I must confess that I adore this woman so much, I’m having one hell of a time coming up with an intro that doesn’s sound soppy. It’s hard to describe so warm a heart, so giving a soul, or so fine a writer, but more – so fine a lady. I mean, you all know Chassie is beloved by so many in our mystery community, so I’d merely be shouting to the chorus. Maybe a recap of her writing prowess would be a good place to begin.
Chassie got her feet wet in the young adult genre, then on to teen romance and adventures and then two Nancy Drew’s! Add to that – three romantic suspense novels for Silhouette as Joyce McGil –Through The Looking Glass and Unforgivable made Waldenbooks bestsellers list and that one was the very first adult romance to feature an African American protagonist. It wasn’t any wonder she received the 1989-1990 Lifetime Achievement Award from Romantic Times for New Series Author, and then to top that off – the 1990-1991 Career Achievement Certificate of Excellence for Series Romantic Fantasy! Foreign rights offers arrived faster than the Concorde.
From those wonderful achievements, Chassie went on to mystery. And thank God she did! Else we would never have met her wonderful Leigh Ann Warren. Leigh Ann arrived in Sunrise – this one snagged an Edgar nomination. Then came Killing Kin – Edgar and Anthony nomination. And on to Killer Riches and her latest, Killer Chameleon – a pick of the week by Sarah Weinman. Out now for Chassie, is a new anthology from Avon – Bark M For Murder – with J.A.Jance, Virginia Lanier and Lee Charles Kelly. Chassies story is Nightmare In Nowhere. And, at the moment, Chassie is working on a standalone that will leave you breathless!
Oh, one last thing – before we chat with Chassie – I have to tell you that were it not for this incredible woman, I’d not be writing. But don’t hold that against her, okay? Chassie believed in me, and kept me rowing in that damn boat that often felt like it was ready to sink or capsize. And I’m not the only published writer who can lay claim to that – you’d be surprised who some of the NYT bestsellers are who got a ‘green light’ from an editor because of Chassie West.
Now come have fun with us!
EE: At what point in your career, Chassie, did you find it necessary to tell Otto Penzler you didn’t write cozies – and that Leigh Ann Warren is a cop?
CW: Hey, hey, hey! No way are you getting me in Dutch with the Otto Penzler. I’ve never met him, at least as far as I know. I do remembe reminding a certain reviewer who shall remain nameless taht he hadn’t felt that KILLING KIN, the second in the Leigh Warren series, was worth of an Edgar nomination. Since I hadn’t the foggiest who he was at the time, it didn’t have much of an impact. Besides, it was obvious that the Edgar judges disagreed with him.
Oh, man! If Otto is reading this – he’s gonna be ticked that you don’t remember him. But, okay – if you say so.
EE: Is it really true you listen to Bach whilst you write?
CW: Occasionally, but Rachmanioff’s my man. Just leaves me in puddles. And the Swingle Singers. Used to listen to Gregorian chants until I realized I was falling asleep in front of my computer. And Lou Rawls until I realized I was getting horny. Definitely counterproductive when you’re trying to write.
Lou Rawls? Oh, yes!! He was THE ONE! Remember ‘You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine’?, or hey – what about ‘At Last’?, or "After The Lights Go Down Low’?, and then there was…oh, excuse us. Back to the interview.
EE: Whew. Where those hot flashes, Chassie, or what? Okay – uh, next question. Everyone has a Walter Mitty dream, what’s yours? 50,000 words or less, and keep it clean, okay?
CW: Well, hell, if I’ve got to keep it clean, I can’t answer it. Next!
Clever you! Okay, you get a free pass on that one.
EE: Word on the street is that Halle Barry was going to option one of your Leigh Warren books, but she didn’t think she was beautiful enough to portray her on the screen.
CW: I should be so lucky! Besides, Leigh Ann isn’t beautiful; even she will admit that. A notch or two above average, according to her. Of course if Barry wants to mess her up a little to take on the role, that’s fine with me.
Can I tell Halle that? I’m supposed to get back to her. I mean, I told her that myself, but hearing it from you would make all the difference. Sit tight – leave it up to me…we’ll be in LaLa Land before you know it. You are taking me along, aren’t you? I promise to be good. Honest.
EE: Rumor has it that you’re working on a standalone that will make that TV show ‘Medium’ look like a kid’s picnic. How about an advance hint? Just between us here, okay? Our lips are sealed. Sorta.
CW: I thought somebody was hacking into my computer! Well, now that you’ve spread my work in progress all over the Internet, yeah, I’m working on a standalone. And yeah, it deals with psychic stuff. But no spooky dreams. I mean, when does the poor woman on ‘Medium’ get any therapeutic sleep? She needs one of those by-the-numbers mattresses. Mine is a more who-dunnit with a tad of interference from the Other Side confusing the issue and mucking up the works. I may never see it on a store bookshelf, but there are some books you’ve just got to write, and this was mine.
Hehehehe! That was moi hacking into your computer. And I’m waiting for more! So get with it, okay? It’s got legs, kiddo! Even Halle thinks so, she said…ooops. Scratch that. I didn’t tell her a thing. Really. We were talking about something else. Er, someone else. That Brit actor, Sean Bean. Yeah, that’s what it was.
EE: My favorite little spy told me that you get weak in the knees over a certain actor. Uh, care to share here, Chassie?
