Karen Roberts is an author who was born in Guyana and moved to Saint Lucia when she was a teenager. She credits her Caribbean roots for her great sense of self and culture. As a young adult, love would have her move across the Atlantic Ocean, to the country of Sweden, which has been her home for the past fifteen years. Her daring decision to face her fears and step outside of her comfort zone allowed her to discover her true calling and purpose. She now writes stories for children which teaches them to love and appreciate themselves and others.
Lovee: Hello Karen, thank you for taking the time to share a bit of your story with me and my readers. I’m especially thankful because I know that you are a bit reserved and private, so thank you…
Karen: You’re welcome and thank you so much for the opportunity to share my story. I’m trying to be a bit more open and let people in because sometimes you never know how your life experience can influence someone elses life.
Lovee: indeed. I encourage people to tell their story for this very reason. I know of your love and passion for your Caribbean roots. What was it like growing up in Guyana and Saint Lucia?
Karen: Yes, I am very passionate about my roots. The Caribbean stays embedded in my heart. In Guyana, we have a rich culture. I later moved to Saint Lucia, the birthplace and the roots of my mother side of the family. It’s one of the things I am most proud of, my South American/ Caribbean roots. Growing up, I was taught to be respectful of others. I came from very humble beginnings.
Lovee: It undoubtedly shaped you into the person you are today. Which country do you call home?
Karen: This is a tough question. I love Saint Lucia, it is the foundation of my roots, but my closest family members are still in Guyana, so I call both countries home.
Lovee: You are blessed to call so many places home!:) You lived a greater part of your life in Saint-Lucia, did you ever dream of living anywhere else?
Karen: Even though I loved living in St Lucia. I always thought I’d live in Canada. I’m not sure why, but as a little girl I had my own vision of what Canada looks like and somehow I always thought I would live there. I’ve traveled to many countries but I’ve never been to Canada. However, one day I will visit. I still have that feeling that there’s something special about Canada.
Lovee: That seems to be the sentiments of all who’ve visited, including me. I love the city of Toronto! You definitely need to visit one day. When the opportunity presented itself for you to leave your island home and move to Sweden, what were your initial fears/feelings?
Karen: This question makes me smile. I was twenty-eight and had never traveled outside of the Caribbean! I was extremely excited. It’s funny but the only thing in my mind at that time and the only thing I feared was getting caught in an avalanche. (laughing out loud)
Lovee: That’s an understandable fear. (laughing out loud) At the age of twenty eight you had never even ventured outside of your tiny island home, now you’ve been all over the world! Our life truly can change at any moment! You were leaving your family and the familiar behind, and stepping into the unknown. Sweden is a long way from home… What were your impression once you arrived?
Karen: Yes it is! Fear did cross my mind. I thought, what if something terrible happens, what do I do? Where do I go? What if this man I’m following halfway around the world is a bad man? Of course there was fear, but the more I thought about all my fears the less excited I was, then I began to have second thoughts. So, I pushed the negative thoughts away and thought of it as an adventure. Whatever happened, I knew I would be just fine.When I arrived, I was in awe of how clean the streets were. It was the first thing I noticed. It seemed like little fairies flew around and cleaned all day and night. Everything looked so perfect and so organized. I kept reminding myself, “I’m in Sweden, I’m in Sweden!”
Lovee: I can only imagine! A vast difference from your island home. Was it difficult to assimilate into the culture?
Karen: Yes, it was extremely difficult. Swedes are a very serious, reserved and can come across as an unfriendly people, until you get to know them. It takes a lot of patience and hard work to adapt to the Swedish culture and lifestyle. Swedish is also a very difficult language, but I was excited to learn it. I’ve always wanted to learn another language so it was fun for me. It was much more difficult getting to know the people and making friends. It’s still what I miss most about the Caribbean.
Lovee: Having lived there, I share your sentiments. I believe if you’ve lived in Sweden, you can live anywhere! (Laughing out loud) What did/do you love about Sweden the most? And how did/do you cope with the challenges?
