If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.

October Interviews
10/2 Debra H. Goldstein, Two Bites To Many
10/10 Connie Berry, A Legacy of Murder
10/17 Lida Sideris, Double Murder or Nothing
10/23 Toni L. P. Kelner writing as Leigh Perry, The Skeleton Stuffs A Stocking
10/30 Jennifer David Hesse, Autumn Alibi

Saturday Guest Bloggers:
10/5 Ang Pompano
10/12 Eyes of Texas Anthology Writers
10/19 Neil Plakcy

WWK Bloggers: 10/26 Kait Carson


Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Lyrical Press will publish Kaye George's Vintage Sweets mystery series. The first book, Revenge Is Sweet, will be released in March. Look for the interview here on 3/11.

Shari Randall will be writing again for St. Martin's, perhaps under a pseudonym. We look forward to reading Shari's Ice Cream Shop Mystery series debuting next year. Congratulations, Shari!

Susan Van Kirk's A Death At Tippett Pond was released on June 15th. Read E. B. Davis's interview with Susan.

KM Rockwood's "Frozen Daiquiris" appears in The Best Laid Plans: 21 Stories of Mystery & Suspense, edited by Judy Penz Sheluk. The anthology was released on June 18th.

Fishy Business anthology authors include KM Rockwood, Debra Goldstein, and James M. Jackson. This volume was edited by Linda Rodriguez.

Please read Margaret S. Hamilton and Debra Goldstein's short stories (don't ask about their modus operandi) in a new anthology, Cooked To Death Vol. IV: Cold Cut Files.

Warren Bull's Abraham Lincoln: Seldom Told Stories was released. It is available at: GoRead: https://www.goread.com/book/abraham-lincoln-seldom-told-stories or at Amazon: https://tinyurl.com/ydaklx8p

Grace Topping's mystery, Staging is Murder was released April 30.


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

An Interview with Katy Munger

“His hair was slicked straight down on his head with some
kind of gel and brushed back in a style that made him look like
a pompous middle-aged gigolo with a sixteen-year-old-face.”
                                                                                                Katy Munger
                                                                                                Writing as Gallagher Gray
                                                                                                Partners in Crime (Kindle: Loc 84)

Cozy, traditional, or paranormal? Katy Munger writes them all. Beware of her loaded sentences because readers may find themselves targets of her accurate aim. The constant visual snapshots give readers whiplash. All of the major book retailers carry Katy’s books. Be on the lookout for her new Casey Jones novel. For further developments and updates, you can find Katy on the Internet at http://www.katymunger.com/   Welcome to WWK, Katy.              E. B. Davis

Would you give our readers a brief synopsis of your three series?

My first series, the Hubbert & Lil Series, is a cozy series with a dry sense of humor that often relies on dignified people getting into absurd situations. The humor is similar to the books of P.G. Wodehouse and Charlotte MacLeod. It features an 84-year old New Yorker named Auntie Lil who is sturdily built with an appalling appetite, remains quite active and is very opinionated. She is helped in her investigations by her buttoned-down 55-year old nephew, T.S. Hubbert, whose precise approach to life is diametrically opposed to that of his free-wheeling aunt. Each book takes place in a different neighborhood in New York City and every book features a full supporting cast of colorful characters.

My Casey Jones series is a far more edgy, sarcastic series but it shares the elements of having a very distinct sense of place in the big cast of guest characters in each novel. Casey Jones is an unlicensed, no-nonsense private detective who hides 160 pounds of muscle with a bottle blonde in-your-face femme fatale style. Underneath her wisecracking 100% Southern exterior, there beats a 14-carat heart with a definite soft spot for life’s losers. Her overstuffed business partner is Bobby D., a 360-pound Lothario whose little black book is almost as big as his appetite. There’s lots of action — think car chases, gun fire, sometimes insanely funny scenes and lots of local color. The books are all set in North Carolina. The series is best described as irreverent and frequently bawdy — but not without its insights into human nature.

My most recent series, the Dead Detective series, is a more introspective series. The protagonist, Kevin Fahey was an alcoholic, a lousy father and husband — and an even worse detective when he was alive. Now that he is dead, he finds himself trapped in a lonely plane between the living and the dead, with nothing to do except visit his old life and seek redemption in trying to correct some of the mistakes he made when he was alive. His fate is to face the terrible mistakes he made in his life and, somehow, find a way to move on to a better place. While this series has touches of humor here and there to alleviate the tension, it can best be described as a cross between a thriller, a paranormal and a police procedural. It sometimes crosses the line into horror, and I often get letters from readers who like the psychological aspects of my scarier scenes.

