in CONSTANT CRAVING.

Oh, what fabulous imaginary origins!!! I’m sure Izzy is absolutely kick-ass!! So this story started with a dream. Has your imagination always worked like that?

I’ve always had stories in my head. They were just for me. I used them to settle down to sleep or alleviate a boring job. I never wrote them down, and I never shared them. Some were simply fan fiction, others were wholly new worlds, with original characters bopping around. A few have been my companions for many years.

I’m the same way. I have many story “companions” that have been with me for years. Clearly, at some point you started writing yours down. What tipped you over into getting them on paper?

*Shrinks down behind a chair* Please, don’t throw rotten fruit at me. After my older son was born, I started writing down the stories in my head out of sheer boredom and the all-too-real possibility of losing my mind. There. I said it. Being a SAHM is not for everyone, and my son had what is now diagnosed as acid reflux. Back then, the doctors told me to just let him cry. Have you ever listened to a baby cry all night, every night, punctuated by the sounds of retching? It was torture. This went on for three and a half years, before my son grew out of it and slept through the night. I started writing during this time to save myself. Fan fiction mashups at first, then some original Urban Fantasy. I still firmly believe there should be a Highlander/Buffy the Vampire Slayer crossover. Joss Whedon, call me.

Joss Whedon should call you!! And, oh, sweet heaven, a baby with that kind of crying for THREE AND A HALF YEARS??? My oldest had colic for three months, and when the doctor told me it might last more than a couple weeks, I honestly thought I was going to die. My hat is off to you for surviving so long!!! (Honestly, readers, if you know a mom with a baby who cries all night, every night, please consider offering to walk the floor with the baby some night so the mama can put in earplugs and get a few hours sleep.) Okay…okay… traumatic memories are running away with me. Ahem. So, you started writing to save your sanity. When did it turn to writing Romance?

I didn’t start writing Romance until I joined Saratoga Romance Writers. Mostly, I wanted to be around people who knew what this writing thing was all about. The ladies there were so willing to offer their advice and help. The value of an organization like RWA and its local chapters cannot be understated.

Yay for RWA local chapters!! They’ve kickstarted many a career. What about more personal writing support? Do you have a CP or beta readers or a writing critique group? If so, how do you work together?

Oh, yeah! There are four of us in my critique group: Me, Autumn Jones Lake, Cara Connelly, and Virginia Frost. We don’t have a jazzy name or anything—Jeez, we should really get on that—but we meet every week to go over pages, plot-doctor, plan career moves, etc. We’re all members of Capital Region Romance Writers. Usually, we meet at a local Panera, or maybe someone’s house. If we can’t meet, we email pages to each other. And if we don’t send pages, the rest of us start whining. We’re each other’s biggest fans—oh, okay, outside of our husbands. I swear on Harrison Ford’s crooked smile, I would not have come this far without my crit partners’ unwavering support, excellent editing skills, and whip-cracking.

That sounds like an awesome arrangement!! So you’ll be at Nationals, right? And you’ve been there before. How do you prepare? Are you nervous about networking with the agents and editors at the new reception they’re holding this year for Golden Heart finalists?

I always get a little—okay, a lot—crazy before a conference. Mostly, due to wardrobe issues. I used to have a closet full of beautiful suits and business clothes, but after many years out of Corporate America, they are a little out-of-date. And far too small. Darn pizza addiction. But the pitching and schmoozing stuff doesn’t bother me.

I know many writers get so stressed about networking. People are always asking me why I’m so calm at these things. (Your readers are probably sorting through their pen drawers, looking for the pointiest one to stab me with.)

How have I achieved this impossible state of Zen? I have a little trick I learned back in the dark ages, aka the 90s, when I was in sales and marketing. It’s simple actually, and something everyone can do. I remind myself that every single person attending that conference wants the same thing: to sell books. Boom!

I oversimplified, but you get the point. This boils down to straightforward economics. It’s supply and demand. We writers supply the content. Agents sell that content to editors, who then publish it and sell it to wonderful, voracious readers who demand more, more, more! Awesome isn’t it?

