Kaye George is the critically acclaimed, best-selling author of four different mystery series with three different publishers and one self-published. Her Fat Cat series she writes under the name of Janet Cantrell.
Your first series was the Imogene Duckworthy Mystery series. The first book in the series was nominated for the prestigious Agatha Award for best first novel. Tell us a little bit more about it and will we see future books in that series?
I hope so! I’ve been doing some short stories, but will get back to the 4th book very soon. I’m calling it STROKE to continue the theme. So far, I’ve written CHOKE, SMOKE, and BROKE. I parted with my original publisher and have self-published the series. Not having a publisher means I don’t have a deadline and I’m terrible at procrastinating when I have too much time.
I love the pet pig in the series. What gave you the idea to include a pig?
I wanted an unusual pet, but a smart one. My parents both grew up on farms and my father had a pet pig as a young boy. Maybe that’s where the idea came from. I also had an uncle who was a hog farmer and I used to spend a week or so with my cousin each summer.
You have the Cressa Carraway Musical Mystery Series. The first book in this series was a finalist for the Silver Falchion Award at Killer Nashville. Describe this series, please.
My sleuth is heading into the career I sometimes wish I had had, composer and conductor. I rely on her sense of harmony and balance, and the opposite, to detect falsehood and deception. Doesn’t always work! In the first book, EINE KLEINE MURDER, Cressa solve the mystery of her grandmother’s death. Gram was her last close relative and they weren’t on good terms when she died. Cressa wants to redeem herself and purge her guilt by finding her killer. She takes a conducting job in Minneapolis for the second book, REQUIEM IN RED. A red-head is murdered and her new best friend’s brother is the suspect. These are published by Barking Rain Press.
As you have a musical background, are you similar to this main character?
She’s much braver and more outgoing than I am! I get terrible stage fright and can’t perform solos with a little “helper” unfortunately. She’s also alone in the world. I tend to orphan my poor characters and Cressa is no exception. Our similarity lies in the music always running through both our heads.
You also have the People of the Wind Mystery series set in prehistoric times. The first book in this series was nominated for an Agatha Award for best historical novel. You even developed an entire language for this series. Tell us where you got your inspiration.
Another career path not taken, linguist. I seriously considered that one, all the way into college. That’s my inspiration for creating their language. The idea of using Neanderthals stemmed from all the publicity we’ve seen with deciphering the genome of one of them. It seemed as if discoveries were being made about them at least weekly, and many revelations are still coming out. I wanted to paint them in a more sympathetic light than has been standard. I’ve always loved the idea of the huge animals who inhabited the world until ten thousand years ago, so I wanted to write about them. Also, I read a quote from the author of a Greek or Roman series (or was is Egyptian?), saying the farther back in history you go, the better. Aha, I thought to myself. I can go back farther than that! So I did. This series, DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, and DEATH ON THE TREK, are published by Untreed Reads.
Your Fat Cat series have been national bestsellers. What do you think accounts for their popularity?
I attribute a lot to the covers. I think they’re what makes people pick the books up. I’ll have to take a bit of credit for the repeat readers, though. The books have a lot of loyal fans. The publisher, Berkley Prime Crime, is also responsible, since they are a major publisher and put books in actual bookstores. The first book was even sold in Walmart. That was a huge boost without me doing a thing. Except writing the book.
Share a little bit about your background.
I grew up in the Midwest and have been displaced for many years. I graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Russian Studies and ambitions as an interpreter. Instead, I married a fellow scholarship student and followed him around the country in the Air Force, corporate jobs, and finally the Methodist ministry. We did settle in Dallas for almost twenty years where I completed a computer degree and spent twelve happy years as a programmer before those jobs dried up. We have three children and seven grandkids. They’ve all turned out, so far, to be spectacular people.
How do you balance writing different series?
I can only work on one at a time. And I take a breather every once in a while and do some short stories. Short stories are actually my first love and come much more naturally than novels, but I love the challenge of a novel series, too.
I keep spreadsheets on my characters and plot lines so I can more easily pick up where I left off when I’ve written a book in one series, then come back to one in another series. Without details on appearance, mannerisms, vehicles, clothing preferences, and things like that, I’d never keep them straight. An editor once caught the fact that I had given Chase Oliver, of the Fat Cat books, Cressa Carraway’s car. Or vice versa. That’s with the spreadsheets.
When did you decide to become a writer and when did you start writing?
I made up stories before I could write, narrating my crayon drawings. I’ve been writing stories in various forms since I could hold a pencil. I used to draw cartoon strips and penned my first “novel” in about fifth grade. It was about three pages long, I think. I sent stories to “Atlantic” and “New Yorker” all during high school and college, and beyond, ending up with piles of rejections slips. When my husband became a minister in his fifties and we moved out of Dallas, we both decided I would leave programming and write full time. I wasn’t keen on being a minister’s wife and this made his new career choice much more acceptable for me.
What book/s are you reading at present?
I’m reading the latest Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, just finished a C. J. Box, and am starting a John Connolly. Those last two are for review for Suspense Magazine. That’s the only reviewing I do. I like that they send books I wouldn’t ordinarily pick sometimes (I would pick Box, though), and that stretches my reading horizons.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
If the writer wants to be traditionally published, as I did, I would repeat the advice several people gave to me in different forms. Don’t give up! Each rejection brings you closer to acceptance by an agent or an editor. Write, submit, revise, repeat. And find a way to gather with other writers. I highly recommend Sisters in Crime (which takes men and women, both), local chapters, and the online Guppy Chapter.
Is there anything else you would like to add that I haven’t included? What’s new?
I’ve announced in a couple of places that the Fat Cat series will be ending after book three. I didn’t anticipate that, and it makes me sad, of course. But my agent has a proposal for a new cozy series that I have high hopes for. If that one gets picked up, it was written as Kaye George. The Janet Cantrell name belongs to the Fat Cat series and won’t continue beyond that.
What is your favorite social media site?
I much prefer Facebook over Twitter. I just can’t get the hang of tweeting. Too wordy, I think.
How can readers discover more about you and your work?
and author page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kaye-George/114058705318095
Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B004CFRJ76
Thank you very much for taking the time out of your busy schedule to take part in this interview.
**Thanks so much for having me!