WELCOME KATHLEEN DELANEY
Kathleen Delaney has written four previous Ellen McKenzie Real Estate mysteries, but has never before transported her characters out of California. A number of years ago she visited Colonial Williamsburg and fell in love. Long fascinated with our country’s history, especially the formation years, she knew she wanted to set a story there. Another trip with her brother and sister-in-law solidified the idea that had been rolling around in her head but she needed more information. A phone call to the nice people at Colonial Williamsburg provided her with appointments to visit the kitchen at the Payton Randolph house, where she got her first lesson in hearth cooking and a meeting with the people who manage the almost extinct animal breeds the foundation is working to preserve. A number of books purchased at the wonderful bookstore at the visitor’s center gave her the additional information she needed and the story that was to become Murder by Syllabub came into being. Kathleen lived most of her life in California but now resides in Georgia. She is close to many historical sites, which she has eagerly visited, not only as research for this book but because the east is rich in monuments to the history of our country. Luckily, her grandchildren are more than willing to accompany her on their tours of exploration. You can find Kathleen on the Web at delaney.camelpress.com.
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Q&A with Kathleen Delaney
Thank you for inviting me to stop by and tell you all a little about my life as a writer. My initial thought was my approach is not much different than any other writer, but on second thought, that is probably not correct. We are all pretty different people, write different kinds of books, and probably set up our writing agendas differently as well. In writing, as in so many things, there is no right or wrong way to do things, just the way it works for each individual. Having said that…
Do I use current events or personal experience to draw from? I write murder mysteries. Cozies, to be sure, but even in cozies we manage to litter the landscape with dead bodies. I’ve never murdered anyone in real life, and my experience with dead bodies is no more extensive, so really neither. It’s all imaginary. Leaves one to wonder about the imagination of mystery writers, I’ll admit, but maybe it’s therapeutic. I’m not sure. However, I’ve left a battered corpse in an upstairs closet, another pinned to a bale of straw by a pitchfork. Another time I pushed a very disagreeable chef into a wine fermenting tank, and killed off an old man with the marble arm of a cemetery angel. In the most recent book, Murder by Syllabub I did just that. Murdered the man with a glass of a sweet, colonial drink called Syllabub that I liberally laced with poison. But not to worry. He had it coming. Things that have happened to me, usually small things like forgetting to take the plastic wrap off the casserole before putting it in the oven to heat, have made their way into my books, I must admit, but I try not to get too many current events included as I don’t want to tie them to tightly to any particular month or year.
Do I start my books with the conclusion or start at the beginning and see where it all ends up? Since I’m never sure just what the conclusion is, and sometimes who did it, I start at the beginning. I find myself saying “and then what happened” a lot. Some people outline the whole book before writing it, some write character sketches of everyone who appears, including the paper boy who only appears once and for just one ride by, but I find I can’t do that. My first draft serves as an outline and that’s where I develop my characters. My second drafts really get chopped up and stuff gets either deleted or moved around a lot, but by then I’m confident in my story and it’s just a matter of telling it the best way I can. By the time we get to the third draft, it’s almost starting to make sense. This requires a lot of rewriting, it’s true, but it seems to be the way I do things best.
Do I have a routine: You bet. Absolutely. Sort of. I get up in the morning, stagger out to the kitchen, let the dogs out and push the button on the coffee maker. After that, well, I try to keep to a loose schedule. Marketing, first thing. I read my email and answer any that require it, post on facebook, twitter, other on line groups, do the basic housework, and then start writing. Of course, if I’m in the middle of an idea and words are pouring out every which way, nothing else gets done. Doctors, hair appointments (very important), Silver Sneakers gym class, grandkids, all that kind of thing, interrupt a perfectly good schedule on a regular basis. For years I fit my writing in and around a day job. I was a real estate broker in a small town on California’s central coast , raised and showed Arabian horses as well as kids, but no more. I have retired from all that and write full time. As much full time as all those other things will let me.
Authors I admire. The estimable Elizabeth Peters, who died recently, has long been someone I admired and whose work I spent many delighted hours reading. We will miss her. There have been so many over the years that if I started I wouldn’t know where to stop. I read lots of mysteries, always have, but my reading is by no means limited to them. I am currently reading And The Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini. I loved his other two and so far think this is terrific.
Am I writing another book? Yes. I am almost finished with the first draft. It is the first book in a new series and it features dogs. And dog people. Also murder. Please don’t ask me how it ends. I’m not there, yet.
Another question asked was about TV vrs reading. There are very few things on TV that get me away from my latest book. Among them is Downton Abbey. The next episodes start in January, I think. I can hardly wait.
Now, about food and drink. I like to do both, and it really depends on a lot of things, weather, what I’m doing and where I am, as what might be my favorite at any one time. You can’t beat a glass of ice cold sun tea on a hot afternoon in the south. No sugar for me, please. Or the smell of fresh brewed coffee on a cold morning. Actually, any morning. But I’ll tell you about one meal that was special in several ways. A small waterfront restaurant in the south of France, in the middle of the fishing fleet. The boats were tied up for the night, the restaurant supposedly closed, but I was to leave for home the next day and I wanted paella. The people at the hotel where we were staying said that restaurant made the best there was to be had. Naturally, I was disappointed, but not for long. A phone call was made, they would be happy to open for our party of ten. The hotel people were right, the food was wonderful, so was the wine, and the restaurant owner serenaded us with songs he used to sing as a cabaret singer in Paris. Lots of things besides food and drink go into a favorite meal.
ABOUT THE BOOK
A ghost in Colonial dress has been wreaking havoc at an old plantation house in Virginia. The house is owned by Elizabeth Smithwood, the best friend of Ellen McKenzie’s Aunt Mary. Mary is determined to fly to the rescue, and Ellen has no choice but to leave her real estate business and new husband to accompany her. Who else will keep the old girl out of trouble? When Ellen and Aunt Mary arrive, they find that Elizabeth’s “house” comprises three sprawling buildings containing all manner of secret entrances and passages, not to mention slave cabins. But who owns what and who owned whom? After Monty—the so-called ghost and stepson of Elizabeth’s dead husband—turns up dead in Elizabeth’s house, suspicion falls on her. Especially when the cause of death is a poisoned glass of syllabub taken from a batch of the sweet, creamy after-dinner drink sitting in Elizabeth’s refrigerator. Monty had enemies to spare. Why was he roaming the old house? What was he searching for? To find the truth, Ellen and her Aunt Mary will have to do much more than rummage through stacks of old crates; they will have to expose two hundred years of grudges and vendettas. The spirits they disturb are far deadlier than the one who brought them to Virginia. Murder by Syllabub is the fifth book of the Ellen McKenzie Mystery series.
READ AN EXCERPT
Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: July 1, 2013
Number of Pages: 298
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