Your series are written under different author names. Was that by your choice? How do you feel about author branding?

It was suggested to me that I write under different names, but ultimately it was my choice to do so. I suspect the publisher wanted a new name in hopes of upping my sales (stores often base their orders for your new book on how many copies they have sold of your prior books). However, I wanted to use pen names because each time I started a new series, it ended up using a very different approach and tone from the series before it. I did not want readers of one series to buy a book by me that was totally different from what they expected. I thought different names would help. I think in the end, though, I ended up shortchanging my most loyal readers and confusing people. From here on out, my books will be under my real name only.

As for author branding — if a writer becomes so popular that their name alone will sell a book, then good for them. However, if they are so craven that they actually hire other people to write their books and then put their name on it, either openly or secretly, then shame on them. If your name is on a book, then you need to have been the one to write it. When the branding of an author becomes more important than the story, character development, and the quality of the book – you're in trouble. I don't know why readers stand for it. But ultimately, the whole concept of the author as a brand comes from reader behavior. If you want the practice to stop, then you need to stop buying the books of mega-authors just because of the author's name and do a little research into whether it is any good before you put your money down.

Your three series feature very different characters. What elements of yourself are portrayed in your main characters?

I think that all of my main characters carry a different banner of mine into battle, so to speak. Auntie Lil is fearless about trying new things and sees the humor in life around her. Casey Jones is sarcastic, secretly somewhat judgmental, almost too independent, and has a fondness for the underdog. That would be me. Kevin Fahey has a perspective on life that echoes mine — mainly, that life is precious, that the very best moments are often the quietest ones, and that it all goes by way too fast.

Your first series, Hubbert & Lil: Partners In Crime, was set in New York City, which isn’t listed in your biography. Had you worked there in the garment industry, or did you do a great job of researching?  

I actually lived in New York City for 16 years as a young adult, including while I was writing the Hubbert & Lil series. This was long enough to get to know its different neighborhoods and to appreciate the unique character of each area. I lived near the garment district and often walked through it, gaining an appreciation for its bustle and uniqueness. In addition, Auntie Lil is also based on a real person, now deceased, who was every bit as outgoing and indomitable as the fictional Auntie Lil. She often told me stories of her days in the garment industry. I also had a boyfriend at the time whose family was from Long Island, allowing me to get a peek into the type of lifestyle that ended up being crucial to at least one of the books. I tend to create my books around places I have been and people from my actual life who have made an impression on me, rather than choosing a locale or characters and then conducting research.

In one Casey Jones book, you killed off a character by barbells, which gave me chills because I weightlift. Does Casey’s lifestyle determine the MOs and plots?

I would say definitely. For one thing, her lifestyle is a bit on the edge. She feels comfortable hanging
out with people on the fringes of society, i.e., the down-and-out and those who were often looked down on by others. That dovetails well with her job as a PI, since traditionally PI's have been the ones to bring justice to the disenfranchised. But it also has to do with her upbringing and status as what we here in the South would call "poor white trash." Happily for me, this creates some great opportunities for colorful character development and  lively plots. For example, the Casey I am working on now involves strippers and motorcycle clubs. You know that had to happen sometime.

Do you agree with the characterization that the Casey Jones series is “tart noir”?

No. I definitely agree with the “noir" part of it, it's the idea that Casey is a “tart” that I have trouble with. Tart seems to imply that there is some sort of coquettishness or game-playing going on, and one of the things that I think characterizes Casey is that she is very genuine and straightforward. She just is who she is. She would no more tart it up for a man in order for him to like her than she would put on an apron and start cooking meatloaf and mashed potatoes. But I will say that starting "tart noir" was a good move for me, both in terms of marketing and in terms of bringing me closer to some wonderful fellow writers.  You know, publishers these days pretty much force writers into pigeon-holed marketing slots. It's tough for those of us who don't fit into one of these slots perfectly to come up with ways to describe our books. Tart noir came close, but none of the authors I worked with as part of that movement could really be perfectly described by that phrase. There was always more to all of us than that.

Kevin Fahey is a dead cop who is on the path of redemption. How do you keep the reader sympathetic to Kevin when he’s led a very flawed life?

