The microphone-wielding cat servant and author Kathleen Marple Kalb
When I virtually met Kathleen Marple Kalb more or less six minutes ago, I was immediately fascinated by her character, Ella Shane, and amazed at the similarities in our ‘real’ lives. She’s a radio anchor (I’m a print journalist . . . but it’s close) and she also writes mysteries (historical ones.) Those were just two of many great reasons for learning more. Read on.
Welcome, Kathleen. Let's start with a bit of a bio. I understand you're owned by a cat and busy behind a microphone.
Thank you for inviting me, Jo! My writing partner is NOT sitting on the keyboard right now, though she probably will before the end of the interview. Merritt T. Kalb is a rescue kitty who treats my son like her baby, my husband like her daddy, and me like her servant.
As for me, I like to call myself an author/anchor/mom, not in that order! I’m a weekend anchor at 1010 WINS Radio in New York, which enables me to spend most weekdays at home with my son…and until Virtual School, there was plenty of writing time. I’ve been on the air since I was a teenager in Western Pennsylvania. I started writing as a kid too, though I stopped for a while when I was building my career. After the Imp started kindergarten, I decided to try again. It took a couple of years, a couple of failed projects – and a couple of hundred rejections, much of that during a family health crisis. Just as my husband was pulling out of the worst, my agent signed me, and sold the Ella Shane series to Kensington. Pretty amazing journey. And I thought that was the hard part – until the debut in April 2020.
You've written two mystery novels in the Diva Ella Shane series. How would you describe your specific genre? What are the novels about?
They’re historical mysteries set in Gilded Age New York and featuring swashbuckling diva Ella Shane. She is best described as part Beverly Sills, part Anne of Green Gables and part Errol Flynn. Ella grew up as Irish-Jewish Lower East Side orphan Ellen O’Shaughnessy, and found fame and fortune singing “trouser roles,” heroic male parts like Romeo. She, her cousin Tommy Hurley — a “confirmed bachelor” and former boxing champ — plus friends including a progressive priest, a female newspaper reporter, and a woman doctor, get into all manner of mayhem.
The first book, A FATAL FINALE, revolves around the death of Ella’s most recent Juliet, who turns out to be the cousin of a duke. His Grace comes to town looking for answers and gets a lot more than he bargained for, including a couple of fencing matches and a possible courtship with Ella. Book Two, A FATAL FIRST NIGHT, begins with a murder in the dressing room on premiere night, and takes us into a series of interlocking mysteries, backstage drama, and more.
What inspired you to write novels? Are there any authors you particularly admire and may have influenced you? I’ve been reading series mysteries since I can remember . . . and started sneaking Robert B. Parker’s Spensers in with my Nancy Drews when I was still in middle school. Not long after, I stumbled across a copy of Elizabeth Peters’ DIE FOR LOVE, and just fell in love with the wonderful snarky humor, the sharp writing, and the wicked plot. Peters’ Amelia Peabody series are the gold standard for historical mysteries as far as I’m concerned.
Are you planning more in the series? I’ll keep writing Ella as long as people keep reading her! She’s a lot of fun to write, and I love all of the characters around her, especially Tommy. As a reader, what I love about series mysteries is watching the characters grow and evolve as their lives unfold, and it’s a great joy to make that happen as a writer.
What are you working on now?
Ella #3 is done, and waiting for the final copy edit. Ella #4 is about two-thirds finished. I’m also working on a few other projects, including a contemporary mystery series set at a small radio station in Vermont, inspired in part by my time there. And I recently started a chapter series on the subscription content service Channillo.com: ON THE SIDE OF THE ANGELS follows a nice suburban mom who also happens to be an assassin. (Wonder where I got that idea?)
Right? HA! Do you have any advice for new authors about writing or publishing?
Do the work and be a pro. Yes, we’re talking about creativity and magic here, but nobody’s going to see how great you are if you don’t present yourself properly. So know the conventions and follow them, and never give anyone a reason to weed you out. Understand that rejection isn’t personal: it’s a “no” today to one piece of work, not a judgment on your career, and certainly not your life. Finally, just keep going. No matter what happens, you will never have to wonder what if, because you know you gave it everything you had. That’s worth a lot, even on a bad day.
Exactly. Thank you so much, Kathleen.
How to find Kathleen and her books:
BUY AND SOCIAL LINKS:
A FATAL FINALE (out now!)
A FATAL FIRST NIGHT (coming 4/27/21)