Welcome to my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, scriptwriters, biographers, agents, publishers and more. Today’s is with murder mystery author Kelly Marshall. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kelly. Please tell us something about yourself, where you’re based, and how you came to be a writer.
Kelly: I work full-time for the US Federal Government. I am a single woman raising her 10-year-old grandson and I love to write when I have a spare moment. I live just south of Seattle in Bonney Lake, Washington. I always knew I’d write someday. It’s in the helix of my DNA.
Morgen: What genre do you generally write and have you considered other genres?
Kelly: I write murder mysteries with a lot of romance interjected. I tried writing just romance, but it wasn’t for me. Dead bodies just kept showing up on the page.
Morgen: And in my stories too. 🙂 I say it’s the only way to kill someone legally (and much more fun I would suspect). What have you had published to-date? Do you write under a pseudonym?
Kelly: I have published two books: Phoenix and The Love Songs Murders. And yes, Kelly Marshall is a pseudonym. I used it for years as a radio name. A consultant once told me, “I love your voice, but hate your name. Change it.” And I did.
Morgen: You’ve self-published, what lead to you going your own way?
Kelly: I got tired of waiting for twenty-something editors in New York to decide I was good enough for their publishing companies.
Morgen: Are your books available as eBooks? How involved were you in that process? Do you read eBooks or is it paper all the way?
Kelly: I have e-books available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I did all of the processing. Some of it was a tad complicated and I had to hire a college student to get me through the epub file process. I spent countless hours on that before pulling out the check book and hiring the student. I read both e-books and paper. I really like the convenience of the e-readers. No more two-pound tomes to lug around.
Morgen: Do you have a favourite of your books or characters? If any of your books were made into films, who would you have as the leading actor/s?
Kelly: I am very particular to The Love Songs Murders. One of the lead characters is Jasmine James. She is such a self-absorbed snot and so such fun to write. Actress Meghan Fox who starred in the Transformer movies would make a perfect Jasmine.
Kelly: Nick Winston is the leading male character in The Love Songs Murders. I’d love to say Hugh Jackman (sigh) would make a good Nick Winston, but alas, Jackman doesn’t look like I wrote Nick. Taylor Kitsch worked with Jackman in Xmen Origins: Wolverine, and more recently starred in John Carter. Kitsch looks like I envision Nick and he’s got a sexy timbre to his voice.
Kelly: Emily Blunt is a British actress with a great stone face. You might recall her as Meryl Streep’s assistant in the Devil Wears Prada and more recently in The Adjustment Bureau. She’s cool, calm, bitchy. She would work well as Strom: controlled, capable and a strong match for Nick. She doesn’t let him get away with anything.
Morgen: She was great in Salmon Fishing in the Yemen too. Which author(s) would you compare your writing to?
Kelly: I don’t have an answer for that. I’m the worst person to evaluate my own writing.
Morgen: Did you have any say in the titles / covers of your books?
Kelly: Initially, when I published Phoenix, I did it with a print-on-demand company that insisted on doing the cover for the book. I hated their design, but I was stuck with it for years. Last year, I got the publishing rights back and got a local artist to do the cover. I am far more satisfied with it.
Morgen: What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kelly: I am writing a sequel to The Love Songs Murders. The working title is Millstone. It was The Innocent, but I may need to change that. David Baldacci recently published under that title.
Morgen: Do you manage to write every day, or ever suffer from writer’s block?
Kelly: I wish I could write every day, but my life is too full. I don’t have writer’s block, but I do things to avoid writing when I am not in the mood.
Morgen: Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kelly: I tried outlining my books and then found early in the process that I was straying from the plan. I know the basic plot line and let the characters move within that framework.
Morgen: Do you have a method for creating your characters, their names and what do you think makes them believable?
Kelly: I often use surnames of people I know. For the main characters, obviously, I want the name to suit the personality of the character.
Morgen: Do you do a lot of editing or do you find that as time goes on your writing is more fully-formed?
Kelly: I do a fair amount of editing. I belong to a wonderful critique group and run my writing past them. They are literate, sharp, kind women and I trust them implicitly.