Well, first of all — let me just say that I hope I do keep them sympathetic to Kevin Fahey, because one of the premises of that series is that everyone deserves a second chance. It's possible some people have no sympathy for him. I hope not. I think empathy for others is what binds us together. But I try to keep him sympathetic by making him very aware of how he failed in his life, the price the people who loved him had to pay for loving him, and a deep realization of what could have been if he had only paid more attention to what he had. I also feature him in every book as being incredibly concerned for others, and while the people he is concerned for will vary by book, they are always very sympathetic — a young boy, a pregnant woman, his own troubled son. I think what happens is that writers don't consciously choose to make characters sympathetic so much as they care deeply for certain characters and it shows in the choices they make when they're writing about them. I love Kevin Fahey and I want him to find redemption. I feel very sympathetic toward him. Life is not easy for the strongest of us, much less the weakest. That probably shows in the way I write about him.

Which do you prefer writing, PI or amateur sleuth?

It totally depends on my mood and where I am in my life. I think though, that in the end, I prefer amateur sleuth just because you can concentrate more on character development and the situations they get into, and less on the acceptable procedures. It's also tough to escape stereotypes when you're writing a PI novel. Honestly, I think maybe we are looking at an endangered species there. PI novels almost seem like a relic from the 50s and 60s to me. The internet is open to all, there’s a world of information available to just about anyone through a keyboard, and that makes PI's seem almost quaint.

How did you get started as a writer? Did you get an agent?

I've always been a writer, from the day I was born. I wrote my way through my childhood and majored in writing in college. However, both my parents really wanted me to be a writer so naturally, given my oppositional nature, I first entered an unrelated field. At age 30, and I'm not really sure why looking back, I decided I would try my hand at writing a book. I wrote a first novel that is in a drawer somewhere, thank god, as it would probably make me cringe at this point. Then I wrote my first Auntie Lil as an exercise in character development and to remind myself that writing should be fun. Probably because I was more relaxed, that's the book that sold, starting me on a career as a crime fiction writer.

I have had an agent from the start. There are a lot of complexities and nuances involved in selling a book these days. Rule number one is that you absolutely must send the book to the right editor. With so many editors specializing not only in genre, but in sub-genres, it is way better to have an agent who can make sure you're not wasting your time sending a book into the wrong editor. Having said that, I understand that getting an agent these days can be every bit as frustrating as trying to sell a book. In my opinion, it's worth the effort.

Many authors think about self-publishing, have you?

Yes. The rights to my first two series reverted back to me after a certain period of time so I was able to bring them back as reprints using self-publishing. It is a wonderful option for writers lucky enough to get their rights back because you bring an existing reader base into that market with you. I also self-published my sixth Casey Jones, Bad Moon On The Rise, primarily because I was at a point in my life where I absolutely could not commit to meeting any kind of deadline. I wrote the book on my own time frame, and then brought it out through self-publishing as an experiment. I would characterize it as moderately successful. I had neither the time nor the interest needed to properly market it and let people know it was there. I'm actually hoping that a traditional publisher will pick it up, one is looking at it now, because I don't think it reached a fraction of its potential readership.

I think self-publishing is a great option for a whole swath of writers who want to get their book out, hold in their hands, and sell it to people in their communities or local bookstores. And as I said before, it's fantastic for writers who get their rights back to traditionally-published books. But for people just starting out, the sheer number of titles now being self-published creates an enormous challenge. How in the world can an unknown author break through the millions of other self-published books, particularly if you're talking about e-books? I know people have done it, but I really think that given the poor quality of many of the self-published books being given away for free, or virtually free, some of the techniques available to break out in self-publishing will start to lose their effectiveness. I'm hoping there will be some new marketing or promotional developments, or maybe a sort of hybrid model will emerge that combines traditional and self-publishing in some way — I see signs of that already — so that readers can confidently enjoy the lower cost of self-published books and e-books with the assurance that it is also well-written.

Say what you will about traditional publishing, it set up some hurdles that writers had to pass: first an agent had to deem it as high enough quality to sell, and then an editor had to deem  it as high enough quality to publish as well. And that was a good thing. But then the scales tipped and whether a book was good or not became outweighed by whether it would sell enough copies to make a killing. If only that equation had stayed in balance. Maybe self-publishing can find a way to bring back that balance. But right now, the market is flooded with crap and that's not good for writers who have the talent and commitment to create really good books. They just get lost in the avalanche.

