Thanks for being here, Liz. A Fresh Set of Eyes is a such an interesting book. Part procedural, part puzzle. I have lots of questions about the book, but let me ask this first:
Given all you do in your "real" life (single mother of four with a full-time job) and social media (Twitter, FaceBook, etc), how do you carve out time to write?
*laughs* I have learned to write whenever five spare minutes presents itself. And I’ve learned when I need to give myself a break. We all need times to recharge—emotionally and physically, and in the case of writers, creatively.
You've written quite an assortment of books and have a special fondness for vampires. (see http://www.lizstrange.com/ for more info). What made you go for David Lloyd, human?
I was inspired by a couple of different things: my love of mysteries and m/m romance and a crime that happened in my hometown. About ten years ago a young police officer was attacked (beaten and stabbed) in a suspected retaliation crime, but the case was never solved. I played with this, deciding to make the crime against the character of David Lloyd one of homophobia and transplanted it to Toronto, a bigger, more urban city than where I live. This seemed like a straight-up, old-school PI story, and things have gone from there. The only ‘monsters’ in this book are regular people.
Follow up: Is there a genre you like best that you might stick with for the future or do you prefer mixing it up?
I like having some variety, in my writing and reading, though I tend to stick in the fantasy/horror mystery genres, usually with a splash of romance.
Your main character, David, is gay. Was that a conscious decision on your part as the author, or did he come to you fully-formed already? If you were in charge of that decision, why did you choose for him to be gay? In other words, what does it add to the story?
I think having a GLBT character gives the story a depth it may not have had otherwise. There’s layers to work with—personal, societal, even religious- and that makes the story richer (imo). Plus I have a strong affiliation with GLBT community, and like to present positive, non-stereotypical/cliched characters to readers. It’s a chance to learn, sympathize, change opinions or strengthen them.
David and his partner, Jamie, have a lovely relationship in AFSOE. How do their jobs (PI and lawyer) affect their personal relationship? Do you foresee problems in their future?
The biggest obstacle Jamie and David face is Jamie’s reluctance to be “out”. It puts a lot of strain on their relationship, and ultimately spills over to other areas of their lives.
A Fresh Set of Eyes is based on a real case. Did that make it harder or easier (or have no effect) on writing your book?
Both. I was very fascinated by the whole account, from the investigation to the trial to the long-standing efforts to free the men from jail. I wanted to both honour the story, and give it my own unique twists.
I can imagine the research you had to do for this novel, as well as keeping all the characters straight, as there are quite a few suspects and witnesses to track. Can you give us any tips on how you managed that (software or other organizational methods)?
A lot of re-reading, notes, and ongoing edits. Mysteries are much harder to write, from exactly what you mentioned—keeping facts, incidents and characters straight, to planting enough hints and red herrings to keep the readers engaged with the story.
Plus I do a lot of research, from crime articles, to legal terms/conditions, geography and history of different towns/countries and time periods. Even things like slang, local food, clothing, music, it all ads texture to your story, and to be honest I love it. I love doing research!
Do you plot it all out beforehand or fly into the mist? Does that change depending on genre?
I’m a real write-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of author, but with mysteries I can’t work that way 100% of the time. I have more freedom with my fantasy and horror stories.
I'm a flier too, so I’m staggered by all the research and plotting necessary for a mystery. Now, I borrowed this next question from another interviewer because I love it!
At a high school career day, you are asked to tell all the ins and outs of good writing skills and getting published. Name three important elements in writing, publishing and promoting that you would give them.
- Write as much as you can, and don’t be afraid to take risks—try new genres and formats, mix it up.
- Find some readers/authors/editors whose opinions you trust, and learn to take advice and constructive criticism. They’re only trying to help make your work shine!
- Expect rejection. We all get it, and it’s never fun, but just a fact of the business.
What is the first book you recall reading? Any favorite authors from childhood?
The Monster’s Nose Was Cold was my favourite children’s book. I loved The Island of the Blue Dolphin, A Wrinkle in Time and the Three Investigators books when I was a kid. Then I moved onto Stephen King, Dean Koontz and Anne Rice and I was set!!
I love Koontz and King when I want to read excellent horror. Would you like to share an insight on anything else you're working on?
I have a YA fantasy novel coming out, based on Welsh mythology. I’m really excited about it!! I’m a big mythology/history nerd and have a real fondness for all things Welsh, so this book was a great joy to write, and a big challenge, as I’d never tired YA before.
Watch for: Fair Folk in Knob’s End (The Daughters of Annwn 1) from Featherweight Press.
Thank you so much for being here, Liz. It's been a delight.
Megan Kelly is the author of the Christmas in Stilton series, SANTA DEAR (book one, available now) and HOLLY & IVEY (book two due out December 1), as well as four Harlequin American Romances, available in digital format. Please visit her website or Twitter