Kay Kendall is an award-winning author of two historical mysteries. Her second book, RAINY DAY WOMEN (2015), won for best mystery and best book at Killer Nashville in August 2016. It is the second in her Austin Starr mystery series, published by Stairway Press. The first was DESOLATION ROW (2013).
Website URL: http://AustinStarr.com
Blog URL: http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/2016/09/let-good-times-roll.html < http://thestilettogang.blogspot.com/> I blog every third Wednesday of each month.
Buy links for Rainy Day Women:
Do you read reviews written about your book?
I’m enormously curious. When I see a new review of my mysteries, I pounce on it and read immediately. I’m happy to report that mostly—say, 95 percent of the time—those reviews please me. And if a reader has left critical comments, then I get over it. My membership in a book club for fifteen years taught me how wildly opinions differ over even famous novels. Invariably, at least two people (out of twelve) disliked even award-winning books. That experience showed I should expect sour reviews at least every once in a while.
What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
Because I had a long-time career (25 years) in public relations, I enjoy promoting books—both my own and other authors as well. However, there is one task I loathe. I detest asking readers to leave a review online at one of the traditional places—like Amazon.com, bn.com, and Goodreads.com. Periodically I do manage to suggest on my Facebook pages that these short reviews really help authors. I don’t know why exactly, but I hate asking. Whenever someone emails me, comments on Facebook, or tweets that s/he loves my work, I always want to fire back, “S0, why not post a review online—even if only one sentence?” Somehow that embarrasses me, so I don’t do it.
What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
After my first mystery was published in 2013, I held a signing at an independent bookstore in Wichita, Kansas. That’s the big city near my small hometown. Many friends from the old days drove twenty-five miles to my event, which pleased and delighted me. While I was signing my books for people, a woman in line introduced herself. She said, “You don’t know me, but Pam ___ is my sister. She lives so far away, but she asked me to represent her today. I’ll surprise her at Christmastime with your debut mystery, and please sign it to her.” This experience touched me. Pam and I were friends in college.
Do you keep track or write reviews for books you read?
Before I joined Goodreads, I didn’t track the books I read. Now I do because Goodreads makes it so easy. While I don’t manage to write online reviews for every book I read, I do for quite a few. For example, if a friend publishes a book, I always leave a review. If someone is new and just getting started, I do also. And of course if someone writes an absolutely fabulous novel that I’m just wild about, I definitely write a review—and often give it a social media shout out. After all, I don’t want to be hypocritical. If I want readers to review my mysteries, then it behooves me to do the same for other writers’ books.
Who are your cheerleaders?
About fifteen years ago I began writing fiction. Back then I had a few friends who believed in my dream and kept me going. Two were retired journalists who were good writers themselves. My husband was supportive, but it took him a while to understand fully how deep my dream of achieving publication would be. When my first novel (a literary novel) didn’t sell, I began to write mysteries. The first one sold and was published. Then other friends saw how serious I am about my new career and picked up the pace of their cheerleading. They’re happy that I am so happy. Also, two women friends—half my age and budding fiction writers—support me, and I support Cathy and Emily in turn.
I know it is a hard, steep road to getting published these days, unless one self-publishes. But if you want a publisher to pay you, well then, that’s a tough proposition. Perhaps because everyone in it realizes this, the mystery writing community is very friendly and supportive, and that is one of the many joys of participating in it. I have made so many new friends at conferences—both other authors and fans too. I had no idea that the lonely life of an author would be graced with so much friendship and support. It is simply thrilling and heartwarming, and I believe in giving back to others for what I receive from them.
Who do you look up to?
I always loved reading—fiction in particular and especially mysteries, ever since I read my first Nancy Drew. I’m also besotted with history, so it’s a natural for me to be drawn to historical mysteries. In 2003 the first Maisie Dobbs mystery by Jacqueline Winspear was published. Set between the two world wars, it features a nurse who turns professional detective. This series captured my attention, and when I began writing my own historical mysteries, I took the Winspear books as inspiration. To date there are now twelve in Winspear’s series.
Most of the other historical mystery writers whom I most admire are men. They include Steve Berry, David Morrell, and Philip Kerr. How fortunate I am to know these authors, and their support provides a wonderful source of encouragement. ###