Happy to have mystery author Kassandra Lamb to Manic Monday. She’s the author of the exciting Kate Huntington mysteries series as well as part of the very cool misterio press, a great new resource for indie writers. I’m honored to be kicking off her blog tour for the series. Please be sure to leave her some love in the comments.
Thanks, Stacy, for having me, although I have to admit, I’m a little afraid of the dark. Something tells me you’re going to help me overcome that!
You write the Kate Huntington mystery series, centered around a psychotherapist. Tell us about Kate. Where did she come from? How much of her is based on your background as a psychotherapist?
Kate is third-generation Irish-American; her parents, who occasionally make appearances in the books, still have a bit of a brogue. She’s got the “Black Irish” combination of dark curly hair, fair skin and blue eyes. I made her Irish-American because that’s my husband’s heritage. Then I married her off to a WASP, thus the Huntington last name.
Personality-wise, Kate started out as me, or rather my ideal self. She is much more consistently caring and compassionate than I am, and she loses her temper less often and calms down a lot faster. Her role as a therapist is definitely patterned after my own experiences.
But as the series has evolved, Kate has become her own person. She’s had different experiences than mine, and they have shaped her. It never ceases to amaze me, as an author, how characters truly take on a life of their own.
Kate’s character wasn’t the actual inspiration for the series, however. That came from a disappointing platonic friendship with the real-life counterpart to my character, Rob Franklin, who is Kate’s closest friend. Writing about a healthy platonic friendship started out as a healing exercise, and the next thing I knew I was writing a novel.
Your degree is in psychology. What specific areas do you specialize in, and how do those play into your writing?
I’m retired now, but I was a trauma recovery specialist, working with adults who were dealing with emotional scar tissue from their childhoods–parental death, alcoholism in the household, physical or sexual abuse, etc.
Kate also is a trauma recovery specialist, but unlike me, she leads a much more interesting life. She has a propensity for getting into scary, sometimes downright terrifying, situations.
My stories about her are good old-fashioned whodunnits, but also with a lot of emphasis on the characters’ relationships with each other. I throw in a bit of humor as well, to lighten the mood occasionally.
My goal is to entertain first and foremost, but also to educate a bit along the way. As a reader, I love that kind of novel myself–a book that provides good entertainment and escapism, but I also know some things when I put it down that I didn’t know before, whether it’s about a certain occupation or a time in history or whatever.
In my books, I try to give short glimpses into the world of psychotherapy… what it’s like to be the client but also what’s going through the therapist’s head, something most people wouldn’t normally be privy to.
I also highlight different psychological disorders and phenomena in each book. Domestic violence and multiple personalities, which is actually called dissociative identity disorder now, in Book 1. Thus the title, Multiple Motives. And this new book deals with recovery from child sexual abuse, post-traumatic stress disorder and borderline personality disorder.
We love bad guys here at Turning The Page – tell us about yours. What’s your process of creating his character?
Hmm, that’s tough to answer without giving too much away. My villains usually operate behind the scenes, for the most part. Bad things are happening and Kate and her friends are trying to figure out who’s making them happen. They usually have an array of suspects so I’m developing the characters of a whole bunch of potential bad guys and gals.
But to get back to the question, how do I create the actual bad guy or gal’s character? When I get an idea for a book, I usually have at least a vague sense of who the villain’s going to be. I start by writing the beginning of the book, to establish the theme of the story, what it’s about.
Then I write the ending, where the true culprit is revealed. Once I know what point A and point B are, I write an outline of how I’m going to get from A to B, so that by the ending, the bad guy or gal’s motivations make sense to the reader.
Then I start writing the book. I often end up with a different opening than the original, but the ending rarely changes all that much.
You’ll have to invite me back, Stacy, when my seventh book comes out, and ask me that question again. *slightly evil smile* The bad guy in that one is going to be a true, make-the-hair-stand-up-on-the-back-of-your-neck villain, as in a serial killer.
You’re getting ready to launch the third book in the Kate Huntington series, Family Fallacies. It delves into some pretty intense stuff: trauma recovery, suppressed memories, and the false memory controversy. Can you tell us more about the book? How do you handle writing something with such intense issues?
