I’m doing a cross over between my two blogs today. Kristy
Kiernan, debut author of CATCHING GENIUS and fearless leader of The Debutante
Ball, a grog of women’s fiction authors debuting in 2007, has a beautiful essay
over at Killer Year. I was so impressed by her words that I decided to bring
her on Murderati, ask her a couple of questions, and introduce the Debutantes
to the Murderati crowd. They are well worth getting to know, I’ll tell you
So let’s get this party started! Maestro, a waltz, if you please…
JT: Tell us about your book CATCHING GENIUS.
KK: Connie and Estella Sykes are as close as sisters
can be, until Estella is diagnosed as a genius at age seven. Connie loses her
playmate, as well as the special relationship she had with her father, whose
attention is now turned toward promoting his math prodigy and fulfilling his
own dreams of greatness. Years after their father’s death, the sisters–now
grown and not nearly as different as they think they are–are brought together
by their shrewd mother, June, to pack up their home on the island of Big Dune.
Connie struggles to maintain the faÃ§ade of perfection in the face of Estella’s
surprisingly normal life, while dealing with the reality of her family’s
emotional and financial disintegration at the hands of her husband, as well as
the startling discovery that she knows nothing about her oldest son and that
her youngest appears to have inherited the genius gene. But Connie isn’t the
only one with secrets. Both Estella and June have tales they’ve kept
well-hidden, until the timeless sand and surf of Big Dune Island finally wears
away this family’s resistance to the truth: They need each other more than ever
It’s about sisters and families, of course, but also touches on the nature of
genius, the relationships between math, music, and nature, and is a little bit
of an indictment against the development and commercialization of my beautiful
home state of Florida.
JT: Tell us about the books by the rest of the Debs.
KK: Oh, I love this, because we all have such different stories! I’ll go
Tish Cohen’s TOWN HOUSE (May 1, 2007) is about Jack Madigan who lives an
enviable existence in a Boston town house with his son, Harlan. Jack is
agoraphobic, but living on his rock star dadâs royalties, his condition hasnât
been a problem. Until the money runs out. The bank is foreclosing, Jackâs ex is
threatening to take Harlan, and, Lucinda, the little girl next door, wonât stay
out of his kitchen. Jack must outwit the bank, win back his house, keep his
son, and, finally, with Lucindaâs help, find a way back to the world outside
his door. Tish lives in Canada and film rights to TOWN HOUSE have been sold to
FOX with Ridley Scott’s company producing. TOWN HOUSE is mainstream fiction,
and if all that isn’t enough, Tish also has a Y/A, THE INVISIBLE RULES OF THE
ZOE LAMA, coming out in July.
Eileen Cook is another Canuck (though she’s officially a transplant, does that
still count as a Canuck?), and has her own very funny blog in addition to
grogging at the Ball. IN THE STARS is about Sophie Kintock, who wants her guy
back and poses as a psychic to give his new girlfriend a fake reading designed
to break them up. Faking it turns out to be easy and fun, especially after a
few lessons from Nick, who knows all the tricks of the trade. But now sheâs
being offered a job telling fortunes on the radio and she must decide whether
to accept her rising stardom in a less-than-honest line of work. And whether
the best option is trying to rekindle her old flame-or finding romance with
someone new. Eileen’s going great guns on foreign rights on this one, and I
can’t wait to read it next February. Oh! And her husband, Bob, is the fabulous
designer of The Debutante Ball’s site!
Mia King lives in Hawaii, lucky dog! She and her husband run their own golf
academy, and she also blogs in addition to grogging at the Ball. Her debut is
GOOD THINGS, and is about Deidre McIntosh, who became famous teaching
women to live simply, and simply live. But when her Seattle
cooking-and-lifestyle show gets bumped off the air, and her best guy moves in
with his boyfriend, sheâs left trying to figure out the next segment. Seizing
on a chance encounter with an attractive stranger, Deidre accepts his offer to
use his country home. She hopes to get away for a while and learn to practice
what she preaches. To appreciate life without voice mail. To gain the courage
to start again, and take the first slow, cautious steps toward a new kind of
success â and maybe even love. GOOD THINGS comes out February 6th, and I’m
trying to talk my husband into attending her book launch in Hawaii!
