David Morrell & the Department of First Stories

David Morrell recently shared a delightful story of his first sale as an author. We’d like to share it with you.


This is the background to my story “The Granite Kitchen” in the July issue of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. Back in 1971, I finished the manuscript of FIRST BLOOD and sent it to my agent. Shortly afterward, I had a dream so vivid that I immediately used it as the basis for a short story. It was called “The Dripping,” and I submitted it to Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. I still recall the excitement of receiving an acceptance letter and a check for $100.  My first sale. I smiled more broadly when I learned that the magazine had a “Department of First Stories,” which drew attention to writers whose first sale was to EQMM. Many authors who’d influenced me were in that “Department of First Stories”: Jack Finney, Stanley Ellin, William Link and Richard Levinson (Columbo, Murder She Wrote), for example.  Last year, many decades later, EQMM asked me to write a new story for a 75th anniversary issue that celebrated the “Department of First Stories.” The joy of that first sale came back to me as I wrote the new story, remembering the suspense with which I’d submitted “The Dripping” years ago and now feeling that because EQMM had actually asked me to write a new story for it, I had finally arrived.  My novel First Blood  was later published, unleashing Rambo, but the thrill of that publication couldn’t equal what I felt when I received that acceptance letter from EQMM in 1971.  “The Dripping” turned out to be my most reprinted story and was included in The Best American Noir of the Century, edited by James Ellroy and Otto Penzler.


Congratulations, David! We’re so glad you feel as if you finally arrived! (And, thank you for allowing us to share the story of your first sale.)


Warren Easley, Q&A

Warren Easley’s Not Dead Enough, A Cal Claxton Oregon Mystery from Poisoned Pen Press, is the June pick for the Thriller Club.

Not Dead Enough

Michael Barson recently did a Q&A with the author in which they discussed Easley’s series.

1) When you created attorney Cal Claxton, how did you envision him being different from other protagonists in today’s crime fiction?

I certainly knew what I didn’t want him to be—a tragically flawed, enigmatic figure, which, to me, is a cliché in mystery fiction.  I wanted him to be an everyman, a character whose reactions to situations are not particularly out of the ordinary.  But I wanted him to be dogged and resilient, too.  I knock him down a lot, but he gets up and re-engages. It’s a trait I admire greatly.  Like most of us, he’s reluctant to engage when it looks daunting, but he’s guided by a strong moral compass, and he’s particularly prone to come to the aid of the most vulnerable.  

2) Why did you decide that Cal needed to move from practicing law in L.A. to rural Oregon?

Cal was shattered by his wife’s suicide in L.A. because he felt he was so wrapped up in his career as a prosecutor that he missed the signs of her depression.  He moves to a remote farmhouse in Dundee, Oregon, in the heart of the wine country, to essentially re-invent himself as a small town lawyer and a fly fisherman.  His goal is to keep his head down and mind his own business, but, of course, trouble has a way of finding him.  

3) The Native American characters who populate Not Dead Enough, and the Indian lore that suffuses the story, carry the ring of authenticity. How much expertise do you possess?

It’s always a challenge to write about another culture, and I don’t claim any expertise in Native American culture.  Central to the book is the flooding of Celilo Falls on the Columbia River, a fishing and cultural center of the river tribes for millennia.  I visited the re-located Celilo Village several times and read and viewed everything I could get my hands on about Celilo Falls, including historian Katrine Barber’s excellent book, Death of Celilo Falls.  Like Tony Hillerman, who had a great influence on me, I write about Native American culture with the utmost respect and admiration.  

4) If you had to choose one author of a classic crime series from whom you drew inspiration for the Cal Claxton series, who would top the list?

Well, that’s pretty easy call for me—Raymond Chandler’s body of work, particularly The Long Goodbye.  I like the blend of hard-boiled noir, satire, and social commentary that Chandler brings to the genre. 

5) Is there one writer working in the mystery field today whom you especially admire?

I mentioned Tony Hillerman, but the writer I admire the most is James Lee Burke, who writes, among other things, the Dave Robicheaux series set on the Gulf Coast.  Burke’s characters jump off the page, his dialogue crackles, and his descriptions of the Gulf Coast always mesmerize me.  I wanted to do something like that in my series with Oregon as the setting.  

6) What is your long-range goal for this series? To keep writing one installment each year for the next twenty years or so?