Morgen: Do you have to do much research?
Kelly: I use the Internet an awful lot. Whatever did we do before Google? I’ve purchased some good forensic books. Forensics for Dummies has been invaluable.
Morgen: Is there anything the Dummies books don’t write about? What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you ever tried second person?
Kelly: I usually use third person. First is harder. No, I’ve never tried second person.
Morgen: Oh do, it’s fun. And it tends to be dark so you might like it. Do you write any poetry, non-fiction or short stories?
Kelly: I’ve wrote a poem last year, but it was such an intensely personal poem, that I made no effort to publish it. Only my eyes have seen it.
Morgen: I feel pretty much the same about mine. Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kelly: I have a story my high school English teacher gave me to finish. It was a dream he had had. He wrote about thirty pages and then wrote me and asked me to finish it. It’s an unusual story. Too long for a short story and too challenging to make it into a novel of any length. I am thinking I could do a novella, but where in heaven’s name do you market novellas, unless you’re Stephen King?
Morgen: Have you had any rejections? If so, how do you deal with them?
Kelly: I spent a year trying to get an agent. I rang up lots of rejections. I didn’t take them too seriously and just continued to submit the next query. I did eventually get an agent in Texas, but I only heard from her twice. I was trying to play it cool and not contact her too much. It was a huge waste of my time. After that experience, I decided to e-pub.
Morgen: Do you enter competitions? Are there any you could recommend?
Kelly: I live in the Pacific Northwest, so I have entered the Pacific NW Writer’s Conference contest twice. I didn’t win, but I got some valuable feedback. The PNWA Conference is one of the best in the US.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kelly: As I mentioned previously, I did have an agent, but it wasn’t a positive experience. I believe they are going the way of the dinosaurs. The publishing world is changing and many authors are becoming their own advocates.
Morgen: How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kelly: Right now, I am doing all of it. And it’s a lot of work. I think my strategy is to throw it all against the wall to see what sticks.
Morgen: What’s your favourite / least favourite aspect of your writing life? Has anything surprised you?
Kelly: I wish I had more time to write. If I could, I’d swing out of bed and write all day long. But alas, I need to pay the mortgage, so I march off to work for the government. I am amazed at the vast numbers of books on the market. There are so many writers all competing for attention. If I think about that too much, it depresses me.
Morgen: What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Kelly: Grow a thick shell and let the rejection bounce off of it. I liken writing to taking an injection. You know it’s going to hurt like hell, but it’s for your own good.
Morgen: If you could invite three people from any era to dinner, who would you choose and what would you cook (or hide the takeaway containers)?
Kelly: Stephen King: You know the guy has something weird going on in his brain. I think he would be a fabulous dinner partner. I’d serve Stephen something raw and bloody like severely undercooked prime rib.
Sandra Brown: I love Sandra Brown’s sex scenes. I learn from her. I think Sandra is from Texas, so I’d serve her BBQ or Chilli. I was not given the cooking gene, so if it doesn’t come out of a can, I’m lost.
Mary Stewart: She thrilled me with her Arthurian legend books. I have read them over and over. I drug my ex-husband and our children to England and followed the trail of Arthur. Tintagel is my favourite. I could sit by the sea and read Mary Stewart forever. I suppose I’d serve her something traditionally British, but dear God, don’t expect me to cook it. Maybe, I’d run for fish and chips.
Morgen: If you had to choose a single day from your past to re-live over and over, what day would it be and why?
Kelly: I think I’ve had one day of “being” in my whole life. I was so relaxed, so present, so in the moment. I wake up every morning with lists running through my head of things I must do and places I have to be. That day I was totally in my skin and loving it. I wish I could replicate that day every day.
Morgen: Is there a word, phrase or quote you like?
Kelly: I am going to go serious on you here. My favourite phrase is ‘God is love’.
Morgen: That’s OK. Not serious at all. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Kelly: My critique group. We meet monthly to go over what we have written since the last meeting. There are five of us. It’s a place to learn and grow in a nurturing environment.
Morgen: What do you do when you’re not writing?
Kelly: I am raising my 10 year-old-grandson. I stay very busy.
