Coming of age in the 1950s and 1960s, Karen Bostrom dreamed of achieving many things.
“I wanted to be a mermaid, an author, an architect, a teacher,” Bostrom, a Toms River resident, said. “But you kind of had to choose something.”
As a kid Bostrom wrote many stories, won essay contests, received recognition from teachers and peers. Still, when high school was over, Bostrom had to face the “real world.” She decided to become a teacher.
"[It] was one of my big dreams, not just my parents' decision," Bostrom said. "It was just the 'safer' one I chose first, because I loved to learn and share. As a career choice in the 1960s and 70s, it was just more encouraged by my parents and society back then than being an artist, architect, reporter, like Brenda Starr, or a mermaid in an aquatic show."
While teaching grades K through 8 for 32 years, Bostrom sometimes wrote non-fiction articles on the side. But like many other late bloomers she put off her bigger passion – writing stories – until about a decade ago, when the pull became too strong and Bostrom started working on her first novel.
“I learned that a bulk of published novels in the U.S. were romance novels,” Bostrom said. She decided to try writing one. Then, two years later, a close friend and fellow teacher who was one year away from retirement died from breast cancer. The death hit her hard, reminding Bostrom that life is short and precious.
“I was thinking, oh my gosh, what do I really want to do?” Bostrom said.
Bostrom wrote her manuscript for four years, then re-wrote it, and re-wrote it again. She attended conferences where she met editors who liked her style and encouraged her to submit. Weeks turned into months and years as Bostrom received editor referrals and encouraging rejections. Finally, she connected with an editor at Wild Rose Press, a small new romance publisher, who thought Bostrom’s romance set on the Jersey Shore at a town loosely based on Mantoloking Sands might work well, if only her characters were older.
Bostrom took another year or so to patiently revise her story, “aging” her main characters. “It was quite a task for a 400-page book,” Bostrom recalled. “Adding children, creating new characters, changing the plot. Now my character had been married longer, so that affected her marriage in a big way.”
As Bostrom revised, she appreciated the editor’s wisdom. “The stakes of what happened in my characters’ lives suddenly became higher, the conflict more urgent,” she said.
Last year, Wild Rose Press published Bostrom’s work, “Dangerous Sands,” which she calls a “romantic suspense novel,” about a 39-year-old divorced massage therapist who seeks peace at the Jersey Shore, but instead faces tough romantic and life choices.
This is a story for those who love strong heroines and the ocean, Bostrom said on her website, www.karenbostrom.com. A mother of two grown children, Bostrom is currently working on yet another tale of “romantic suspense,” this one set in Hawaii.
Just like the other romance novelists from the area, such as , Bostrom admits that water woos her. “I almost always lived near the beach,” Bostrom said. “I like the energy of being near the water. I’ve had some people say ‘You’re so lucky to live on the Jersey Shore, a vacation spot,’ and I thought, yes I am.”
In addition to loving the shore’s natural beauty, however, Bostrom said it’s also about simply appreciating where you live.
“Love what and where you live and everyday could be a vacation,” Bostrom said.
As a former teacher and now motivational speaker, she holds workshops helping people reach their own dreams.
“Just like the characters in my books, they have obstacles, they face challenges,” Bostrom said. “But they discover what their passion is in life and what they really want to do and that’s what living well is all about.