Tuesday, February 24, 2009
An Interview with Kate Collins
Today, JRW welcomes Kate Collins, the author of the popular Flower Shop Mysteries. Her books have made the Barnes & Noble mass market mystery bestsellers lists, the Independent Booksellers lists, and are available in large print editions in the U.S. and the UK. Kate’s eighth book in the series, EVIL IN CARNATIONS, is a February, 2009, release. Kate and her husband divide their time between their Indiana home, Key West, and Chicago.
JRW: Welcome Kate! Have you always wanted to write?
KATE: Seriously? I never even liked writing checks. In school, I especially hated essays. If someone had told me I would one day write entire novels, I would have punched that person out (especially while laboring over horrible eighth grade writing assignments like, “Describe your life as an inanimate object.”) I knew by second grade that I wanted to be a teacher, and nothing would deter me from that goal.
JRW: What changed your mind?
KATE: It wasn’t until after I’d earned a master’s degree in education, taught elementary school for six years, had two children, and took lessons in tole painting, cross stitch, needlework, crochet, embroidery, rug hooking, macrame, gardening, and sewing, before I discovered I had a flair for telling stories. (It wasn’t like I didn’t already know. My mother had stood me in the corner many times for “telling stories.”) I truly enjoyed my years of teaching all those little open minds, but I hated the politics. So many rules! So many forms! Such a stifling environment for someone with a muse clamoring for attention. I eventually took a correspondence course, started selling short stories to children’s magazines, worked my way into historical romance, and finally found my calling in mysteries.
JRW: How did you come up with the character of sleuth Abby Knight?
KATE: Writing a mystery with a humorous undertone and a dash of romance called for a spunky sleuth. So I created a short but feisty female knight-in-shining armor (hence the last name Knight) who gets booted out of law school and scrapes up enough money for the down payment on a little flower shop named Bloomers.
As popular as Abby is with fans of the series, I think her romance with the sexy owner of the Down the Hatch bar, Marco Salvare, keeps them hooked. Another popular character is Abby’s mother, a kindergarten teacher who believes she’s an artist and foists a different, hilarious creation on Abby to sell at her shop in each book. And I haven’t even mentioned Abby’s sidekicks, Lottie and Grace, or fashionista cousin Jillian, the woman readers love to hate. I guess you’ll have to read about them.
JRW: Are any of Abby’s family or friends based on people from your own life?
KATE: Abby’s father. My father was also a cop, a man who wouldn’t take bribes or play politics, and was punished for it by being passed over for promotions for many years. Unlike Abby’s father, who is paralyzed and wheelchair bound because of a stroke he suffered while chasing down a drug dealer, my father’s stroke happened just after he retired from the force at the age of 54, and he died three years later. He was honored several times for his bravery and always downplayed it. Being familiar with the ways of cops, good and bad, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with them. I admire their courage, but hate when they use their authority for the wrong purposes.
JRW: Why did you switch from historical romance to mysteries?
KATE: It wasn’t much of a switch because my romances were actually mystery-suspense novels using romance as the springboard. When the American historical market started to dry up, (the call then was for more Regencies, which I didn’t enjoy) I decided to go with my true love, mysteries, then add a touch of romance to it. Plus, my muse, having been a longtime fan of Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden, said I had to. When Muse talks, Kate listens.
So, who in their right mind would ever want to become a writer and have to put up with muses?
I’ll admit it’s a problem. Muses are often noisy around 4 a.m. I’ve had some seriously good sleep interrupted by mine. However, as a left-handed writer, I’ve been told I’m always in my right mind, (but not by my husband) so I really have no choice. I must write.
JRW: What is your writing schedule? Do you only write when the mood strikes?
KATE: If I had to wait for a mood to strike I’d never finish a book. What strikes most often is fear. Fear of missing a deadline, fear of having to work around the clock to make the deadline, fear of phone calls from people wanting to chat during my deadline rush, and fear of my bladder bursting from too many cups of green tea. I’m at the computer by nine in the morning, break for lunch at noon, back to work at one o’clock, and out the door for a walk by four in the afternoon. I treat it as a job, but I love it as a passion.
JRW: So what did you write about for that eighth grade “describe your life as an inanimate object” assignment?
KATE: A spoon. It was a stirring piece.
JRW: OUCH! For that you get to answer our Jungle red quiz.
Sex or Chocolate? I have a choice? I thought they came as a unit, you know, like eggs and bacon. . . well, never mind. I’ll go with chocolate. Let’s not say anything to my husband, okay?
Daniel Craig or Pierce Brosnan? Pierce, definitely. He’s a gentleman on the outside, but there’s a mischievous sparkle in his eyes that says there’s a bad boy beneath that tux just dying for a reason to come out.
Three true things about you and one lie; we'll guess which.
I speak and read passable French. I love to cook. I am hooked on the TV show LOST. I can’t stand any noise around me when I write. Have at it.