A few months ago I read a very good mystery by award-winning author Karen E. Olson so when the opportunity came up to do a Q&A with her as she goes on a virtual book tour to promote her new book I knew I couldn’t pass it up. So sit back and enjoy the Q&A!
BG: For those readers who aren’t familiar with your series could you tell us a bit about Annie Seymour and the books?
KO: Annie Seymour is a police reporter for a fictional New Haven newspaper. She’s tough-talking with a self-deprecating sense of humor. When we first meet her in SACRED COWS, she has been dating a police detective but runs across an old high school classmate who’s now a private detective and sparks fly. The books are all set in New Haven, which has a great history and gritty neighborhoods as well as being home to Yale University. I try to bring the city alive in the books as much as the characters. SACRED COWS is set at Yale, SECONDHAND SMOKE in the city’s Little Italy, and DEAD OF THE DAY in Fair Haven, which is home to thousands of illegal immigrants. I’ve called the books journalism procedurals, since Annie is covering stories in each and the reader can see what a reporter’s job is like. Although in my 20-plus years as a journalist, I never owned a gun or was held at gunpoint.
BG: How did Annie Seymour come about? Was she a character you had been thinking of for a while?
KO: I wrote two other mysteries before SACRED COWS, both with journalist characters. But they were rather bland, and I really couldn’t make them come alive. When I started writing Annie, I knew her. She talks like most of the reporters and editors I’ve worked with, and she’s very ethical and committed to her work. I knew when I first heard her voice that she had a lot of stories to tell.
BG: Your third book DEAD OF THE DAY is out now, and I understand you also have sent in your fourth book to your editor. Do you find that it becomes harder or easier as you continue to develop the series?
KO: The series is definitely harder to write with each book. That said, Annie is easier, because the longer I write her the more I know how she’ll behave and what she’ll say in each situation. But I don’t want to write the same book over and over, so I am trying to change it up with each one. For instance, DEAD OF THE DAY has a lot more action, is more thriller-like than the first two books. And in the fourth book, SHOT GIRL, Annie is an unreliable narrator. That was a real challenge.
BG: You also keep a blog, First Offenders, with three other writers. How did that come about and has it helped you reach out to readers?
KO: I met Jeff Shelby, Alison Gaylin and Lori Armstrong at Bouchercon, an annual mystery convention, in Chicago in 2005. We were on the “first time’s a thrill” panel. Since we didn’t know anyone else, we hung out together all weekend. The last night of the convention, Jeff suggested that we start a group blog. Within a month it was up and running. It’s been great fun, and we’ve gotten ourselves a nice group of what we call Friends of First Offenders (FOFOs), most of whom are other crime writers and fans.
BG: I am sure everyone always asks this but I always love to hear about the actual writing. Do you have any writing habits or rules that you follow?
KO: I really don’t. I started writing seriously when I was working nights as a copy editor. I’d get home at 2 a.m. and write for an hour or two when the house was quiet. When I started working days, I had to fit the writing around my full-time job and my daughter and husband. I would try to write an hour each day, and it just depended when I could find that hour. It was usually around 9 p.m. Fortunately, being a journalist, I don’t have to wait for a muse to come, I can just sit down and write and then stop after my allotted time. Now I work part-time editing a medical journal at Yale, and I get home about 1:30. My daughter doesn’t get off the bus until 3:30, and she’s got five hours of choir rehearsal after school each week, so I’ve got more time to write. It’s a real luxury.
BG: Do you read a lot of mysteries or do you prefer to read a different genre? Any recent favorite reads?
KO: I do read a lot of crime fiction. One of the things I’ve enjoyed is meeting other new writers as well as seasoned authors, and my library keeps growing. One book that really blew me away this past summer was Gillian Flynn’s SHARP OBJECTS. My fellow bloggers Alison Gaylin and Lori Armstrong both have new books out this fall, too, and they’re fantastic. That said, I do read non-genre books, too, and most recently re-read Alice Hoffman’s TURTLE MOON and just finished Da Chen’s BROTHERS. I also have an obsession with Henry VIII and his wives and children, and I’ve got a lot of biographies about them on my shelves.
BG: If you could meet a literary sleuth(s) who would it be?
KO: I’m not sure who I’d like to meet, but Annie would have a helluva time with Lori Armstrong’s Julie Collins and Mary-Ann Tirone Smith’s Poppy Rice. I could see the three of them kicking back a few beers. I’d like to be a fly on the wall in that bar.
BG: So what is next for you? Are you already busy at work on the next Annie Seymour mystery?
KO: SHOT GIRL is the fourth in the series, and it’s the last one in my contract. I’m hoping my publisher will want me to continue, and I’ve written a proposal for a fifth book. I’m also working on a non-series standalone. It’s a crime novel, but with a more literary, and historical, twist.
Thank you Karen for the interview!
Karen E. Olson’s mystery series featuring Annie Seymour include the books: Sacred Cows, Secondhand Smoke, and the just published Dead of the Day. To read more about Karen you can also visit her web site.