Interview: Guest Kathleen Kaska


 We continue from yesterday, when I posted a review of one of Kathleen Kaska’s trivia books, What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q?  Today, please welcome Kathleen as she and I talk about her writing, and especially, her great trivia books about mystery authors.

 

In writing these three trivia books, what surprising or amazing facts did you learn about each of your subjects?

Agatha Christie lived in a world of happy-ever-after, until life dealt her some hard knocks.

Alfred Hitchcock lived in a world of manipulation and images, and often dished out hard knocks.

Sherlock Holmes lives, period.

            I also learned that for much of her writing career, especially in the beginning, Agatha Christie considered her craft a hobby more than a profession. She eventually realized she needed to learn the business of writing to conquer some of the professional obstacles she encountered.

With Alfred Hitchcock, I discovered that he was a practical joker, often victimizing and humiliating his leading actors with his antics.

            Arthur Conan Doyle wanted to be remembered for his historical novels rather than for his Sherlock Holmes novels and stories. He was into mysticism and spiritualism and held séances to try to contact his deceased mother.

What gave you the idea to write mystery trivia books?

            When I decided to try my hand at writing, I naturally planned for my first book to be a mystery, but I knew that non-fiction was easier to get published. At the time, trivia books were just becoming popular, and since I had read Agatha Christie’s complete collection, I decided it would be fun to write the Agatha Christie trivia book. I was right. I truly enjoyed rereading each book and story. And being a novice mystery writer, the research gave me a chance to dissect and analyze her writing, which turned out to be a valuable learning tool when I began writing my own mysteries.

How did you come up with the title?

            When the Christie book was first released in 1996, the title was What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q? The two subsequent trivia books on Hitchcock and Holmes were titled Triviography and Quiz Books. When my new publisher, LL-Publications, reissued all three, we changed the Christie title to match the other two. I like the new word “Triviography,” because my books are not merely trivia books. I also give background information on Christie, Hitchcock, and Conan Doyle. It’s a novel way to learn about what these three creative minds were doing when they were writing and what influenced them.

What would you like your readers to come away with after reading your three trivia books?

            I’d like them to become so enthralled that they purchase countless copies and give them for Christmas gifts. Seriously, in reading the trivia questions and background information, I’m hoping the readers will glean a greater understanding of the motivation of these three creative geniuses. Also, I hope they have fun answering the questions and working the crossword puzzles.

What are your current projects?Can you share a little of your current work with us?

            I also write the Sydney Lockhart mystery series. Right now, I’m working on book number four, Murder at the Driskill. The stories are set in historic hotels in the early 1950s. Several readers have paid me an extraordinary compliment by telling me that my characters and writing style remind them of Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum series.

            In September, I have a nonfiction book coming out. This project has been near and dear to my heart for several years. It is a true-life mystery and adventure story about the Audubon ornithologist who worked diligently to save the endangered whooping crane from extinction. The title is The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: Robert Porter Allen’s Odyssey; it is published by University Press of Florida. My goal in writing this book was to make a difference in the world of conservation and to tell Bob Allen’s incredible story.

            And, of course, I’m working on my fourth mystery-triviography book. Except for a few close friends, I’m not giving away the title of this one yet. However, one might pick up a few hints from reading my blog.

Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?

            Time is always a challenge for me. Sometimes I feel like I’m a slave to time. That doesn’t mean I don’t use it wisely or have trouble finding the time to write. I write everyday. The trouble is, I have so many ideas and projects going on, I simply need more hours in a day.

What book are you reading now?

            At least once a year, I pick up a classic. I just finished rereading Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and now I’m reading Dickens’A Tale of Two Cities. Talk about contrasting styles. After Hemingway’s short sentences and tight prose, I’m finding it difficult to get used to Dickens’ florid style and melodrama. But I will stay with it because I love the story.

What do you do when you’re not writing? What are your hobbies? How do they enhance your writing?

            I shop for shoes. Just kidding. Actually, I love shoe shopping, but I’d be living in a tent if I allowed myself that luxury very often.I love anything outdoors, especially bird watching. The Texas coast is a perfect place to see migratory birds, and I spend a lot of time there. I also enjoyed scuba diving in the Caribbean, but I’ve recently added a new activity to my fun list. I’ve started running half-marathons with my three sisters and my niece. We recently ran the Austin ½ Marathon and the New Orleans ½ Marathon (my youngest sister often runs the full marathon—go figure). Next November, we plan to run the race in Savannah. It’s a great way for us to enjoy a long weekend together. It keeps us from spending too much money shopping, although I must say, the shoe stores in Savannah are alluring.

            I get my best ideas when I’m running, hiking, cycling, or just setting on an observation platform waiting for a bird to fly by. When I exercise, it’s like having a metronome in my head that relaxes me and allows the ideas to flow. This is when I solve plotting problems or simply get the best ideas for my stories.

Thanks for coming, Kathleen. I’m so glad your books are being re-printed and can’t wait to read your mystery novels! And for all of you who want to know more about Kathleen and her writing, you can find her at kathleenkaskawrites.blogspot.com 

Kathleen Kaska is the author of the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first mystery, Murder at the Arlington, won the 2008 Salvo Press Manuscript Contest. This book, along with her second mystery, Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country. Before bringing Sydney into the world of murder and mayhem, Kathleen published three mystery-trivia books: (What’s Your Agatha Christie I.Q.?(newly titled The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book), The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book. All three books are being reissued in May 2012 by LL-Publications.