AUTHOR INTERVIEW – Kelly Oliver
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ABOUT THE BOOKS
The mystery begins in WOLF: Jessica’s philosophy professor is found dead, the murder weapon turns out to be a campus date-rape drug–and Jessica could be the next target. She teams up with mafia heir Dmitry Durchenkov to wrangle mobsters, match wits with a trio of feminist avengers, and lasso frat boys in order to rope in a murderer who’s read too much Existentialism–and who has just found a new victim.
Jessica’s adventures continue in Book 2, COYOTE (August 2016), when she travels to a Blackfoot reservation and joins forces with Kimi Redfox to expose sex trafficking, prostitution rings, and murder schemes involving the biggest frackers in the country.
INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR
- What initially got you interested in writing?
Of course, as a philosophy professor, I’m expected to write. I’ve written a lot of nonfiction books on various subjects from film noir to animal ethics. When I discovered writing after graduate school when I could write whatever I wanted, it was liberating. It gave my life a new meaning. For the last twenty years, I’ve written philosophy and nonfiction, and until lately it was very satisfying. But, a few years ago, writing philosophy started feeling a little routine. Anyway, I’d always wanted to write fiction. The trouble was, for decades I’d been trained to get right to the point and hit readers over the head with my thesis. With mystery, you have to do the opposite and hide the point, meander along, and create suspense.
I got the courage to switch from writing nonfiction to fiction after attending a Killer Nashville Mystery Writers’ Conference. The 2014 convention gave me just enough ammunition to make me dangerous. I wrote the first draft of Wolf in two months and spent the next two years editing it. During that same time, I also wrote Coyote, and alternated between editing one and then the other. During this same time, I wrote my last nonfiction book, Hunting Girls, too. So, I’ve been busy!
For decades, I’ve relied on nonfiction writing to keep me sane. Now, writing novels, I find even more pleasure in inventing characters and whole worlds. But, like everything fun that’s worth doing, it’s also hard work! And when you’re determined to finish that next novel, you can get saddle sores… not to mention cramps in your fingers.
- What genres do you write in?
As I mentioned, I write a lot of nonfiction books and they’re all on Amazon. Right now, I’m working on a nonfiction book on The Refugee Today. And, my most recent nonfiction book is Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape. Obviously, some of the issues in this book come up in my fiction, too. I got the idea for this book when I noticed so many popular young adult books and films featured tough girls hunting animals. I ended up interpreting YA books such as Twilight, The Hunger Games, and Divergent as contemporary versions of classic fairytales Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. If you want to know what this has to do with campus rape, check out the book!
And, of course, I write mystery novels. I plan to continue writing the Jessica James Cowgirl Philosopher Mysteries as long as folks want to read them. The third in the series will take Jessica back to Chicago where she’ll infiltrate an Ivy League egg harvesting black market ring operating out of the medical school. I hope to finish the nonfiction book over the summer and then turn my full attention back to Jessica and finish the next cowgirl philosopher mystery in the fall.
I’d also like to try my hand at more literary fiction, eventually.
- What drew you to writing these specific genres?
At first, I thought I’d never be able to write fiction because I’d always been too much of a straight shooter in my non-fiction writing. Then I realized, the reason I was attracted to philosophy in the first place was it was like being a detective, reading confusing stuff and trying to piece together its meaning from various clues—like trying to figure out the meaning of life! So in that regard, maybe writing philosophy isn’t such a far cry from writing detective novels. Both are about following the breadcrumbs to see where they lead.
- How did you break into the field?
Hopefully, I’m just breaking in!
- What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
A lot of my nonfiction work has dealt with important contemporary women’s issues. And, for my fiction, I’ve done a lot of research, and much of it has been very depressing. I hate to say it as a self-professed feminist, but I’ve found the stereotype of the overly serious feminist with no sense of humor is occasionally true. It is important to have a sense of humor about serious issues, not just in order to live with them and live through them, but also to read and write about them—at least for me. Humor and comedy allow us to face and process difficult issues that we might otherwise avoid or deny. A heavy hand is not going to be able to bring these issues to light and reach as many readers as a comic touch, so I sweeten the pot with humor and wit even as I take on issues of date-rape, human trafficking, and in the next installment….the hidden world of IVF and egg harvesting.
I like a good feminist revenge strong on plot and even stronger on character. In my novels, I want to create strong women characters who can take care of themselves and each other. My main character, Jessica James, is a former cowgirl who not only rides and shoots with the best of them, but also quotes Nietzsche and is the queen of witty comebacks. Her best friend, Lolita Durchenko, may be a Russian beauty running a high stake poker game that earned her the knick-name “the poker Tsarina,” but she’s also a black-belt in karate and doesn’t take shit from anybody. Then there’s a whole host of fun and funny secondary characters like Amber Bush, the rescue-remedy dropping hippy hacker from WOLF or Madge Blackthorn, the Blackfoot tribal police chief who keeps a big bag of candy in her squad car, which she distributes liberally, along with slugs from her Beretta Storm shotgun.
- What do you find most rewarding about writing?
I love writing! It gives meaning to my life and helps me cope with the difficulties and pain of life. I really don’t know what I would do without it.
- What do you find most challenging about writing?
Finding a position to write in that doesn’t hurt my body! I can’t sit at a desk any more or my shoulders hurt. I tried standing for a couple of years, but then my feet hurt. And now I slump in an easy chair, which isn’t so great for my back! Other than the physical discomfort, there’s that final push when you’re half way done and still have another hundred plus pages to go. Oh, and then there’s trying to type without disturbing the cat on my lap!
- What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Plan on doing a lot of hard work and write every day. I find it best to save the mornings for writing, even an hour or two goes a long way, if you do it every day.
- What type of books do you enjoy reading?
I like all sorts of books: Mysteries, of course, but also chick lit, literary fiction, classics, and then philosophy.
- Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
I love to x-country ski and hike. And I miss the mountains every single day. Nashville is pretty flat compared to where I come from.
- What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
Check out my website at kellyoliverbooks.com, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
KELLY OLIVER is Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University and well-known feminist philosopher. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles. Her work has been translated into seven languages, and she has been featured in the The New York Times and on ABC television news. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime.