S.G Tell us about yourself?
T.K. I’ve always been a word person. I’ve had a career as a writer of technical, business, and marketing material, along with the occasional executive speech and feature article. I still have a day job managing technical writers. But I’m a latecomer to the fiction-writing game. Believe it or not, I never wrote fiction. I read it every chance I got—I should put that in the present tense, because I still do! But it wasn’t until about eleven years ago that I woke up with a scene in my head that I couldn’t shake.
T.K. Ever since I had the idea for the first Kate Reilly Racing Mystery (Dead Man’s Switch), I knew I wanted to set a book during a 24-hour race. And when I say “during,” I mean the book would take place entirely within the span of the race. Originally, I thought I’d start with the green flag and end with the checkers, and though I had to modify that approach just a bit—I gave myself about an hour more—that’s basically what happens in Avoidable Contact. My point in doing so was to try to convey to readers through experience just how long an 24-hour endurance race really is.
Once I knew my parameters of time and location—Kate can’t leave the track while she’s part of a four-person team sharing driving duties in the Corvette racecar—I decided I wanted to focus on a bad guy in the paddock. Now that I’m writing about fictional bad deeds in the racing world, I hear lots of stories about real-life lawbreakers my racing sources have known. I wanted to focus on a character who was obviously bad, but who’d never been convicted, and explore the idea of how he’d be treated and why.
S.G. Can you tell us a little about what you are working on now?
T.K. I’m in the planning stages for the fourth book in the series. It’ll be set at the Long Beach Grand Prix weekend, which is near where I live and which I’ve been to four or five times. I’m going to leave Kate in the Los Angeles area for most of 10 days and let her experience the good, the bad, and the ugly LA has to offer. Kate will be coaching a female movie star for the Grand Prix weekend’s annual celebrity race, and that will lead to Kate getting the full Hollywood experience, from a movie set, to a premiere, to paparazzi dogging her steps. I’ll also make sure Kate gets to the beach, to hipster bars and art openings, and to some historical Los Angeles locations and activities. I love LA, and I see it clearly—the glamour all the way down to the poverty—and I want to share my vision with readers. Of course, there will be a dead body along the way—this is a mystery, after all!
S.G. What inspired you to become a writer?
T.K. Reading. In my life, reading has always been my sanity, my escape, my comfort food, and my drug. I love stories and seeing worlds take shape in my imagination because of a writer’s words. I love playing with language to create carefully nuanced meaning. I’m fascinated by how language influences how we see the world and how we relate to each other—so fascinated that I studied that topic in college. I think it was inevitable, really, that I would have a career of words. The fiction, as I mentioned above, was less certain. But at some point, I think I filled up the well of my own inspiration enough to be able to start drawing from it.
S.G What hobbies do you have that are not writing related?
T.K. My two main hobbies are probably what you’d consider writing-related: reading (research, honestly!) and watching or attending races. Of course, only I would call “being a racing fan” related to writing! But it’s related to mine, and it’s essential. In my spare time from the day job or from writing or promoting my fiction, I read racing news sites, blogs, or magazines, and most weekends I watch at least part of some race on television. I also get to about three races in-person in any given year. Beyond that, I go for walks with my husband, exercise a little, and try to keep food in the house!
T.K. I wrote the book I wanted to read. I’m a reader first, and I inhale mysteries all year long. I love learning something new as a side dish to a fun puzzle, interesting characters, and an engaging plot. When I discovered the racing world—which I hadn’t known anything about—I thought it was perfect for a mystery. In fact, I’ve joked that I don’t know why there aren’t more real-life murders, given the high adrenaline, the speed, the lifestyle of living on the edge, the high cost, the glamour, and the celebrity. But the reality is that the racing community is close-knit and very much like a family, which I find a fascinating contrast with the on-track effort! I wanted to share the ups and downs, as well as the glamour and the family side with other readers.