I’m featured this week on Wordpreneur Peeps. Stop by for a visit.
Visiting Spacedock 19 today is crime fiction with a kiss author, Carol Kilgore. She’s written Never Say My Name, In Name Only. Her stories have mystery, suspense, and romance. A very nice smattering of genres.
I was excited to get Carol away from her Tiki Hut, although, with winter in full swing here in Central Oregon, a tiki hut and hot sun sounds really, really nice.
Welcome Carol! Can Craze get you a drink? He’s still angry with me, but that shouldn’t have any impact on you. Mostly, I have to go get my own drinks.
CK: You two need to talk and get that sorted out. Since it’s early morning, I’d love a big, steaming mug of black coffee. Strong black coffee.
MP: I’m jealous of your coffee. I had to give it up. I’m interested to know how you start working on a mystery. You have a crime or something you have to solve and you need to weave in clues, yes? So how do you start in the creative process with building your mystery?
CK: Never Say My Name and In Name Only are more suspense than mystery. In Never Say My Name, I’d been wanting to write a story about someone in WitSec, the Federal Witness Security Program. Then one day I had this image of a woman opening an old chest-type freezer and finding a body. I married those two ideas first. Then I had to figure out what happened to the woman for her to qualify for witness protection. Finally, I had to build a plot around those things and work it all into a 4000-word short story.
In Name Only picks up the protagonist from Never Say My Name five years later. So this time I already had the main character still in the WitSec program. But the US Marshals had just moved her again. In Name Only is a novel, so the process here was different. I drafted the story as I envisioned it, but had to go back and insert clues. Many times, the basis for the clue was already in place but required a little tweaking. Other places in the story had leaps of logic, so I had to rewrite some places, add information in others, and decide what kind of clues to leave. Some clues are red herrings that either lead the main character down the wrong path or give her a stumbling block. A few are fairly direct. Most clues I like to leave are subtle – the kind most readers would skim over and not recognize until later. Later can be anywhere from the next page to the climax or even the denouement. Some are more overt. More and more ideas come to me as I work on revising and editing. My critique partners are invaluable here – they see so much that I miss.
Solomon’s Compass has more mystery than In Name Only. My original idea for the story didn’t work. Not only did I change the bad guy, I changed the crime and the motivation. And more. There are a lot of character type clues, as the story question is more ‘why-done-it’ than ‘who-done-it’. Most of the clues came about as I reworked the story.
MP: Interesting. I imagine it would take a lot of practice to build a good mystery. A why-done-it would be very intriguing. Mostly because I’m not good at thinking like a criminal – scheming and scamming are just outside my thought process. I’ve been watching Burn Notice on Netflix, which I find helpful, or I go seek out someone more devious than I for help when needed. How do you go about getting into your bad guy’s head?
CK: I love writing from the point of view of the bad guy – I can let my dark side play with all the toys on the playground. In Name Only actually has two bad guys, and I wrote from each of their viewpoints. In Solomon’s Compass, I keep the viewpoints to that of the hero and heroine, so I had to show the antagonist through their eyes. In practice, that meant structuring the clues so one of them wouldn’t say ‘Colonel Mustard with the Lead Pipe in the Dining Room’ on page two.
The most important thing to remember is that the bad guy is the hero of his own story. He always has a reason for everything he does, and that reason makes perfectly good sense to him. He’s doing exactly what he needs to do to accomplish his goals – however warped those goals may be.
Mind Games by John Douglas and almost any article or book by Katherine Ramsland are excellent resources for researching criminal behavior. I love watching Criminal Minds on CBS. It’s about an FBI profiling unit. All of these things plus years of reading mystery and suspense novels not only help me get into the mind of the criminal but also have me spotting opportunities for the possibility of wrongdoing in the real world. Husband says it’s all made me a little paranoid.
MP: It would make me paranoid. We had a presenter at a writers guild meeting who had been a detective and he played a recorded message from a serial killer. I didn’t sleep for a week and I still hang onto some city paranoia from my years in NYC.
I see suspense and crime fiction listed separately from mystery. Is there a difference?