Ha!  That’s what James Lee Burke has done.  My goal is simple—make the next book in the series the best piece of mystery fiction I’m capable of.  One book a year seems reasonable, although the one I’m working on now—number five in the series—is ahead of that schedule.  So many stories to tell, so little time!  

7) Have you ever entertained the idea of starting a second series featuring a different protagonist?

No, I’m pretty focused on the Cal Claxton series.  I do have some ideas for stand-alones that I hope to get to in the not-too-distant future.

Copies of Warren Easley’s Cal Claxton books, including signed copies of Not Dead Enough, are available through the Web Storehttps://bit.ly/1X7DSTl

Cara Black, In the Hot Seat

Tuesday, June 14 is release date for Cara Black’s new Aimee Leduc mystery, Murder on the Quai. She’ll be here at The Poisoned Pen on Saturday, June 18 at 2 PM, so this is the perfect time to interview her. Cara’s In the Hot Seat today.

Cara Black

Cara, thank you for sitting In the Hot Seat. Would you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a former preschool teacher, my husband owned a bookstore and we live in San Francisco. I drink espresso and get to Paris whenever I can.
Now, would you introduce Aimee Leduc?
Aimée Leduc is the half-American, half-French daughter of a 70’s radical American mother who left her when she was eight, and a father, formerly in the Police, later a detective, who became a PI and took over the family business at Leduc Detective. Aimée lives in Paris on Ile Saint-Louis because that’s where I’d like to live. She has a motor scooter, a bichon frise puppy named Miles Davis pronounced Meels Daveez, a stormy relationship with her godfather, Commissaire Morbier, is attracted to bad boys and haunts the flea markets for vintage couture. She’s taller, thinner and with a better fashion sense than moi.
Tell us about Murder on the Quai. Why did you go back in Aimee’s career?
Murder on the Quai
Great question. I never thought I would write a series much less sixteen books so it’s become a challenge to keep Aimée’s Paris world familiar yet fresh. Actually, at the end of Murder on the Champs de Mars, life changing things happened to Aimée Leduc and to someone close in her life. I couldn’t see much further ahead for her except from the Emergency room in the hospital where this person close to her, who betrayed her (she believes) and had shot, is fighting for their life. Conflicted, heartbroken, all I knew was that Aimée was at a crossroads. I didn’t know where she’d go from here. My editor asked me what would happen to Aimée, I think I mumbled I hadn’t much of a clue where Aimée’s life would take her now. Perfect segue for a prequel, my editor said in that brilliant way she has. She said she’d always wondered about Aimée’s origin story, on her younger days, what made her into the private detective (apart from inheriting the agency from her father) she’d become. Where did her dog, Miles Davis, come from and how did she find her partner, René Friant, and how did her vintage Chanel style emerge. Also, she asked, couldn’t we have a chance to meet Aimée’s father, Jean-Claude who we’ve heard about for 15 books and see him together with her mother and glimpse that love and attraction that drew these two very different people together. So in Murder on the Quai, we get to meet her father who’s death has affected her in the rest of the series. We also meet her grandfather, Claude, who I’ve sort of fallen in love with – he’s a bon vivant, loves good food and haunting the art auctions and has a mistress. Plus the music! I made a playlist to take me back to 1989 including some songs which Aimée hears in the story: 99 Luftballoons, Oh Champs Elysèes, Love Shack by the B-52’s, music by Duran Duran and Madonna. Also hearing wonderful old Parisian songs from the 1940’s by Edith Piaf, Yves Montand, Charles Trenet that brought to me another era and dancing around the laptop.
Would you introduce us to Aimee’s Paris?
Aimée lives in 90’s Paris with art, fashion, and cuisine reflecting that time. Setting the stories in the 90’s was never a conscious decision on my part nor an organized plan, it evolved organically. I was so thrilled to publish my first book, Murder in the Marais, that I hadn’t thought of anything else. When my editor asked me where Aimée was going next in Paris, what would be happening with the man she met etc…I got tongue tied…then she said..”Wait, you are writing a series, aren’t you?” “˜Of course” I lied. So, I started writing about Belleville (this was in the early to mid 90’s when I stayed with my friend there), impressed by the vibrant street life, and found a story. It’s been like that with all the books, exploring and describing off the beaten track Paris I discovered. I was writing about the Paris I was seeing in the 90’s when I began to visit often. I’ve just moved Aimée a few months ahead in time and so the stories have stayed in that era (the first set in 1993-1999 – the