Mary Kennedy is a national bestselling author of more than 40 novels as well as a psychologist in private practice. Her knowledge of forensic psychology makes her a popular speaker at mystery conferences and workshops, helping writers develop convincing villains and other characters. Her Talk Radio Mysteries, described as Frasier meets Murder, She Wrote, feature a psychologist named Maggie Walsh who leaves her Manhattan practice and moves to Florida to be a talk radio host.
She develops her sleuthing skills when dead bodies keep turning up in her vicinity. A psychic named Madame Chantal, who claims she speaks to the dead, has boosted Maggie’s ratings with her guest appearances, but when two women are murdered after a séance in Stay Tuned for Murder, Maggie is the one who must catch the killer before she ends up on the other side.
First, the inevitable question: How much of Mary is in Maggie? Is she you with a more exciting life, or is she someone completely different?
Maggie’s life is certainly enviable! She lives in sunny Florida and has a job in broadcasting, along with her work as an amateur sleuth. I have to admit, writing about Maggie and Vera Mae at WYME Radio makes me feel a bit nostalgic about my brief career in radio and television in Nashville. Fun times!
Do your patients know that you write amusing mysteries about a psychologist who solves murders? Do you think that influences their opinion of you or the way they relate to you?
Most of my patients have come across my books or website and they often mention it to me. I think it adds a different dimension to our relationship. Many of them have an artistic bent and toy with the idea of being a writer. Plus, as we all know, everyone thinks writers have glamorous lives. If only it were true!
Have you ever given psychological advice on the radio? Do you think that’s a valid way to help people B or does it have the potential to cause harm?
I’ve never given advice over the radio. I hope people realize that the radio Advice shows are really just entertainment and shouldn’t be considered therapy. It’s the same as reading advice columns in newspapers and magazines. Fun, but not a substitute for a professional opinion.
Is it fair to say that your depiction of Chantal, who talks to dead people, in Stay Tuned for Murder indicates a skeptical view of psychics in general? What do you think of all the stories about police departments that have used psychics to find bodies or other evidence?
I try to leave the door open on that, because there are so many mixed beliefs on the issue. Chantal is quite a character, and I hope readers can enjoy her strong personality without taking her pronouncements too seriously. She’s a fun character and she’s all about entertainment.
How do you manage to write so much while also maintaining a professional practice and playing handmaiden to six cats? Have you discovered the secret to stretching time, or are you simply very well organized? What is your schedule like?
Actually, I’m up to 8 cats. They’re all rescues. I used to dream of opening a cat sanctuary. (Be careful what you wish for!) I’ve always had a day job, and somehow it all works out. I try to be really productive when I finally get to the computer. I think my background in advertising helps. I was a radio copywriter (90 accounts to write for!) and later I was a television newswriter. Both are fast-paced, no excuses environments.
In addition to all of the above, you also do workshops for writers, don’t you? What topics do you usually deal with? Have you found that certain topics are of perennial interest to mystery authors?
I do several workshops that are listed on my website and How to Write a Mystery is always popular. Since I have a background in forensic psychology, I offer a couple of workshops on how writers can create believable criminals, psychopaths, courtroom scenes, interviewing scenes and more.
I realize that you don’t have serial killers coming to your office to chat about their problems (at least I hope you don’t), but even if you work with the most ordinary people, as a psychologist you surely see the darker, sadder side of human nature every day. Have you ever considered delving more deeply into the dark side in your writing?
For some reason, I like to write light, humorous books, and I’ve never written dark and edgy.
I’m curious about your Young Adult books. Teens seem almost like a separate species. How do you get into that mindset and write from a teenage girl’s perspective? Have you enlisted teen advisors to answer your prying questions and keep you up to date on slang?
I guess I stay current on teen pop culture from reading and from TV shows. I love the Vampire Diaries, for example. Using slang is always a bit risky, because the expressions may have changed by the time the book comes out.
What is the very best thing about being a writer? What’s the worst?
The best thing is the idea that I can create something from scratch and take it wherever I want to go. The worst, of course, is deadlines, the bane of every writer’s existence.