Please welcome Kathleen Kaska, author of Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Wake up early to a beautiful day; go for a long run along the water; have lunch with my husband; spend the afternoon getting some greats words down, and finally ending a productive day with a big Bombay martini on my patio.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Bracelets; I love ‘em. I make sure I purchase at least one from every country or unusual place I visit. I have a silver cuff from Kathmandu and a gold chain ID cartouche bracelet I bought in Egypt. While in Kenya, I traded my watch for a beaded bracelet. My favorite one is a silver rope bracelet, supposedly an antique, which I brought in Tangier, Morocco. But no matter which one I’m wearing, I always wear a black wristband with the words from the movie Throw Mamma from the Train, “A Writer Writes—Always.”
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Here I’m all over the map and it’s difficult to pick just three. Ornithologist Robert Porter Allen inspired me to write The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story. Janet Evanovich, Raymond Chandler, and Rex Stout inspired me to write my Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series, which I like to call humorous noir.
Do you listen to music when you write?
No, if I can’t hear the neighborhood birds or the ocean waves, I prefer silence. Sometimes, when the weed wackers, chain saws, leaf blowers are spiffing up the condo, I use earplugs to block out the noise.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark, rich and full of nuts. I like to describe my Sydney Lockhart mysteries as noir, steeped in history, and full of zany characters.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
Murder at the Galvez has a special meaning for me. It is set in Galveston, Texas where my father used to take our family for vacations in the summer. Galveston is also where my husband is from and we’ve spent many wonderful weekends at the Galvez Hotel. I love the Texas coast and Galveston is still one of my favorite places.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
The empowerment of women. My stories are set in the early 1950s when women were just beginning to realize their potential and claim their power. Sydney is an independent gal, but she’s not always as strong as she thinks she is or wants to be. I put her in situations where she has to take risks and prove herself. Most of the time she succeeds, but not always. Whatever happens, she learns more about who she really is.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality.
Sydney is twenty-nine. She’s tall and slender and has long, wiry red hair. Her height and built allows her to easily go undercover disguised as a man. The only problem is that her fedora doesn’t always stay in place to hide the hair, which she refuses to cut. As you may have guessed, she’s too opinioned and sassy for her own good.
What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Sydney’s strives to be more like her father: levelheaded, patient, practical, and easygoing, but she fears she has the potential to act like her mother: flighty, demanding, and just plain crazy. But the person who was her greatest influence was her grandfather who taught her to appreciate nature and the simple things in life.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I asked a good friend and reader of all my books this question. Our answers were very close. However, his reasoning was much better than mine, so I’m quoting him.
“Jessica Rabbit: Sydney projects the same flippant allure and knows how to use it to her benefit.”
“Lauren Bacall: Sydney has all that class and ability to take care of herself.”
We both agreed on Lucille Ball, but at the last minutes, I substituted her for wisecracking, tough guy Phillip Marlowe.
If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’ll pick three of each. Three who have gone before me are: Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler, and Dick Francis. Three who are still living: Martha Grimes, Laurie R. King, and Elizabeth Peters.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on mystery number four, Murder at the Driskill, set at the historic Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas. This is where Sydney lives and where I lived for twenty-five years. Austin has changed so much since the seventies when I moved there to go to college. I love doing the research and discovering what the city was like in 1953.
Kathleen Kaska writes the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series and the Classic Triviography Mystery Series published by LL-Publications. Her Sherlock Holmes and Alfred Hitchcock trivia books were finalists for the 2013 EPIC Award in nonfiction. Her nonfiction book, The Man Who Saved the Whooping Crane: The Robert Porter Allen Story, has been nominated for the George Perkins Marsh Award for environmental history.