latest, and now the prequel set in 1989). I’m so glad, too because, while Aimée has a cell phone she doesn’t have to worry about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or texting. There were few CCTV cameras and everyone paid in francs – much sexier than the Euro. Oh and you could still smoke in the cafes. French society, to me, was and remains underneath very traditional. They are still ruled by the Napoleonic code so try to get paperwork done in a timely fashion. The French Colonial rule brought immigrants from Indochina and North Africa to France then in the third generation at that time. Aimée’s Paris is a salad bowl of cultures with strong ties from a Colonial heritage, a past from WW2, 17th century cobbled streets and history on every corner.
I’ve heard a couple wonderful stories about your youth and love of Paris and your first trip. Would you tell our readers?
In high school for a book report, I discovered a book on the library shelf and fell in love. The book was Promise at Dawn by Romain Gary. In love with his writing, the story, his way with words, the way he evoked images and time. So I wrote the author a fan letter. In those days, we used pen and paper, we addressed the envelope to the writer in care of the publishing house in New York and hoped. I doubted my gushing fan letter would ever get a response, especially since Romain Gary, the writer, lived in France but something felt right about trying to tell him he’d touched me and the book changed the way I looked at writing and words.
I jumped out of my skin when later a letter addressed to Mademoiselle Black with a French stamp arrived.
Monsieur Romain Gary, who’d won the Prix Goncourt literary prize for Promise at Dawn, the book I’d read, had written thanking me for my letter. And he wrote to me as an adult, as if my letter mattered to him. It rocked my world.
I had saved my babysitting money and after high school, backpacked around Europe. In those days we slept under the Pont Neuf in Paris, munched baguettes and shared wine with other travelers down on the Seine, as one did. I had Monsieur Gary’s address. 108 rue du Bac opened to a treelined courtyard, an imposing white stone building. I followed the red carpeted staircase winding upwards past a stained glass window and bold as brass knocked on the tall carved wood door. A man answered. Wild black hair sticking up, thick mustache, blue-turquoise eyes with a severe stare who took one look at me and said.
“Do I know you?”
“Uhm..I wrote you a letter…” I fumbled, staring at the carpet wishing it would swallow me up “from California and you wrote me back..and..”
“Just a moment.” He slammed the door.
I waited, feeling stupid and awkward at my terrible faux pas. One doesn’t just appear at the door of a famous and busy Prix Goncourt winning author and expect them to…
The door opened. “Shall we go for a coffee?” I nodded dumbstruck. We walked to the corner cafe, his local and the cafe man had a cigar and expresso waiting on the counter for Monsieur Gary. The cafe man looked at me, in jeans, flannel shirt etc and then at Monsieur Gary.
“What about her?” he asked.
“She’ll have the same,” Monsieur Gary said.
I don’t remember everything we talked about because I was trying to puff on the cigar and not cough, drink this acid tasting coffee – my first ever expresso – and not choke and make some kind of intelligent conversation. I do remember Monsieur Gary, to his credit, showing amazing generosity.
I’m going off-topic. Hypothetically, you have the money to live anyplace you want. You can’t pick France or your present home. Where would you live, and why?
I’ve kind of fallen in love with a friend’s farmhouse in Umbria, somewhere between Rome and Florence. Rolling hills, cypress trees, breathtaking views, the way the light falls and the quiet of the countryside. There’s great hiking, old ruins, very off the beaten track except for an old Roman road. The only thing is the local cafe is too far away…I’d move it closer.
Cara, in five words or phrases, how would Aimee Leduc describe you?
Works best on a deadline.
Bucket list. We all have one. What’s next on your list? What do you hope to do soon?
I’d love to visit Prague, Talinn in Estonia and snorkel in the Maldives.
College students just graduated. Look back at your own twenties. What advice would you give new college graduates?
I think it’s great to take a year off and discover a part of the world and things about yourself before hitting the textbooks. I’m all for a gap year as they say in the UK.
What’s on top of your TBR (To Be Read) pile right now?
The new Alan Furst that comes out soon!
Thank you, Cara! As I said, Cara Black will be here Saturday, June 18 at 2 PM. If you can’t make it, you can purchase a signed copy of Murder on the Quaihttps://bit.ly/1TH6qks

Whitney Terrell’s The Good Lieutenant

Thursday, June 16 at 7 PM, Whitney Terrell, author of The Good Lieutenant, will appear at The Poisoned Pen, joined by Grant Blackwood, author of Tom Clancy: Duty and Honor.

