Today we welcome a fellow debut novelist, Kay Kendall, author of DESOLATION ROW! I (Deb Lisa) met Kay last year at a mystery conference called Bouchercon. Kay is a sparkly, feisty Texan with a big heart. What I loved best about her was her surprise and delight when I told her I’d not only heard of Desolation Row, but had already read it!
In Desolation Row, Kay uses the social chaos of the Vietnam War to illuminate reluctant courage and desperate love. Her heroine Austin Starr turns into an amateur sleuth, motivated by reading too many Nancy Drew tales. After all, someone has to get her young husband David released from jail. The time—1968. The place—Toronto, Canada, where the Mounties are sure David murdered a US Senator’s son.
Kay’s next mystery, Rainy Day Women (2015) finds amateur sleuth Austin Starr proving her best friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver.
Kay is giving away TWO copies Desolation Row, a trade paperback and an e-book. See details below. Kay took our Deb interview. Welcome, Kay!
Thanks for being here, Kay. Please tell us about one book that made an impact on you.
My favorite novel of all time—first read when I was twelve—is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I rarely re-read books (my motto is “so many books, so little time”), but Jane Eyre is the exception. I’ve read it five times and watch every film version available. Originally I had no idea why this novel appealed to me while another Brontë sister’s equally famous Wuthering Heights did nothing for me. However, now I understand. Even in my early teen years, I was subconsciously drawn to the themes of Jane Eyre—feminism, social inequality, moral justice, religious concerns (of atonement and forgiveness), and family. I’m amazed that even today, this important book by Charlotte Brontë still tallies with my own views. Plus, it’s a danged fine yarn. For me there is no more thrilling line in all literature than the one that begins the final chapter—“Reader, I married him.” Jane, who had sought only to marry her equal, had finally drawn even with Mr. Rochester.
Besides Jane Eyre, who is one of your favorite (fictional or non-fictional) characters?
Although this may be a cliché, I must site Nancy Drew. I doted on her mysteries, reading every one. Yet, on the other hand, there were other series for girls that I disliked. I only read one Cherry Ames book and quit. Clearly, I was not cut out to be a nurse, not of any kind, since that heroine filled every nursing role possible. No, I loved solving mysteries and I loved Nancy’s independence in doing so. Some reviewers of Desolation Row have compared my Austin Starr to Nancy Drew. That thrills and pleases me no end.
What is the best perk of your job?
Once you are a published writer you must hit the marketing trail…Facebook, Twitter, your blog, your webpage, and other parts of the internet world. This is super time-consuming, and if you skip these steps, your sales will languish and your publisher will not be happy with you. For those writers who are true introverts, living in this new world is torture. As for me, I love the networking and marketing and meeting readers so much that it’s easy to forget about the writing at the core of it all…which remains sitting alone in your writing lair and facing an empty screen and throwing type up on it. For me, that is torture. Once I get past the first draft, then the rest is glorious, even revisions. I’m having the time of my life meeting famous authors and communicating with readers. It is heartwarming and encouraging to be treated nicely by one’s literary heroes. Likewise, there’s nothing more satisfying than when readers tell me that my book means a lot to them.
Meeting readers and other authors is a great perk! Have you ever met someone you idolized? What was it like?
P.D. James was the first author I met on book tour. Twenty years ago on a rainy Sunday afternoon, I drove ten miles to a Borders bookstore in Houston to have this iconic mystery writer sign my copy of her latest book, Original Sin. When her plane from England was delayed by storms, the bookstore staff said she would rush to the store as soon as her plane landed. So, we all waited. Five of us stayed until, two hours later, she arrived. The wait was worth it. She was graciousness itself, and that memory has enriched my reading experience of her novels since then. Now, P.D. James is Baroness James of Holland Park and a life peer of the British House of Lords. She turns 94 next week and is still writing books. What an inspiration.
Now for the serious stuff: If you were a drink (preferably alcoholic), what would you be and why?
I would be Champagne. I love the stuff. It doesn’t even have to be from France—as long as it’s a sparkling wine that tastes good. The festivity of celebrating with Champagne appeals to me, and the memory of my first glassful is a treasure. Believe it or not, I was a college student at a summer Russian language institute in the old Soviet Union when I was served quantities of sparkling wine—called champanskoye—from the Soviet region of Georgia. I loved it immediately and have been drinking it ever since. The Russians taught me that Champagne can be enjoyed with any food, from appetizers right through dessert. I will drink to that!
Readers, what are some of the books and characters that have impacted you over the years?
GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by noon EST on Friday, August 1st, to enter the giveaway for Desolation Row. Kay is giving away a trade paperback and an e-book to two lucky winners! US, Canada, and UK welcome! Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!
Kay Kendall’s debut mystery came out in 2013, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery. The sequel, Rainy Day Women, comes out in spring 2015. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.
You can find Kay at: www.kaykendallauthor.com