Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Conversation with Mystery Author Kathleen George

Omnimystery News: Author Interview with Kathleen George
with Kathleen George

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Kathleen George to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of JKSCommunications, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Kathleen's seventh mystery to feature Pittsburgh homicide detective Richard Christie is A Measure of Blood (Mysterious Press; January 2014 trade paperback and ebook formats) and we recently had the chance to catch up with the author to talk about her work.

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Omnimystery News: You've written both series mysteries and stand-alones. How do you decide between the two?

Kathleen George
Photo provided courtesy of
Kathleen George

Kathleen George: Mostly I write a series — A Measure of Blood is the 7th of a series and that is coming this month. But I also wrote a standalone coming in April of 2014. It's a crazy year. I never planned to write a series but I sort of fell in love with my detective Richard Christie as many of my characters do. After he recurred three times, I realized I was hooked. I don't start with a plot outline. Generally I start with some other character I have also fallen in love with and I track that character through trouble.

OMN: How would you characterize the book in this series?

KG: My labels (by publishers and reviewers) have changed a bit with each book. My books have been called everything: Thriller, suspense, police procedural, police thriller. I don't mind the labels so long as they don't scare people away. I think readers like labels because they are in a mood for a particular experience. But the fact is, most of my books and most of a lot of other books are really hybrids, using several forms.

OMN: Tell us something about A Measure of Blood that isn't mentioned in the synopsis.

KG: It might make you cry. It makes me cry. First off, there is the little boy of seven who is orphaned by murder. I feel for him. But I also get involved with the couple, the professors, who want to adopt him. And the man who wants the kid. And the one who doesn't think he does. And the detective. There is a lot about parenting and parental love in this and that gets to me.

OMN: How would you rewrite the synopsis as a tweet?

KG: Matt's mother Maggie Brown is killed by a man who insists he is Matt's father. The man finds Matt. Hearts break. A miracle happens.

OMN: Did you include any of your own personal experience into the storyline?

KG: Um, yes. The boy Matt was inspired by a boy I know who was the product of artificial insemination. When his mother became ill, I wondered, everyone did, what would become of the boy — a beautiful kid. In the book I have him living with two professors. One is a theatre director who is directing A Midsummer Night's Dream at the University of Pittsburgh. Well. I have been a theatre director of many Shakespeares at this same institution. My character, Janet, puts the boy in the play so she can keep an eye on him. But, wow, I know that theatre, the routines, the heat that comes from the marble topped radiators in the lobby. I am not Janet. But her office looks like mine.

OMN: How do you go about crafting the storylines in your books?

KG: I do everything except outline plots. I love to be surprised. Of course when you are a "pantser" instead of an outliner, you have to give into the fact that it takes longer to write the book. I have false starts and then I sit back and write about the characters as a way of examining them and then I start again or revise. I am always trying to find their right, true, story.

OMN: Where do you do most of your writing?

KG: I have an increasingly crowded home office on the second floor at the back of the house, with a second floor deck outside. Very city. Very urban. I wish I could have two offices — one that would hold all the Pitt work, the grading and all that, and one with bare surfaces that would help me clear my mind when I am working on a novel. But, no surprise, there just isn't enough room. On my wall is a poster with sixteen pictures of Anton Chekhov. What a glorious face! Glorious writer. He keeps me honest.

OMN: Given that you are a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, have you ever considered using a pen name for your books?

KG: I don't use a pen name but like just about all the writers I know, I consider it. One day I might be Elizabeth Zacharia.

OMN: How do you go about researching the plot points of your books?

KG: I use ALL of the resources. Pitt has a great library and access to databases. I have gone to the morgue and to the Forensics lab and to the Allegheny County Jail (not as a criminal, mind you). The jail was a wild experience. It went into lockdown while I was there. I was fascinated and ended up writing a lockdown scene! I didn't know I needed one. Mostly I love talking to people. Police. The adorable undercover narcotics cop. The brilliant detective who always seems to know what I need to know.

OMN: Your series is set in Pittsburgh, a city you know well. How true are you to the setting?

KG: At first, I thought, well, it's fiction. I can make things up. But then I realized readers love, love the real. So I am more careful with place now. Every once in a while I have to move a street or open a closed business, but I stick to the real as much as possible.

OMN: How did this latest book come to be titled? And were you involved in the cover design?

