Thursday, May 7, 2020

Kylie Logan

Kylie Logan is the national bestselling author of the Jazz Ramsey Mysteries, The League of Literary Ladies Mysteries, the Button Box Mysteries, the Chili Cook-Off Mysteries, and the Ethnic Eats Mysteries.

Her new novel, The Secrets of Bones, is the second Jazz Ramsey Mystery.

My Q&A with the author:

How much work does your title do to take readers into the story?

I hope my titles convey the flavor and energy of a story. For The Secrets of Bones I wanted that “secret” part not only to let readers know it was a mystery, but also so they got a sense that the mystery isn’t simply So-and-So clunks So-and-So over the head and kills him. Secrets to me imply knowledge. Knowledge implies familiarity. Suddenly the mystery—the murder—is personal. As for “bones,” again, wanted the mystery to be clear, but that word is especially important because Jazz Ramsey, my heroine, trains and handles cadaver dogs and of course, bones are one of the things they’re trained to find.

Do I sweat picking a title? Absolutely. For me, the idea for a book never fully comes together until I have the title. I spend a lot of time playing with and discarding titles until I come up with exactly the right one.

What's in a name?

Names are vitally important, especially in a mystery series. Listen to mystery readers talk and they’ll often refer to a series by the main character’s name. The Bosch books. Or the Gamache books. As a writer, that tells me I need to come up with a name readers are going to remember and immediately identify with my series. Jazz Ramsey’s name fits the bill. Not really sure where I came up with Jazz, just I knew I wanted something short and snappy. She’s a no-nonsense woman who is devoted to her volunteer work as a cadaver dog handler. I couldn’t picture her as anything but Jazz. But of course, names can also be used to convey family dynamics. Jazz’s mom always calls her Jasmine. That tells you something about their relationship.

I went through more gyrations with other characters in the series. For instance, Jazz’s boyfriend, Nick Kolesov, was originally Dan Warren. I came to my senses on that one when I realized that the city of Cleveland, the setting for the books, is actually a character in every story. Cleveland is gritty. Cleveland is interesting. The city’s population is an amalgam of ethnicities and cultures. It’s what makes Cleveland so unique. Dan Warren was way too white bread a name for a Cleveland cop. Once I got Nick’s name right, I knew more about him, his background, his family.

How surprised would your teenage reader self be by your novel?

Hmm…intriguing to think about! My teenage self was always reading. I loved historical fiction (Dorothy Dunnett’s Game of Kings is still a favorite), so I suppose I would have imagined myself writing something similar. Something heavy on research—I love research. Something set in the British Isles—I’m a confirmed Anglophile. And yet, I always loved mystery, too. In fact the first books I published were historical romances set in England and they always had a twisty turny plot that included some mystery. It took me a while to realize that the mystery was what I really wanted to concentrate on. But then, that teenage self, just like the adult self, always loved Sherlock Holmes!

Do you find it harder to write beginnings or endings? Which do you change more?

While no part of a book is easy to write, beginnings give me an opportunity to lay out the scene, re-visit characters, set up what’s going to happen. Endings, especially in mystery, are tricky things. All the loose ends need to be brought together, and every one of them needs to make sense. I am an outliner so I spend a lot of time planning every book and I have some idea where a book is headed before I start into the writing. Even so, The Secrets of Bones is the first book I’ve ever changed drastically from the ending I had planned. I’d thought about another murderer all along and yet as I was writing, I realized that just wasn’t right. It’s a sobering experience, that’s for sure, when that sort of realization hits you over the head and you need to read over everything and see what needs to be changed, what can stay, and what absolutely has to go.

Do you see much of yourself in your characters? Do they have any connection to your personality, or are they a world apart?

I hope my characters aren’t at all like me because I’m not all that interesting. I sit in front of my computer all day. I stare into space. I don’t have Jazz’s drive or energy or her patience with training dogs. I’m not nearly as kind and understanding as Sister Eileen who is the principal at the school where Jazz works. I’m not crazy over-the-top like Jazz’s best friend, Sarah. Or as willing to put my life on the line to keep the city safe as Nick is. I think rather than being like me, my characters are a mixture of people I’ve known throughout my life. I take a little of this person, a little of that person. The looks of one, the way another one walks. It’s kind of like baking a cake, throw the ingredients in, mix them up, and come up with a finished product that’s the sum total of all the different parts!

What non-literary inspirations have influenced your writing?

Family, certainly. My dad was a Cleveland Police detective. He’s the one who first introduced me not only to Sherlock Holmes but to the art of detection. Early in his career, Dad worked in what was called the Auto Bureau. On his days off, we’d ride around in the car together and search for stolen cars. There was usually an ice cream cone involved, too. Not sure what that’s called in psychology, but I think it means that when I think of solving crimes, it brings back a lot of good memories.
Visit Kylie Logan's website.

--Marshal Zeringue