Karen: The peace and tranquility. I’ve always been comfortable spending time by myself but Sweden has taught me what it really means to be lonely. I had neither friends nor family nearby, no one to hang out with or to talk to, or laugh with except my husband. I missed my family and friends, and the sunshine desperately. I went for long walks, took the trains to different towns, got lost, went to café and tried foods I never had before, went to department stores and spoke to the sales reps just so I could practice my Swedish. I threw myself into everything I did. I gave it 100%. The good thing is, this taught me to live in the present and appreciate the now. I then started to look back at Guyana and Saint Lucia as the past.
Lovee: I also grew to love and appreciate solitude because of my time spent in Sweden. In fact, now when I spend a few months in the U.S, I begin to yearn for it. It’s one of the most tranquil and peaceful places I’ve lived. Your life has changed significantly since you took that leap of faith. You’ve since become a children’s author. What’s the inspiration behind your writing?
Karen: I’ve always loved writing and I still have journals from many, many years ago. My husband said to me many times, you should write a book about your life, it would be interesting. I did not think that my life was interesting enough that people would want to read about it. Then I read your book ‘A Girl Like Me’ and I was so inspired! I started to write my own story. While writing, I recalled my own childhood and all the bad feelings I felt and that’s when ‘Look At You! You Are Beautiful’ (My first children’s book) came to life.
Lovee: It’s amazing how the trajectory of our lives can change by someone or something. I’m happy my story inspired you in some way. How many books have you written? What are the themes?
Karen: I’ve published four children’s books so far, the fifth one will be out soon. The themes in most of my books are on building self-esteem, love, a celebration of diversity, beauty, confidence and kindness. But this recent one is a bit more fun and story telling. It’s about my son, and the funny things he did when he was a little boy. So the theme has changed a bit in this one.
Lovee: How exciting! I love the message in your book, “ Look at you! You are beautiful.” My son reads it often and I find myself reading it over and over again. You truly have a gift with words. The message that you’re trying to resonate with children is so important in today’s world. What do you hope that every boy or girl gets from reading your book?
Karen: Thank you. I’m glad to hear. ‘Look At You! You are Beautiful’ was my first book and this book is so special to me because it is my soul story. It is also written from a sad place of how I felt as a little girl. I was thinking that no child should feel so unhappy with themselves, and so pitiful. I wanted to turn that pain and pity into power. I remember those feelings only after my parents were divorced, and I was totally devastated by the absence of my father in my life. I felt like everything was wrong with me. I did not feel confident; I was too tall, too thin, too dark. If only, one single child could read ‘Look At You! You are Beautiful’ and help them to get the confidence, the self-acceptance, and the self-love. Then, I’ve made a difference. And I choose to write children’s books because, this is the beginning of a child’s life. I think it’s important that children ‘get it’ from the beginning. Once a child ‘get it’ in the beginning of their life, they can do anything. I want them to know, to learn that they have to embrace their own uniqueness. I want to uplift and empower them.
Lovee: Yes, yes, yes! Love it! Where can readers find your books?
Karen: Everywhere! Worldwide!
All my books are available worldwide. On amazon.com in the USA, Canada, Europe, even China and Australia! Also on local bookstores worldwide. Eg, in Sweden and Norway you can purchase on online bookstores like Bokus.com and Adlibris.com.
Lovee: Excellent! Sweden is now your home. You are married and raise your teenage son there, what’s the most important lesson you’ve learned about yourself once you took that leap of faith and stepped outside of your comfort zone?
Karen: The lesson of Bob Marley ‘Don’t worry about a thing, because every little thing is going to be alright’
Lovee: Yes I! Indeed!:) Looking back, any regrets?
Karen: Thinking…. I don’t like to use the word ‘regrets’ but there is one thing that I wished I had made different a decision about….Now I’ve peaked your curiosity? But you’ll have to read about it in my biography.
Silence: But then, if I didn’t make that decision, I would not have been here doing this interview. So I’m going to look at it that way. No! No regrets (smile)
Lovee: I eagerly await reading your memoir:) What advice would you give to anyone who would like to take a leap of faith, but is fearful of stepping outside of their comfort zone?
Karen: Do it! Go for it! Follow your heart, but take your brain with you and no matter what happens, you’ll get through it.
Lovee: Wonderful! Thank you for sharing your story with us, I’m sure it will inspire someone in some way:)
Karen: Thank you for allowing me to share and I hope that I will inspire someone. I truly hope so.
Lovee: I’m certain it will.:)