Today I am pleased to welcome the author of the popular Flower Shop Mysteries, KATE COLLINS!
Kate's books have made the Barnes & Noble mass market mystery best-sellers’ lists, the Independent Booksellers’ best-seller’s lists, as well as booksellers’ lists in Australia and England. All of the books are available in hardback, large print editions both in the U.S. and in the UK. An Indiana native, Kate graduated from Purdue University with a master's degree in education. She taught elementary school for six years, but after the birth of her first child, gave up her teaching career to pursue a long-time dream of putting her stories to paper. After writing short humorous stories for children’s magazines and working part-time as a legal secretary, she sold her first historical romance novel in 1995. When not growing roots at her computer, Kate loves to grow flowers and vegetables in her garden. Other passions include yoga, exploring the Greek Isles, decorating, power walking, spending time with family and friends, sampling great wines and dark chocolate, and enjoying every moment of life. The author lives in Northwest Indiana and Key West, Florida.
R: Hello, Kate. Welcome to the blog and my “Hotseat”
K: Hello, Rocco. Thanks for inviting me!
R: Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.
K: Wow. I have to go way back to answer this, starting with my childhood, when I told myself stories to get to sleep. Usually they were about a handsome prince (as in Charming) galloping up on his white charger and sweeping me away to live happily ever after as his princess. I also liked to concoct tales that entertained and frightened the neighborhood kids. Did you know that a mouth lived in the attic crawlspace between my bedroom and my brother’s? Yep, a mouth. No face, no head, just all by its lonesome. Kids would practically pay to come to my bedroom, peer inside the crawlspace, “see” the mouth, and go screaming out the door. It taught me what the imagination could do. My ability to make up stories also got me out of and into trouble on many occasions. My mom called them fibs.
But it wasn’t until after I retired from teaching elementary school to raise my children that I actually put pen to paper and wrote humorous children’s stories for magazines. Next, I turned to historical romance (some published under Linda O’Brien, now available as e-books) and had seven published.
When the western historical market died out back in the 1990s, I turned to my true love, mystery, and the Flower Shop series was born.
R: You were a legal secretary – did that provide the inspiration for Abby’s attending law school? What made you decide to have her pursue a career as a florist rather than lawyer.
K: In a nutshell, my husband was the head of the law firm – it was where we met, an office romance unfolding under the noses of the other employees – awwww. While working there, I met young women who had just graduated from law school and were trying to make a go of it. So I originally intended for Abby Knight to be one of them, but my agent said “Bor-ing! Not another lawyer sleuth.”
So after some thought, I decided to make Abby a law school flunk-out, an underdog who gets smacked in the face by life. Readers have taken to her struggles in a big way, so it was a good choice. Everyone can identify with an underdog.
R: Your books seem to be very knowledgeable about flowers and plants. Do you have a “green thumb” yourself?
K: I love gardening. I’ve always tried to surround myself with flowers and so I studied them. I’ve tried my hand at flower arranging, too, and while I’m okay, I’m certainly not a floral designer. I study a lot of flower arranging books and scour websites and magazines for floral ideas. I also have a few on-line florist friends who kindly let me call on them for tips. Before starting the series, however, I hung out in a flower shop workroom for a few days to absorb everything I could. I decided then that if I couldn’t make a go as a mystery writer, I would look into working at a flower shop. It’s just the coolest place to be.
R: You were an elementary school teacher – which did you prefer, teaching or writing?
K: Tough question! When I taught, my favorite subject was – creative writing! I love to share knowledge with people, so now I find myself wanting to do more workshops for writers. But would I give up writing to teach? Nope. I’m too right-brained. I need creativity.
R: Tell us about your latest release in your “flower shop mystery” series, “Seed No Evil”. Is there a happy ever after for Abby and Marco?
K: Oh, wow, I wish I could express fully how excited I am about this book. This is THE BOOK my readers have been waiting for, and I promise it won’t disappoint. For readers who don’t know how the publishing process works, once a manuscript is turned in, the author has to take 3 more passes at it for revisions, copy-edits, and proof-reading. This is the first time that I teared up every single time I read the last chapter – and I knew what was coming!
R: Several of your books feature storylines involving animal activists and animal rights. Is this a cause you are passionate about?
K: You bet I am. I support several local animal shelters and give to the major ones like HSUS, NWF, and WWF. In fact, in SEED NO EVIL, an animal shelter that is about to change from no-kill to kill features prominently in the plot. Abby is beside herself with worry. I think readers will love this story line. It tugs at the heart.
R: How did you decide to write in the “cozy mystery” genre?
