Kate Carlisle, New York Times bestselling author of the Bibliophile Mysteries, had a fascination with books from an early age. As young as six, she created books from paper, cardboard, and string, and has since taken numerous book binding classes. Prior to writing the Bibliophile Mysteries—Homicide in Hardcover, If Books Could Kill, and The Lies That Bind—Carlisle worked for many years on a variety of game and other television shows. It was her life-long love of books that inspired the Bibliophile Mysteries and the creation of her protagonist, bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright. In addition to the Bibliophile Mysteries, Carlisle also writes romance novels for Harlequin.
Contributing editor Janice Gable Bashman chats with Kate Carlisle about The Lies That Bind and her writing process.
Whenever bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright “comes in contact with a beautiful rare book, somebody always dies.” Give us the quick scoop on The Lies That Bind.
In The Lies That Bind, Brooklyn Wainwright is back home in San Francisco, teaching a bookbinding class at a local book arts center. The director of the center is a real piece of work, and any number of people would love to see her dead, including Brooklyn. There’s a particularly nasty villain and several juicy murders, and in this book, Brooklyn learns some startling details about two favorite men from previous books, Derek Stone and Gabriel. And just for fun, because Brooklyn teaches a bookbinding class in this story, I included a bookbinding glossary as an added feature.
What makes Brooklyn Wainwright the perfect protagonist?
I love Brooklyn as a protagonist because she’s basically a normal, good-hearted person. She’s smart and loyal, loves to eat good food and drink good wine, and she has a great sense of humor. She’s like your best friend, if your best friend continually stumbled over dead bodies. Also, Brooklyn is a bookbinder, specializing in rare book restoration. Rare books are so fascinating and often wrapped in mystery, so it just makes sense that some of them would be the impetus for murder.
Each of your novels in this series has your protagonist working on a specific book. What book is Brooklyn working on in The Lies that Bind, and what is its significance to the story?
The significant book in this story is an early edition copy of Oliver Twist. As the story begins, Brooklyn brings the director the book she has so lovingly restored for her. An argument ensues and murder follows shortly thereafter! Also, the themes of Oliver Twist resound in The Lies That Bind. An added “Twist,” if you will!
You stated it is your “sacred duty to research [your] novels thoroughly.” How do you accomplish this, and how long does the research typically take?
Ah, I believe I wrote that phrase in reference to my scouring the pubs of Edinburgh to soak up the local, er, color. Very important and sacred, indeed! For The Lies That Bind, since the story revolves around a bookbinding class, I was able to call to mind the many bookbinding classes I’ve taken over the years. Brooklyn’s teaching style is derived from several wonderful bookbinding experts I’ve known. And the book arts center in my book is patterned after the fabulous San Francisco Center for the Book, which specializes in both bookbinding and print arts. I make numerous trips to San Francisco every year because my family is there, so I’m able to explore the neighborhoods and places Brooklyn would visit. I also make it a point to drive up to the Sonoma Wine Country where Brooklyn’s family’s commune is situated. Because the commune members own a winery and vineyards, I feel compelled to go wine tasting several times a year. It’s my sacred duty, after all.
In using dialogue to help advance the plot and develop characters, what do you find challenging about this process, and how do you overcome it?
As a writer, I enjoy writing dialogue most of all. I think it’s because my books are always character driven—and I like my characters! But because I write in two different genres, the biggest challenge for me is to find my way back to the voice of my mystery protagonist. It usually takes me a few chapters of banter between the characters to get the rhythm of my dialogue down. The best way to make sure it’s working for me is to read the book aloud. That way, I can tell if the dialogue—as well as the narrative, since I write in first person—sounds natural. If I can make myself laugh, that’s a huge bonus.
What advice can you give aspiring writers?
I passionately urge aspiring writers to never give up. Persistence is the key, and since it took me twenty years to get published, I know what I’m talking about! Study the craft, study the business, and join groups like ITW, MWA, Sisters in Crime and RWA to meet people who will be your friends and help you grow. And then sit down and write the damn book! When you’re finished, celebrate, then write another one. Find people you trust to give you intelligent feedback, re-write a lot, then start querying agents. You may receive dozens of rejections, some of them heartbreaking, but don’t you dare give up. Get mad, get even, keep writing. When you finally receive “THE CALL,” you’ll have the best revenge of all.
What’s next for Kate Carlisle?
I’ve recently completed the fourth book in the Bibliophile Mystery series, Murder Under Cover, out in May 2011. And some readers might know that I’ve started writing romance novels for Harlequin. My second romance will be out next month, December 2010. I hope everyone will stop by my Kate Carlisle Books page on Facebook where we have tons of laughs every day.