Kate, thank you so much for taking time to answer some questions for members of the Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Facebook group.
Thanks for asking me, Jon. I love talking about books and writing.
Let’s start off with, where do you live?
I live in Spokane, Washington, the same city where I was born. I’ve lived other places a few times, never more than for a couple of years. Spokane is my home. It’s the only state, by the way, where same-sex marriage and recreational pot are both legal. I don’t smoke, but I’d sure like to be able to do it legally if I want to!
As you probably know, writers rarely like to toot their own horns…lol, but what would you say is your greatest accomplishment?
Yeah, isn’t that the truth? Tooting someone else’s horn is so much easier! Er, that didn’t quite come out right. Anyway, my greatest accomplishment changes with every book I write, because each book becomes my greatest accomplishment to that point. I like to try new challenges with every book I write, so when I accomplish what I set out to do in that book, I’m thrilled with myself.
For example, Hearts, Dead and Alive was my first mystery. I’d previously written time-travel novels, which don’t require a lot of structure. I could roam wherever I wanted to with those. With a mystery, you have to make all the pieces fit together, so it was a new challenge for me. It was also written in first person, which was a first for me. I wanted to try to show the readers some truths about my main character that she herself wasn’t aware of. In Murder and the Hurdy Gurdy Girl I went back to third person, but I combined historical fiction with mystery, which was a different sort of challenge.
My most recent accomplishment was completing the third book in my time-travel series, Return of an Impetuous Pilot, which comes out in March. Amelia Earhart plays a pretty big part in the book, so my challenge was to remain true to the real Amelia Earhart in a fictional situation.
I’ve accomplished some things outside of writing, too. I went to law school when I was in my forties, which I’m pretty proud of. My goal at that time was to argue a case at the Washington State Supreme Court. I managed to do that twice before I switched jobs, and I’m proud of that too.
Without getting too personal, would you share a little about your home life?
You bet. I’m married and we live an ordinary house in an ordinary neighborhood with two dogs and two cats. I work during the week as an administrative law judge, and I write on the weekends.
Tonie, my wife, is a retired postal worker and a singer-songwriter, but she recently tried her hand at fiction writing too. Her lesbian novel, Struck! A Titanic Love Story, will be coming out next year from my, now our, publisher Regal Crest Enterprises. I’m super proud of her taking on the project, finishing it, and getting it accepted for publication.
It’s fun being writing wives. We take Jacuzzi baths together and talk about our books and understand each other’s frustrations and excitements about imaginary people and worlds. We’re forgiving when writing takes over and housework and yard work take a back seat. I have a quote by Carmen Bird on the bulletin board behind my computer screen: “You have the choice of a clean house or a finished story. The choice is yours.” We pick the finished story. We need a housekeeper.
Do you fly by the seat of your pants when writing or plot out your storylines in detail?
Neither one, really. I don’t work with a detailed outline, but I do generally know where I’m going, and I always have a few key scenes that I know have to fit in somewhere. Of course, like I said, with time-travel you can pretty much wander around wherever you like, but with a mystery you need more structure. That doesn’t mean I always know who-dunnit. I start out thinking that I know who dunnit, but in the end I may switch it up. In Hearts, Dead and Alive, I didn’t know who for sure who did it until I reached the end.
Have had you ever had to deal with homophobia after your lesbian novels are released, and if so, what forms has it taken?
I haven’t, really, or if I have it’s been covert enough that I wasn’t really aware of it. I think I lost a few Facebook friends, mostly relatives, because of it. They didn’t say anything, they just quietly disappeared. I write under my own name, so it’s no secret at work or in the community that I write lesbian fiction.
Oh yeah. Like I said earlier, I like to give myself new challenges with each book I write. I like an intellectual challenge. My next challenge is to write a mystery using the omniscient point of view. My other books have been first person or third person limited, alternating points of view by characters or scenes.
As for what inspires me? It’s romance. All my books are character driven and all have a strong thread of romance in them. Those scenes that I imagine before I even start the book are all romantic scenes. The mystery, the time-travel adventure, the historical event, are all crafted to create the situation I want for the relationship. I love nothing more than reading a book with a romantic scene that makes my insides twist, and I’m inspired when I write to try to create those scenes for others.
