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Interview with California Mystery Author Kit Sloane

IN THE May 29 ISSUE

FROM THE 2010 Articles,
andMarilyn Meredith,
andMysteryrat's Maze
SECTIONS

by Marilyn Meredith

Kit Sloane and I met at a mystery conference, not sure which one, but we got together at several others after that as well as at the L.A. Times Book Festival at UCLA. I’ve read all her books and followed along with her career, and now we share the same publisher, Oak Tree Press.

Marilyn: Tell me a bit about your background and personal life for starters.

Kit Sloane

Kit: I’ve always been a “reader,” including reading mysteries from a very young age. Much, much later I was a research assistant for a bunch of historians (that’s where I met my husband!) and then I became a medical office manager for many years when we had children PLUS a husband in college and needed the money. When my husband finished his Ph.D at age 50, I decided to take a year off from work to see if I could write a book, just for fun. Little did I know what was to come!

Marilyn: Have you always wanted to be a writer?

Kit: I’ve always written; poems, short stories, long letters to my family. (As a “Navy wife,” I was usually 3,000 miles away!) Writing and reading have always been a big part of my life. My mother was an editor for a large newspaper and writing and editing and laughing about typos were continuing parts of family conversations.

Marilyn: How did you first get published?

Kit: After five agents (none of whom sold a word), I became the first fiction editor for Futures Mystery Magazine that Babs Lakey published. This had begun as the newsletter for the Guppy newsletter, the Sisters in Crime chapter for “pre-published writers.” (Babs and I called the Guppies “the great unpublished,” but that created some ire).

Through the magazine I met a lot of terrific people, all of us working at getting published. But it was the Internet and email that allowed us to utilize NETWORKING, at last! I sent a short story to Margo Power who was then publishing Mysterious Intent Magazine. She accepted the story but stopped the magazine publication before it ever came out(!) in order to start her too-short-lived small independent publishing company, Deadly Alibi Press. I submitted the first 4 of my series to her and she eventually published all four. The first one was delivered to my door on my 60th birthday. What a thrill!

Marilyn: Tell me about your series and how it came about.

Kit: Earlier, I had done another series that my agent was unsuccessfully trying to sell. She finally gave up and suggested I start a new series. A rather daunting thought! My best friend was studying film editing in Berkeley and I’d meet her for lunch at the studio. I saw the other editors, all women, who were rather shy, reserved, and far from the glitz of Hollywood working in their quiet editing spaces. I thought those self-effacing characteristics would be interesting for the protagonist in a mystery story and Margot O’Banion was born.

My daughter Annie (who does my covers) is an art director in Hollywood and her significant, Marc, is a production director. (They just returned from 4-months on location in Georgia, the nation, not the state!) I listen to them talk about what they do, what they want to do, the obstacles in their way, and the people they work with. Fascinating conversations that trigger my imagination! Marc’s story of “where the money goes” on a drive to Hana, Maui, became number 6, LOCATION LOCATION.

Marilyn: What is the latest book and what gave you the idea for it?

Kit: My latest (number 7 in the Margot & Max series) is titled THE FAT LADY SINGS. I’ve always been a big fan of Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and thought how fun if I could maneuver Margot into directing one and then I could take the group to England. Having Margot and Max as film people is a real asset to my series. I can logically take them absolutely anywhere, and I have!

Marilyn: Where is the book available?

Kit: FAT LADY is available online at all the usual places, from Ingrams and from Barnes and Noble orders direct, and also from Oak Tree Press at oaktreebooks.com

Marilyn: Do you have a website?

Kit: Yes, I’ve had a webpage for years. Lisa Logan is my webgal and she is so fun to work with. We try to change it monthly, and keep it nice and updated. She’s full of good ideas. The URL is kitsloane.net

Marilyn: What kind of promotion works best for you? Describe some of your favorite book events.

Kit: My favorite book events are speaking engagements. I really enjoy interacting with audiences. My least favorite are bookstore signings. I had a high-powered PR gal when the 5th in the series, EXTREME CUISINE, really took off. None of us could figure why, but it sold a lot. But after a year of doing everything possible booksigning-wise, we couldn’t see that those gigs had anything to do with the sales.

The book just kind of took off by itself. So I stopped doing the signings! It seems to me that unless you have a VAST extended family and hundreds of faithful friends and are truly famous, most booksignings tend to be small affairs (not counting the ones you see in the movies or if you’re the 5% of mystery writers who actually make good money for their books!) My middle publisher used to refer to my readers as my “cult fan club,” meaning small, but loyal.

Marilyn: Is there anything else you’d like my readers to know?

Kit: I’ve read reviews of my stories where they’re labeled “off-beat.” That’s fine with me and certainly the reason I’ve always been with Independent publishers. Independent publishers want a good story, not a formula, which is a plus since a couple of my stories don’t actually contain a murder, or even a body.

I feel that suspense can be created by good characterization of problematic people and good description of marginal events. I am not a fan of “the body in the first chapter” sort of plot, or any other contrivances that some agents/editors suggest.

After all, no one KNOWS what will sell. And with that in mind, I encourage writers to write the story THEY want to write. Following a trend will get you nowhere since the writing and publishing take so long, the trend will be over with by the time your book comes out! Just write a terrific story!

Marilyn: Thank you so much, Kit, for telling us about yourself, your books, and giving us some terrific insights. Hope I run into you again sometime soon so we can share a good laugh.

Marilyn Meredith is a Springville, CA mystery author and an ongoing contributor to our Local Literary section. Be sure to visit her website; fictionforyou.com

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Sunny Frazier May 30, 2010 at 10:10am

I love the down-to-earth comments about independent publishers and am excited to be with both you and Marilyn in the Oak Tree Press stable. Will send this interview on to people who still look at Big Publisher as the only option.

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2 jenny milchman
Twitter: @jennymilchman
May 31, 2010 at 4:31pm

I love Kit’s work and if it’s too quirky for the big houses to put out, then more props to the burgeoning movement of independence in publishing. Thanks for sharing your story, Kit. I’m always inspired by your description of plugging away, waiting for that magic alignment of events to open the RIGHT door.

And–I can’t believe you’re 60(ish)!

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