Please contact E. B. Davis at for information on guest blogs and interviews. Interviews for July: (7/6) Jennifer J. Chow (7/13) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 1--Ice Cream Shop Mystery), (7/20) Susan Van Kirk, (7/27) Meri Allen/Shari Randall (Book 2--Ice Cream Shop Mystery).

Wednesday, September 4, 2013


In preparing this series, I solicited answers to ten survey questions from members of the Writers Who Kill blog and authors who are well-known for their wonderful mystery short stories. These authors have been so generous, detailed, and insightful in sharing their views and providing excellent information that I wanted the WWK readers to have the full benefit of their replies.

Today, Kaye George offers her perspective.

Kaye George is a novelist and short story writer and past President of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is the author of four mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series (self-published and now distributed through Untreed Reads--the first of which, Choke, was nominated for an Agatha best first novel); the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series (published by Barking Rain Press); the Neanderthal People of the Wind sagas (published by Untreed Reads); and the Fat Cat cozy mysteries (to be published by Berkley Prime Crime and to debut in 2014).

Her short story, Handbaskets, Drawers, and a Killer Cold, was nominated for the Agatha best short story in 2010. It is published in her collection, A Patchwork of Stories, and also is available on her website so readers of our mystery short story series may have access to it. Other short stories appear in the anthologies: Nightfalls, He Had It Coming, Grimm Tales, Fish Tales: The Guppy Anthology, and All Things Dark and Dastardly. She reviews for Suspense Magazine and writes articles that appear in newsletters and booklets. After living for many years in Texas, she and her husband have moved to Knoxville, Tennessee. If not in Knoxville, they may be visiting with children and grandchildren in Tennessee, Texas, or Virginia.

Her Eine Kleine Murder, first in the Cressa Carraway series, was a finalist this year for the Silver Falchion Award, which is given for the best novel published since the last Killer Nashville conference.

Kaye has a BA in Russian studies and a 2-year junior college degree in computer programming that provided her with a money-making career. Her website is: She blogs solo at:, and with others at:

Recently, at a meeting of the Upstate South Carolina Chapter of Sisters in Crime, Kaye spoke about writing the short story. She suggested that the minimum elements needed for a short story are: (1) a protagonist and antagonist, (2) a conflict, (3) a setting, and (4) a theme. She mentioned that teacher and author M.K. Wren, who wrote the Conan Flagg series and also writes science fiction, recommended a three-legged stool of elements for short stories: (1) characters (which would include Kaye’s protagonist and antagonist), (2) plot (as compared with Kaye’s conflict), and (3) setting.

Kaye mentioned that Toni Kelner followed a modified three-legged stool approach, and explained that Toni advocated concentrating on two of the three legs: “…with a vivid setting and a tricky plot, your characters can be sketchy. With strong characters and a vivid setting, the plot can be more pedestrian. With a tricky plot and strong characters, your setting can be less colorful. I think you can write a really good story if you concentrate on any two. . . . Of course, when you've got all the stool legs in one story, you've really done something.”

Kaye, thank you for being with us and taking the time to answer the survey questions.

How has being part of a short story writing community influenced your writing?
I benefit from the critiques I receive from other short story writers. I will say that I would be writing short stories whether I knew anyone else writing them or not, and have written them almost my whole life. But knowing other short story writers gives me the opportunities to receive valuable feedback, learn where submissions are being accepted, and read some really great stuff.

What is your thought process when you submit or select stories for a themed anthology?

I've been on the selecting-end less often, so I'll address that first. I've always been given a score sheet to assess each story. This can be frustrating because it's so objective, but that's not a bad way to approach selection. I haven't seen the ideal score sheet yet, and maybe never will, but some are better than others. There should always be room for comments so that whoever is doing the final selections has more than numbers to evaluate.
For submitting, I have sometimes tried to rework an already-written story to fit a theme, but that has hardly ever worked for me. It's better, for me at least, to start a new story to fit the theme.
When do you know an idea is suited for a short story instead of a longer work?

Good question. I'm not sure I have an answer. I always know whether my ideas are for stories or novels, but I'm not sure how I know.
Have you written “flash fiction”? What do you think of flash fiction as a literary form?
Yes, and I love it! I think it's fun because it's challenging. I like trying to fit a plot into a few words. I'm forced to write clean, lean, and mean and I think my overall writing has been improved by the flash fiction I've done.

How many characters can be in a short story?

I couldn't set a limit. This depends on how well you can do it. You can certainly write a story with one character, and with two or three. The upper limit would be approaching double digits for me.

How long have you been writing short stories?

Since I could hold a crayon. I always answer this question by telling about drawing pictures before I could read or write, then giving the narration when I showed my parents my pictures, because they were always a story.
What is good/bad about the current short story market?

Well, it would be nice if lots of publishers paid a lot of money for stories. However, since I don't plan on getting rich writing, I'm happy with the markets I can find, especially the ones that accept my stories. I don't have as much time to write them lately, and am not submitting to a wide range of markets. I'm tending to submit where I think I'll have a good chance of acceptance. If I weren't working so hard on novels, I'd probably look around for new markets and try them
Should an unpublished author self-publish short stories?
There's no reason not to publish them. However, I don't know who would buy them. It's hard enough getting the notice of readers when you're multi-published. I would think it would be nearly impossible if you're completely unpublished.
The reason I write short stories is:

that I can't not write them. If I were prevented from doing this, the state of my mental health would not be good at all.

The most important aspect of writing a mystery short story is:

to make it interesting, make it so the reader wants to continue reading until the end. I try to do this with tension, with interesting characters, with an unexpected plot or situation or setting. I like a twist at the end and love a double twist.

Again, thanks for joining us and providing us with such terrific insight, Kaye. Best wishes for your continuing success.


Polly Iyer said...

Having just written my very first short story, which was accepted into an anthology, I find your process interesting. I don't think writing short stories is my thing. I want to expand on all my characters, so it was challenging to put a beginning, middle, and twist ending into less than 4000 words. Since you write both short stories and novels, I'm curious which you like better. And kudos to you for doing both.

Kaye George said...

Polly, I much prefer writing short stories. I get a lot of satisfaction out of writing them. It's darn hard for me to write a novel. My satisfaction there is getting one finished and seeing it published.

When a novel is going badly, I step back and write a short story.

ceblain said...

What a great interview; I learned so much about you and that is wonderful to a person who reads your books. Keep up the great work.

Kaye George said...

Thanks so much! It's good to hear from a reader.

carla said...

Loved your point about self-publishing. I think it would be disappointing to self-pub and not get readers!

Shari Randall said...

Kaye, thank you so much for sharing your experience and knowledge with us. It's fascinating how you can write about musicians, neanderthals, and now cats! Best wishes with your new series.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

A good interview! You have a wonderfully positive attitude about writing and publication.

Kaye George said...

Carla, glad you got something out of my interview.

Shari, there's so much to write about! I hope I never run out of subjects.

Thanks, Jacqui! I'm just so happy to be published at all. It's all good.

Paula Gail Benson said...

Kaye, thanks so much for being with us today and providing so much great information.

Kaye George said...

You're welcome, Paula. It was a fun interview1