Saturday, September 19, 2009

Kickin' My Feet Up With Kelli Stanley - Part 2

I'm so glad you're back. Can't ya just see us in Barbara Walter's cozy little living room set that she uses? Ha! She probably wouldn't let us put our feet up on the furniture, though, would she?

Anyway, we started getting to know Kelli Stanley yesterday. We heard a lot about her background and her research and her influences. We talked about the noir genre a bit. Fun stuff. So let's check out what she has to share with us today. Welcome back, Kel!

Q: You also studied drama in school and love acting. How do you think that influences your writing?

Kelli: Acting influences my writing big time. The writing itself is heavily influenced by film—some of the best writing of the twentieth century was in movies, and by some of the best writers, too. Poetry has always been a principal influence, because I grew up reading and writing it, everything from Poe to Chaucer to Kipling.

But my performance background really comes up in how I approach the act of writing… from the inside out. I get in my character’s heads—one reason I’ve only written first person or a very close POV in the third person. I literally wear a beat up old fedora when I’m in the “zone”—it’s a signal to my family not to talk to me—and I let my subconscious go and get into character, experience what happens, feel what they feel…

The process isn’t easy on me, but it also gives me the same kind of euphoric high you get when you’re acting. And of course, just as when I was performing in plays, I get a kind of post-partum depression when I finish a book or a story. I know it probably sounds nutty, but it’s just the way I work.

Q: Despite the fact that NOX DORMIENDA is an award-winning book; you’re working on the next in the series; CITY OF DRAGONS is coming out in February; and you’re going to continue that as a series, writing is not your day job. Not yet anyway. So when do you do your writing? When are you most inspired to channel your characters (for those who are devoted readers of the 7 Criminal Minds blog, you know what I’m talking about…if you’re not, start reading it!)?

Kelli: Well, I’m actually done with MALEDICTUS, the sequel to NOX, and we’re hoping to have good news about it soon. I’m working on the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, which I’m calling COUNTRY OF SPIDERS—we’ll see if the title sticks. My goal is to leave my half-time day job, so that I can actually, conceivably write two series a year, plus a stand-alone thriller set in Humboldt county (northern California where I grew up), plus do a graphic novel … you get the idea! :)

Given economic realities, I write when I can. That means when I come home from the day job—and before I respond to email or work on marketing projects, which are many!—I will sit down for the time I have—one to three hours, usually—and write. Then I’ll finish up with marketing stuff, or website work, or blogging, or writing articles, or emails. On Fridays I’m off, so I try to spend all day writing.

Now, that said, I’m not on this schedule yet, because I’m not quite done with my research. Then I loosely plot out the arcs of the story, sort of like a road map … it helps free up my subconscious. I’ll be on this schedule in a couple of weeks, though. First I have to schedule my book tour. The biggest challenge is fitting in all the stuff I’m trying to do for CITY OF DRAGONS—videos, podcasts, an interactive website—with writing and working—and occasionally seeing my family! :)
Q: As I know from reading your tweets on Twitter, you also love comic books. And you ran a comic book store. So what was the catalyst for this passion and how, if at all, does it influence you in your novel writing?

Kelli: I love comic books. I grew up reading them—Batman was, and is, my favorite superhero. I’ve got a gigantic collection, spanning seventy years. I’m not sure why; like the noir gene, I guess I was born with it. But I’ve always had a passion for the written and the visual. Like film, like comic books, which are basically story boards. One of my undergraduate degrees is in Art History—and at one time, I wanted to be a film director. When I write, I sort of see a film unrolling … and I think growing up on comic books—and reading great graphic novels like anything by Will Eisner—probably helped hone that ability. I also wrote a few screenplays while owning the comic books shop—and that was a great tutorial, both for character and dialog.
Q: You are planning to do something very cool and rather unique with your upcoming book tour for CITY OF DRAGONS. Tell us a bit about that.

Kelli: As of this writing, I’m probably going to have to scale back my original “whistle-stop” tour plan for the book tour—I originally wanted to take the train everywhere, but I can’t afford to leave the day job behind and be gone an entire month! So it will be a combination of planes, train and automobiles … with at least one long distance train ride. I’m planning to blog from Amtrak, maybe do a video on the trip! J It should be a lot of fun. I love trains, I love book stores, I love readers. I’m really excited about the tour!

And of course I'll be updating everyone when her schedule is final so you can see if she'll be near you on the tour.

Q: I’m intrigued by your love of fedoras. I love hats, but it just seems God didn’t bless me with a head that works well with them. When did your love of fedoras begin? Was there a specific person/event/character that triggered this love? You’re a big fan of old movies; did you see one in a movie that really sparked your interest?

