Today we sit down for a chat with mystery and romance author. L. A. Keller. Learn more about her at her website and blog.
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’ve written short stories since I was twelve and always dreamed of writing a novel. As the years went by I put writing aside to focus on my career as a project manager and technical writer. My goal was always dancing just out of reach due to my other commitments. My first book was written mostly after eleven pm on weekends but now I set aside time to write.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
It took me two years to write and publish the first book. I wrote a first draft of the novel, threw it out and started completely from scratch. During the re-write I sought a large publishing house but after much research opted to create my own publishing company.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I am indie published.
Where do you write?
I have an office in my home in which I do much of my writing. However, there are days when I prefer to sit at the kitchen table or on the sofa with the television playing a reality show.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I generally write without any distraction, mostly because I write early in the morning when others in my household are asleep. If I am listening to music, it is old school country because that is what my character loves the most.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
Since I write murder mysteries, my plots are not drawn from real life but my characters are. I once created a character based on a woman I stood in line behind at Office Max because her outfit was so colorful she made me want to write her into a story. Anyone I come in contact with may wind up as a character or some element of that person may be incorporated into a character. Events that make me laugh in my own life frequently appear in my work. Watch for a scene in the next book where my character accidentally loses her press-on fingernail in a dish she serves to a guest.
Describe your process for naming your character?
This is one of the most difficult tasks for me. I do lengthy research on character names to understand the meaning of names. It’s important to me to not have characters with similar names in the same book because, as a reader, I find that can be confusing. I also want to feel some connection to a name if the character is recurring. My main character, Jayne, is named after my mom but I changed the spelling.
Real settings or fictional towns?
I base my books on the real town of Cave Creek, Arizona but change the names of streets and businesses. In Cocktails at Sunset, I created a fictional assisted living facility and drew a floorplan so that I could map my character’s movements accurately. I drive to a spot I want to include in a scene and take photos for my reference.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Jayne has a unique memory for whatever one of her restaurant guests has ordered. I based this on a friend who actually does have this strange ability.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
I carry on long conversations with my cats. They don’t answer me, but I’m sure they understand every single word.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
Take Me With You by Catherine Ryan Hyde - I love all of her books but this one touches my heart more than others. Her characters are so real and her story so poignant you are sad when you reach the last page.
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I wish I had gone to college immediately after high school rather than taking years to complete my degree.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
Shopping carts not returned to their place! I know that is completely unrelated to writing but it makes me crazy.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves? Sunscreen, water and a satellite phone.
What was the worst job you’ve ever held?
I was a hotel housekeeper for two weeks. It gave me an appreciation for how hard they work and how inconsiderate some guests can be. I always leave a tip when I check out.
What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
Gone with the Wind because it is an epic love story.
Ocean or mountains?
Definitely, mountains. I live in the desert and hike as much as I can. However, a beach vacation is always at the top of my list.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
I’m a city girl who grew up in the country with chickens, cows and horses.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m excited to finish the third book in the series and start on a different writing path. I enjoy writing romance as short stories on my blog and hope to create a new series in that genre. I will also be doing some speaking engagements later in the year.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
I hope reading my books brings the reader some joy and suspense. Ultimately my goal is to carry the reader away from the day to day stress and struggle. On the more personal side, I’m a breast cancer survivor. My sister-in-law is a two time breast cancer survivor, and my sister is now a two time survivor. I am a strong proponent of performing self-exams and patient advocacy.
Menu for Murder
A Jayne Stanford Mystery, Book 1
A tete-a-tete with the wait staff wasn’t listed on the menu, but that never stopped Mayor Franklin McArthur from ordering ala carte. Jayne Stanford is just one of the many desserts he’s tried to sample. When he turns up dead, after a private party Jayne worked, all the evidence points to Jayne as the murderer. Her life begins to unravel faster than you can say “Order up”.
As clumsy as a cowboy on a three-day drunk, Jayne has never been the perfect waitress. But her knack for remembering quirky details about the guests she serves has kept her a few tips away from the unemployment line. Now she has to put those skills to use or wind up spending her days waiting tables in prison.
As Jayne embarks on a hunt for the person who set her up she must rely on her best friend, Bailey, to painstakingly piece together the clues. Who was in the black Hummer? Why would someone want to kill a lecherous old fool like the Mayor? What does the key open? Should Jayne take a chance with her heart and trust, Jonas? The closer she gets to the truth, the more determined the killer is to make Jayne the “Catch of the Day.”