Welcome to the two hundred and twenty-sixth of my blog interviews with novelists, poets, short story authors, bloggers, autobiographers and more. Today’s is with suspense novelist Kathy Bennett. A list of interviewees (blogged and scheduled) can be found here. If you like what you read, please do go and investigate further.
Morgen: Hello, Kathy. Please tell us something about yourself and how you came to be a writer.
Kathy: I was born and raised in Southern California. Following my mother’s example, I was an avid reader. I mostly read mystery and suspense books. In the eighth grade, a paper I had written was read aloud, by my teacher, to my classmates. I ended the story with a hook. When my fellow students all groaned because the story was over, I was thrilled that I’d been able to affect them that way. A writer was born. My love for books about crime led me to become a Los Angeles Police Officer. I worked for the LAPD for a total of about twenty-nine years. About eight of those years were spent as a civilian employee and I served twenty-one years as a sworn police officer.
Morgen: I’d say that’s really unusual that books lead you to a career, I’d say it’s normally the other way round (hence ‘write what you know’). Is it crime that you generally write now?
Kathy: I got some advice early in my writing career that I’d be a fool not to use my experience as a Los Angeles Police Officer for my books. I took that advice to heart and I write suspense novels.
Morgen: What have you had published to-date? If applicable, can you remember where you saw your first books on the shelves?
Kathy: I’ve self-published my debut novel A Dozen Deadly Roses, that I would classify as a romantic suspense book. Currently, my book is available only as an e-book, so the first ‘shelf’ I saw the book on was on http://www.Smashwords.com. I couldn’t believe that was MY book on the internet.
Morgen: Me too, and on Smashwords… I’m pretty sure I sat clapping at my screen when it told me it had gone live, especially having taken just a few minutes to do so. My next question may well not apply but I like asking it (just in case :))… have you ever seen a member of the public reading your book?
Kathy: Not yet, but since I retired, I haven’t lost the observation skills I used when I was a police officer, so I’m looking.
Morgen: 🙂 How much of the marketing do you do for your published works or indeed for yourself as a ‘brand’?
Kathy: There is no one BUT me to do my own marketing. It’s a lot of fun, but a lot of work as well. Many hours are spent in front of the computer getting my name and my book in front of the public. However, I love to chat with readers and other writers, so it’s time well spent.
Morgen: Although my eBooks have been out for just under a couple of months, I’ve been rubbish at touting them (although I’d rather go the ‘mention in passing’ route) because I was hanging fire until they went on Amazon but I’m hanging fire on that until I hear more about their KDP Select 3-month exclusivity clause. I really like Smashwords so I don’t want to have to pull them from there should Amazon demand it. Do you write under a pseudonym? If so why and do you think it makes a difference?
Kathy: No, Kathy Bennett is my real name. I know a lot of my former colleagues think I’m nuts to ‘be out in the world’ using my true name. However, as part of my prior duties as a police officer, I would write a monthly column for a small local newspaper. The newspaper articles used my name as well as a photo of me, so it wasn’t a big leap to use the ‘real me’ for my books.
Morgen: Do you have an agent? Do you think they’re vital to an author’s success?
Kathy: I don’t have an agent and I’ve been pretty successful on my own so far without one. However, I wouldn’t rule out an agent if my situation changed and I was in over my head.
Morgen: Me too, never say “never”. What are you working on at the moment / next?
Kathy: Thank you for asking.
Morgen: You’re very welcome… it’s important that we keep writing (even if it’s just limericks for Facebook friends birthdays in my case) so I always ask the question hoping that a tumbleweed won’t cross my path. 🙂
Kathy: I’m working on final edits of, A Deadly Blessing – the first book in the LAPD Detective Maddie Divine series. A Deadly Blessing is a lightening-fast suspense that revolves around three missing females – all with connections to the Governor of California.
Morgen: Presumably not Arnold Schwarzenegger. 🙂 Do you plot your stories or do you just get an idea and run with it?
Kathy: I’ve done both. For A Dozen Deadly Roses, I actually had a ‘plotting party’ with some of my writer-friends. Together we came up with an outline of the story. A Deadly Blessing was more of a ‘get the idea and run’ book.
Morgen: “A plotting party”, what a wonderful idea. 🙂 I’m a ‘pantser’ as the saying goes. Are you involved in anything else writing-related other than actual writing or marketing of your writing?
Kathy: From time to time I teach online classes. My most popular class is: A Cop’s Life from A-Z. Another class I teach is Guns and Ammo for Writers.
Morgen: They do sound like fun. 🙂 You mentioned the plotting party but who is your first reader – who do you first show your work to?
Kathy: I have a couple of critique partners who’ve made me a better writer. I adore them. They play devil’s advocate and point out ‘issues’ with my story or my character’s motivation. I take it as a challenge and fix it.
Morgen: 🙂 I have two too; a reader and a writer – really handy. Some writers like quiet, others the noise of a coffee shop etc. Do you listen to music or have noise around you when you write or do you need silence?
Kathy: With three large dogs who like to bark, there is never silence at my house. When I write my first draft, I do much of it during commercials while I’m watching my favourite TV shows. Two to three minute writing sprints! However, I try to have the house as quiet as possible when I’m revising.
