Elgin author Karen Riggs encourages aspiring writers to “write what you want to write.” Photo by Marion Vendituoli

She had none of the qualifications for being a writer, but she’s done it anyway. 

Karen Riggs has lived in Arizona all her life. She graduated from Benson High School, Arizona State University, and the University of Arizona, receiving degrees in psychology and civil engineering. After three years working for a small engineering firm in Tucson, she became Cochise County Engineer. She and her partner Stephen Williams moved to their wind and solar powered home on Pronghorn Lane in Elgin in 2015. After commuting to her office in Bisbee for three years, she retired to write full-time. 

Riggs had taken a writing course in college, and attended the Writers Conference in Tucson. But it was in 2008, when she came across an online program called the National Novel Writing Month Challenge, that she really started writing seriously. 

That November, Riggs wrote the first chapter of her first novel, The Widow’s Circle, a black comedy about murder. But it wasn’t until eight years later, in 2016, that she returned to the manuscript, completed it, and self-published it under the pen name K.C. Riggs. 

Set in Tucson, The Widow’s Circle opens with three friends meeting at a college reunion. As they catch up with each others’ lives, they realize they can change the world for the better, and the story proceeds from there in a deadly fashion. Readers loved the novel, and will be thrilled to know that a sequel will be out early in 2023.

In a recent conversation, Riggs said The Widow’s Circle had a simple origin. “I was talking on the phone with a friend about an ugly divorce,” she recalled. “My friend suggested I write about it, and I thought, why not? The story and characters took off from there.”

Riggs calls her writing philosophy ‘writing into the dark.’ “You allow the story and characters to develop on their own,” she said. “You don’t start with an outline. and don’t decide ahead of time who all the characters are. You don’t necessarily have a plot or a theme, but rather allow the story and the characters to lead you.”

Number 5 in the Seventh, Riggs’ second novel, began as an exercise in writing into the dark. A murder takes place during the annual horse races at the Santa Cruz County Fairgrounds, and as the story develops, the action and characters travel back and forth between Arizona and Southern California. 

In addition to her novels, Riggs has published a sequence of short stories over the last few years featuring Rainey Wingate, a young, newly married ranch wife living with her husband on their ranch in Arizona. 

“I am not Rainey,” said Riggs. “She is her own person, although we share some experiences. Only as Rainey showed up as a character, did I begin to write about ranch life. Rainey knows what she’s doing. She has left home to live on her husband’s ranch and is in a whole new world of discovery. We don’t know her back story nor her husband’s back story, but that will come.”

Riggs loves to read as well as write. Her favorite authors are Barbara Kingsolver, Stephen King, the late British fantasist/satirist Terry Pratchett, and science fiction writer Orson Scott Card. When she is not reading or writing she likes to do mosaics, hike, swim, listen to country and western music, and spend time with Stephen. 

But Riggs’ goal, now that she is retired from her day job, is to finish the books she has started and write, write, write. 

She has advice for aspiring authors who wonder if they can do it too. 

“Just write,” she said. “Write what you want to write. Don’t write what you think will be popular. Write what thrills you. And then self-publish. It is not hard. There is so much information on the internet. Just do it.”