By Arlene Kay
This interview for The Big Thrill was conducted by my fiercest critic and greatest advocate—me. It reflects the comments and questions I receive from readers as I tour libraries/bookstores and any place that will host me in my ceaseless quest to promote this series.
The title of your novel (SWANN SONGS) sounds rather final. Is this really the end for those sultry, snarky sleuths from Boston? Say it isn’t so.
I love these characters and want them to enjoy a happy life living in the lap of luxury. After four books, the series came full circle and I decided to end it. Naturally for the right inducement, that situation could change. After all, if Conan Doyle could resurrect Sherlock, the same holds true for us lesser mortals. Spoiler alert: none of the main characters were eliminated so anything is possible.
I’m confused. You describe all seven of your published novels as “romantic suspense,” but they also contain elements of traditional mysteries, cozies, and romance—not to mention a healthy dose of humor. What’s going on?
In my view these categories are semantical distinctions geared more toward publishers and booksellers than readers. I am no purist and neither are my novels. They reflect life and human nature as I know it. Three elements are sacrosanct however: an intriguing mystery, a dollop of passion, and plenty of snark. Readers expect that and this series delivers.
As a reader, what misstep by an author alienates you forever?
I am and always have been a mystery buff. Despite being a sedentary former bureaucrat, I also consider myself an astute armchair detective. Give me the clues and I WILL solve your mystery. Rob me of that chance and you’ve lost me forever as a reader. I keep that in mind when writing my novels.
The SWANN series is rife with self-deprecating humor, particularly from Eja Kane. Does that come naturally or do you consciously strive to be funny.
Fortunately, I am naturally hilarious. (LOL). Humor must be organic, a dreadfully overused cliché but still useful. Some seminars claim to teach writers how to inject humor into their work. Save your money and be yourself. Contrived jokes are often painful failures that fall flat. On the other hand, humor done well is an elegant lubricant for any narrative. Consider the witty mystery novels by Elizabeth Peters and the great Gore Vidal (writing as Edgar Box), or the timeless works by Joseph Heller and Dorothy Sayers. They engage readers with repartee and sardonic asides by the main characters. My favorite contemporary example is Nelson DeMille’s crusty protagonist John Corey, a man after my own heart. Respect your readers and leave the slapstick routines to The Three Stooges.
Did you find humor in your prior profession?
Absolutely. I was a senior executive with the IRS, so self-deprecating humor armed me against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. All organizations, both public and private, resonate with unintentional humor. Find it, enjoy it and keep things in perspective.
What is your least favorite activity as an author?
Hands down, bookstore signings are utterly painful for me. Presentations for any size crowd don’t faze me one bit but retail sales— sitting at the signing table like a supplicant watching passers-by ignore you— sears my soul. Confession time: Most people consider me outgoing but on those occasions, shy, shamefaced Arlene resurfaces. Memories of being the new kid in a sea of mean girl cliques overwhelm me. Still, I welcome all opportunities to hawk my books. Masochism is a writer’s watch-word.
What makes SWANN SONGS unique?
Readers of fast paced, intelligent novels that are light on gore but filled with grit, will enjoy the entire SWANN saga. Try SWANN SONGS and I guarantee you’ll be hooked on the entire Boston Uncommons Series. Join me at a bookstore signing and I’ll fall all over you.
Arlene Kay spent twenty years as a Senior Executive with the Federal Government where she was known as a most unconventional public servant. Experience in offices around the nation allowed her to observe both human and corporate foibles and rejoice in unintentional humor.
To learn more about Arlene, please visit her website.