Good Lieutenant

Author Anne Wilson, an Annapolis graduate and Navy veteran, hosts Terrell on June 16 and says this about our July Modern Firsts Club Pick (Terrell, Whitney. The Good Lieutenant, Farrar, $26): Whitney Terrell writes The Good Lieutenant with brutal honesty. We follow Lieutenant Emma Fowler and her all-male platoon in a story that unfolds backwards, Memento style, from an explosive and tragic beginning. Using this ingenious literary construct, Terrell pulls us in as we watch the changes in Emma—more naïve, more innocent, the further she moves from the Iraq War—in a heartbreaking tale of human loss, needless suffering, and the absurdities of war.” The PW Starred Review. “Terrell’s audacious new novel begins with a literal bang as a U.S. Army patrol in Iraq goes terribly wrong for Lt. Emma Fowler, who is present as her secret lover, Lt. Dixon Pulowski, is critically wounded in an explosion while attempting to recover the corpse of a kidnapped sergeant. The narrative moves in reverse chronological order from there, to show the events before the botched operation, depicting the previous op that got the sergeant abducted at Muthanna intersection, an IED explosion at the same intersection that cost the lives of two soldiers earlier, a bad call made by the colonel who declared the intersection safe, and Fowler’s stateside training, where she begins her love affair with Pulowski. Although this backward conceit has been used before, as in the Christopher Nolan film Memento and the Harold Pinter play Betrayal, it works particularly well in this story, which employs the structure to critique the follies of the Iraq War and the adamantine nature of the military mind-set. Terrell shows us how soldiers think and address one another with a stinging combination of military argot and pop culture references. The book’s last line echoes the title of one of the first novels about modern warfare, Thomas Boyd’s Through the Wheat (1923), to which this novel is an entirely worthy successor.”

Here’s the publisher’s summary of the book: “The Good Lieutenant literally starts with a bang as an operation led by Lieutenant Emma Fowler of the Twenty-seventh Infantry Battalion goes spectacularly wrong. Men are dead–one, a young Iraqi, by her hand. Others were soldiers in her platoon. And the signals officer, Dixon Pulowski. Pulowski is another story entirely–Fowler and Pulowski had been lovers since they met at Fort Riley in Kansas.
From this conflagration, The Good Lieutenant unspools backward in time as Fowler and her platoon are guided into disaster by suspicious informants and questionable intelligence, their very mission the result of a previous snafu in which a soldier had been kidnapped by insurgents. And then even further back, before things began to go so wrong, we see the backstory unfold from points of view that usually are not shown in war coverage–a female frontline officer, for one, but also jaded career soldiers and Iraqis both innocent and not so innocent. Ultimately, as all these stories unravel, what is revealed is what happens when good intentions destroy, experience distorts, and survival becomes everything.
Brilliantly told and expertly captured by a terrific writer at the top of his form, Whitney Terrell’s The Good Lieutenant is a gripping, insightful, necessary novel about a war that is proving to be the defining tragedy of our time.”

Have we caught your attention yet? If not, check out the video, “Behind the Scenes of The Good Lieutenant“. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=usnG5IXqqYo

As I said, this is the July Modern Firsts Club pick. You might want to order your copy from our web store, https://bit.ly/1OVbxgK

Don’t forget, Terrell and Blackwood will be introduced by Anne Wilson, Thursday, June 16 at 7 PM.

JT Ellison, In the Hot Seat

I’ve known JT Ellison for a few years. We run into each other most years at the Southern Kentucky Book Fest. Now, you have the chance to meet her, Wednesday, June 16 at 7 PM, when she appears at The Poisoned Pen with Heather Gudenkauf. JT is on book tour with her latest book, Field of Graves. And, she was kind enough to answer interview questions, to spend a little time In the Hot Seat. Thank you, JT.

JT Ellison

J.T., welcome to the The Poisoned Pen’s blog. Would you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us about yourself.