I gotta admit that Family Fallacies is my favorite in the series so far, even though as you say, it covers some intense stuff. But writing about it is not all that hard, compared to 20 years of working with people who were dealing with the real thing.
Surprisingly, none of my advanced readers found it to be difficult to handle. I think that’s because there are two storylines. Weaving back and forth between them lessens the intensity considerably. I also don’t get graphic in my descriptions of the memories; that isn’t necessary for the story to make sense. And then there’s that occasional dash of humor.
One storyline is Kate’s story. She is falling in love while still struggling with grief for her late husband. She’s holding her new guy at arm’s length and he’s trying to be patient, but she’s worried he’s going to give up on her before she’s able to move forward in the relationship.
Then she starts getting anonymous notes, that go from weird and disturbing to threatening to “destroy” her family. That is Kate’s Achilles’ heel. She’s brave and strong when it comes to herself, but threats against those she loves terrify her.
Meanwhile Kate’s client, Audrey, is starting to have memories of sexual abuse bubble up into conscious awareness. She thinks the abuser is her father, but the face in the memories is not clear. Kate keeps telling her to go slow, not to try to force it, but Audrey is not a very patient person. Eventually there is a confrontation between her and her father that results in Audrey cutting off contact with her parents.
The two stories start to come together when Audrey’s parents sue Kate for supposedly planting false memories in their daughter’s head. Then one of the parties in the lawsuit gets themselves killed and now Kate is a murder suspect.
You started down your publishing journey later than some of us – what lit the spark?
Publishing, yes; writing no. I’ve been a writer, well, since I learned to write. You should see some of the poems I wrote in high school. *laughs* Then again, maybe you shouldn’t. They were pretty awful.
I started Multiple Motives in 1995. I had published several professional articles by then, but it was the first piece of fiction that I actually thought was worth publishing. I got about one third of the way into it and lost my momentum, partly because I had a day job and a teenager to finish raising. But mainly because I knew that I did not have the patience to deal with the publishing industry. It’s not that I can’t handle rejection; it’s that I have no tolerance for unnecessary obstacles, created by the very people who are supposed to be on your side.
All three Kate Huntington books are self-published. Why’d you decide to go that route? Did you query at all?
I did query some, last spring and early summer, when Multiple Motives was finished. I decided that, maybe I couldn’t handle the flawed nature of the publishing world in my early 40’s, but at almost 60, it was time to put on my big girl pants and deal with it. Meanwhile, I was cranking out the first drafts of three more books.
I hated every minute spent on the querying process, mainly because it is so much effort and so much agony for so little return. When you finally land an agent, you are still a long way away from a published book.
Then I went to a writers’ conference in late August and two little miracles happened. One of the presentations was on e-publishing. The presenter was a well-established author, with a publisher, who, for a variety of reasons, had more recently gone the self- publishing route. My eyes went wide, my mouth dropped open and I thought, “This is for me!”
The second little miracle was that I had a glass of wine with Shannon Esposito at the cocktail party at the end of the conference. We had chatted earlier in the weekend about something inane–hairdressers, I believe it was–but as we sat down to relax over a glass of chardonnay, something clicked. By the time her delightful husband came to pick her up, we were both a little looped and we had decided two things: we were going to stay in touch and we were going to check into this self-publishing thing. Her husband, Dan, very graciously invited me to join them for dinner and even managed to look interested while we talked books for the rest of the evening.
Now Shannon and I are partners in a small indie press, misterio press. And we have another mystery writer who has joined us, JoAnn Bassett. misterio press basically operates as a cooperative for indie mystery writers and our goal is to establish a reputation for top-quality self-published mysteries.
And as I’m saying all this, I’m thinking, “Wow, how far we have come in less than a year!” Shannon has two books out and they are doing very well and I’m releasing book three.
Both of us would still be sending out queries in the traditional publishing world.
What’s the best part of the self-publishing experience? The worst?
One of the best things is what I just mentioned. In traditional publishing, even if, by some miracle, we had both landed agents and publishing contracts quickly, our first books would still not be out yet. The average turn-around from contract signing to book hits the shelves is at least a year.