CK: We lived in NYC three different times. I loved living there, but I do totally understand city paranoia! The difference between some of the subgenres of mystery is debated even among those who write in those genres. If you ask ten people, you’ll most likely receive ten different answers. And I understand that in the UK, all of it is called Crime Fiction. So what follows is the way I see it.
The overall genre of Mystery encompasses everything from cozy traditional mysteries with an amateur sleuth and no violence or profanity on the page to gritty back-alley stories with everything on the page. Capers to police procedurals. The mystery genre also includes suspense, thrillers, and crime fiction.
The main differences for me are these:
In mystery, we generally do not know the identity of the bad guy until near the end when protagonist knows. We may guess, but we don’t know for certain.
In suspense, the reader generally knows who the bad guy is. We may or may not know his name right off, but we know what he has planned for the protagonist. There may or may not be chapters written from his point of view.
In crime fiction, there must be a crime, and the story must focus on some aspect of that crime. My view on crime fiction is not the majority view. Many people involved in the mystery genre believe crime fiction involves the direct investigation of the crime – somewhat like a procedural. Others believe it is always about the criminal. My view is broader because any crime affects many people.
This was a very complex question, and I hope I provided enough information.
MP: More complex than I would have thought. But it sounds very much like some of the marginal definitions between some of the science fiction and fantasy genres, and often a story falls into more than one. More caffeine and the entire world will make sense… maybe. lol
So Carol, what pearls of wisdom have you learned about marketing so far. Have you found anything to have an effect?
CK: Gotta have caffeine :) I’ve tried a little bit of a lot of things. I wish there was a plan to follow with Step 1, 2, and so on. And the plan guaranteed success. Like a recipe. Or IKEA furniture. The main thing I’ve learned is nothing works all the time, and very little works even some of the time. At least that’s the way it seems to me.
It’s really hard to know about particular things because someone may hear about your book on a blog or in an Amazon flyer or from a friend. But it doesn’t mean they will purchase it on the day they learn about it. Their purchase may come months later. So what you think works great may not have worked at all. And something you thought didn’t work may be just the thing that did. The one thing that I know works is simply putting yourself out there, being a friend, having fun. In my experience, the minute you try to market or sell is the time things fall apart,
MP: Having fun is a definite key. I like your tag, Crime Fiction with a Kiss. A nice bit of branding there. What attracted you to the genre you write?
CK: The components of Crime Fiction with a Kiss are my favorite genres to read. As a girl, I liked the Trixie Belden books. After I sped through those, I started on my dad’s detective novels. I probably wasn’t really old enough to read them, but I did. Then I graduated to authors like Sidney Sheldon. I even read a few novels by Danielle Steele. Then I found Nelson DeMille, David Baldacci, Robert Ludlum, Sandra Brown, and Nora Roberts all at about the same time. Then James Patterson and Lisa Scottoline. When I started writing, all of these styles and genres fused into the one I call Crime Fiction with a Kiss.
MP: Those are some heavy hitting influences, Carol. Congrats on your upcoming release, Solomon’s Compass, and continuing success to you on Never Say My Name and In Name Only.
In Name Only
The night Summer escapes from a burning Padre Island eatery and discovers the arsonist is stalking her, is the same night she meets Fire Captain Gabriel Duran. As much as she’s attracted to Gabe, five years in the Federal Witness Security Program because of her father’s testimony against a mob boss have taught her the importance of being alone and invisible.
No matter how much she yearns for a real home, Summer relinquished that option the night she killed the man who murdered her father. But Gabe breaks down her guard and places both of them in danger. Summer has vowed never to kill again, but she’s frantic she’ll cost Gabe his life unless she stops running and fights for the future she wants with the man she loves.
About Carol Kilgore
Carol Kilgore is an award-winning author of several published short stories and many essays and articles. She lives in San Antonio, Texas, with her husband and their two herding dogs that like nothing better than pack time on the patio. The closest she’s come to being involved with the Federal Witness Security Program was once working in a building that also housed the U.S. Marshals Service. She is a member of Romance Writers of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.
You can find Carol at these places on the web:
Any questions / comments on mysteries for Carol?
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