Without writers, agents and editors would have nothing to sell, nothing to do.

The principle stands, even if you plan to take the Indie route. You’ll still need to find an editor for your books, maybe someone to handle your foreign rights or produce the audiobook version. You’ll probably want to talk to the staff from Amazon or iBooks, or one of the many other vendors you’ll be dealing with as you navigate running your own business.

All that means networking, which is really just a fancy way to describe talking with people who share an interest with you. All those agents, editors, librarians, vendors, and writers love the same thing I do: books! They are part of my tribe. All of them.

I apply the same idea to pitching, or chatting with the woman stuck in the elevator with me. Anytime I feel nervous or overwhelmed, I remind myself that I could not find a more welcoming group to share my love of a great story than the attendees at Nationals.

That’s a great way to think about it! Everybody’s out there looking for the allies they need to win in this business (can you tell I’m typing this up while waiting for the new season of Game of Thonres to start?)

Thanks so much for being with the Rubies today, Kari! What question do you have for our readers to get the conversation going today?

How do you deal with the anxiety of leaving your writing cave to network, pitch, and socialize at a conference?



Connect with Kari Cole on social media at


Twitter: @KariWCole


37 responses to “Meet 2017 Golden Heart Finalist Kari Cole!”

  1. C.R. Grissom says:

    Hi Kari,

    I love, love, love your blog! I’m envious of your pitch Zen. I want some, if I give you my story notes will you pretend you’re me? If yes, please block out time for my appointments. 🙂

    Your story…I need to read it! Now would be good. I love stories featuring powerful women and alpha men. *Fans self*

    I can’t wait to meet you. Good luck in Orlando!

  2. Seana Kelly says:

    Congratulations, Kari on your GH final!! Your book sounds fantastic! I love paranormal, especially werewolf books ❤️

    Although your pitching advice makes complete sense, I would still be shaking at having to talk with strangers and sell my story to them. I was ecstatic when my agent told me my pitching days were behind me, that it was her job now. Hallelujah!

    I’m looking forward to seeing you soon and cheering you on at the GH awards!!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thanks, Seana. The secret is not to think of it as “selling” your book, but rather just chatting about it, like you would to a friend. No one knows your work or characters better than you. If you let your love for them come through, it doesn’t matter how polished you are.

  3. Congratulations, Kari. You know all of the Capital Region Romance Writers are rooting for you

  4. Vivi Andrews says:

    Congratulations on your final, Kari! Your book sounds like it’s right up my alley. 🙂

    To vanquish conference nerves, I like to have a purpose – I know that sounds weird, but I’m never nervous when I’m introducing other people and putting them at ease, even if I barely know them. Playing hostess is the ticket for me.

    Good luck next week! I hope you have an amazing conference!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thank you, Vivi. I like your approach. Anything we can do to make ourselves and others more comfortable, right? Even though I’m an extrovert, spending so much time in my cave has made me a little rusty. Getting a conversation going always settles the nerves.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      Thanks so much for being with us today, Kari! There’s been lots of great advice to help shy folks manage conference next week!!

      Good luck to all!

  5. Congratulations! So excited for you! I’ll be cheering when they call rue name!

    Your book is wonderful. Can’t wait to read it when it’s published!

    I think because of my days, years, freaking decades (lol) in advertising and marketing, the pitching, social media, and networking are second nature for me. What I work on (and work on and work on) is writing the best stories I can write. So, most of my anxiety is used up sitting in front of my computer…lol…

    Again, best of luck! I’ll be rooting for you!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thanks, Denny. I know exactly how you feel. I’d much rather go out and talk to people rather than stare at that dreaded blank page. There is nothing worse.

      Looking forward to seeing you in Orlando.

