Kari: I see you've traveled around quite a bit and now live in Sedona Arizona. You own a general interest book store called The Well Red Coyote. Can you tell us what it's like being a book buyer? What do you look for when you buy books for your store?
Kris: That's such a huge topic, it's impossible to do justice to it in a few words. But briefly...an experienced bookseller comes to understand what will sell well in her store and what won't. To find titles that will work for us, we read loads of reviews and descriptions, in Publishers Weekly and other review outlets, and the publications published by the major wholesalers, Ingram and Baker & Taylor, as well as ARCs and other material publishers and authors send us (I review all the hard-copy material sent to us by authors, but I don't always make it through all the emails.). Good reviews and starred reviews influence me, of course, but I make up my own mind. Customers make suggestions, and they're often good. My best guide is what I call my "tingle" test. If I read a description, and I feel a little tingle, I know that book is for us. My tingle has rarely failed me.
Kari: You also teach writing online for the writers' program of the UCLA Extension School and your popular classes have been made into a DVD called Writing Killer Mysteries. Can you tell us more about what your classes involve?
Kris: I teach a variety of classes, but the mystery writing classes are my favorites. In September, the Writers' Program of the UCLA Extension School' will be offering my popular entry level writing class, "Committing the Perfect Crime: Writing Your First Mystery." One of the things I present in this class is my unusual approach to planning a mystery, with my three-angle method. That can also be found on my writing DVD, "Writing Killer Mysteries with Kris Neri," which a pair of my former students, owners of T2G Productions, produced. I'll also be offering a getting published one-week online course, "Approaching the Mystery Marketplace," in mid-August. I'm currently teaching a characterization workshop for the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. Whew! The next several months are truly my season of classes. All of my writing classes involve good assignments and lots of feedback and personal attention.
Kari: Your Tracy Eaton Mystery Series sounds fabulous. Can you tell us about the latest book Revenge For Old Time's Sake?
Kris: This madcap series features Tracy Eaton, the daughter of eccentric Hollywood stars,who uses unconventional means to solve crimes. Tracy has been trying to loosen up her stodgy lawyer husband, Drew. She succeeds to the extent that Drew pops his boorish boss, Ian Dragger, in the nose. The next time anyone sees Ian, he's floating face down in the Eatons' pool, and Drew becomes the prime suspect. Still, Tracy expects to clear her sweetie in short order. But that's before help arrives, her mother, over-the-top movie star, Martha Collins, who wants to be her daughter's sidekick, and Drew's mother, rigid-with-dignity, Charlotte. And when the mothers get together, the fireworks go off. These were the women, after all, who came to blows at their children's wedding reception. Obstacles mount higher still when Drew's ex, CeeCee Payne signs on his defense attorney. Given her strange choices, it isn't clear whether CeeCee wants Drew back, or whether revenge is what she's after. With the police and the media dogging Tracy's every step, she's unsure whether even her zaniest antics will be enough to save Drew.
Kari: Your newest mystery series sounds right up my alley. Can you tell us about book one High Crimes on the Magical Plane: A Samantha Brennan & Annabelle Haggerty Supernatural Mystery?
Kris: I've had such fun with this series, and that it received a Lefty Award nomination for Best Humorous Mystery of 2009, from Left Coast Crime 2010, was enormously gratifying. It features Samantha Brennan, fake psychic, and Annabelle Haggerty, genuine Celtic goddess and FBI agent. When Samantha happens onto the kidnapping of a movie star, she decides to rush to the FBI to appear to predict it. There she meets Annabelle Haggerty, her polar opposite, whom she considers a workaholic drone. Suddenly, the fake psychic begins experiencing genuine visions, and those visions drive the Bureau's case. Too bad the visions aren't hers, but Annabelle's, who is not the drone she appears to be, but everything Samantha claims to be, and more. Annabelle is a genuine goddess, keeping that under wraps in the FBI. Making it harder still is the fact that each woman is living the life the other secretly covets. Though they're up against some serious bad guys, they discover the fake and the goddess make a better team than either expects.
Kari: Do you write in other genres or do you plan to someday? If so, what ones?
Kris: I write both mystery and paranormal mystery/urban fantasy now, but my books also contain humor, action and romance (or paranormal romance). Any writer who doesn't put every possible tool into her toolbox is missing an important advantage. I use suspense techniques in my humorous mysteries, for instance. On a pure craft level, the difference between a taut thriller and a farcical mystery isn't as great as it might seem on the surface. Someday, I'd love to write a humorous general fiction novel, but every time I've tried to write mainstream short stories, dead bodies turn up in them. I'm going to have to work on that. For now, though, I'm plenty busy with urban fantasy and mysteries.
Kari: I love discovering new authors. Who are your favorite authors?
Kris: Oh, gosh! Where do I begin? I've always been a voracious reader, but becoming a bookseller has caused me to expand my reading tenfold!
In mysteries, I read across the soft-hard spectrum, everyone from Carolyn Hart and Earlene Fowler to Kent Krueger and Steve Hamilton, and in urban fantasy and classic fantasy, everyone from Charlaine Harris to Kat Richardson and Shirley Damsgaard to Diana Gabaldon and Naomi Novak; and way, way more in between.
Recently, I've enjoyed Sophie Littlefield's A BAD DAY FOR SORRY and David Cristofano's THE GIRL SHE USED TO BE. I'm looking forward to reading your forthcoming tweener title, THE SAMANTHA GRANGER EXPERIMENT: FUSED! I love kids' books!
Kari: Thanks so much for being here with us, Kris! You've inspired me to keep writing and making my books the best they can be. And I can't wait to check out the latest in both your series.