Sunday, June 14, 2009

Writing Porch Author Q&A with Harley Jane Kozak

About Harley Jane Kozak:

A sometimes actress, and full time author, Harley Jane Kozak lives with her family in California’s Conejo Valley. Her debut novel, "Dating Dead Men," won the Agatha, Anthony, and Macavity awards. Its sequel was "Dating is Murder," followed by "Dead Ex" (coming out in trade paperback at the end of June, 2009) and "A DATE YOU CAN’T REFUSE." her short prose has appeared in Ms. Magazine, Soap Opera Digest, The Sun, The Santa Monica Review, and the anthologies Mystery Muses, "This is Chick Lit" and "A HELL OF A WOMAN."

What made you decide to write this book?

Well, the contract was a big factor! "A Date You Can't Refuse" was the 4th book in a series, and nothing helps a book get written like a deadline. On a more artistic level, I wanted to give my heroine an espionage-like adventure, because I've been a lifelong fan of James Bond and the books of John Le Carré, the Cold War era spy genre, so this was my homage to that. It was a lot of fun for me to stretch the classic cozy boundaries and make Wollie, my protagonist, a spy.

What challenges did you face with this book?

For Wollie, a greeting card artist, to go undercover and deal in a world of international political intrigue, required some mental footwork, to keep it credible. I try in all my books to make the plots absolutely possible, if not entirely . . . normal. What I aim for is for the reader to be nodding, reading along, thinking, "okay, I'll buy that, I'll go along with that," and only later think, "Wow. This is really wacky."

How did you get your start in writing?

I began taking courses at Santa Monica Community College, and later at UCLA -- too many courses to count. I was working at my day job -- acting -- while writing my first book, "Dating Dead Men." I took 10 years from the time I began writing until I saw it published. Along the way I had essays published here and there, and a play I wrote was workshopped, but my first novel was really my big break.

What does your writing routine look like?

It varies from year to year, following the schedules of my 3 kids. When I sold my first book, I had a 2-year old and infant twins, so I wrote when they napped. Now they're in school (whew!) and so my writing day is their school day. Although summer is coming up, and summer camp has shorter hours, so I'm already nervous.

Tell us some writers whose work you admire and why.

I loved John D. MacDonald, for his hero Travis McGee . . . I love Nelson DeMille, for his laugh-out-loud humor in the midst of his thrillers . . . and Robert Ferrigno . . . yes, I realize I'm talking about men. I'm reading a lot of tough guys right now; I don't know why. I go in spurts. My old favorites, the books I reread when I have the flu, or need comfort, or miss my mom, are Georgette Heyer and Mary Stewart. I never grow tired of rereading them. The combination of romance and humor in the case of Heyer, and romance and gothic suspense, in the case of Stewart, are incomparable.

What advice would you have for other writers/would-be writers?

Write, write, write. Whatever keeps you going back to the computer keyboard (or paper, if you're really old school) long enough to finish the project, do it. For me it's a combination of a writers group, coffee, chocolate. Earlier in my career it was those classes. And books on writing. Anne LaMott's "BIRD BY BIRD," for instance. Anything that's inspiring. Perseverance can be the toughest piece of the puzzle. I've seen talented writers give up because the rejection is so hard to take, when lesser talents with thicker skins or more stubbornness simply hang in, and get published.


EDITOR'S NOTE: J. Louise Larson, blogmistress for The Writing Porch, interviews published authors. To be considered, email her at jackielarsonwrites (at) gmail (dot) com. Larson's work has been published in a number of newspapers and magazines, including the Dallas Morning News and Entrepreneur Magazine. She is the managing editor of the Ennis Journal and a contributor at the Waxahachie Daily Light, and she has received the top award for series writing in Texas, the Texas APME, as well as a silver from the Parenting Publications of America. She co-authored a nonfiction career guide for FabJob Publishing in 2006, and is seeking representation for her new novel, 'At High Tide.'

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