K: It wasn’t a choice I made. It’s just the way I write. I love to laugh, I love to put together puzzles, I love romance, and I love unique characters. What I don’t like are graphic, gory scenes of murder and torture. I won’t read them and I won’t write them. I don’t watch horror movies, either. They keep me awake at night.
R: What is your favorite genre to read and do you have a favorite author?
K: Honestly, I don’t have a favorite genre or a favorite author. I read across a broad spectrum of subjects, both fiction and non and like so many authors that it would be boring to list them all. I did vastly enjoy Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games series, which I hesitated reading for years because the premise turned me off. Big mistake! What an imagination Suzanne has. I’m in awe.
R: Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share? How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?
K: I got my present agent, Karen Solem, after having to fire my first agent for leaving me hanging for months on end. I had already published seven romances by that time, and when I tried to sell the Flower Shop series, I couldn’t get an agent to rep me. One agent told me she “just didn’t fall in love with” my characters. (Too bad because a lot of readers did.) Anyway, after eighteen query letters went nowhere, I finally asked my then editor, who gave me Karen’s name. Karen read my manuscript, loved Mum’s the Word and had a 3 book contract within two weeks.
On selling my first book: That first call came when I was changing out of work clothes into something comfy. I was half-dressed, standing in my bedroom, jumping up and down on the carpet while trying to sound very professional and calm. What a marvelous day that was.
R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?
K: I must have a clean desk. If my view is distracted by “stuff” so is my creative mind.
I must have a serene view. Same reason as above.
I must start the writing process by playing at least one game of Free Cell. I don’t know how it works, but it seems to shut off my left brain, which always wants to remind me that laundry is waiting, bills need to be written, etc. Can’t work in the right brain until the left side has been switched off. Phone calls drive me crazy because it switches me back to the left side. People seem to think that writing isn’t like a real job, where you can’t take calls during working hours. Sigh. Even though I don’t answer, the sound annoys me. Plus, having children, I always check to see if there’s an emergency situation.
R: You’ve also written historical romances. If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?
K: I wrote extensively about the late 1800s, so I did a lot of research on those years. I really would not want to go back then or even earlier. Until the 1950s, life was just plain tough. What I would like to visit though, is a time before the United States was colonized. I’d love to see what the land looked like back then, when it was still pristine and unpolluted.
R: If a movie were to be made of one of your books, which one would you want it to be and who would you pick for the lead roles?
K: I would have a hard time choosing only one, but maybe, maybe! SHOOTS TO KILL. I love the evil twin plot. But I really think the whole set would make a great TV series. Hard to choose actors, though. Believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve even had contests where readers chose the actors, and boy, were there some strange choices. I see Abby and Marco and the others very clearly in my mind, but I’d leave it up to the casting agent to find them. (I’d want veto rights, however.)
R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?
K: I’m not sure this would surprise my friends, but I’ve done some of the risky, almost foolhardy things that Abby has done in the name of justice. Just like Abby, I hate bullies, so maybe taking a stand against one isn’t always the wisest course. Other than that, I’ve been kidnapped by a money-hungry camel driver in Giza, Egypt, and eventually ransomed by my husband for a mere $5, (he got a deal) went spelunking in a southern Indiana cave for research for one of my romances, and rode in a hot air balloon.
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?
K: Wrote that first novel and believed I could get published. Everyone thought I was crazy, but I believed in myself.
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?
K: A sense of joy about life, a determination to stand up against any kind of bullying, a desire to help others, and a lot of laughter.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? .Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Cat. No, dog. No, cat. Maybe a llama, too. (ROCCO: Should have stopped at cat! J)
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Salad.
Favorite Drink? A good cabernet.
Favorite Book? The Poisonwood Bible
Favorite TV Series? Friends
Favorite Movie? Gone with the Wind
Favorite Actor: Toss up between Hugh Jackman and Leo DiCaprio.
Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Jesus.
If I had just one wish, it would be that every pet had a home where it was loved and cherished. (Meow – we LOVE this!)
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be no one. I’m pretty satisfied being me.
Meow – Thanks for a great interview, Kate! The Human and I can’t wait to sink our paws into “Seed no Evil”
Here are all the places you can find out about Kate and her books!
Kate will be giving away an autographed copy of NIGHTSHADE ON ELM STREET and PROMISED TO A STRANGER, one of her historical romances, to two lucky commenters!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment.US residents only. Contest ends midnight, August 4! Good luck!
Here’s what we’ve got planned for August!
Aug 6 – MJ Davidson returns!
Aug 13 – Carole Nelson Douglas and Midnight Louie
Aug 20 – Erika Chase
Aug 29 – Anne Purser
Incredible Blogging Cat