Welcome to Mystery Mondays. I took a break last weekend to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. The funnest part. A bear came by and checked us out at Happy Hour. He climbed a tree, so he could see us on our balcony. How Canadian is that?
We’re also celebrating the 2nd anniversary of Mystery Mondays. I’d like to take a moment and than all the wonderful authors who have contributed. You know who you are and you rock!
To kick off the third year of Mystery Monday, we have author Kelley Bowles here to talk about how she became a mystery writer!
Kelley Bowles on Becoming a Mystery Writer:
I am a Pacifist. My whole family is a pack of Pacifists. Proof of our Pacifism, beyond the fact that I must gently deposit all spiders outside, is shown in a much-loved family story. My father, when he was 17, was taken deer hunting. This happened in 1950, when definitions of masculinity were, however right or wrong you feel this is, more clearly defined. Hunting is manly, and was considered a crucial rite of passage for many generations of men.
For my father, (who was in my opinion very manly,
but, you know—he’s Daddy) as soon as he picked up the gun and pointed it at the deer he put it right back down. “The deer and I made eye contact,” he said, “and that was all she wrote.” He never picked up a gun or raised a fist to another living thing, on two legs or four, ever again. Well, he did slam some guy’s arm in a door once, but that guy was trying to steal a camera from his office!
I, personally, have never owned or used a gun or even been in a fight, although I broke up a few during my 20 years of teaching. But I love murder mysteries. I’ve loved them since before I’d read every possible Nancy Drew, Trixie Belden, and Encyclopedia Brown I could find, and I learned this from my father.
He was a voracious reader and a lifetime learner, who by the age of 32 hadn’t figured out what to do with his hundreds of college credits that had never turned into any kind of degree. He asked my mother, who was his girlfriend at the time, what he oughta do with his life. She said, ‘Well, how many books do you have?’ He said, ‘I dunno…five thousand?’ ‘Why don’t you open a store?’ was her response.
So he did—in 1966 he opened a used bookstore way before the idea became normal (I call him the ‘inventor’ of the used bookstore). He ran the bookstore for 40 years and always forwent some of his sales to bring his favorite books home to my mother, my sister and me. No question about it, the mysteries, thrillers and spy games were his favorites, and consequently became mine. Now I even write them!
The question then becomes WHY?
Why does this family of Pacifists revel so in humanity’s worst behavior? This is a question people ask me, and I ask myself, all the time. I remember watching my dad fly through book after book, from Elmore Leonard to Clive Cussler to Agatha Christie, and he never slowed down and he never tired of the genre. I am more of a Harlan Coben Sarah Paretzky James Lee Burke kinda gal, but I feel the same way. And writing them? Fuggedaboutit. I practically salivate at the thought of solving the mystery, whether I’m writing my own or inhaling somebody else’s. None of us want to cause death or think too much about dying, but we love these stories about it SO MUCH! I think, for me it’s as much about looking at what good things people can do in the face of bad behavior as anything.
The cozy mystery series I write, called Chalkboard Outlines®, follows Emma Lovett and Leslie Parker, two high school English teachers in the fictional town of Pinewood, Colorado. They are way into Shakespeare, an obsession of many real or imagined English teachers, and his quotes and stories are integral to the books. Shakespeare, in my opinion, knew more about human nature than…anyone, really. It’s turning out to be a wonderful element for cozy mystery amateur sleuths who have more than a passing knowledge of him and his themes—the ladies can tap into his vast understanding of humanity when they’re searching for a killer (Shakespeare understands our love of the murder mystery, for sure!). I love seeing what good things Emma, Leslie and the other characters in the books try to do in the face of bad behavior.
I, also, was a high school teacher in an actual Colorado town. The high school setting is such a perfect place to examine this theme. I’ll be honest–sometimes it was tough to be a Pacifist there. J But as far school being this macrocosm of the larger society, with every possible character and event, outlook and reaction on display, it was a writer’s dream. Thomas Jefferson High School in my books is based on my Colorado school (and the one in Lake Tahoe where I landed my first teaching job), but when people ask me if the characters are based on real people, the answer is no. But also yes, because I draw from a huge pile of things that I’ve seen and experienced in this tiny universe. It’s the perfect place to continue my journey to answer the question of why this Pacifist is obsessed with murder mysteries!
I’m super excited to say the Chalkboard Outlines® adventure endures! The first book, Death by Diploma, published by Red Adept Publishing, came out in February 2016 and went #1 for Cozy Mystery on Amazon in August. Book 2, Poison by Punctuation, is under contract with RAP and will be released in early 2018. I am currently working on book 3, working title Strangled by Simile. I’d love to hear from other mystery lovers about their own answers to the question of why!
Kelley’s Mystery Novel:
Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends.
Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest.
As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.