Morgen: What a brilliant idea. I run a writing workshop (for members of my writing group) and we have 10 to 15 minutes but that’s often not long enough, although it seems like it when you come out with a 60-word story in 10 seconds flat. 🙂 What point of view do you find most to your liking: first person or third person? Have you tried second person.
Kathy: Would you believe me if I said both?
Morgen: I would, absolutely. It’s healthy to have a variety… of anything I guess.
Kathy: I wrote A Dozen Deadly Roses in third person. However, I read a book by James Patterson called The Quickie.
Morgen: Oh wow, that’s in my (rather large) reading pile. Dreadful title (I’m a big title fan) but it’s co-written with Michael Ledwidge and I loved their ‘Step on a crack’ (would be one of my top 10 actually) so I’m looking forward to it.
Kathy: I loved the way the story flowed and I wrote my book A Deadly Blessing with the same format. The main character, Maddie Divine tells her story in first person while everyone else’s story is told in third person point of view. I think it makes for an exciting story. I’ve never tried second person.
Morgen: Oh it’s great! Especially for dark stuff. Have a read of my (free) short story The Dark Side and see what you think of the point of view. One reader said he’d never written second person and it inspired him to (high praise indeed). Do you use prologues / epilogues? What do you think of the use of them?
Kathy: In A Dozen Deadly Roses I used both. I think it depends upon the individual story whether or not they are a good idea. I don’t have either in A Deadly Blessing.
Morgen: Do you have pieces of work that you think will never see light of day?
Kathy: Ha ha! I know I do! They’re deeply buried.
Morgen: 🙂 What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? 🙂
Kathy: Party tricks? In Los Angeles, if you go to a party and do tricks (in America a ‘trick’ is a euphemism for prostitution) you’d get arrested! So, no, I don’t do tricks at parties 😉 However, I do like to hike with my husband and many of these adventures also include photography. I pretend to like working out on the treadmill and with weights. I love to do crafts and sew, but I rarely have time for those things anymore.
Morgen: When I belonged to the gym, I’d hog the treadmill but I have a cross-trainer in my house as that ended up being my favourite piece of equipment, although I don’t sadly do either at the moment… perhaps with some post-Christmas pounds to lose. 🙂 Are there any writing-related websites and / or books that you find useful and would recommend?
Kathy: Romance Writers of America http://www.rwa.org, Public Safety Writers Association http://www.policewriter.com and Sisters in Crime http://sistersincrime.org.
Morgen: I’ve not heard of the ‘Public Safety Writers Association’ so thanks for that. 🙂 Being based in America, do you find this a help or hindrance with letting people know about your work?
Kathy: I’m finding it hard to break into the European market. Although, today I had my first sale in Germany!
Morgen: Yay, well done. Das ist wunderbah! Are you on any forums or networking sites?
Kathy: You can find me on Facebook. I love to interact with readers and visitors, so if you’re reading this, come on by and say ‘Hi’. I’m also on Twitter. I try to tweet a couple of times a day, but that doesn’t always work out. When I was a kid in school, I got in trouble for talking too much and one of my teachers named me, Chatty Kathy. Social media and I get along well.
Morgen: I always say I can talk for England so perhaps you’re my US equivalent. 🙂 Where can we find out about you and your work?
Kathy: I’m a click away at http://www.KathyBennett.com. I love my website. I blog once a week (usually late Sunday nights) and talk about a variety of things. I also offer crime and writing tips and most people like to check out the ‘mug shots’.
Morgen: Ooh, back in a minute… sorry, that would be rude. I’ll wait…. Sorry, I couldn’t resist. Ouch, poor car. Cute dogs. I thought Bob Hope was Larry Hagman… sorry Bob! Now, where were we? Oh yes, what do you think the future holds for a writer?
Kathy: I think if you have a good story to tell there will always be readers to read it.
Morgen: I’m sure (hope) there will. Is there anything else you’d like to mention?
Kathy: While I know little about the UK, my grandfather was from Portsmouth, England. He came to America on a cattle-boat when he was fourteen. I hope to someday go visit the UK and maybe see if I can find some distant relatives.
Morgen: Have you tried http://ancestry.com (which apparently has the same content as http://www.ancestry.co.uk)? It’s supposed to brilliant… but then there’s nothing quite like visiting new places and Portsmouth is supposed to be great (I know, we’re a small country, I should have gone there – crime / thriller novelist and interviewee Graham Hurley is from there and writes about the city (just don’t ask him how the football team is doing!) so you could try his books to get a feel of the place. :)). Is there a question you’d like to ask me? 🙂
Kathy: Do you believe in astrology? I see from your blog we are both Leos. Do you feel you fit the ‘Leo’ profile?
Morgen: Oh are we? That’s funny. I suppose we had a one-in-twelve chance didn’t we. Ooh, you’re interviewee 226 so in theory I should share a birthday with someone I’ve chatted to already or in the next 130. 🙂 I don’t buy a newspaper for the horoscope but I do have a look when I’m flicking through. I’m not an expert on Leo traits but I imagine a lion being clambered by her young and it’s takes a while for her tail to flick. I’m pretty patient and it takes a lot for me to lose my rag. JK Rowling’s a Leo too by the way. 🙂 Thank you Kathy.
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