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blood-ties.jpgBy Mary Kennedy

Recently I sat down with Kay Hooper, the author of Blood Ties, the latest in the Bishop/Special Crimes Unit series.

Your plots are wonderfully complex, do you map everything out ahead of time, or do you make changes as you go?

I’m a seat-of-the-pants writer, so much so that I seldom know for certain what’s going to happen in the next chapter. I have realized over the years that my subconscious is working away on the plot, “seeding” bits and pieces of information that mean nothing to me consciously – until later in the book. It’s not at all uncommon for me to mutter, halfway through the book, some variation of, “Oh, that’s why he said that in Chapter 2!” Discovering the story pretty much as the readers do is, for me, a big part of the joy of writing.

What’s the biggest challenge in writing a series? Is it difficult to weave in the backstory and yet keep the pulse-pounding action going forward?

Yes. <G> It’s tricky at times, especially since I’m thirteen books in and by now there’s a lot of backstory. I have to walk a fine line between providing enough information for new readers without boring longtime readers who already know the stories to date. But since all the titles with the exception of the BLOOD trilogy are stand-alones with self-contained plots, usually all I really want to do is hint at just enough of the continuing characters’ backstories to make new readers curious enough to go looking for those books as well.

Can you tell us something about your commitment to animal welfare? I know that it’s an important part of your life and that you are involved in rescue efforts in North Carolina.

Yes, I first became truly aware of the terrible animal welfare situation in this area when I adopted my first shelter rescue, Bandit. Visiting the 50-year-old, dilapidated “shelter” was a chilling eye-opener for me, and I knew I had to do something. I got involved with a local rescue group, and within a very short time we were spearheading a drive to build a new, more spacious, and up-to-date facility. It’s been a long road, one we’re still trudging along, but we’ve made progress. We also provide low-cost spay/neuter services, emergency vetting, and a pet food pantry to assist local families so that they can keep their pets in these tough economic times.

How much research do you do for your books?

The Bishop series revolves around the elite Special Crimes Unit at the FBI. Have you ever visited the BAU or Hogan’s Alley? I always get the question about research, and the truth is that I do two kinds of research: general, broad-view reading and very specific topic research. In other words, I read broadly on certain aspects of FBI work, such as profiling, and I may specifically research what authority the FBI has in certain situations or something of that nature. But I created the Special Crimes Unit, and I choose to see them as unique within the FBI and not necessarily bound by the same rules and regulations as the rest of the Bureau. I always intended the series to be believable, but I never set out to write police procedurals. Especially given the psychic abilities my characters use in their investigations.

The pictures of your pets on your website are fabulous. Can you tell us about the Kay Hooper Foundation?

Thank you; I’m very proud of all my pets! The Foundation is not yet up and running, mostly because life got hectic and I haven’t had the time to sit down with the necessary people and get the formalities – and legalities – all laid-out. When it is set-up, the plan is to offer various forms of financial support such as grants and endowments for rescue groups and other animal rights organizations, as well as setting up scholarships for students who might not otherwise be able to afford a college education. Supporting both animal rights and literacy is very important to me.

Any words of advice for aspiring writers?

Actually, I have a couple of FAQ pages on my website for aspiring writers, but I’ll offer here the most important piece of advice I feel any aspiring writer needs to hear: You need to read everything you can get your hands on, and you need to write and write and write. You learn by doing. Plant your butt in the chair and write. There’s no other way.

Mary Kennedy
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