Thanks for having me! Let’s see, I’ve been writing thrillers for a decade now, and have 13 books published under my own name, and also co-write with the divine Catherine Coulter. I’m a wine junkie (see https://thewinevixen.com) and love golf and yoga. And kittens”“”“I have twin girls, silver mackerel tabbies, who are an absolute hoot. I love to travel and have been married for over 20 years to the love of my life. I live in Nashville, which is one of the best literary cities in the country. I also co-host a literary television series called A Word on Words, which was started over 40 years ago by the esteemed John Seigenthaler. Needless to say, I’m juggling a lot of balls, but I’m having a blast!

Why did you become a writer?

I’ve always been a writer, so that wasn’t a conscious choice. But after a college professor told me I wasn’t good enough to be published, I quit, went in a different direction, working in the White House and Department of Commerce before swerving into aerospace marketing. But the bug wouldn’t leave me alone, and after we moved to Nashville, I discovered John Sandford, and three books into the Prey series decided I was going to give it another try. That book eventually became FIELD OF GRAVES. So as to why”“”“I couldn’t stop myself, really. I was compelled, called, driven to it by the muse.

Field of Graves takes readers back to Nashville. I have all kinds of questions, but here’s the most important one. Let’s start with an introduction to your characters since it seems as if you’ve brought them together. Tell us about these people, please, with a brief summary of the book.

Field of Graves

So FOG, as we call it, was my first full-length novel. I landed an awesome agent with it, but it didn’t sell, so I put it in a drawer and moved on to the next book in the series, which did sell, and kicked off my career. Last year, I revisited it and realized it wasn’t half bad. I did a full editorial on it, and it stands now as the prequel to the series.

This book introduced Nashville homicide lieutenant Taylor Jackson, and medical examiner Dr. Samantha Owens, and the whole cast of characters from the Taylor series, including Dr. John Baldwin, FBI profiler extraordinaire. It is the story of how Taylor and Baldwin met, how Taylor got her scar, all set against the backdrop of a killer who is trying to create his own apocalypse.

Taylor Jackson is a fabulous character to write. She’s the warrior goddess of Nashville, half cop, half rock star, and my own personal Athena. Sam Owens is her best friend, the lodestone of the series, the conscience, so to speak. They’re quite a pair. Add in Baldwin, and all sorts of mayhem ensues.

Tell us about Nashville as a setting.

It’s the perfect backdrop—we have it all, from gangs to debutantes. The city has a rich history, and it’s a beautiful southern town. We’re growing very quickly right now, so there are all the attendant problems with a city breaking out of its long-held boundaries. I wanted to show the city we live in, not the one seen on the news or the awards shows.

Can you give us a hint about the next book to be released?

Next in line is THE DEVIL’S TRIANGLE, the fourth “Brit in the FBI” novel with Catherine, coming March 14. It’s a crazy ride! I’m also working on a secret project (I’m always working on a secret project) and the fifth installment of the Sam Owens series, ALL FALL DOWN. No release date for that one yet, sometime next year, I’m sure.

Let’s go off topic. If friends come to visit, what’s your favorite place to take them?

We have a few awesome restaurants that we frequent, so there would definitely be food involved. We take people to Cheekwood Gardens, a brilliant botanical garden in west Nashville; to downtown Franklin, for the cool shops and great food. And golfing, of course! We have a pretty low key life here.

We’re going to turn the tables here. How would Taylor Jackson describe you?

Oh, that’s totally unfair! She’d see me as quiet, loyal, and tall. I think she’d like being able to look me in the eye. We share some odd biographical details, so I think we’d have a lot in common.

Bucket list. Everyone has one, either in their head or on paper. What’s next on your list? What do you hope to do soon?

American travel, actually. I want to go to Yosemite, and Yellowstone, the Black Hills and Montana, go back to Kennebunk, Maine and stay for a bit. I love the Northeast; I’d dig a summer trip to the Cape or Martha’s Vineyard or Nantucket.

What were the last books you recommended?

I do book recommendations every month in my newsletter, so this one had Harlan Coben’s Fool Me Once (it did, twice); Don’t You Cry by Mary Kubica, Tosca Lee’s The Progeny, and Deep Work by Cal Newport. I literally just finished Claire Mackintosh’s I Let You Go ““ wow, what a great book—and Alan Furst’s A Hero Of France.

What’s on your TBR (To Be Read) pile right now?