Jennifer McMahon gives me goosebumps! Her book does anyway. PROMISE NOT TO TELL
is about Kate Cypher, who has just returned to her small hometown to care for
her Alzheimerâs-afflicted mother. The night she arrives, a young girl is
murdered. Kate is drawn into the investigationâand deep into the childhood
sheâs tried to escape. As the investigation unfolds, the facets of Kateâs life
collide in a terrifying way: her mother is deteriorating, her old friends are
never quite what they seem, and the ghosts of her childhood have emerged to
haunt her. Jennifer lives with her partner and daughter in Vermont, and has
held about every job in the world. I’m glad she settled on writer.
And finally, our reality fiction writer, Anna David. She’s written for just
about every popular magazine out there and has been on TV shows like The
Today Show. She’s currently on the G4 Network as their Attack of the
Show! sex expert, and blogs about reality TV for FOX. PARTY GIRL, is
about Amelia Stone, known for sharing wild stories about her hot (and often
hilarious) nightlife. Invited to Hollywoodâs most exclusive, star-studded
events, she rubs shouldersâand occasionally has trystsâwith
celebrities, indulging in the ultimate sex, drugs, and rock and roll
lifestyle. A writer for celebrity magazine, she is finally offered the chance
to prove herself by interviewing several high-profile stars. As she engages in
more and more self-destructive partying, Amelia loses control and makes the
decision to end her drug abuse. Sober, she meets the man of her dreams and is
hired at a better magazine to write a column about her adventures. Little does
the magazine know that Ameliaâs partying days are in the past. Faced with the
most exciting opportunity of her career, she must now decide to either save
herself or salvage her reputation as the ultimate party girl.
JT: You credit Vermeer with landing your agent. We must hear this story.
KK: Ha! Well, that happened on one of those sleepless nights during my
agent querying phase. That week I’d sent out a lot of queries after being
prodded by a friend…prodded, like with a sharp stick prodded. There was one
agent I was very interested in, but another friend had been a client of the
same firm and I’m sort of funny about mixing personal and professional
business, so I’d shied away, thinking it was sort of like dating your friend’s
ex, you know? So, over that weekend the flurry of queries went out. On Monday I
put things out of my mind and researched an idea I had for my next novel (er,
which turned into my current novel, CATCHING GENIUS; the research revolved
around Leonardo daVinci). I came across the term "Camera obscura,"
which is a device, a forerunner of the modern camera, used to basically trick
light into inverting an image (no, really, look it up!). The term struck me as
particularly poetic, one of those things I file away in the back of my mind. On
Tuesday, my husband, an art dealer, picked up one of their artists at the
airport and we went out to dinner. The artist’s conversation revolved around
his technique, which he called Camera obscura, though it seemed he used it less
as an actual physical device than a particular, very vivid and realistic, way
of painting. This of course intrigued me even more! On Wednesday I sent out
more queries, and that night I couldn’t sleep. Finally, at about 3:30 a.m.,
having driven my husband from the room, I turned on the TV. The channel
happened to be on the Discovery Channel, and they were showing the biography of
the great Dutch artist, Johannes Vermeer. The main controversy surrounding
Vermeer was if he used a Camera obscura to "cheat" and allow him to
paint his paintings in a very scientific and realistic way. So here’s this
bizarre term I’ve never heard before, thrown at me every single day three days
in a row? I’m not a particularly mystical person, but let’s just say I was
paying attention! The next day I thought I’d get through another query or two
and looked in Publisher’s Marketplace, searching for the term "Debut."
Only one I hadn’t seen before came up, the brilliant debut of Miranda
Beverly-Whittemore’s The Effects Of Light. That’s the title it was
published with anyway, but the title it sold with, the one on Publisher’s
Marketplace? CAMERA OBSCURA. The agent? The exact same agent I had wanted to
query but had shied away from because I was worried about too many connections,
Anne Hawkins of the John Hawkins Literary Agency. I fired off an e-mail query
to her so fast I nearly locked the computer up. She became my agent within a
week, and still is.
