Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for August: (8/3) Dianne Freeman (8/10) Daryl Wood Gerber (8/17) E. B. Davis's Review of Granite Oath, James M. Jackson's new novel (8/24) Rose Kerr (8/31) V. M. Burns.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Kaye George Interview-Part 1

Kaye George is a mystery novelist and an Agatha nominated short story writer. She belongs to Sisters in Crime, Guppies, Writers' League of Texas, and Austin Mystery Writers. Her novel, CHOKE, will be issued by Mainly Murder Press in May, 2011. Her stories have been published both online and in print magazines and her articles appear in random newsletters and booklets. She blogs often for two group blogs and one solo one. (See: She, her husband, and a cat named Agamemnon live in Texas, near Austin. Click on the link to read her Agatha Award nominated 2009 short story "Handbaskets, Drawers and a Killer Cold".

KAYE: Thanks for interviewing me here, E.B. I'm an avid follower of this blog.

EBD: I’m thankful for every reader. How long have you been writing toward publication?

KAYE: I've been querying seriously and steadily for eight years. I sent some sporadic feelers earlier, but wasn't consistent, and I've completely lost track of who I queried.

EBD: How many novels have you written?

KAYE: There are two I won't show you. But I did cannibalize parts of one. In earnest, I completed have four and three-quarters respectable projects, all mysteries. One is a Young Adult mystery.

EBD: Have you queried all of them?

KAYE: I queried one of those first two, but didn't do much with the second one. I didn't really want to sell it as a first of a series. I have steadily queried these five active projects (but mostly just the four) for the last eight years. I have also written two proposals for cozies. For those I plotted them, did a bare bones outline, and wrote the first three chapters.

EBD: At conferences, did you talk with agents and pitch to them?

KAYE: I've attended a very nifty conference in Austin several times, called the “Agents and Editors Conference,” put on by the Writers' League of Texas. It's a pitching conference. The agents and editors are there to be pitched, and you're there to pitch to them. It's marvelous practice. It hardly ever results in representation, but does just often enough to keep everyone coming back. I've gone to it enough years that some of the agents recognize me. I don't think that's a bad thing. And it's great practice, seeing how your ideas are received, and what goes over and what doesn't.

I've pitched at a couple other conferences also, but this is the main one. A few years ago, at Murder in the Grove, a great small conference in Boise, Idaho, I had a ten-minute session with Janet Reid. I got some good advice from her, but no offer, of course.

At most conferences that are not pitching conferences, I have sometimes talked with agents, but haven't pitched to them.

EBD: Have you ever worked with an agent informally during the query process?

KAYE: I have recently had some very nice exchanges with several agents. It was heartening to find out they are actual people. And pretty nice, too, some of them!

But, when I've done the rewrites they asked for, I haven't received any offers. I'm not sure it pays to do this. It's very time consuming.

EBD: You mentioned numbers of queries by book in your blog, Travels With Kaye, could you reiterate them here?

KAYE: That's easy, since I have it there on the blog. For SONG OF DEATH I queried 133 agents and 4 publishers from 2002-2007. I started out slow, just a few a year, and gained momentum.The sequel to that one, REQUIEM FOR RED, was sent to 77 agents during 2007-2008. These two are amateur sleuths with a classical musician protagonist. I do know of a couple of mysteries published with a classical music hook, but it's a tough sell.

DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, grew out of my intense and inexplicable interest in Neanderthals. The novel was fueled by all the recent Neanderthal discoveries and genome mapping, and by the desire to do a mystery with them. It turned out to be challenging, and one of the most fun things I've ever done. I wrote it as an adult mystery, but several readers told me they thought it would do well in the Young Adult market. I knew nothing about that market beyond Harry Potter, but started buying and reading YA books. I also had a couple of YA authors read it. When I asked what should be done to adapt it to that market, their opinions were both that it was good to go. So, after querying it as an adult novel for a bit, I rewrote the query and aimed it at YA agents. So far, during 2008-2010, as of August 13th, I have queried 165 agents. I am still querying that one, five a week.

I've sketched out a sequel, but haven't begun writing it yet.

CHOKE, the novel I just got the contract for, was only sent to 65 agents during 2009-2010. I was attracted by a publisher called Bell Bridge and, kind of on a lark, and because I was getting tired of querying agents, sent a query to them. They never responded. Then Mainly Murder Press, a publisher that only accepted New England writers, opened up to other regions of the country. But they were going to close to submissions for the year soon after that, so I had to move now or never with them. I work well under a deadline. I decided to make my move and very quickly got through their selection process and received an offer.

I'm now working on SMOKE, the partially finished sequel to CHOKE.

EBD: That’s amazing. Beginning writers often don't understand how trying the process can be. When rejected, what were the reasons?

KAYE: All over the map! I've gotten many, many form rejections from agents who weren't able to fall in love with my protagonist, my writing, my plotting, whatever. I've always wondered why they have to fall in love. Shoe salesmen can sell shoes they aren't in love with. But anyway….

The very most painful rejection was a recent one for DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE. An agent loved it, totally understood what I was trying to do, said it could be the next "Clan of the Cave Bear" for the YA set. Exactly what I'm thinking! But she said she didn't have the contacts to sell it. I may never get over that! Until I get it sold.

EBD: How did you keep writing and plugging away under that negativity?

KAYE: That is NOT easy. I couldn't possibly have kept at this long, long enough to get published, without the support of the writing community. Mystery writers are the kindest, most generous people. I don't know if other kinds of writers are this way, but I can say there isn't a single mystery writer I want to kill.

The most support I've gotten has come from my local critique group and from the Guppies. I loved my Sisters in Crime chapter in Dallas, too. When we moved from there, I was lost until I found the Guppies online. I may have been the first person in the Wichita Falls area to get high-speed cable access. The SinC chapter in Austin is full of great people, but it's hard for me to get there regularly.

With the examples in these groups, I've seen other writers struggle for years and, ultimately, prevail, so I always knew I could, too.

Next week, Kaye and I will discuss what happens after the book has been accepted by a publisher.  Thanks, Kaye.  Until next week....


Ricky Bush said...

Great to hear about the trials and tribulations of a fellow Texan. I know Kaye George so much better now. Good luck with the publisher. I always amazed at the similarity of the tales to getting published (for the most part). Of course, the Guppies are

Ramona said...

Kaye, congratulations on the book contract. I'm looking forward to reading CHOKE.

You are so right about the support from the writing community; the benefits of commiserating with peers are many. Long live the Guppies!

Pauline Alldred said...

Kaye, congratulations on CHOKE. Your persistence is amazing. I agree with your comment about falling in love. An agent can say that after 3 pages. Without the support of other writers, it would be impossibel to keep writing.

I look forward to reading CHOKE.

Unknown said...

Kaye, I think you made the right decision. Having an agent doesn't guarantee an editor will feel the same way about your work, nor does it guarantee publication. I'm happy that things have worked out for you.

Kaye George said...

Thanks for the congrats, and the comments!

E. B. Davis said...

Thanks for your comments. I liked interviewing Kaye so much, I'm having her back next week to continue the discussion. Kaye, congratulations on your grandson. One baby this year, and another baby the next! You are on a roll!

Kaye George said...

That's a great way to put it, E.B. We're enjoying the brand new grandson and things will only get better as he learns about the concepts of, and differences between, night and day.

Thanks so much for having me here!