INTERVIEW WITH LESLIE O'KANE

AUTHOR'S WEBSITE: www.sleuths2die4.com


            JUNE 25, 2002

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

My favorite book is always the last book that I've completed, and so it is
currently DEATH OF A PTA GODDESS, a Molly Masters mystery scheduled to be
released in October 2002.  Every time I write a book my writing improves,
although the effort of having to write a 320-manuscript-page book is so great
that my LEAST favorite book is always the one I'm currently writing.

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

My freshman year in college.  I'd started out as an art major but took a
creative writing class from Cambel Black and got hooked.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

Know what you're getting into first--the dream of being a writer is just
that--the dream of the first sale, multi-figure contracts, prestige, awards,
fame--but the reality is being willing to sit alone a keyboard working for
two to four hours each and every day.  It's being able to withstand numerous
rejection letters and harsh words from strangers.  The key is to be able to
put the countless hours into honing one's craft and being able to perservere
in the face of disappointment. 

What is the name of your favorite mystery movie?

Rear Window.
 
Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

My dog therapist series requires a ton of research, yes.  My Molly Masters
series also requires research for characters' occupations, hobbies, and so
forth.  One thing that I learned long ago is that research is a terrific
excuse not to do the much-less enjoyable business of actually writing a book.
I, therefore, force myself to do research only outside of the hours that I
assign to myself as writing time.

What other types of jobs have you had?

Waitress, typist of classified advertisements for the local newspaper,
computer repair for IBM, and technical writer.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

Yes.  I go to Malice Domestic and Bouchercon every year.  I've become more
aware of how precious few years I have left with my teens at home, however,
so I have cut down greatly on my out-of-town signings.

Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

My mother, through her immense love of literature, was my first influence to
consider this, and then I had a couple of college professors who greatly
influenced me.  More recently, I have wonderful, intelligent, helpful people
whom I'm in critique groups with, and they've helped my writing immeasurably.

What led you to write mysteries?

I was always the obnoxious person who could figure out whodunnit in movies
and TV shows.  I'd written my autobiographical first novel, which a lot of
writers start with, then was at a conference in which Diane Mott Davidson
gave a presentation on how to write a mystery.  I decided to make my second
book a mystery, and a month later, coincidentally was asked to join a
critique group in which Diane was a member.

Do you read reviews of your books?

Yes, though I must admit, I squint a lot of the time.

How would you like to be remembered?

As a good mom of two wonderful human beings who outlive me.

What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

Wow.  No one's ever asked me that.  I have a lot of really, really small
highlights, such as when an author I greatly admire has complimented my work,
but if I have to pick one, it would have to be something that happened very
recently, when ROMANTIC TIMES reviewers selected WHEN THE FAX LADY
SINGS as one of the five best contemporary mysteries published in 2001.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

Fixed schedule, absolutely.  If I waited for "thoughts" to come to me,
they'd generally be: "Go play tennis."

 
How do you come up with plots?

I start with an inciting incident, which is sometimes when someone does
something so annoying to me that I decide to kill them in fiction, then I
write the first chapter, create characters of interest to me, then
continually ask myself: What happens next?

Did you take any classes on how to write?

Yes, in college and then I took a few adult-education classes when I decided
I wanted to get serious about writing fiction.

Do you ever get writer's block?

Not really.  What I get is the "Oh, @*&^*#^!  This book is @#*&^!" wall that
can become writer's block if you let your mind take you there.  The only way
I know to overcome that wall is to keep going till the first draft is done
and have faith in your own ability to rewrite...and then rewrite until the
book works.
 
Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Does "Buy my books so I can stay in print" count???

                                 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

By the way of a brief bio, I was born in California, but my family moved to upstate New York when I was two. My mother is an avid reader--a love she shared with me from an early age. So, although I started college in Oswego, NY as an art major, I soon switched to creative writing and aspired to become a novelist. At age 19, I decided I'd led a boring life with nothing worth writing about, so I dropped out of college and moved to Boston on my own. There I worked as a cocktail waitress at night and went to college at Suffolk University by day, majoring in journalism. One night, the bar was robbed and I was taken hostage for five hours. (That particular incident is not a brief story and so is not included, but if you catch me sometime with time on my hands, ask me about it.)
Now armed with something to write about--but disenchanted with the city--I soon graduated, packed up my Toyota Corolla, and headed west, intending to move to California to work in a vineyard. En route, I visited Boulder, Colorado--and never left. I also never lost my desire to write novels, but the necessity of earning a living took precedence. I decided to look for work as a technical writer, which meant learning about circuitry and so forth. After earning a two-year degree as an electrical engineer technician, I was hired by IBM to repair computers. That's how I met my future husband, Mike. After three years, I left IBM and worked as a technical writer for a company that went bankrupt--no thanks to my user manuals--so I started my own freelance business, which let me stay at home with our daughter, Carol.

Around the time our second child, Andrew, was born, I realized that I was no closer to achieving my dream of writing novels than I'd been at age 19. I closed my doors and began writing for free, but promised myself I'd quit if I still wasn't published by the time Andy graduated first grade. My contract offer for my first book, DEATH AND FAXES, came four months before my son finished first grade.
Nowadays, my children are 9 and 11, my husband still works at IBM, and I still write every day. I pen a monthly advice column for my local chapter of Sisters in Crime, am active in Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers (who, in 1997, honored me with its Writer of the Year award), and am a fairly avid but definitely inept golfer. I'm writing two series for Ballantine--the Molly Masters series that St. Martin's Press launched in 1996, and a new series about a dog psychiatrist, set here in Boulder, which will be introduced in the fall of 1998. I very much hope you'll want to read them, but in any case, thanks for reading this!