Please welcome EM Kaplan, author of the Josie Tucker mysteries and other works.
What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Mid-70s. Ocean nearby, but not close enough to get sand in my shoes. No nine-to-five job hogging my daylight hours. Mountains at my back. Strong internet signal. And an idea for dinner before lunch is served.
Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
One of each. I like peacock colors: blue, green, and purple. Dim sum and dumplings might be my signature foods thanks to my last Josie Tucker book. I smell like Black Amethyst lotion from Bath & Body Works. My phrase is actually an expression—a half-smile, which some people say is my trademark smirk.
Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Geoffrey Wolff, my instructor for several years in college; an unnamed person I really wanted to impress; and a second unnamed person I really wanted to repel…
Do you listen to music when you write?
Right now, I’m listening to the Game of Thrones soundtrack. My characters are all looking at each other nervously wondering who’s going to be ruthlessly killed. I need music to write fantasy, but not mystery.
If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
A root beer float with double chocolate fudge brownie ice cream. Kind of a guilty pleasure, but fast and fun to eat. Before you know it, you’re slurping the bottom of your glass through your straw.
What made you interested in writing this particular story?
At the heart of Dim Sum, Dead Some is the idea of the gifted slacker, the young person to whom everything comes easily—knowledge, money, business, and love. I lived in Silicon Valley before the tech bubble burst. Smart, lucky people were making easy money. But there was still a strange disconnect, a feeling of being rootless and ephemeral that I equate with the actual shaky California ground itself.
What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Familial relationships for sure. My first mystery, which I dedicated to my father (who’s no longer living) is all about father-daughter and mother-son relationships. The second mystery has a lot of strong women role models—good for Josie Tucker, whose own mother has mentally checked out of this world. She’s living in a home for dementia patients. The fantasy that I’m working on at the moment has sister relationships as its underlying motif.
Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Josie Tucker is a reformed juvenile delinquent. She’s still in high school when her father dies. I realize it’s a little Disneyesque to kill off the parents in the opening scene, but the actual circumstances of his death mirror those of my father’s father. In the 1950’s, my father’s parents ran one of the only Chinese restaurants in southern Ohio. When my father was in high school, he came home one day to find that his father had had a massive heart attack and had died right in the kitchen of the restaurant. When this happens to Josie, she’s packed off to Arizona, where she finishes the rest of high school, acting out , busting her knuckles, and getting in scrapes with the local color. Needless to say, she has a chip on her shoulder about being abandoned, along with trust issues.
Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
I think of her as Mathilda from the movie, The Professional. Plus the mythological Chinese woman warrior, Fa Mulan. Add in a dash of Columbo.
If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Dorothy Parker, David Sedaris, Nora Ephron, Russel Brand, Kevin Spacey, and Craig Ferguson. Oh my, can you imagine the noise level? I wouldn’t have to speak the whole evening. I could just focus on the canapés, emptying ashtrays, and trying not to wet my pants from laughing.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a sequel to my fantasy novel, Unmasked. The first book was kind of half-Cinderella, half-Supergirl story set in a pre-industrial fantasy world. Monsters, mystics, and a devil-may-care rogue. The follow-up story takes the same main character, Mel, into a more industrialized, civilized part of her world. Yet, there’ll be a few old world surprises rearing up before too long. The story has a couple of predominant themes. Modern development versus ancient customs. Also, a strong focus on the bond between sisters.
EM Kaplan is the author of un-cozy, un-culinary Josie Tucker mysteries. She also has written a nascent fantasy/paranormal series, anchored by the novel, Unmasked. Emily grew up in a part of Tucson, Arizona where there were no sidewalks. Like a tumbleweed, she roamed from Massachusetts to California to Texas, and now lives in northern Illinois. She’s also been a Girl Scout, trombonist, toilet-cleaner, beginner ninja, hip-hop dancer, and subversive marketeer.