Born in Paisley (a proud ‘buddy’ because that’s where the southside’s maternity hospital was then…) Karen was brought up in Glasgow, Scotland. On leaving school, she attended Glasgow University, where she did an MA in English, Drama & French, then, as you do, joined Strathclyde Police as a uniformed police constable.
Karen served in Glasgow’s ‘A’ Division, right in the heart of Scotland’s biggest city – and where much of her first novel, The Twilight Time, is set. Karen and the polis parted company amicably five and a half years later, on the birth of her first child. She then took a brief career break to bring up her family. Two toddlers later, she went to work for Glasgow City Council, ending up as a media officer in the Press Office, before going on to edit the Council’s staff magazines and other publications. She claims to have invented the phrase ‘it wisny the cooncil’s fault’ during this period.
While being creative at the City Chambers, Karen was also accepted for Glasgow University’s renowned Creative Writing Masters degree, and began writing in earnest, with several short stories published in various magazines and anthologies. The Twilight Time evolved from some of these early pieces, with Karen completing her first draft of the book as part of her final portfolio. In 2002 she was awarded a Scottish Arts Council New Writer’s Bursary, before graduating with an MLitt (Distinction) in 2003. In 2009, Karen won Best New Scottish Writer at the Scottish Variety Awards. In 2010, After the Fire was chosen as a Scottish Summer Read, while Shadowplay was shortlisted for the CWA Gold Dagger. In 2013, her fifth novel This Is Where I Am was selected as a BBC Radio 4 Book at Bedtime, and in 2015 Karen was awarded a Creative Scotland Artist’s Bursary for research into The Sound of the Hours, set in Tuscany in the second World War. Karen was Writer in Residence at Dumfries & Galloway Council in 2021, documenting how Council staff responded to the pandemic.
Karen has been published by Hodder, Bloomsbury and now Canongate.