Kendel Lynn is a little bit like Superman. The bug-adverse, hand sanitizer obsessed, cupcake loving editor of Henery Press by day, the author of the Elliot Lisbon mystery series by night. Or at least during vacation (as you'll see below). Since starting Henery Press, Kendel's authors have been nominated for three Agatha Awards, winning one, and her press has gained a loyal following of readers who want witty cozies with strong female protagonists. Her eye for winners is no doubt due to her own writing skills, as any reader of the first Elliot Lisbon mystery, Board Stiff, will attest. In celebration of the release of her second Elliot Lisbon novel, Whack Job, Kendel graciously agreed to put on her writer hat and answer some questions and promised to do the same with her editor alter ego very soon.
Have you always been a writer or was it something you came to later in life?
I’ve always been a reader, mysteries especially. I think I fell into writing the way a lot of writers do: I kept reading books and thinking: I could do better than this! So one day I tried. May I say it’s much more difficult to be on the writerly side of the book.
You're from California and live in Texas. What made you choose the coast of South Carolina as the setting for your Elliot Lisbon series?
I lived on Hilton Head Island for three years and it was lovely! It’s an interesting amalgamation of residents. There’s old money, new money and no money. Half of the residents are part-timers, either they vacation there or retired there from the northern states, and the other half are longtime South Carolina families. Plenty of spots to plan a murder.
You're the managing editor of a full-service publisher, Henery Press. When in the world do you find time to write?
Vacations! I love to come to the office when we’re closed. There’s something serene and invigorating about being the only person around. It’s quiet – no people, no phones, no email. I can get a ton done.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on the outline for the third in the series, SWAN DIVE, which comes out next April. I’ll grow the outline for about two months, until it’s about fifty pages, then start the draft. Which I hate! I much prefer the outline and revisions.
Writers are typically masters of procrastination. I know I've elevated it to an art form. What are your favorite procrastination activities or are you one of those always on the go, productive people?
Oh procrastination! I’m a sucker for the boob tube. I love everything Forensic Files to Once Upon A Time (what a finale!) to the Blacklist to Kitchen Nightmares. I actually love all kinds of cooking competition shows and hate to cook. As in, if it’s up to me to make dinner, we’re having cereal.
Is there a particular author who has influenced your writing style?
Stephen King inspired me to write well, to do my best and then be better. His style is quite unique and free and I love it. THE STAND is probably my all-time favorite book, but I’m a wimp these days and skim the scarier parts. Sue Grafton and the late Lawrence Sanders definitely played a role in style. I love influencing a traditional mystery with a dash of flair!
I have what I call comfort reads, novels I return to year after year, some that I read when I'm going through difficult times in my life. Do you have a novel like that? If so, what is it?
When I feel like I need to connect with mysteries, I’ll grab A IS FOR ALIBI by Sue Grafton. If I feel like I need a dose of imagination, I’ll grab the entire Harry Potter series and read them through. They are magical and endearing and I can get lost in minutes.
I know it might be difficult to separate your inner editor from your inner writer, but as a writer, what is the most important piece of advice you can give to unpublished writers?
Two pieces (because I’m like that):
Firstly, have great beta readers. The ones who will tell you how it is, not just how much they enjoy your work. They are hard to find, but hang on when you get them. Even after you’re under contract, always use betas before you send to your agent and/or editor.
Secondly, keep writing. After you’ve polished your novel and started submitting to agents/editors, write the next book. If an agent or editor loves your work, their first question will be: where’s the next one? Publishers want to invest in your career, and if you’ve got more books behind the first one, it’ll give you an edge.
When Elliott Lisbon blends her directorship of the Ballantyne Foundation with her PI-in-Training status by planning parties and performing discreet inquiries for charitable patrons. But when the annual Wonderland Tea Party makes everyone go mad as a hatter, Elli gets pulled into a shooting, a swindle, and the hung for a Faberge egg.
From seedy pawn parlors to creepy antique shops, Sea Pine Island’s other half prove to be as wacky as the wealthy. As Elli falls farther down the rabbit hole, she finds a scheming salesman, a possessive paramour, a dead donor–in fact, the only thing missing is a bottle labeled “Drink Me.” As events evolve from curious to crazy, Elli gets lost in the maze and finds herself trapped in a house of cards with a killer.
In honor of Elliot Lisbon's endearing quirks, reply below with what you consider your own endearing quirks, or what our family members might call annoying habits, to win a SIGNED copy of Kendel's new book, Whack Job. The contest will run through Tuesday, May 20. Winner announced Wednesday, May 21.