Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Hello, Folks! This week my guest is author/actress HARLEY JANE KOZAK!

 Harley Jane Kozak  is an actress,  best known for her roles on the daytime soaps Santa Barbara, Texas and Guiding Light.  She is also the author of the popular Wollie Shelley mystery series.

And now...here's Harley!
R:  Welcome to the blog, Harley. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

Rocco, I have always written. I was that kid in school who loved essay tests because I had a shot and impressing the teacher even if I hadn’t studied and didn’t know what I was talking about. I still remember my first diary, complete with lock and key. I have boxes and boxes of old journals that I keep thinking I need to destroy before I’m dead and my kids read them. However, it was years before I thought about writing professionally because I was so in love with acting, I figured I’d be doing that and that alone, until I was old and gray. I thought I was just a compulsively writing actor. For even my tiniest acting roles I’d write long character biographies, and 20-page letters while on location.

R:  You are the youngest of eight children. Did that have any influence to your decision to pursue a career in the arts? (acting, writing)

My mom was a music professor and my dad was a lawyer, but they were both artists at heart and so we all grew up thinking art was where it’s at. It was completely normal in my family to pursue music or painting or theater. It would’ve been odd to find a Kozak into farming or auto mechanics or dentistry. We like those people; we just don’t seem to have those genetic predispositions.

R: What writers in your genre would you say have made the greatest influence on your writing?

 My early favorites—apart from the usual classics (Austen, the Bronte sisters, Thomas Hardy, Salinger) -- were Mary Stewart and Georgette Heyer—that lovely blend of mystery and romance and, esp. in the case of Heyer, humor. A little later, John D. MacDonald’s Travis McGee and John Le Carré were my favorite series writers. Loved Ann Rice, Frank Herbert, Tom Robbins, Alice Hoffman . . .

R: Tell us about your “Wollie” series.  Any hope of another adventure in the future?

Well, since you asked – after I finished writing Dating Dead Men, my first Wollie book, while waiting to sell it, I started a book about Wollie’s best friend Joey. Wollie is an L.A. greeting card artist, temperamentally unsuited to crime-solving; Joey is more of a natural. So I just switched them around in terms of star/supporting cast. However, my editor at Doubleday asked for 3 more Wollie books instead and the Joey book went on the shelf. Now I may take it off the shelf and shape it into something shorter for a company called Stark Raving Group that’s asked me to write a novella. It would be so satisfying to finish up that story. Poor Joey’s been hanging off a cliff since 2002. It’s called Gun Girl.

R: Which would you rather write, novels or screenplays and why?

Since I am currently finishing up a screenplay and it’s giving me a really hard time, that’s easy – NOVELS! In six months, when I’m having novel troubles, the answer will be: screenplays!

R: You were an actress for years on various soaps, including one of my favorites, TEXAS. Do you miss acting? What did you like best about it? Least?

I took a 15-year hiatus to raise my kids and oddly enough, didn’t miss it at all. Then I woke up one day last year and thought, “okay, time to act again” so now I’m auditioning. I’m having so much fun, I can’t believe I didn’t miss it. What I like most is having a transcendental emotional experience with another actor. What I like least is the stress of “how do I look? Do I look okay?” and also, being so dependent on so many other people in order to create something, having so little control over the outcome, or even getting the job in the first place.

R: You’ve written quite a few short stories for anthologies. Do you find them less or more challenging to write than a full novel?

They are nearly as challenging as novels, but they take less time. (Duh.) Actually, they’re tough for me because I’m really chatty and a good short story has no wasted words, no tangents, no meandering subplots. I think of them as a cross between a novel and a poem. I always get sucked in by an idea that clearly wants to be a short story and the conviction that, “Oh, this won’t take much time.” It always takes four times longer than I expect it to.

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?

I was being rejected by agents in the usual way (one said my novel wasn’t dark enough and another said it was too dark) when a wonderful novelist named Karen Joy Fowler, who was a kind of mentor to me, happened to leave my manuscript on her kitchen table. A houseguest of hers, another wonderful novelist named Kelly Link, picked it up and read it, and called her agent to recommend it to her. Kelly’s agent became my agent—Renée—who sold the novel, after working on it with me, in a matter of weeks. I had just given birth to twins when Renée called to say that Doubleday was offering a 2-book deal. I remember saying, “Hold on, I gotta set this baby down, or I’m going to drop it.” (I don’t usually refer to my children as “it” but I don’t remember which twin it was I was holding.)