  6. Congratulations, Kari! I’m so thrilled for you and cannot wait to see Constant Craving out in the world. It’s such an amazing story! 😀

    As far as overcoming my introverted tendencies to attend conferences and pitch – I just prepare to the best of my abilities and hope for the best. Awkwardness, weird things blurting from my mouth, nervous sweating… They all still happen, but I haven’t been blackballed yet! 😛 The RWA community is so supportive and understanding. It really is an incredible group of writers.

    Good luck in the GH finals! I’ve got my fingers crossed for you!!!!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thanks Monique, and a double thank you to you, Denny, and Layla for beta reading CONSTANT CRAVING for me. All your advice made the book so much better. I love my Mermaid sisters!

      Btw, no one would ever know you are nervous at conferences. I can’t wait to see you next week.

  7. Congratulations on your GH final, Kari, and good thoughts as you head to Nationals! For anyone struggling with nerves, just remember your value, as a writer and as a human being. Much Ruby love and light!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thank you, Shelley. Exactly! I told the other Rebelles we have to think like Senator Al Franken’s character Stuart Smalley from his SNL days. “I’m good enough. I’m smart enough. And doggone it, people like me.”

  8. Tamara Hogan says:

    Congratulations on your GH final, Kari! I love me some werewolves. 😉

    —> I remind myself that every single person attending that conference wants the same thing: to sell books.

    THIS. BOOM. Thanks for raising this point. Publishers need to acquire content. Agents and cover artists need clients. Authors need editors. Books need readers. Etc., etc.

    Everyone at RWA National is interdependent, interrelated. Everyone has a necessary and valued role in the publishing ecosystem. Folks, please don’t let perceived power differentials psych you out; agents, editors, and publishers NEED YOU, TOO. (Without something to publish, it all falls apart.) Know your value. Know what you have to sell. Execute, and have fun!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Yes, this, exactly! Thank you, Tamara. Maybe it has to do with the Impostor Syndrome, but most of us walk into a conference or pitch session feeling like we have our hands out. We don’t. We have value to offer, and things to learn.

  9. Tracy Brody says:

    Who’d have thought there’d be 2 GH Manuscripts involving women Black Hawk pilots?! And both authors with similar sense of humor. Who are your parents because I think we’re kin, Kari. 😉 Fortunately, my children did not cry like that, but my son would nurse and not go back to sleep for another hour and my daughter didn’t sleep through the night until 13 months so I get the sleep deprivation and stopping with 2 kids. (Besides I had the nausea from week 4 – 39 1/2 with my daughter.) Ugh.

    I don’t typically get anxious when pitching – as long as I remember to think about what I’m going to say about my story and don’t try to have it completely memorized. Sometimes just having a note card or print out with a summary to refer to helps.

    Congrats on another GH final and signing with your dream agent. Look forward to seeing you soon!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thanks Tracy. I think we definitely like similar things. I loved The Unit, too. What’s better than manly men, being all manly and rescuing people? A kick-ass heroine who saves the day, of course!

  10. Rayn Ellis says:

    Congrats on another GH final, Kari! So excited for you!

    Great post! And your description of networking is THE best ever, “… networking, which is really just a fancy way to describe talking with people who share an interest with you.” It takes all the pressure off, doesn’t it?

    I hate networking, but I love talking to people! What a great mind flip! LOVE it!

    Conference anxiety? I make sure to give myself time away from everything. Last year in San Diego, I spent a lot of time in the gorgeous swimming pool with my writer BFF. Then I was refreshed and ready to go when I joined back in the festivities.

    Have a blast a Nationals! I’ll be rooting for you, honey!


    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thank you, Rayn. I definitely think a lot of the anxiety we feel at these things is how we are approaching them. Also, getting away from it for a bit helps keep the spirits high. I often sneak away for at least a few minutes at conferences just to take a breath.

  11. My best advice is: don’t beat yourself up for being you. I’m one of the most introverted people there is. I realize that and make allowances for it. When the crowds get to be too much for me, I retreat somewhere–generally my room or by the pool (although Orlando in the summer? yikes)

    Second best advice: Hang with your friends whenever you can. And if you don’t have friends going, make some there and hang with them. Writers tend to be really friendly.