KG: Oh, I was so sure I was calling it Blood. The word has enough meanings to please me and it made an accurate suggestion about the various plot elements. But Otto Pensler said, No, people will think of vampires and this isn't that kind of book. I had to think hard and at first I kept trying to come up with another single word title since I have Taken, Fallen, Afterimage, The Odds, Hideout, Simple. But I so much wanted to say blood, that I instead added words that helped me to keep at the themes. The cover? I said, "I keep picturing a man and a boy walking. Some sense of threat." And that's what I got. I'm happy to say.

OMN: What is the best advice — and harshest criticism — you've received as an author?

KG: Best advice: "Write every day whether it feels good or not. Later you won't be able to tell the bad days from the good days." So true. So very true. Writing is an addiction, so you might as well give into it.

Harshest criticism: Just in on my standalone: "Do you really need this? Doesn't it get melodramatic?" It was true. I blushed and cut the passage and ended up cutting other passages, feeling, "Whew. Thank God someone told me."

OMN: What kind of feedback have you received from readers?

KG: That they love my characters, that they have been as emotionally involved as I have been.

OMN: Complete this sentence for us: "I am a crime novelist and thus I am also …".

KG: I am a crime novelist and thus I am also … a potential criminal? Well, I never think so, but I did have an FBI agent tell me I have a natural criminal mind.

OMN: If your series were to be adapted for screen or television, who do you see playing the part of Richard Christie?

KG: Before the TV series In Treatment, I kept saying I would like to have Gabriel Byrne play my detective Richard Christie. After In Treatment, I knew I was right. He played the psychologist much as I saw my detective: sweet, brooding, paternalistic, flawed, battling with rescuer complex.

OMN: What kinds of books did you read when you were young?

KG: I read everything I could get hold of. The bookmobile was my friend. I knew I was going to be a writer. At one point when I grew up and became a grad student in theatre, I had a professor who kept talking about great mysteries and he practically assigned them as reading. That's when I began reading mysteries in earnest. I think I am as influenced by Dorothy Sayer, Josephine Tey, and Marjorie Allingham as by the newer writers.

OMN: And what do you read now for pleasure?

KG: I still read widely, but I add a lot of mainstream fiction to my lists. It gives me a break from murder and it helps me remember that in the long run it's all about character and circumstance.

OMN: What are some of your hobbies or outside interests? Do they find a way into your books?

KG: Eating. And yes, food keeps finding its way in. People tell me my books make them hungry. That's because my characters never miss a meal (as I don't). My husband makes bacon in the morning. The smell wafts up to my office. My characters suddenly eat bacon.

OMN: Create a Top 5 list for us on any topic.

KG: Top 5 films that I can watch every time they are on:
East of Eden;
The Philadelphia Story;
Rear Window;
The Pawnbroker; and
High Noon.

OMN: What's next for you?

KG: I don't know! I don't plan. Things hit me. Sometimes a little hard in the head.

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Burt Weissbourd Book Tour

Kathleen George grew up in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a small city that found its way into the history books with the Great Flood of 1889. In addition to a bachelor's degree and a master of fine arts in creative writing, she holds a master's degree and a doctorate in theater from the University of Pittsburgh. She now teaches theater arts and writing at her alma mater.

For more information about the author and her work, please visit her website at KathleenGeorge.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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A Measure of Blood by Kathleen George

A Measure of Blood
Kathleen George
A Richard Christie Mystery

A murder sends a child into foster care and drags a detective into a feverish hunt for justice …

Nadal watches for weeks before he first approaches the boy. No matter what Maggie Brown says, he's sure Matt is his son, and a boy should know his father. After their first confrontation, Maggie should have run. She should have hidden her child. But she underestimated the man who was once her lover. With self-righteous determination, Nadal goes to her house. He demands to spend time with the boy. When she refuses, he reaches for a knife.

By the time homicide detective Richard Christie arrives on the scene, all that remains of Maggie Brown is a bloodstain on the floor. The killer has vanished, and Matt is too scared to remember anything but his mother's fear. As Christie looks for the killer and Maggie's friends fight to keep Matt out of the hands of Child Services, Nadal watches the news and waits. A boy should be with his father. He's going to get his son.

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2 comments:

  1. What are the five top movies of other people?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Annette, glad you like it. A guy asked me, "really every day?" And I said . . . Yes.

    ReplyDelete

 

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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