Since your first book was published in 1991, there have been many changes in the publishing
industry and the reading market. Overall, do you think these changes are better or worse for writers?

I think the changes have been for the worse within the traditional publishing world. Publishers started buying too many titles, then just essentially throwing them all against the wall to see which one would stick. The music industry did the same thing. The power of advertising and marketing was used to promote, quite successfully, some pretty mediocre books and series. That opened the floodgates to more books that had been dumbed down or were copycats of bestsellers. After that, the quality of writing became less and less important and I think that, ultimately, that was bad for writers.

But I think the emergence of self-publishing, through e-books and print-on demand, has been very empowering for writers. I think it's great that there is now a way for writers to reach their readers without a middleman. However, clearly there are problems with breaking through the glut of self-published books. I'm hoping someone smarter than I am comes up with ways to help readers navigate available titles, or helps writers reach their audiences. And, honestly, in the great grand scheme of things, the technology behind self-publishing is very, very young. It's still evolving. I hope I live long enough to see where it ends up.

Your blog mentions a new Casey Jones novel, finished but not yet published. Would you provide the book jacket to our readers?

I do have a Casey in progress, but it's nowhere near finished yet so I have not tackled the issue of cover art. This one is going to be a challenge. It features two strippers, both dwarfs, and a host of motorcycle gang members. How I am going to come up with a cover that is provocative without being offensive is still beyond me. Suggestions are certainly welcome. By the way, the idea of dwarf strippers is not some overreaching Twin Peaks move on my part. Apparently it is a thriving and popular subgenre of stripping. People never cease to amaze me.

Which do you prefer, beach or mountains?

Wow, that's a tough one. I love the beach in autumn and in the winter, when it's cooler and often deserted. There is a sparseness and serenity to it during those times that is fantastic for a writer mulling over a book. But I don't like the beach in the summer, it's just too blazing hot, way too crowded and I'm not a fan of sand in either my food or my body parts. So I guess I would have to go with the mountains. Especially if it's a mountain with a lake where you can fish, or paddle around on a raft, or lie in a hammock by the water's edge reading under the shade of a tree on the edge of a nearby forest. And I do love my log cabins with front porches and fireplaces. Throw in a hot tub and I'm in heaven. Yup, I'm going to have to say mountains — and now I wish I was there!


Paula Gail Benson said...

Great interview, E.B. Welcome to WWK, Katy. Your three series must keep you busy. Each sounds fascinating. How do you keep all the details straight when writing so many different characters and situations?

Georgia said...

I've abandoned several best selling authors because of their predictable plots. I read to share a new experience with a main character I can enjoy. Casey Jones may be a new friend. Thanks, Katy and E.B.

E. B. Davis said...

Casey Jones won't disappoint you, Georgia. I've read most of Katy's books and like all of her series.

Paula--in addition to writing, Casey is a full-time mom and a political activist. Some people know how to juggle better than the rest of us. But then again, you write and have a career outside of the writing industry so you must also juggle well.

Katy was one of those writers who I feared had died--due to writing under pseudonyms. I'm so glad she decided to put all of them under her own name. After an artist builds a career with many books--it's the writer, not the title, in my opinion.

KM Rockwood said...

Thanks for sharing your story with us. You must have really mastered your craft to present such different characters as you have in these series! I will be adding them to my TBR list.

Sarah Henning said...

Nice interview! Such an interesting take on author branding and pen names. Thanks so much for stopping by, Katy!

Gloria Alden said...

I want to order from each of your series, Katy. I like to start with the first in each series, so starting with your first series, what is the title of the first book and the name it's written under. Ditto with each of the next two series, also. I love P.G. Wodehouse.

I agree with you about James Patterson, even though you were polite enough not to mention his name. I've not read any of his books and don't plan to, either. It makes me cringe seeing his name come up over and over on the best seller lists.

Warren Bull said...

Thanks for sharing on WWK. I'm impressed that you keep three series going with three sub-genres. They sound like interesting books.

Kara Cerise said...

Welcome, Katy. All of your books sound fascinating and filled with unique characters. Auntie Lil reminds me of a colorful character in my own family.

Phyllis said...

Hi Katy,
Just read your interview and enjoyed it very much. I am going to start reading you from the start of your Auntie Lil series.