    Most of the Rubies (if we remember) will have on a Red Stiletto Pin (kinda like the logo shoe for this blog.) So if you see one of us, stop and say hi. Instant friend!

  12. Great post, Kari! I really enjoyed it. 🙂 And congrats on your 2nd GH final—woot!

    My daughter had acid reflux too, but they diagnosed her right away, gave her medicine for it and had us adjust the way she slept so her head was raised. I cannot imagine going 3.5 years without a diagnosis!

    And then to write when you were exhausted like that? Wow. I think I would have just curled up in a comatose position on the couch, lol.

    Looking forward to hearing all about Nationals when you get back ad fingers crossed you win this year!!


  13. Elizabeth King says:

    Congrats again on the final, Kari. Can’t wait to read it!
    Ugh about the acid reflux. My daughter had that too, but like Alyson’s daughter she was diagnosed early and the drugs kicked in! She did used to projectile vomit with it though and it literally took the colour out of the dark green carpet we had. When we moved house I felt bad for our buyers – when we shifted the furniture out there were lots of white patches on the carpet!
    So looking forward to catching up with you in Orlando. Will be screaming loudly for you at the GH awards!

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thank you, Elizabeth. It was awful. They had us giving him antihistamines every night to make him drowsy. And when I complained told me to just let him cry. A few years later, our friends started having kids. When they told us their sons’ symptoms, my husband and I realized it was the same thing as our son. But they were being given meds. I had to talk my husband down. He nearly got in his car to go punch out our pediatricians. Needless to say, our younger son only suffered a few days without meds.

  14. Oh man, I hear you on the closet of beautiful, expensive, out of date and too small corporate clothes. Plus mine are for a different climate – London, where I last had a corporate job, vs. Los Angeles, where I am now. But I still can’t bear to give my favorite pieces away. Someday.

    Pitching doesn’t bother me, either, but then like you my corporate job was in marketing, with additional responsibiliies that fell under PR. My tip for dealing with anxiety is don’t focus on yourself, but ask other people questions about themselves, their work, and what they are looking to accomplish at the conference or in their careers – and be genuinely interested in the answers. Most people enjoy talking about themselves, and you can look for common interests, beliefs or goals that can build a connection.

    Can’t wait to meet you in Orlando! Not long now!

  15. Nicole Hohmann says:

    Great post, Kari! Love those creative dreams and plucking characters from life. It really helped me when Sarah (fellow Rebelle) said to talk about what you like about your book. So instead of trying to be super hooky I’m just going to get comfortable chatting about my books which will come off a lot better than stuttering through a sales pitch.

  16. Terrific post, Kari. I love how you describe your characters as being your companions. We create these vibrant characters in our minds, then etch them onto paper, and hopefully they’ll end up in the bookstore for others to enjoy.

    I will try to take your advice to heart and remember that everyone at the conference is there to sell books. But man, I am nervous!

  17. Pamela Ferguson says:

    Great post, Kari. Your point about supply and demand is an important one! Good luck at nationals!

  18. Melonie says:

    Wow Kari – my oldest didn’t sleep through the night til after she was 2, and I thought that was bad – 3 1/2 years?!?

    Like you, the networking doesn’t phase me too much – I kind of feed on the excitement of the moment and definitely fall more on the extroverted side of things. Susannah’s suggestion is dead on, and one I use often as well – I ask whomever it is I’m chatting with (agent, editor, fellow author) lots of questions about what they are reading, what their favorite books are, favorite tropes, etc.
    Glad we get to do this again together, fellow Mermaid and Rebelle! And when Constant Craving is published, you can come visit me in IL and track down Senator Duckworth to give her a signed copy. 😉

    • Kari W. Cole says:

      Thanks, Melonie. Looking forward to seeing you again. I’ll need to come to Chicago for book 3. I set it there. Oh, and Constant Craving’s heroine and her foster family are from Chicago, too.


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