by Cynthia Chow
This week we have a review of the debut novel Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett, and an interesting interview with Kellye. Details at the end of this post on how to enter to win a copy of Hollywood Homicide, and a link to purchase it from Amazon, and an indie bookstore where a portion of the sale goes to help support KRL.
“Hollywood Homicide” A Detective by Day Mystery by Kellye Garrett
Review by Cynthia Chow
After a brief moment of fame as the “Don’t think so, boo!” girl in the Chubby Chicken commercials, aspiring actress Dayna Day decided to retire from acting. Always being recognized as familiar—but not someone they knew from high school—tests Dayna’s patience and humiliation limits, especially since she’s either overqualified or under qualified for most jobs. Dayna’s job search becomes critical when she receives a phone call from her father, who has the upsetting news that her parents’ home is about to be foreclosed on and that the lawyer Dayna hired was a con artist.
When Dayna sees a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for information about the hit-and-run murder of Hayley Joseph, it’s the opportunity she needed and just can’t pass up. This is Hollywood, after all, where anything can happen and nothing seems too crazy to do for money.
As it turns out, Dayna and her friends may have actually seen the car involved in the death, but learning more will force her to enter Act Two of her personal romantic drama. That is when the couple-meant-to-be experiences a break-up fight on their road to happiness (in action movies the hero is captured, while in horror movies the heroine’s friends are all dead and she’s fighting in her underwear). In Dayna’s case, it was Thumbgate, when her crush Omari Grant made a move on her, and she cowardly freaked out. The video Omari took of their group date night could hold the key to Dayna reaping the reward, although she mostly seems to end up speed-dialing the tip line with a rotating list of clues and suspects. With the assistance of her tech-savvy friend Emme Abrams, a reflector suit-wearing former cop, and the dubious contributions from the fame-hungry Sienna Hayes, Dayna romps through the celebrity-driven, superficial, and absurdist world of Hollywood.
What makes this debut series an absolute delight is the unique perspective from the fringe of the Hollywood celebrity lifestyle. While Omari’s may be on the rise as the star of a new television police drama, Dayna had her moment and has finally given up trying to reclaim it. Always hilarious are Sienna’s celebrity photo-bombs and escalating attempts to draw attention, culminating with branding herself as a Lady in Red with the hope of becoming a popular blog’s Hussy of the Week. Emme endures the reflected fame of her identical twin sister, an Oscar-winning actress who has embraced the glitzy lifestyle (along with a few surgical upgrades). The author uses her experience as a screenwriter to highlight the ludicrous traits of Hollywood life, where the average woman is 5’8 and 110 pounds, a VIP 911 line is expected, and social media is an all-consuming way of life. Dayna is an irresistibly likable underdog, and what she lacks in detective skills, she makes up for with her relentlessness. This is thoroughly entertaining romp through Hollywood, one that seems to be charmed by the selfie-taking characters it simultaneously mocks.
Interview with Kellye Garrett:
KRL: How long have you been writing?
Kellye: My joke is that I attempted my first novel at about five, and then abandoned it to decorate a Barbie Dream House. In reality, I’ve been a professional writer in some form since I was 21, including working as an entertainment journalist, a TV writer, a marketing writer, and a technical writer. About the only thing I haven’t tried is poetry, which is probably a good thing. Hollywood Homicide is my first book, though.
KRL: How did you come to be published?
Kellye: I got my agent, Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary, through a contest called Pitch Wars. She actually offered me rep at a bar during the Crime Bake mystery conference. After that, my story is pretty traditional. My agent sent my manuscript to publishers and Midnight Ink loved the book enough to buy it. They realized there aren’t enough mysteries written by people of color and decided to do something about it.
KRL: Why did you decide to write a mystery?
Kellye: I did the good old cliché of “write what you want to read.” I love all types of mysteries, but funny crime fiction like [those of] Janet Evanovich and Joan Hess were my favorite growing up. So it felt like the obvious choice when I finally was brave enough to attempt a book. As a mystery lover, I was also tired of not seeing people who looked like me as the main character.
KRL: Please tell us about your background in TV writing?
Kellye: I started off as a writers’ production assistant who got lunch and made copies on a Lifetime show called Angela’s Eyes. It was one and done, meaning it was canceled after one season. Afterwards, I was selected for a program NBC started called “Writers on the Verge,” which helped new writers polish their television scripts and get agents. Once I got my agent, they submitted me to different television shows and I got staffed on a CBS show called Cold Case.
KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your book? Please tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.
Kellye: I’m clearly a big fan of clichés because I went the “write what you know” route. Hollywood is an interesting place, because for every A-list movie star, there are thousands of people who never made [it] or who even “kinda” made it. It’s not an industry known for its job security. That was definitely the case with my career—a lot of ups and downs. I was way down when I decided to finally write a book. My ambivalence at the time was poured into creating the character of Day, her friends, and her world.
