By Duffy Brown
Recently I sat down with Mary Kennedy to discuss NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, her life as a psychologist/novelist, and why Savannah is the perfect setting for a mystery series. NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER is the first in her new Dream Club series and is available at stores and online this month.
Like most writers, you’ve had a rather checkered career (and I mean that in a good way!). You’ve been a copywriter for a rock radio station, a television news writer, a spokes-model, a university professor and now you’re a clinical psychologist. Will all these characters appear in your books?
Most of them, at least the interesting ones. I once went for a job interview and the person across the desk said, “Well, you are either the most versatile person I’ve ever met or you show a shocking lack of direction in your life.” Naturally, I asked him if we could go with “the most versatile person he’d ever met” theory. He laughed and gave me the job of PR Director for a major travel company. I haven’t used that character in a series yet, but I may.
I love Dr. Maggie, the psychologist turned radio talk show host in The Talk Radio Mysteries. Now you’ve moved on to the Dream Club Mysteries. Was it much of a stretch, going from psychology to dream interpretation?
No, I think it was a natural progression. Most of my clients love to talk about their dreams and I’ve done quite a bit of research on them. Freud said dreams are the “royal road to the unconscious.” Many psychologists think that dreams give us a unique insight into our thoughts, our fears, and out fantasies. Other people think they are just random firings of the brain as it rests and rehashes the day.
But how did you take the next step and write a whole series about a dream club?
The New York Times did a big piece on the popularity of dream clubs here in the northeast. I’m not sure how far they’ve spread across the rest of the country. The idea is very appealing. It’s like a support group. You meet with a small group of trusted friends every week and talk about your dreams. Of course, in NIGHTMARES CAN BE MURDER, the members not only analyze their dreams, they solve a murder or two.
So you do believe in the power of dreams? Can they foretell the future?
Not necessarily. The members in the dream club in my series do manage to come up with some interesting clues that help solve the murders. But is there anything supernatural about their insights, or are they just coincidences, or lucky guesses? I leave it up to the reader to decide.
The two main characters in your series, Ali and Taylor Blake, are sisters and they seem to be polar opposites. Was this deliberate?
Yes, Taylor is more of a numbers-cruncher and has an MBA. She was the perfect person to move down to Savannah to help Ali save her failing candy store. Ali is creative, impulsive, and never looks out for the bottom line. Taylor always does. They’re a good match, and Oldies But Goodies (their vintage candy store) is thriving.
What prompted you to choose Savannah for a setting?
There’s something wonderful and magical about Savannah. You have the feeling that anything can happen there and it just seemed like the perfect spot for a murder mystery.
I love the idea of the vintage candy shop. Was this prompted by a visit to one?
I discovered Dylan’s Candy Bar in Manhattan and there’s also a famous vintage candy store in Ft. Lauderdale. I plan to check it out on my next visit there. I go to Ft. Lauderdale every year. It’s my home away from home.
Can you tell me a little about the dream interpretation book you wrote as a companion guide to the series? Is it only available as an e-book?
I suppose it’s really more of an e-pamphlet than a book. It’s only seventeen pages and I wrote it because so many people were e-mailing me with questions about their dreams. It’s called “A Psychologist’s Guide to Dream Interpretation” and it’s only ninety-nine cents. All proceeds are going to the Wayne County Humane Society in Lyons, New York. It’s one of the many animal groups that I support.
I see that you have eight cats, and you usually include a cat or two in your books.
Yes, I have eight cats, all rescues. It’s my expensive hobby. Barney and Scout are the cats in the Dream Club Mysteries. They don’t have any magical powers, they’re just lap cats, but I think they add an interesting element to the books.
Your last series was set in a fictional Florida town. Why are you drawn to the South?
I just love everything about the South—the place, the weather, the wonderful characters. It’s hard for me to stop in a little café down south and not come up with a plot or a character or some tiny detail that will appear in one of my books. They’re just a colorful group of people. I used to live in Nashville and also Kinston, North Carolina.
What’s your next project?
I’m finishing up book three of the Dream Club Mysteries next month. Then I’m going to return to Dr. Maggie in the Talk Radio Mysteries and finish book 4. Dr. Maggie and her star-struck mother, Lola, attend a psychology conference in Palm Beach, Florida, and the smarmy keynote speaker is murdered. Naturally Dr. Maggie, Vera Mae—her producer at WYME Radio—and Lola jump in to do some sleuthing. It should be fun—and best of all, it will justify another trip to Florida.
Thanks so much, I enjoyed chatting with you.
Thanks for interviewing me. I’m looking forward to your new series, The Cycle Path Mysteries set on Mackinac Island.
Mary Kennedy is a clinical psychologist in private practice and lives on the East Coast with her husband and eight neurotic cats. Both husband and cats have resisted all her attempts to psychoanalyze them, but she remains optimistic. You can visit her website or the Cozy Chicks Blog, where she blogs every Saturday.
Duffy Brown writes the Consignment Shop Mysteries, set in Savannah, and is launching a new cozy series, the Cycle Path Mysteries, set on Mackinac Island “where biking takes a deadly turn.” You can learn more on her website or the Cozy Chicks Blog, where Duffy blogs every week.