JT: You don’t write mysteries. Do you read them? Who are your
KK: I love mysteries. My book obsessions as a
child were Trixie Belden and Nancy Drew, and when I’d gotten through all of
those, I stole my brother’s Hardy Boys. The first really grown up book I
ever read was a John D. MacDonald, The Green Ripper. I was
probably nine or ten years old, and the cover absolutely terrified me,
but I was hooked. I went through all of his, then moved onto
Robert Parker, Elmore Leonard, Ken Follett, all the usual suspects. I grew up
FAST that year! My friend Tasha Alexander has turned me onto Elizabeth George,
as well as to her own Lady Emily Ashton series, and I’ve been very impressed by
J.D. Rhoades (my redneck heritage coming out), Wallace Strohby (my tendency
toward noir), and Bob Morris (well, really, it’s Florida, what more could you
ask?). As a writer, I’ve been so impressed by the way the mystery community
supports writers. I’ve certainly considered writing a mystery, but I have to
admit that I’m intimidated by it. I have a few ideas, but I start thinking
about them and start chewing my fingernails. Maybe one day I’ll be confident
enough to tackle it. I’d like that.
JT: What advice do you have for new writers?
KK: Educate yourself. You have to, but please, please
remember that the MOST important thing is a well-written, good
story. It’s not how the stamp goes on the SASE, it’s not how many
pre-blurbs you can get, it’s not 18# or 20# paper for your query. It kills me
to watch so many writers get so caught up in the minutiae of the business when
they don’t even have a complete manuscript yet. They’re concentrating on
the wrong thing. They’re concentrating on what they can control
because it feels good to know that there IS something you can control in this
business. And before you think I sound condescending or insincere, I
am SO VERY sincere, because I did the exact same thing. I regret the
unnecessary stress I put myself through. It’s a huge waste of time, and that
time should be spent learning your craft and making your manuscript better.
That over-education applies to new authors too. Everyone is constantly telling
you how hard it is, how you’re never going to get a second book published
unless about 367 things go just exactly the right way on the third Thursday of
the seventh month when Venus is in retrograde and a brindle armadillo crosses
US41 from east to west at midnight. Write the next book. Write well, plot well,
concentrate on the work. (And yes, I’m making that very mistake right this
JT: Do you think group marketing makes debuting easier?
KK: I don’t know. I’ve never done it any other way,
but I DO know that I feel as though my stress is spread out across five other
women, five truly talented and intelligent and generous authors. How could that
possibly be bad?
JT: Would you recommend new authors to follow the Killer Year and
Debutante Ball model?
KK: Absolutely. Here’s who should NOT do it (and be
honest with yourself):
* Anyone with jealousy or envy issues. We all have these
feelings, but if it’s going to eat at you when your fellow authors get better
reviews, a bigger contract, more foreign rights, a big movie deal, whatever it
is, you’d better sit the group dynamic out. Because it WILL happen. Someone
will always get something bigger, better, and if you can’t genuinely be happy
for that person, or if you’ll spend all your time beating yourself up for NOT
getting those things, then you WILL poison the entire group, and you’ll make
yourself crazy too. Save yourself, and others, the heartache. Other’s
success does NOT equal your failure.
* Anyone not willing to pull their own weight…and everyone
else’s once in a while. You can’t slack, and you can’t be a martyr in a group
like this. Figure out everyone’s strengths, and then work them. Sometimes
you’ll do more work than others. Get over it. Next time they’ll do more work
Told you. Pretty cool chicks, if you ask me. The Debutante
Ball is one of the greatest grogs going. I highly recommend you stop by and
sample their refinement.
Thank you, Kristy, for taking the time to share your story
and the Debs with Murderati. Best of luck with all of your debuts in 2007.
We’re all rooting for you!
Wine of the Week – In honor of our fine guests, a
Soak a sugar cube in Bitters. Drop in a flute of bubbly.
Think intellectual thoughts.