Morgen: Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful?
Kelly: I’d recommend bookpreview.info.
Morgen: Are you on any forums or networking sites? If so, how valuable do you find them?
Kelly: I use LinkedIn.com. It has been very useful to network with other writers.
Morgen: Hasn’t it just. I put a shout-out there in February last year and was so inundated that I had to remove the thread late September as I was working (as you know) over six months in advance and it wasn’t then becoming fair on me (or rather, my own writing) or the authors to wait so long (hence me setting up this site). What do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kelly: It’s only going to be more competitive. The business end of it is changing. I wish I were more Internet savvy, but I’m learning. It takes a while to learn the ropes.
Morgen: Where can we find out about you and your writing?
Morgen: Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Kelly: Check out my youtube trailer for The Love Songs Murders: http://youtu.be/rkLjcPpMEjo
Morgen: Is there anything you’d like to ask me?
Kelly: How do you juggle the massive emails?
Morgen: Juggle is spot on. There are some that are just a case of read and delete / file but others take time. I don’t get through them as quickly as I would like and some people have to wait (and do very patiently) for a month or more, but I do reply to everyone so they feel ‘loved’ eventually. 🙂 Thank you, Kelly.
I then invited Kelly to include an extract of her writing…
Nick watched the tall, sensuous woman glide into the living room. Her voice sounded soothing, erotic, like satin on skin. Now he realized who this gorgeous babe was. Jasmine James. The Love Songs Lady.
He had seen her face plastered on the side of Metro buses. Dark, free-falling hair, electric eyes made deep blue by contact technology. He couldn‘t force his eyes away from the stunning figure in the revealing dress. Nick felt the heat rising in his groin. He tried desperately to keep his mind from descending into animal mode. He concentrated on a spot on the wall and said out loud, “Ah, er, that‘s Detective Winston.” He regretted it as soon as he said it. “Ah, Nick, will do just fine.”
She smiled demurely. Her breasts strained against the thin fabric and he found himself staring. Christ! Was his mouth open? He slammed it shut. She caught his look and smiled, this time seductively.
Taking a notebook and pen out of his inner jacket pocket, he swallowed hard and prepared to take notes. “What did this guy look like?”
“It all happened so fast and I was frightened. I don‘t remember him being very tall or short.”
“Yes. I‘d say that. He‘s fair. His hair, I don‘t know whether you‘d call it a dark blonde or light brown.
Nick nervously clicked his pen. “Do you recall what his car looked like?”
“I really don‘t remember. I‘m drawing a blank. Sorry.”
“Can I see those fan letters?”
“Well, I don‘t have them here. They‘re at the station, of course. If you come by KLOV tomorrow evening, you can have them all.”
Nick didn‘t want to leave. Everything about Jasmine James intoxicated him. Her voice continued to relax every muscle in his body except one. Her perfume smelled subtle, sweet, inviting. Her dark hair draped over her breasts and the contrast with her white dress was impossible not to look at and appreciate. He kept glancing away. His ears felt as hot as his crotch.
And a synopsis…
Seattle homicide detectives Nick Winston and Pat Strom dig working together. Their lively banter gets them through the daily dark side of their business. After all, dead bodies dominate their workload.
He’s straight, she’s gay. In politically liberal Seattle, that’s not a problem until … they both find the same woman irresistible. Suddenly their wonderful working relationship is intolerable.
At the center of their attention is radio announcer, Jasmine James. Beautiful and sultry, James has a sexual appetite big enough to satisfy both detectives.
The two officers are not the only ones obsessed with the Love Songs host. A crazed fan kidnaps Jasmine James while four of her male listeners are discovered dead with a single bullet to their ear as her Love Songs program plays softly in the background. The pressure is on the Seattle cops to find the murderer and locate James before her air runs out.
Kelly Marshall spent thirty years as a radio announcer. She now devotes herself to her two great passions, raising her grandson, Dawson and writing. Kelly Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest and is working on her next novel, Millstone, a sequel to her recently published book, The Love Songs Murders. Her website is http://kellymarshallbooks.com (which includes links to order her books). You can contact Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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