Merow, my guest today is author Kelly Oliver!
- Welcome Kelly! Tell us a little about your background
· I grew up in the Northwest, Montana, Idaho, and Washington states. My maternal grandfather was a forest ranger committed to saving the trees, and my paternal grandfather was a logger hell bent on cutting them down. On both sides, my ancestors were some of the first settlers in Northern Idaho. I went from eating a steady diet of wild game shot by my dad to becoming a vegetarian while studying philosophy and pondering animal minds when getting my PhD in philosophy at Northwestern University. Competing with peers who’d come from private schools and posh families “back East,” my working class backwoods grit served me well. And much to my parent’s surprise, I’ve managed to feed and cloth herself as a professional philosopher.
· When I’m not writing Jessica James mystery novels, I’m Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University, and the author of thirteen nonfiction books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media. I’ve been published in The New York Times, interviewed on ABC television news, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs
- Tell us a bit about your Jessica James series. What was the inspiration?
- The inspiration for my first novel WOLF was my own experience in graduate school. I plead the fifth on what parts of WOLF are true. You wouldn’t believe me if I told you! But, my protagonist, Jessica James, is a lot bolder than I ever was. With more wit than grace, the philosophy graduate student and former barrel racing champion, stumbles into murder mysteries, human trafficking, rape drugs, art scams, and corporate corruption
- Tell us about your latest release
My latest novel is COYOTE. After her first disastrous year in graduate school, Jessica James returns home from the big city to the backwaters of Montana for a summer job at an historic railroad lodge in spectacular Glacier Park. After her cousin dies in a gruesome accident at the lumber mill, Jessica is pulled into a fight against the corruption and greed ignited by the oil frenzy on the Montana plains. Her roommate, Kimi RedFox is determined to stop powerful Knight Industries, headed by Cheneyesque billionaire Richard Knight, from drilling oil on the Blackfoot Indian Reservation. “Kimi” means “secret” in Blackfoot, and the reticent Kimi keeps hers until it’s almost too late. Kimi’s not about to accept help from Jessica or anyone else, but she’s resolved to find her missing sisters, even if it kills her. Corrupt Richard Knight has assigned his younger brother David to oversee fracking operations in on the Blackfeet reservation. Trying to overcome his reputation as a spoiled slacker, David wants to impress his brother and earn Jessica’s respect. But is the handsome young businessman his brother’s henchman or his dupe? And, will Jessica and Kimi quit sparring long enough to team up and expose sex trafficking, prostitution rings, and murder schemes involving some of the biggest FRACKERS in the country? Or, will they become the murder’s next victims?
- How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
- That’s a great question. I have a sense of them when I start, but they develop as I write and eventually take on lives of their own. At that point, I have a pretty clear sense of what they would and wouldn’t do. And just in case I don’t, I have a great copy editor who occasionally warns me that Jessica would never do that!
- How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
- I start with a couple of main plot points, and then think of what characters I need to tell the story. I guess I’m more of a pantser. My “outlines” are sometimes just a couple of lines.
- Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
- I think they have to go together. My novels are character driven page-turners. But in order to get the action and plot moving, you need the right characters. And in order to get readers to invest in the action and plot you definitely need well developed characters!
- What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
For years, I’ve written nonfiction and learned how to navigate that publishing world. Writing and publishing fiction is a lot different. Writing fiction is so satisfying and enjoyable (except for the back pain from sitting so long at the computer!). But publishing fiction is very tricky and difficult. It’s hard not to obsess about the marketing and publicity and your amazon rankings and just get back to the writing, which is what I love.
- What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
I’ve just started the third Jessica James mystery. It takes Jessica back to Northwestern and Chicago where she gets involved with some pretty creepy stuff going on at the Medical school!
- What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?
- I like to start writing in the morning after breakfast. If I start first thing, I usually get a lot more done than if I put it off. If I do anything else first, it is hard to get back to writing. I try to write just about every day. But I also have my “day job” as a professor and that keeps me busy, too. Luckily, I write pretty fast, and I’m a workaholic. My best days are when I have time to write all day (unless, of course, I’m x-country skiing!).
What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Just write, and keep writing until the end. And get a really good editor!
- What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
- Hmmmm…I’ll have to plead the fifth on that one…but read WOLF for some clues!
- What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
I hadn’t written a word of fiction until I started WOLF. I wrote the first draft in 7 weeks and then revised it over the next year.
- Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? DAY
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) CAT, obviously!
Beach or Pool? POOL
Steak or salad? DON’T DARE ANSWER.
Favorite Drink? Huckleberry Milkshake.
Favorite Book? Too many….but my mother-in-law, Rosario Ferré wrote some whoppers; her House on the Lagoon is great. And I loved Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch. I like a lot of Ian McEwan, especially The Beach. For mysteries, I’m a big Elizabeth Peter’s fan. I especially love to listen to her books on audiobooks when read by Barbara Rosenblatt.
Favorite TV Series? Star Trek….okay, I know, I admit it. I’m a total Trekkie!
Favorite Movie? Depends on when you ask. Kurosawa’s Kagamusha is pretty great. I love most of Hitchcock, especially Marnie, and Rear Window. And film noir, of course. Fritz Lang’s The Secret Behind the Door is pretty great.
Favorite Actor: Gregory Peck, Johnny Depp, Theo James.
Favorite Actress: Grace Kelly, Scarlett Johanson, Jennifer Lawrence.
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? How about Jack and Coke?
Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska for sure. I can’t take the heat.
Thanks Kelly. You can find her at:
Look for Kelly's giveaways on GOODREADS. Follow her there for more info.