CW: Look, lady, the last thing I need is Denzel’s wife putting out a contract on me! Everybody lusts in their hearts every now and again. Don’t they?
Uh, yeah. Sure. We’ll talk. But not here, okay?
EE: Okay, Chassie, after clueing us in about chants, what’s your favorite retreat and what do you do there?
CW: Any place it’s 80 degrees or better, near water and if there are mountains as well, I’m in heaven. Hawaii does it for me. Think I must have been Hawaiian in a previous incarnation. And what do I do there? Besides sitting overlooking the water and pounding my laptop? As much as nothing as I can beside just wallowing in being there.
Oh, I can relate to that! My heart still lives there too. Da kine Islands pono! Maybe I lived there too in another life and meeting you on Maui back in 2000 was a ‘reunion’ of sorts? And maybe we were sistahs? Must be.
EE: Mysteryville is abuzz about that dinner you had last week in D.C. with a guy that could be Stedman’s twin. Is this true? Are you the reason for his split with Ophra?
CW: You really are trying to get me killed, aren’t you? There’s not a word of truth in the rumor. Well, maybe a syllable or two. But that’s all. Honest. Ophra used to live in my condo development. That’s the closest I am to anything of hers. I’m in no way responsible for who looks like who. Or should that be whom? Never mind. It ain’t true!
Killed? What? I’m only passing on rumors here. Damn, but you’re a cagey one! Okay, I believe you. Sorta.
EE: I understand you have a bad habit of crossing your eyes at birds when they land on that huge deck of yours. I mean, come on, Chassie! That’s just not fair.
CW: Look, I like birds as much as the next person, but bird poop is another matter. Besides, I’m doing it for their own protection. I’ve got cats. Get it?
Uh, yup. Loud and clear. Actually, that’s really very creative of you. Hmmm. Might try it myself.
EE: Here’s an easy one finally – who would be your ideal panel mates?
CW: Uh-uh. Ain’t going there. Too many of my friends are writers. Let’s just say I feel most comfortable with panel membes who make me and the audience laugh. And think. Not necessarily at the same time.
Damn! You’re a hard nut to crack. Diplomatic as all get out. But then, I already knew that. But hey, I tried.
EE: Whispers are rampant that the CIA wants you back in the fold. What’s with that?
CW: You bring this up considering what’s going on in D.C. with the special investigator and civil suits and stuff? I know nothing. I repeat, nothing!
Well done, Ms. West. A representative from our office will be contacting you soon to begin re-entry into the system. Until that time, please be careful what you say to Evil E. We’ve got her on our radar, and keeping a close watch.
EE: Ignore that man. I don’t know how the hell he got in here. Anyway, which writer would you love to have all to yourself in a cozy corner of the bar at the next ThrillerFest?
CW: No contest there. Lee Child. I’d love to pick his brains about Jack Reacher and how he came to be. I’m heavily into character and Reacher’s one complex so-and-so.
Lee Child and Reacher again??? Why does that duo keep cropping up here? I’m gonna have to get them both On The Bubble.
EE: God forbid – but what would you be doing if you weren’t writing?
CW: To paraphrase the son, ‘rolling around heaven all day’. I can’t envision life without writing. It’s like oxygen. A necessity. I can’t not write. Period.
Thank heaven (no pun intended) for that! Can you hear the hallelujah’s from your thousands of fans? I can.
EE: Who would be your ideal book tour mate?
CW: I’m gonna take the easy road on this one: you. How’s that for sucking up?
Excellent! But then, I knew you couldn’t stay mad at me even though I’ve asked you some pretty dumb questions. But you drive, okay? You know I’m direction challenged. Hell, you still have to point me in the right direction when we get out of elevators.
EE: Okay, now that we’re best buds again, here’s the last question, and the easiest. Hehehe. You’re having six guests for dinner. Who would they be, and what would you serve?
CW: Sorry, this needs revising. I’d be willing to take guests out for dinner and they could like it or lump it, but I don’t cook. And for six? You jest. As for who, if you insist: Stephen King, Grace Edwards, Kay Hooper, Walter Mosley, Suzanne Brockmann and Nora Roberts. In payment, all I’d want them to answer is: how in the world do you do that? There are qualities about their writing I’d love to master. It would be worth having to declare bankruptcy after the dinner to get those answers.
Au contraire, dear, dear Chassie. How in the world do YOU do it is more like it!
And Chassie? Aloha Kaua – A hui hou kakou!
Mahalo nui loa,
Oh, what a great interview — and with one of the coolest ladies I’ve ever met.
Chassie, thanks for sharing your funny side–one I got some glimpses of at Bouchercon in Chicago.
No wonder Elaine adores you.
I do, too.
Chassie … former CIA? Now I’ve heard it all! Thanks for the glimpse into the life of a lovely lady, Elaine.
Great interview! Evil E really gets the dirt, doesn’t she? Thanks for all the insights, Chassie. I’d like to be a fly on the wall of that dinner party!
One of Chassie’s books is on my TBR pile. This interview has definitely moved it up!
and what a shocker, another fantastic interview. i too liked to listen to music while writing reports and short stories as as child. i learned that it isn’t good to be horny while writing, i’ll try to remember not to listen to lou rawls next time i write. keep up the great work, can’t wait for the next one. aloha.
Mahalo nui loa na ho’olaule’a Chassie West!