KRL: Will it be a series?
Kellye: Yes, for three books at least. Hopefully more. The second book in the Detective by Day series will be out in 2018 and a third will be out in 2019.
KRL: Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?
Kellye: I definitely write to entertain. My goal is for someone to read it while sitting on a beach somewhere sipping on a cool alcoholic beverage. If they spend a few hours laughing then I feel like I’ve done my job.
KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?
Kellye: I wish I had a schedule. I tend to write when the feeling hits me, which is not something I suggest anyone do. Right now, I’m randomly most productive while walking down the street. I visualize scenes or bits of dialogue that I’ll type up in the Notes app and email to myself for later.
KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?
Kellye: Yes! I need to get “Plotter for Life” tattooed on my body somewhere. The blank page scares me so I create these ridiculously long outlines that include chapter breaks, bits of dialogue, and notes to myself. I’m talking 25 pages to start and they just get longer from there.
KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?
Kellye: Definitely not in the morning. I did a “staycation” to finish my second book. I’m from New Jersey so I got a hotel room for a few nights in Manhattan. I got up, ate a leisurely breakfast, went to an exercise class, ate a fabulous lunch, and wrote in the afternoon/evening. I’d like to think if I am ever so lucky to become a full-time writer, I’d probably follow that same schedule.
KRL: How does writing a novel differ from writing for TV?
Kellye: Writing a television show is a group effort. You have a writing staff who all gather in the Writers’ Room to hash out each episode. Once the episode’s details are figured out, one writer will go write the episode. With novels, you might have a Writers’ Group or critique partners, but it’s mainly just you sitting in a room with just your computer and wanting to bang your head against a wall. TV writing also is way more lucrative starting out. Both are nearly impossible to get into, though.
KRL: Is one easier than the other?
Kellye: I wouldn’t say one is easier than the other. They both have their good and bad. It’s great to bounce ideas off people. You’re getting instant feedback about what works and what doesn’t. But it’s not your story like with a novel. You don’t get a say on what episode you write or sometimes even what your episode is about. With television writing, you’re fulfilling another person’s vision, be it your showrunner or a network executive. With books, it’s all you.
KRL: Do you have a great rejection/critique or acceptance story you’d like to share?
Kellye: I don’t know if it fits exactly, but as I mentioned, my agent Michelle offered me rep in a bar! She had requested my manuscript during Pitch Wars’ Agent Round. When I sent her the pages, I told her I’d also be at the Crime Bake Conference. On the first night, a bunch of agents and editors were hanging at the bar. My friend and I were also there chatting with Michelle and Matt Martz from Crooked Lane. After Matt left, Michelle leaned over and said she’d love to represent me. It was good that I was at a bar because I needed a drink!
KRL: Future writing goals?
Kellye: The ultimate goal is to be publishing books for the rest of my life. I’d love to write more Detective by Day books, but I’d love to expand as well. I love PI novels, so I really want do a black female PI who works in New York City. I also want to write a thriller if I can come up with an idea I love enough. It would be out my wheelhouse, which is kind of scary, but kind of fun.
KRL: Writing heroes?
Kellye: Having come from a Hollywood background, I pay special attention to other mystery writers who also “survived” Hollywood if you will, like Sue Grafton or Robert Crais.
KRL: What kind of research do you do?
Kellye: I write about Hollywood so I like to consider all those hours and hours and hours I waste on gossip sites, boards, and Instagram accounts to be research!
KRL: What do you read?
Kellye: Mysteries and I go back to Encyclopedia Brown and Nancy Drew, so that’s basically all I read right now. I love them all, too. Cozies. Traditional. P.I. Police Detective. Give me a first person narrator with just a touch of sarcasm and I’m in book heaven.
KRL: Favorite TV or movies?
Kellye: The last two shows I watched were Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Glow on Netflix. I’m getting into Claws on TNT as well. I’m also a sucker for cooking competitions (Cutthroat Kitchen is my fave), any show involving tiny houses and over-the-top reality shows featuring people who live in Atlanta.
KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?
Kellye: Not to steal Nike’s phrase but just do it. I’ve always told myself, “Someone has to do it, why not me?” I’m not going to lie, it can be a painful process and publishing doesn’t make one iota of sense, so my next suggestion is to find a community of writers to be your cheerleaders and therapists when you need it.
KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
Kellye: I was once a seat filler for the Emmys. Have you ever noticed that there are never any empty seats whenever they show the crowd at an awards show? That’s because of seat fillers. A seat filler is a person who literally will sit in Tom Cruise’s seat while he runs to the bathroom. I remember sitting next to Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner when they first started dating and totally eavesdropping on their conversation.
KRL:How fun! Website? Twitter? Facebook?
To enter to win a copy of Hollywood Homicide, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “hollywood,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen August 26, 2017. U.S. residents only. If entering via email please include your mailing address, and if via comment please include your email address.
Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & mystery short stories in our mystery section.
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