You have a couple lesbian mystery/thriller fiction novels out currently; Hearts, Dead and Alive and Murder and the Hurdy Gurdy Girl. Have you written or plan to write others with mystery, suspense/thriller themes?
Yes, I’m working on a “country house” mystery something in the style of Agatha Christie, except the characters are lesbians, of course. That’s the book where I’m attempting the omniscient point of view. It’s my most challenging project so far, and I’m loving it, but I’ve had to take breaks from it to work on other projects, such as a Christmas romance novella that is expected to be released next fall.
You recently released a novel that appears to be historical romance, suspense novel set in Idaho in 1897; Murder and the Hurdy Gurdy Girl. Can you share with us what a “hurdy gurdy girl” is and how did you go about researching the time period?
Sure. A hurdy gurdy is a musical instrument that was used a lot in dance halls in remote mining towns out west. It was too difficult to bring pianos to some of those places because of the rough terrain, so people brought in hurdy gurdies. You’ve seen small versions of hurdy gurdies on TV where the man has a monkey who turns the handle on a music box. Most hurdy gurdies are between the size of a guitar and a cello, and you could play them on a table or sometimes on your lap. They make a sound sort of like bagpipes. Hurdy gurdy girls were the girls who danced in dance halls that used hurdy gurdies.
I love doing historical research, especially when it’s local. I like to go to the place I’m writing about and imagine it a hundred or fifty or whatever years ago. Murder and the Hurdy Gurdy Girl takes place in Needles Eye, Idaho, which is loosely based on the town of Burke, Idaho. Burke has a colorful past, but it’s a ghost town now. Visiting it was fun.
As for researching the time period, I read read read. I have a Sears Roebuck catalog from 1902 that gave me a lot of ideas about the minutiae of daily life at the turn of the century, and of course I use the Internet constantly. I hate finding anachronisms in historical fiction. When I think I spot one, I’ll google it. Sometimes the answer pops up immediately, and I know the author could have found the answer as easily as I did. That’s just laziness, and it pisses me off.
Oh, I’m so bad at this! I hardly ever watch movies, and my TV watching is mostly of reality shows. To tell the truth, the inspiration for Susan came from an ad in a 1908 Collier’s Magazine that I found in an antique store in Spokane. It’s a pen and ink drawing of a beautiful woman with a deep and mysterious expression on her face. I looked at that face and wondered what her story was. And then I wrote it up.
That said, my wife thinks Sandra Bullock would make a good Susan. Sandra is beautiful enough, for sure, but Susan is a lot more reserved and secretive than any character I’ve ever seen Sandra play.
Last question; can you share with us a little about your current release and/or WIP?
Sure, I’d love to. My latest book, Murder and the Hurdy Gurdy Girl, was released in September 2013 from Regal Crest Enterprises, which publishes all my books. The story takes place in 1897. Susan Bantry is running from the law and hides herself as a dancing girl in a dance hall in an Idaho mining town. The Pinkerton Detective agency is hired to track her down, and cross-dressing Pinkerton Agent Jo Erin O’Leary volunteers for the job. Jo Erin knew Susan when they were kids and has an ulterior purpose in finding Susan, but a mining war breaks out in the Idaho mountains and disrupts her plans. There’s action, adventure, mystery, romance, and a bit of sex in the book.
My next release, coming this March, is Return of an Impetuous Pilot, the third book in the time-travel series. Jill’s experimenting with her time-travel machine when, just like always, things go wrong. Amelia Earhart shows up in 1989 and likes it so much she doesn’t want to go back to 1933. Bennie and Van join forces to try to get Amelia to return to her proper place in history, and of course romantic sparks fly between the two of them again. Will they get things sorted out this time?
Finally, my WIP is something new for me, pure romance. There is no time travel, no murders, no dead bodies, or historical events. It’s just love. Christmas Candy Crush is a novella and is expected out next fall in time for Christmas reading.
On behalf of the Facebook Gay Mystery-Thriller-Suspense Fiction Group, thank you for giving us a little of your time today, answering questions fans of the genre want to know.
Thank you very much inviting me. This was fun!
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