It’s great to be back. I hope everyone had a happy and safe New Year. I very much look forward to bringing you lots of interesting and varied content this year. I can hardly believe, this blog is twelve months old. Time flies.
My first post for the year is an interview with author Kathleen Marple Kalb, author of the ‘Ella Shane Mysteries’. Kathleen is a busy mom, New York Radio anchor, and author. Let’s find out some more about this author and her series of books, set in the late 19th Century. Mystery, scandal, and elaborate 19th Century fashion. What’s not to love, right?
Tell me about yourself
I like to say I’m an author/anchor/mom…not in that order. I’m a weekend anchor at 1010 WINS Radio in New York, which enables me to be a stay-at-home mom and writer during the week. And now, author of the Ella Shane historical mystery series at Kensington: A FATAL FINALE, 4/28/20…and soon, A FATAL FIRST NIGHT, 4/27/21.
How long have you been writing?
Most of my life. I actually wrote and queried a truly horrible historical novel at age sixteen…fortunately nobody bought it! For a long time after college, I did most of my writing in newsrooms. But after my son started school, I decided to try fiction again. It took three years, two failed projects and 200+ rejections, but I’m a trad pub author!
Do you have a favourite book?
‘Strong Poison’ by Dorothy Sayers.
Who are your favourite authors and how have they influenced your work?
Sayers, of course. Elizabeth Peters/Barbara Michaels. Joan Hess. I read a lot of Peters and Hess’s work when I was very young, and I loved the way both brought a wonderful sense of fun and humor to their brilliantly plotted and executed stories. Craft – and a really good ride – that’s my goal.
What inspired you to write mystery and romance set in the late 19th century?
I’ve always been fascinated by the time period; it’s recent enough to be understandable, yet so clearly different from the way we live now. For a classic mystery fan, it’s wonderful – and very challenging. You have to build the plot, evidence and solution from scratch; you can’t just whip out a DNA test to settle everything. And, I have to admit it, I love the clothes! Dressing my characters is a major pleasure for me!
Can you tell me about ‘The Ella Shane Mysteries’ and the inspiration behind the books?
Ella Shane, born Ellen O’Shaughnessy, is an Irish-Jewish Lower East Side orphan made good as an opera star specializing in “trouser roles,” heroic male characters like Romeo, played by women because of the vocal range. I’d like to say that I created Ella, but she found me wandering around Washington Square. Performers have always fascinated me, and I loved the idea of writing a woman who does her own swordplay, but that didn’t crystallize into a character until I started walking to work through this wonderful old enclave in Greenwich Village. It was the perfect setting and it inspired the characters: Ella, the diva who duels; her cousin and manager Tommy Hurley, former boxing champ and “confirmed bachelor,” and the sportswriters, reporters and opera folk around them. And what better way to introduce a woman who plays Romeo than having her solve the on-stage murder of her Juliet? That’s the plot of A FATAL FINALE.
Can you tell me about your writing process?
Wish I had one! I’m a working mom – and since Covid, a virtual elementary teaching assistant, too. So I work whenever I have five minutes and a flat surface for the laptop. I often think through plotlines and scenes while I’m doing “mom” work or other tasks, so I usually know exactly what I want to work on when I get the time. Not that I know how it will turn out; I’m not a total “pantser,” but I definitely do just go with the story in the early stages.
What advice would you give a new author?
Do the work and don’t give up. Make sure your project is as good as it can be before you put it out in the world. Take honest and well-meant criticism as the gift that it is. Before you get signed or publish, depending on how you decide to go forward, start building presence and platform. Always be a pro: on time, prepared, flexible. It doesn’t replace good writing, but the combination of great work and great work habits is a winner. Never take rejection as a blanket judgment: it’s “No, today,” on one piece of work. Be good to yourself – you’re doing something very brave and difficult. Honor that!
What do you like to do when you are not writing?
Family time always wins. I love board games and driveway soccer with my son, wine and late-night talks with my husband. And reading: non-fiction like Alison Weir’s Tudor histories when I’m working on a project, mysteries from cozy to classic when I’m not…even a little Amish romance once in a while! Every day, some kind of exercise – whether it’s dance, yoga or just a walk, it’s really important for keeping stress down and focus up.
Thank you to Kathleen for participating in this interview, If you would like to check out her work, click on the links below.