Kay Kendall writes mystery/female amateur sleuth novels and books set in the 1960’s. Learn more about her and her books at her Austin Starr and Kay Kendall websites.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
Fourteen years ago I recognized I had stories I was burning to tell, set in a fictional context.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
Twelve years was “all” it took. I’ve since learned that is about average, so I don’t feel too bad about that. I wrote one book that was not a mystery, couldn’t sell it, and then moved on to writing mysteries. That suits me since I always want to get to the bottom of why things happen and who did what to whom. I love mysteries—both reading and writing them.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
My publisher, Stairway Press in Seattle, is small but gives me great support—wonderful editing and cover art.
Where do you write?
I write in the third bedroom in our house. It’s become so full of books and papers that it’s like a cave I crawl in and out of. Therefore it’s dubbed “the writer’s lair.” Next week I promised my husband I’d pause and take the time to clean it up. He says it’s like walking into a minefield.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I can’t write while listening to music that has words. I can write to soothing classical music—Bach, Mozart—that kind of thing.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
My plots involve murder and skullduggery, and my life is nothing like that—thank goodness. But I do set my plots in places I have lived. Several of my reoccurring characters are inspired by real people, but none are completely like my friends. Everything that has a basis in my life or that of my friends is heavily embroidered with fiction.
Describe your process for naming your character?
I bought a book of baby names and use it when I get stumped. Sometimes I use the last names of older characters that are taken from my life, people I liked a lot—like teachers and bosses who were especially nice to me. I see this as an ode to those who have passed on.
Real settings or fictional towns?
To date all of my settings have been real. They include Austin Starr’s hometown of Cuero, Texas, plus Houston and Seattle. Also the Canadian cities of Toronto and Vancouver. I also use actual buildings as often as I can. The mortuary in Rainy Day Wome, for example, is one I visited in Seattle many years ago. It is defunct now so I truncated its name and there’s no issue involved in identifying it. In short, I like to put made-up events in real places.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Austin Starr won’t stand next to anyone who is very short. She is five feet eleven inches tall and feels like an oaf when she is near someone tiny. She makes an exception when she meets Larissa Klimenko, who is petite at five feet one. Larissa becomes her dearest friend, and she’s the one who calls for help and sets off the plot in Rainy Day Women.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I loathe the color orange. The only time it doesn’t give me fits is at Halloween. I won’t wear anything orange and have nothing in my house that color either.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. It has a fiendishly clever plot, was written by a novelist who attended my college (University of Kansas), and sold lots of copies. Besides, Ben Affleck played the male lead in the film version!
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I had started writing fiction ten years earlier.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
I don’t like people who play games with others.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
I would have my Amazon Echo so it could play endless music, my Amazon Kindle so I’d have endless books to read, and my husband, so I could be endlessly happy.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
When I was briefly a legal secretary, the lawyer I worked for in this big firm hit on me. I was fired because I wasn’t responsive to his advances. I was married and so was he. He said he would help me for free on my custody case, but oh, those strings attached!
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I don’t often reread books, but that is one I’ve read countless times and have watched every cinematic version of it ever made.
Ocean or mountains?
I grew up seeing long vistas so mountains make me feel closed in, claustrophobic. I love oceans because I like to watch the surf’s movement and hear its soothing sound.
City girl or country girl?
I’ve become a city girl because I enjoy all the cultural opportunities that big cities can offer. But I like to be able to get out to the countryside easily since I grew up on the great plains of Kansas and do love the wide open spaces.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m writing my third Austin Starr mystery, entitled Tombstone Blues. Austin and her husband David attend his academic conference in Vienna, Austria, where they tangle with deadly Cold War-era spies. This takes place shortly after the conclusion of Rainy Day Women, so he is still angry at her because—Wait! That would be a spoiler. I can’t tell you why he’s so upset with her.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
My husband Bruce and I have had house rabbits for twenty years. We belong to a rescue organization in Houston called BunnyBuddies.org. We rescue and adopt abandoned rabbits, and these little fur babies are so dear and loving. Like dogs and cats, rabbits have individual personalities and provide great companionship. We also have a spaniel, but we keep the two species separate. Right now we have three bunnies—Jack, Dusty, and Smoky.
Rainy Day Women
An Austin Starr Mystery
In 1969, during the week of the Manson murders and Woodstock, the intrepid amateur sleuth, infant in tow, flies across the continent to support her friend Larissa, suspected of murdering women's liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Then her former CIA trainer warns that an old enemy has contracted a hit on her. Her anxious husband demands that she give up her quest and fly back to him. How much should Austin risk when tracking the killer puts her and her baby's life in danger?