Several blurb books, plus I’m really looking forward to Victoria Schwab’s This Savage Song, but I’ll probably dive into Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld or Truly, Madly, Guilty by Liane Moriarty—she’s one of my favorite. Oh, and Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley and Forgive Me, by Daniel Palmer… Lord, I have a few lined up, don’t I? True confession, there’s 640 books on my Goodreads TBR… Yikes!

Thanks so much for having me, this was fun!

It was fun, JT. Thanks for sitting In the Hot Seat for us.

As I said, JT Ellison will be at The Poisoned Pen on Wednesday, June 16 at 7 PM. She’ll discuss and sign Field of Graves and Heather Gudenkauf will sign Missing Pieces. If you can’t be here that night, you can pre-order a signed copy of Field of Graves through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/1sqaefy



The Composites – Literary Characters

Have you seen Brian J. Davis’ Tumblr site, The Composites?  https://thecomposites.tumblr.com/

It’s fascinating. Davis makes police sketches of literary characters, based on the book description. In other words, we can see how the author portrayed the character.

Wait until you see Ian Fleming’s James Bond! Not quite how any of us might have pictured him. Recent sketches include John LeCarre’s George Smiley, Stephen King’s Carrie. Davis did a few sketches of George R.R. Martin characters.

It’s a fun site. You might want to check it out.

Kate Carlisle, In the Hot Seat

Some readers may have met Kate Carlisle at The Poisoned Pen. The author of Books of a Feather, the latest Bibliophile mystery, will be joining Laura Bradford and Paige Shelton at the Pen on Saturday, June 11 at 2 PM. She was kind enough to sit in the hot seat and answer questions.

Kate, cozy mystery readers who come to The Poisoned Pen may know you, but not all blog readers do. Would you introduce yourself to our readers? Tell us about yourself.

Before I started writing, I worked just about everywhere you can imagine, from law offices to libraries to TV game shows to vineyards. In a way, all of that—every bit of it—was an apprenticeship for my work as a mystery writer. Every experience is fodder for my books, and the variety allows me to craft mysteries with twists and turns that will keep readers guessing.

My tagline is “Smart. Funny. Murder!” and that’s my promise to readers with every book. I want to make you laugh while I make you think. I love when readers tell me they didn’t solve the murder until the very end.


Would you introduce us to Brooklyn Wainwright, and tell us about Books of a Feather (without spoilers).

I’m best known for the Bibliophile Mysteries. I’ve been a book arts hobbyist since I was quite young. I’ve always been fascinated by the book as an object, as well as the tales told on the pages. This fascination led me to create world renowned bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, who restores rare books while solving a modern day mystery attached to each.

Books of a Feather

Readers tell me that one thing they love about the Bibliophile Mysteries is figuring out how I’ve echoed the themes of the rare book in the contemporary mystery. For example, in RIPPED FROM THE PAGES, which came out in paperback last month, Brooklyn restores a first edition of Journey to the Center of the Earth, and the murder victim is discovered deep inside a wine cave on her parents’ California commune.

In BOOKS OF A FEATHER, my brand new hardcover, Brooklyn is approached by the president of a national birding society. The man is in an absolute panic. He spilled wine on a lesser known book of Audubon bird illustrations, the pride of his society’s collection. Can she repair it? he asks. She’s invigorated by the challenge, but when the man is murdered, she and her beau, British security expert Derek Stone, must find the murderer before Brooklyn becomes the next victim.

Just for fun, I’ve created a sort of literary scavenger hunt of bird references woven into the story. (You’ll find the Birdwatching Scavenger Hunt in the Secret Room at KateCarlisle.com.)

You’re currently writing two mystery series. Tell us how you juggle them – time, characters, ideas.

Ripped from the Pages

Writing two ongoing mystery series is a dream come true! Juggling characters and ideas isn’t too much of a problem because the series are very specific, so when an idea comes, it’s already attached to either the Bibliophile Mysteries or the Fixer-Upper Mysteries. Brooklyn Wainwright restores rare books; Shannon Hammer restores Victorian homes. Brooklyn lives in big city San Francisco; Shannon lives in small town Lighthouse Cove. Brooklyn’s parents followed the Grateful Dead on tour and settled in a wine country commune; Shannon’s dad ran the family construction company until Shannon took over, and now he lives in an RV in her driveway.