With self-publishing, you forego the whole seeking an agent and publisher part. You hire your own professional editor to polish your work; you get a good cover artist and e-book formatting company lined up, if you don’t have the talent to do those things yourself, and you can have your baby out there within months. And it’s not prohibitively expensive. My average cost per e-book is $1,000. And it’s going to be less than that in the future, because a lot of those services I paid for in the past will be available for me through the misterio press cooperative.
The other big deal for me is that you have complete creative control. I am a control freak, so I love that! You pick the title and you have the final say in editorial changes and cover art. I’ve heard horror stories about authors who were forced to change things they really didn’t want to change, and I was very much afraid that would happen with Multiple Motives. If a publisher’s editor had insisted that I create sexual energy between Kate and Rob, that would have been a deal breaker. Then the book would have become just another tawdry example of how unhealthy humans can be. I wanted it to provide an example how platonic friendships can be healthy.
What’s the worst thing? The promotional stuff is very time-consuming, but these days traditionally-published authors are expected to participate in social media, so I’m really not doing all that much more than I would be doing anyway. And it’s fun to connect with people all over the world. I’ve gotten some terrific support from other authors, like you, Stacy, through social media. So I’m not complaining too loud about the time spent on Twitter and Facebook and such.
Are you planning anything exciting for Family Fallacies?
Actually yes, misterio press in having a contest, to celebrate the book’s release. Anyone who comments here will have their name put in the hat to win a free three-book set of the series to date. Then if they go to our blog at www.misteriopress.com and read about how ghosts might just be capable of getting jealous, we’ll put their names in the hat again. And if they stop by any of the rest of my blog stops this week and comment there, yet another entry goes into the hat, up to six maximum.
The winner will be chosen at midnight Friday and announced at each of the blogs, including ours, on Saturday.
Last but not least, what do you do when you’re not writing? Favorite book? Movie? Vacation?
*laughs* Mostly I sleep, and often not enough of that. Writing has taken over my life the last couple years. My husband looks at me funny when I show up at the dinner table–he’s the cook in the family–as if to say, “ Do I know you?”
But I do try to carve out time for reading. It is my favorite form of relaxation. I try to read a lot of indie writers now, both to support them and to see what exciting things they are doing.
And my husband and I love to travel. We just got back from a trip to Alaska. What a breathtakingly beautiful state! I hope to have my pictures up on Facebook soon. Just hasn’t made it to the top of the to-do list yet.
Thanks so much for talking with me today, Kassandra!
I’ve really enjoyed it. You are a gem, Stacy, for having me! I hope you’ll come visit me and Shannon soon.
And thanks to all your followers and friends for stopping by. Good luck in the contest!
Oops, almost forgot. Here are the rest of the blog stops this week:
Tuesday, 6/12 – Why Do We Hurt The Ones We Love? – Rhonda Hopkins lets me get serious about some, well, serious stuff, at http://rhondahopkins.com
Wednesday, 6/13 – “Don’t Hate Me Because I’m Beautiful” – Lightening things up a bit as I talk about body image and self-esteem as the guest of Alica McKenna Johnson at http://alicamckennajohnson.com
Thursday, 6/14 – A Check-Up From the Neck Up – Hanging out with Ginger Calem, of world-renowned Writer’s Butt Wednesdays fame, and sharing some tips for maintaining your mental health, at http://gingercalem.wordpress.com
Friday, 6/15 – Chatting with Jennifer L. Oliver about writing, eating and puppy dogs (no puppy dogs will be harmed in the process) at http://www.small-escapes.com
Kassandra Lamb’s Bio
Psychology and writing, or writing and psychology, if you will, have always vied for number one on Kassandra Lamb’s Greatest Passions list. In her youth, she had to make a decision between writing and paying the bills. Partial to heat, electricity and food, she studied psychology.
Now retired from a career as a psychotherapist and college professor, she spends most of her time in an alternate universe in which her protagonist, Kate Huntington, is always the kind, generous and insightful person that she wishes she were.
When not at her computer, transported in mind and spirit into Kate’s world, she lives in Florida and Maryland, with her husband and her Alaskan Husky, Amelia. She also hangs out a lot on Twitter and Facebook, so feel free to track her down there @KassandraLamb and http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/kassandra.lamb.