Meow, my guest today is author Kathy Aarons!
Kathy Aarons is the author of the national bestselling book, Death is Like a Box of Chocolates, the first in the CHOCOLATE COVERED MYSTERY series by Berkley Prime Crime. It was chosen by Mysterious Galaxy for their Fabulous Firsts Book Club and as a Top Book of 2014 by the San Diego Union Tribune. The second book in the series, Truffled to Death, will be out on June 2. Research for the series was such a hardship: sampling chocolate, making chocolate, sampling more chocolate, and hanging out in bookstores.
Kathy grew up in rural Pennsylvania, attended Carnegie Mellon University, and moved to New York City where she built her career in public relations and met her husband. They relocated to California where she became one of “those” moms: running the PTA, fundraising for school foundations, helping with a high school writers conference, creating costumes for youth theater, building puppets, and cheering on her daughters in hundreds of swim meets and soccer and basketball games. She now lives in San Diego with her husband and two daughters where she wakes up far too early, and is currently obsessed with the Broadway Idiot documentary, finding the perfect cup of coffee, and Dallmann’s Sea Salt Caramels.
- Welcome Kathy! Tell us a little about your background – what got you interested in writing as a career?
I started writing as a hobby when my second daughter went to preschool five mornings a week. I’d had a successful career in marketing and public relations so I had writing skills, but soon figured out that I had no idea how to write a novel. Luckily, my local RWA chapter was offering “back to basics” workshops and I took them all, bought all the writing books they recommended (and sometimes even read them), and wrote. Fast forward many years of writing workshops, classes and conferences, and I got my first contract by Berkley Prime Crime.
- Tell us about your chocolate covered mystery series – what inspired that?
The idea actually came from a Berkley editor and my agent asked if I wanted to write a proposal. Who could resist that combination of books and chocolate? I wrote the proposal – three chapters and a synopsis -- and got the contract.
- Are you a chocoholic in real life?
I would love to be, but I’d be as big as a house if I was a chocoholic! I do admit to eating chocolate for inspiration while writing.
- Tell us about your latest release
Truffled to Death is second in the Chocolate Covered Mystery series by Berkley Prime Crime. Chocolatier Michelle Serrano and bookstore owner Erica Russell are hosting a reception celebrating the donation of Maya antiquities to the local museum. The party goes great, until the art is stolen on its way to the museum, and Erica is named as a suspect. Things go from bad to worse when Erica’s accuser turns up dead.
I had a wonderful time researching Maya antiquities and international art trafficking for this book.
- .How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
In How to Write a Damn Good Mystery, author James Frey advises writing an essay from the point of view of your major characters, and that’s what I do for every integral character in the book. It goes beyond surface level and delves into beliefs and motivations.
As I write, I learn more and more about the characters. It was really fun to revisit West Riverdale, Maryland, and the fun cast of characters when writing Truffled to Death.
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
I plot with my wonderful critique group – Denny’s Chicks Barrie Summy and Kelly Hayes. Then I outline in detail and have many scenes in mind when I envision the plot. Of course, this changes a great deal as I’m writing.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
That’s a tough question! I think they are equal, because you need relatable characters and a reason to keep reading.
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
My biggest challenge is fighting the worry demon. I spend far too long worrying about what I’m going to write before I get seriously started. I hope I’ve finally learned with the last book that once I’m actually physically writing, the worry goes away.
- Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
I love my agent story! I saw on Twitter that Jessica Faust was taking queries for new clients for one weekend only, so I went to her website and sent her exactly what her requirements called for. She emailed me to send the opening chapters, and soon after, the whole book. Then she called and started right away by saying she loved my writing, especially the humor and the characters, but she felt the book I’d sent her didn’t have enough of a cozy hook. Then she asked if I would be interested in starting a new series. Of course I said yes!
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’m working on a proposal for a new cozy series, and I’m constantly fighting with myself not to write the other books I have in mind – a young adult fantasy, a zombie book, a cozy series set in Ireland. I hope to write all of those in the future.
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
Ideally is a lot different from reality. I wake up very early and love to have a couple of hours with my very strong French press coffee writing. After checking email and Facebook first. With both of my girls in college, I spend a lot of my day writing, but have other commitments, like my volunteer work with Playwrights Project and the Canyon Crest Academy Writers Conference.
- If you could take only three books with your for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?
That is almost impossible to answer! Can one of them be the Harry Potter series? I’d take Harry Potter and the Deadly Hallows, Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos, and Dating Dead Men by Harley Jane Kozak.
- What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
I did a few talks this year and the best advice I can give is to network with other authors, keep writing, keep learning, and don’t give up. But mostly, keep writing!
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Not telling. J
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Perhaps that I don’t cook? My local chocolatier, Isabella Knack, provides all of the recipes found in the book. I try them a couple of times to make sure they’ll work for the lay person. But Isabella’s are beautiful works of art that taste delicious and mine are lumpy imitations that still taste great.
My husband is a wonderful cook and does most of the cooking in the house!
- What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
Sorry! Don’t have any! Your list is great!
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Death is Like a Box of Chocolates and Truffled to Death are available at your local indie bookstore, at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. My local wonderful independent bookstore, Mysterious Galaxy (http://mystgalaxy.com/) in San Diego has signed copies – if you want, I can even personalize them.
Readers can visit my website (www.KathyAarons.com) or follow me on Twitter and Facebook.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? .Day
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Both
Beach or Pool? Beach
Steak or salad? Salad
Favorite Drink? Pour over coffee
Favorite Book? If I have to choose one, Belong to Me by Marisa de los Santos.
Favorite TV Series? The Walking Dead
Favorite Movie? I don’t have a favorite all-time movie, but recently I really enjoyed The Imitation Game.
Favorite Actor: ?
Favorite Actress: ?
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 __J.K Rowling_________________
If I had just one wish, it would be__to stop climate change_______________________________________
Thanks Kathy! Folks, Kathy will give away one lucky commenter’s choice of a paperback or e-book copy of Truffled to Death!
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Contest ends midnight, May 27th! Good luck!