Juggling time, on the other hand, is a huge issue. How do I do it? Poorly. I’m always scrambling. I’ve discovered that panic is part of my process, and I’ve had to learn to live with the discomfort. I rely on deadlines to tell me when I absolutely must stop researching and revising and focus on telling the story.

(My time management has also been impacted the past year by taking care of my mother, selling our house, moving across the state, and—wait for it!—building a home. Because I needed one more thing on my to-do list.)

Deck the Hallways, the 4th in your Fixer-Upper series is due out in November. Tell us a little about that series.
I’ve always found Victorian homes to be deliciously evocative—especially when they’re in a spooky state of disrepair. My father was a general contractor so I grew up on construction sites. That, plus the fact that I tend to see murder around every corner made writing the Fixer-Upper Mysteries a natural fit. Protagonist Shannon Hammer took over Hammer Construction when her dad retired. She specializes in renovating Victorian homes in the northern California hamlet of Lighthouse Cove, a seemingly idyllic town haunted by dark secrets. Shannon gets help when needed from a group of close friends, the handsome local sheriff, and a sophisticated bestselling writer who set tongues wagging when he moved to town.

Deck the Hallways

Readers can get a complete bibliography of my books in order of publication here: https://katecarlisle.com/books.php

Kate, I know you’ve been to Arizona before. What’s your favorite place to go when you’re here?

Anywhere Jenn McKinlay is, of course! Jenn is my partner in crime. Whenever we’re together, my face hurts from laughing. And she often serves cupcakes, so…

If friends visit you, where do you take them?

Right now, the answer is that I take them to the construction site of our new home. It’s not much to look at now, but it’s fun to describe what’s coming. You know that dream we readers all have of a cozy reading room with built-in bookshelves? It’s happening! And when I look up from my book, I’ll have a beautiful view of the mountains. Right now, we have zero bedrooms and one bath. 😉

outdoor toilet

Let’s talk about your bucket list, real or just in your mind. What’s next on it? What do you hope to do soon?

I would love to travel to Italy and back to Scotland. I would love to set a mystery series in another country. I really want a puppy. But honestly? In many ways I’m living my bucket list:

  • Get published. Check!
  • Hit the New York Times bestsellers list. Check!
  • Write two ongoing mystery series. Check!
  • Build a house. Working on it!

I couldn’t be happier! Or luckier. Okay, yes, I’d love to have one of my books hit #1, but that’s so far beyond my control as to be more of a dream than a goal.

One thing I am looking forward to is the American Library Association conference in Orlando. Librarians are my people! When Jenn and I did a signing at the conference in San Francisco, I kid you not, there were librarians in line who were shrieking with excitement. It was the most fun ever.

Guilty pleasures. What are your favorite TV shows?

I’m not sure I’d describe my favorite TV shows as guilty pleasures. Life’s too short to feel guilty about something you enjoy! Let’s call them market research because I gravitate toward shows with mystery and humor, just like my books. Suits, NCIS Los Angeles, Castle, Bones. I love Elementary, too. I also enjoy more somber mysteries, such as Blue Bloods and Law & Order in all its iterations. And I’ll watch anything on Masterpiece Mystery, of course.

What five words or phrases would Brooklyn use to describe you?

Oh, that is such an interesting question! Brooklyn would describe me as absent-minded, quirky (or she might say goofy), kind, thoughtful, and obsessed with food.

What’s on your TBR (To Be Read) pile right now?

Oh, so many books! The top three are The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny, Rockabye Bones by Carolyn Haines, and Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, which somehow, I’ve never read. (Don’t judge me.) And I’ve got the newest Nora Roberts (Obsession) and Robert Crais (The Promise) set aside as a reward for when I finish this latest manuscript.

Thank you, Lesa and Poisoned Pen, for allowing me to spend this time with you! I appreciate everything you do to tell readers about my books.

Thank you, Kate! If you would like to order copies of Kate Carlisle’s books, and pre-order an autographed copy of Books of a Feather, check our web store. https://bit.ly/1TKuu5S

John Grisham, Papercuts

Penguin Random House does a series of “Papercuts”, short interviews with their authors, and they make them available for use. John Grisham recently spoke about the authors that influenced him.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1UHRyR8UzC4&w=560&h=315]

Did you know John Grisham writes the Theodore Bloom: Kid Lawyer series for middle-school readers? If you’re interested in buying them for a young reader in your life, they’re available through the Web Store. https://bit.ly/1PALOdB