Kelli: You’ll laugh, Jen, but you know that third grade play I mentioned? I was wearing a fedora. I don’t know where I got it—I don’t remember how—but my fedora-love, like the noir gene, is clearly something I was born with! I’ve always collected hats—my grandmother gave me hers, and I was fascinated with them. And I grew up watching old movies—even when I was eight, I could do a Jimmy Cagney impression. But there was just something about the fedora … I love ‘em. And I own quite a few. Straw fedoras, short, snappy brims for less formal wear, longer brims for more formal occasions … I decided to take my first author photos with a hat, for fun, in the noir style. Then at my first conferences, friends I’d met on the Internet would find me because of the hat … so now it’s a keeper! :)
Q: Correct me if I’m wrong, but you’re also a fan of jazz, specifically big band, correct? So what plays most often on your iPod or stereo?

Kelli: I love standards and all kinds of jazz, particularly big band and cool and pretty much all the great vocalists—Sarah Vaughan, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Dakota Staton, Billy Eckstine … one of my favorite vocalists is Nancy Wilson. For the bands, I like Goodman, Miller, James, Artie Shaw … I listen to a lot of period blues, jazz and swing for the books. Music plays a really big role in CITY OF DRAGONS. I listen to other stuff, too—I graduated in ’82, so I’m partial to 80s New Wave—loved girl groups like The Go-Gos and The Bangles and am a big Blondie fan. And Billy Joel and Bruce Springsteen. I grew up with music—my dad always sang—he’s from Kentucky, so these were folk and country songs—and my mom still sings in a choir. Music of all kinds is a big part of my environment.
Q: And I simply won’t let you get out of this interview without telling us about Bertie!

Kelli: Bertie was a birthday present … we’d lost our Springer Spaniel to cancer a few years earlier, and hadn’t adopted another dog. Then on a trip up to see my parents, my mom found a listing about Bertie. He’d been through several owners already, at the tender age of one. What can I say? It was love at first sight. :) Springer Spaniels are very emotional, and we had to crate him for a year before we could safely leave him by himself … they suffer big time from separation anxiety. And as a rescue dog, it was particularly hard for him. But now he’s a big boy, and all grown up (mostly) and we love him very dearly. Even the cat loves him, which is saying a lot!
Q: And to wrap this all up, give us some tidbits about CITY OF DRAGONS that didn’t already come out in any of the previous questions.

Kelli: Well, I think sometimes you write a book or a story, and you just know, as a writer, that there’s something there you can be proud of. It’s as if—at least for me—as if someone else wrote it. I feel that way about CITY OF DRAGONS. I’m proud of the book. I would like to write about Miranda for the rest of my life … she’s an enormously complex person, and I can envision her growing older, working through the war, and then dealing with the McCarthy era.

Racism – both racism you might expect and racism you might not—is a prevalent, underlying theme to the novel. If I’m true to my era, it would have to be.

But beyond my literary hopes, beyond any wisdom offered or gleaned, I want to give people a chance to escape, to hope, to think, to feel, to wonder, to, in the biggest and broadest sense of the word, be entertained. That’s my job, and I take it seriously. I want you to enjoy CITY OF DRAGONS on as many levels as possible—not just the thrills, though it’s full of action. Not just the underlying themes, though they’re there, too. Not just the way the words are put together, though I think about every punctuation mark. I want you to be taken away, to be transported, to feel like you’re in 1940 San Francisco, in the middle of it all. And I want you to care about Miranda. If I can accomplish that, I’ll have fulfilled my goal. :)

And to cap off this fabulous interview, I have one last treat: the trailer for Kelli's upcoming CITY OF DRAGONS. I, for one, am looking so forward to this release. Before I set you to it, please let me thank Kelli ever so much for really getting into this interview with me and making the whole thing so much fun. I do hope all you readers enjoy it as much as Kelli and I did. You can learn more about Kelli, CITY OF DRAGONS, and NOX DORMIENDA at Kelli's website.

O.k., here you go, enjoy all!


Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses September 19, 2009 at 10:31 AM  

Ladies! Good Morning to two of my favorite mystery women. WHAT a great interview! It was fun and I felt like I was right there with you both. Barbara Walters wishes she could do as well!

can't wait to see you both in a few weeks - HUGE hugs till then,

Kelli Stanley September 19, 2009 at 1:19 PM  

Jen, thank you so much for having me over the last two days!! It's been an absolute delight!! You are such a treasure, and Kaye (as usual) is so right--Barbara wishes she could do what you do!! :) Over at CM, we call you "the nicest person in the world" ... I think that should be your new title! ;)

I just can't wait to see you both at Bouchercon!! :)



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