Friday, October 29, 2010

OMN Welcomes Kate Carlisle, Author of the Bibliophile Mysteries

Omnimystery News: Authors on Tour

Omnimystery News is delighted to welcome Kate Carlisle as our guest blogger. The third mystery in her bibliophile series, The Lies That Bind (Signet Mass Market Paperback, November 2010, 978-0-451-23169-7), publishes next Tuesday (but is available to pre-order).

Today, Kate advises us to write what you know or know what you write.

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Kate Carlisle
Photo provided courtesy of Kate Carlisle

Perhaps the most basic advice to writers is to write what you know. The reasoning behind this advice is sound: When a reader catches a factual mistake, she is yanked quite cruelly from the story. The mistake is a violation of the reader’s trust, and it may prevent him from ever fully trusting that author again.

Neophytes may find this advice limiting.

“I’m a plumber from Dubuque,” a new writer might say. “Does that mean I’m only supposed to write about plumbers from Dubuque? How boring!”

That’s looking at the adage the wrong way. Try turning it on its head. If you don’t want to write what you already know, then you damn well better know what you write. Research, research, research.

Immerse yourself in your character’s world. If your protagonist is a plumber from Dubuque, then you’d better know the difference between a slip joint and an air lock. (Full disclosure: I had to Google plumbing terms to come up with that comparison. But then, I’ve never written a plumber.)

Primary research is best.

If you’re writing police procedurals, don’t rely on Law & Order reruns for your facts. Interview real-life cops, get a police scanner, scour public arrest records, go on a ride-along if you can. Ask a cop to read your first draft so he can point out any errors that slip through.

If your hero is a private eye, find a local detective who will let you shadow him for a week or two. Ask if you can lend a hand on some of the cases so you can learn how the internet searches work.

My heroine’s field is somewhat more esoteric. Brooklyn Wainwright, the star of my Bibliophile Mysteries series, is a professional bookbinder. When she stumbles across a dead body – as she is wont to do – it’s okay if she does something to mess up the crime scene. She’s not a cop; she’s not expected to know what to do when someone is murdered.

But when she’s teaching a class in her field, I’d better get my facts straight. There are far fewer bookbinders in the world than there are cops, but they’re a passionate, well educated lot who love to read. So I’m always honored to hear from a bookbinder who says I captured the details accurately, both of the bookbinding process and of the world of bookbinding and its internal politics.

I’ve held many careers in my life, from TV game show producer to legal secretary, and while I’ve taken bookbinding classes for years, I’ve never worked as a professional bookbinder. But I did not let the “write what you know” advice limit me. Instead, I chose to “know what I write.” I took more advanced classes on bookbinding and interviewed my professional bookbinder friends, heard the terms of art from their lips. I used the tools of the trade, felt their heft in my hand. I learned what bookbinders value and got more than an earful of the “local gossip,” as it were.

If you feel inspired to write a story set in a world that’s far removed from your own, go for it. When you don’t want to write what you already know, then learn everything you can so you will know what you write.

For writers: What is the simplest yet most profound piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? How do you put it into practice?

For readers (and aren’t we all?): What are some of the amateur sleuth series that you have enjoyed reading?

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A lifelong love of old books and an appreciation of the art of bookbinding led Kate to create the Bibliophile Mysteries, featuring rare book expert Brooklyn Wainwright, whose bookbinding and restoration skills invariably uncover old secrets, treachery and murder. Kate is a member of Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. She loves to drink good wine and watch other people cook. For more information, visit her website at

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The Lies That Bind by Kate Carlisle
More information about the book

About The Lies That Bind: Book restoration expert Brooklyn Wainwright returns home to San Francisco to teach a bookbinding class. Unfortunately, the program director Layla Fontaine is a horrendous host who pitches fits and lords over her subordinates. But when Layla is found shot dead, Brooklyn is bound and determined to investigate -- even as the killer tries to close the book on her for good.


  1. Hi Kate! Congrats on the upcoming release of THE LIES THAT BIND. I'm a huge fan of this series and can't wait to pick up a copy of the new book!

    Another cozy mystery series that I've enjoyed is Gayle Trent's Daphne Martin Cake Decorating Mystery Series.

  2. Thank you so much, PJ! I'm very excited to get THE LIES THAT BIND into readers' hands. I love this story. The murder victim was a lot of fun to kill, I must admit. One of those women you love to hate, and not many people who mourned her passing. In other words, suspects. :D

  3. Hi Kate! Love, love, love your covers. I'd buy your books on that alone, but it helps knowing there's a fabulous mystery inside with characters I've come to adore.

    Gee - i've been the receipient of many, many nuggets of advice. I'm so needy that way (grin). I'm thinking the "write every day" bit of advice works best for me. If I don't write at least something in my story every day, it tends to drift away from me, making it harder to get back into the flow.

    Now some people say you have to write a certain amount of time everyday. Some say it has to be a specific wordcount. I say - just open the file and change one thing - one thing! Everyone can find time for that. Warning though - I rarely, even in the busiest of times, manage to just change one thing. Editing one sentence leads to writing several more. Soon I've written pages without meaning to. So that's my advice. Change one thing in the manuscript every day.

  4. Hey Kate, I'm so excited my wait for THE LIES THAT BIND is almost over! Just a couple more days left until the book is out!

    The best advice I've got is to get my backside in the chair and write. It's so easy to procrastinate!

  5. Donna, Thanks! I feel like I have been smiled upon by the Cover Gods. I adore the Bibliophile Mystery covers. The colors are jewel-like. The gold from THE LIES THAT BIND is the perfect complement to the red and blue of HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER and IF BOOKS COULD KILL, respectively.

    *LOVE* the advice to change at least one thing in the manuscript every day. You're so right. When you go in with the intent to change something (meaningful), you're likely to get caught up in the story again and make more progress than you might have thought.

  6. Jen, Oh, that is soooo true! The easiest thing in the world is NOT to write. Why is it that we procrastinate, when we love writing so much?

    November 2 is right around the corner... Brooklyn is back home in San Francisco, and readers will get a deeper look at her parents' commune, which is a lot of fun. I think you're in for some surprises!

  7. We'd like to add our thanks to Kate Carlisle for visiting with us today, and to the readers and writers who stopped by to share their comments.

  8. Hi Kate!

    Just can't wait for THE LIES THAT BIND! I love your series!

    Best writing advice?? Sit your butt in the chair and do the work.

  9. Hi Kate! I love that you get the details of bookbinding right, but I'm even more pleased that you have the attitudes and politics of that world at your fingertips. So often, writers get the technical stuff correct, but they miss the really important character stuff--the typical interpersonal relationships, the motivations and passions of people in that particular profession or industry. I love that 'insider' peek I get through your books!

  10. Thank you for hosting me here today, Omnimystery! I appreciate you helping to spread the word about THE LIES THAT BIND, and everything you do to promote mysteries!

  11. Hi, Maureen! Thank you so much! I love your books, too. :)

    You and Jen have the same advice!

  12. Christine, Thank you! That's a great compliment. I've learned a lot from books over the years, so it's nice to know I'm paying that back a little. :D


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