Karen Hyatt was born in Niagara Falls, Canada. She grew up a few miles from the famous falls, and spent many Sunday afternoons going for walks at Queen Victoria Park with her father, admiring the gardens and looking at the car licence plates from all over. From a young age she would not go near the river as she’d been told that water can draw you to it, and she still has a fear that somehow she’ll be tempted to jump in.
Karen began taking piano lessons when she was four years old and had the privilege of meeting concert pianist Isidor Philipp at her grandmother’s house when she was about five. She remembers playing the piano for him. Philipp would have been over ninety at the time. In her first novel Uncovering Iris, Iris studies with Philipp in Paris. Karen was taught using the methods Philipp espoused at the Conservatoire in Paris – among them lots of ear training, playing with the metronome, and building equal strength in both hands. Karen continued to study the piano throughout her school years, earning a scholarship from the Bradley Institute and playing two concerts, one in Niagara Falls, New York, and one in Niagara Falls, Ontario. She subsequently taught piano at the Bradley Institute.
Shortly before they retired, Karen and her husband Wayne purchased a townhouse in Panama, planning to spend their winters there once they had both stopped working. Although they made this large purchase on impulse, and wondered about their sanity later, it is a decision they have never regretted. They have made so many friends during the last ten winters, an eclectic mix of people from many different parts of the world. One of the hardest things about the current Covid-19 situation for them is the fact that they will not be able to go to Panama this winter. Karen began work on her second novel, Secrets, Lies, and Consequences, probably eight years ago, before you could fly directly into the small airport at Río Hato, minutes from the resort where their townhouse is located. The two hour bus ride or the drive from Panama City described in the novel are no longer necessary, but were part of the adventure until a few years ago. Although Secrets, Lies, and Consequences takes place in Panama, the situations faced by the main characters could happen anywhere. Human nature has no country. We may face different problems, but in some ways we are all the same imperfect beings. We all have dreams, and we all have disappointments and challenges. The issues facing the characters in this novel are simply set against the beautiful backdrop of Panama.
Karen spent most of her working life as an accountant, first with the federal government, and later with the provincial government. Between the two, she worked at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. She has wanted to write a novel for a long time, and to that end she took a number of writing courses at Mohawk College in Hamilton where the encouragement she received convinced her that she could do this. She also took part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) four times, writing more than 50,000 words in the month of November each time. The ideas for Uncovering Iris had been teasing her for a long time, and the first NaNoWriMo exercise gave her the push to finally start putting these ideas in writing. Karen met interesting people during her courses at Mohawk, some of whom she still sees once or twice a year to discuss writing and life in general.
Karen has always been interested in what makes people tick. Why can some people rebound so quickly when things go wrong in their lives, while others are destroyed by similar events? What makes one person an optimist and another always see the bad in a situation? How much of the person we become is a direct result of our upbringing and how much is influenced by our own experiences? How much of ourselves do we share, even with those closest to us? How honest are we with ourselves? In both her novels, Karen tries to make sense of some of these questions.