Rock ‘n’ Roll High School 7: Sweet Dreams of the Violent Femmes

Today’s RNRHS post is from my amazing writing critique partner, Karen Stivali.  Karen and I met online on the Nathan Bransford forums.  I posted a question about writing and sex and Karen not only answered it, I remember thinking that it was a damn good answer.  Lo and behold, she sent me a board message the next day inquiring about whether I might want a critique partner.

We were really lucky to find each other.  Freakishly lucky.  We were both at the same place with our manuscripts at the time, both able to commit the same amount of hours to helping each other (a LOT), and both able to give and receive criticism graciously (for the most part, there are days).  We have all kinds of strange things in common:  both Karen, both have British male MCs with green eyes and sloppy brown hair, have a similar turning point in our books, and, wait for it–Karen’s pen name before she met me happens to be my maiden name.  We also share a brain.  Some days she gets to use it, other days I get to use it.  There are times when we split it and times when Fed Ex has it and nobody remembers where the tracking number is.

As always, let me know if you would like to participate in one of these.  Everybody’s doing it, you know.  Just send me an email at karen [at] karenbalcom [dot] com.

Karen Stivali

Super Suburban NJ High School, Class of 1984, Currently: prolific writer/compulsive baker/ insomniac

Band and/or song that reminds you the most of high school: The single song that reminds me the most of high school would have to be Sweet Dreams by the Eurythmics. Can’t say I particularly liked the song, but I remember it playing every single time the radio was on for the entire summer of 1983.  Other bands that make me think of high school are The Police (like), New Order and Joy Division (like, but complicated memories attached), REM (like), Prince (didn’t like), Twisted Sister (hated), Foreigner (boo), The Ramones (love), The Violent Femmes (really love), The Psychedelic Furs (also love), The Jam (totally love), Air Supply (make it stop).

Favorite piece of music memorabilia (poster, t-shirt, etc.) in high school:  My favorite music memorabilia from high school would be record album covers. Tons of them. I spent a lot of time trolling used record stores in NYC and I’d buy banged up copies of albums just so I could get the covers to hang on my walls. My favorites were probably the David Bowie’s Heroes cover and the Debbie Harry’s KooKoo cover, but there were tons more.

Band that you hated that everyone else at school seemed to love: So many to choose from—I was one of the very few punk/new wave fans at my rather preppy high school. First girl to wear a miniskirt to school (proud to say). I didn’t HATE many bands—I’ll listen to most anything—but I certainly wasn’t a fan or Genesis or REO Speedwagon and I remember those being hugely popular. Plus I never liked heavy metal.

Best show or concert you saw in high school: Without question the best show I saw in high school would be the REM concert I snuck into at Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT. We were all underage and REM wasn’t famous yet and it was just the coolest show. Second to that would probably be seeing the Butthole Surfers at CBGB’s in NYC—first CBGB’s show of many.

Optional bonus question: Best high school make-out song: I don’t know if it was the best make-out song, but I remember making out to the Violent Femmes at a party…why can’t I get just one… uh, nevermind. I’m sure there were others but the memories get a bit hazy for a variety of reasons.

Karen is the author of the erotic romance Always You. You can learn more about her by visiting her website at

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Get a FREE eBook sampler of Karen's bestselling books.