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

Deadlines. And caffeine.

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

I would love to visit Shakespeare, but only for a little bit because then I’d want to come back and floss my teeth and do my laundry and take a shower. And make coffee.

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

 I think my readers are a clever and savvy bunch, so this is a hard one. They might be surprised to know I’m crazy about metaphysical things, and ghosts and spirits and magic and paranormal phenomena—or they might not. That I’m rabidly political. That I’m very good at making soccer banners from felt and can actually use a sewing machine. That I have a very good Italian accent (I once had a boyfriend from Rome) and a very good French accent (I once had a boyfriend from Paris).

R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done?

 One year a friend of mine, Griffin Dunne, tracked me down in Chicago, where I was having Christmas at my sister’s, and asked if I’d mind flying to Hawaii the next day to have a blind date with his best friend who was vacationing on Lanai and really needed a girlfriend for a week. I said, “sure.” It could have been gruesome, but it was fantastic. 

R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

A feeling of joy.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?

The spec screenplay-that-will-never-end, and then the novella about Joey (Wollie’s BFF) and then a novel that I can’t talk about yet because of the jinx factor.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

Pantser. But I think that I have a kind of subliminal internalized plotting thing going on. I never realized this until my friend Nancy Martin suggested that most pantsers do, if they’re actually producing novels with good plots. I don’t think you can consciously work on structure and study it and pay attention to it in other people’s books without absorbing it. But do I write out a detailed plot beforehand? No. That feels too tedious to me, and also, once I’m actually in a scene, writing it, the emotional reality takes over and leads me to places that my left brain could not have planned.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

I used to do a lot of counted cross stitch, but having 3 kids in 2 years brought that to a screeching halt. I do a lot of collage-y stuff – my mom called it treasure mapping. I have a lot of art supplies that I pretend are for my kids, but they’re really for me. I vacuum a lot. I have some kind of sick need to paint rooms every year or so. I play the piano in spurts. I’m also working on my French and Italian by listening to CDs in the car. It drives my kids crazy.

R: Where can we find out more about you and your work?


R: Where can your readers find you?

In my living room, at the gym, in the carpool pickup line at middle school, in the kitchen, at Starbucks, on the Venture Freeway, and the 405 and at yoga, in the laundry room, in front of my computer, and with my nose in a book, of course.

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Dog. Oops. I meant cat. OBVIOUSLY.

Beach or Pool?   Beach, unless it’s cold and then pool, but only if it’s heated.

Steak or salad?  Salad! I’m a vegetarian.

Favorite Drink? coffee

Favorite Book?  Winter’s Tale, from way back (scared to see the movie, though.)

Favorite TV Series?  original Star Trek, with Buffy as runner up.

Favorite Movie?  Very, very tough. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, maybe. Or Charade. Or Two for the Road. Out of Africa.

Favorite Actor: Johnny Depp, even in bad movies.

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep, who has no bad moments, in my opinion.

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Ah, back in my drinking days? Martini

Hawaii or Alaska? Hawaii, but Alaska is pretty groovy too.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be ___my dad, who died when I was a baby.

If I had just one wish, it would be___that my kids live long and healthy and happy lives______________________________________

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be nope, nobody. I’m happy being me. Plus, I’d miss my kids and my dogs if I weren’t me._____


  1. Thank you very much for this interesting, funny, touching interview! Harley Jane Kozak -wonderful! Lucy from Russia.

  2. Thank you, Lucy from Russia! Everyone should have the opportunity to be interviewed by a cat. The world would be a better place.

  3. Harley Jane, I love Your humor :-)))
    I very much hope that You will soon again be in the movies! I would like to see You on a TV screen in one movie with Jon Lindstrom :-)Only not similarity of "Santa Barbara" )
    You look perfectly and look younger every year! Health and happiness to You and Your children!
    Forgive my ignorance of English )

  4. Harley,
    How is it you don't look any different now than when you were on Texas??? I adored that show and you were my fave. I vaguely remember some hunky guy who was your love interest, but your character seemed MUCH smarter than he was. Good luck with the latest release!

  5. Full life! You can come and help me paint any time...I've been doing one room at a time and by the time I finish,I'll have to start over!
    I wish you great success in all that you do!