Interview with Kate Carlisle

We are happy to have with us today Kate Carlisle, author of the Brooklyn Wainwright mystery series.

“Homicide in Hardcover” was your first bibliophile mystery, and “If Books Could Kill” comes out in February of 2010. Your character, Brooklyn Wainwright, is a book restorer. How did you come up with this unusual occupation?

From the time I was six years old, I’ve been making books. Granted, those early attempts were pretty pathetic. A raggedy piece of cardboard for the cover with a wobbly stack of lined school paper inside, all punched and held together with string. Very sad! But since then, I’ve taken numerous bookbinding classes and one of my dear friends is a master bookbinder. I also went through a period during which I collected rare and finely bound books and used to haunt the local antiquarian bookstores. I guess you could say I’m fascinated with books. So when I decided to write a new mystery series, the idea of a bookbinder, specifically a rare book restoration expert, as protagonist was irresistible. Thus, Brooklyn Wainwright was born. Unfortunately, whenever Brooklyn comes in contact with a beautiful rare book, somebody always dies.

You have a background in romance, and you can see it in the light, fun relationship that develops between Brooklyn and British security officer, Derek Stone. Do you think that mystery and romance are a natural combination?

Oh, absolutely! My favorite mystery series have always included a romantic interest (or two – Ranger and Joe, anyone?), going back to the days of Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence, then Cherry Ames and Nancy Drew. I think a touch of romance adds more dimension to any story. These days, I’m a big fan of Nancy Martin, Diana Killian, Kate Collins and Juliet Blackwell, among many other traditional mystery authors, and they all include a hunky hero in their stories—for which their protagonists are thankful, I’m sure.

As a writer, I most enjoy writing dialogue, and the flirtatious banter between Brooklyn and Derek is always fun for me. It’s my favorite way of developing their characters as well as advancing the plot. I always read the dialogue out loud to make sure it sounds natural. If I can make myself laugh, that’s a huge bonus.
And since I also write romance, I should add that a romance novel can always benefit from a touch of mystery or intrigue. All the best ones include both, in my humble opinion.

Brooklyn’s parents are members of a commune headed by Guru Bob, and her father and Guru Bob are a unique combination of spiritualism and successful capitalism. Where did these fabulous and funny characters come from?

Oh, dear. If I tell you I was once in a commune, will you be shocked? No, of course you won’t be. I was raised in California in the 60’s, after all! So yes, many years ago, I was involved with a spiritual and artistic community up in northern California where we also had a vineyard and a winery. I suppose you could say it was mildly successful. Additionally, my brothers were huge fans of the Grateful Dead and I was smart enough to tag along with them to a few concerts. It was amazing to get a peek inside that fascinating subculture and I loved using some of what I saw as background for Brooklyn’s parents. And then there’s my mother. She’s … hmm, unique! I couldn’t help using a bit of her personality when it came to writing Brooklyn’s mother. Anyway, I took all the bones of those people and experiences and created Brooklyn’s parents and family and friends and the wonderful Guru Bob.

These days, I warn my family and friends that anything they say or do may be stolen and used in my books. These days, they’re very careful around me!

When we left Brooklyn at the end of “Homicide in Hardcover”, she was on her way to England with Derek Stone. Does this mean we are going to see more of this luscious security officer? Are they set to solve mysteries as a team?

Definitely! I don’t think I’d want to write a book without dashing Derek! So yes, he’ll be back in book two to torment—or be tormented by—Brooklyn. And not to give too much away, but he’ll be back in book three, as well. I must admit, I really love Derek, and I think Brooklyn seems to like him a lot, too!

Have you any desire to set one of the series’ books in England?

Yes. And while it’s not quite England, the next book does take place in Edinburgh, Scotland, at an annual book fair along the Royal Mile. I was very excited to use that city as a backdrop for the series because it has such a rich history—and lots of ghosts.

Also, if the series continues to be successful (fingers crossed!), I’m hoping to set a book in Lyon, France, where there’s a world-renowned school of book arts. And I would love to set another one in London, perhaps centered around one of the auction houses there. We’ll see how it goes.

OK. I just about keeled over laughing when I read “All About Kate” on your website which chronicles your journey into publishing. It includes headings such as “When Good Things Happen to Bad Girls” and “Lying for Fun and Profit”. Your parents had you marked as a telemarketer (excellent phone voice), a bookie (loved ponies), and a sales person (hawking chocolate bars to sailors). How do they feel about published author?

I’m so glad you enjoyed my biography. It’s all true, of course (ha ha!). Needless to say, my mother is absolutely thrilled that I’m finally published. (After twenty years, we all had our doubts.) But she’s my biggest fan now and at least once a week, she goes over to her local Barnes & Noble to check that my books are still there with the covers facing out. She also goes around giving my books to all the libraries in her area, which I heartily encourage. I have a large, extended family and all of them have been wonderfully supportive, showing up at my book signings, buying books to give to local libraries and hospitals, and talking me up among friends and co-workers. It’s great to have that kind of support.

What’s next for Kate Carlisle?

I’ve just started book three of the bibliophile mysteries, which takes place in San Francisco and the Sonoma wine country. Naturally, I had to do extensive research for that! I’ll also be taking lots of bookbinding classes over the next few months because for part of this book, Brooklyn will be teaching a master bookbinding class.

Additionally, I recently finished my first romance novel for Harlequin and I’ve just sent in a proposal for two more. I’m also involved with two group blogs every month so I’m always trying to write my entries early to keep ahead of schedule. And I’m very excited to be attending my first Bouchercon convention in ten years, in Indianapolis next week, so that should be fun.

Finally, book two of the bibliophile mysteries, IF BOOKS COULD KILL, will be out in February 2010, so I’m currently attempting to organize my life so that I’m not racing to meet a deadline while also trying to promote the next book. That way lies madness.
You can pre-order If Books Could Kill through, or visit Kate at her website.

A Review of Homicide in Harcover by Kate Carlisle

Homicide in Hardcover by Kate Carlisle

What trouble could Brooklyn Wainwright get into? She’s only a book restorer. But when her mentor, Abraham, is murdered at a private showing, she is suddenly surrounded by suspects and suspicions. The dead man’s last words are “Remember the devil”. Does this have something to do with the star of the showing—an allegedly cursed copy of Goethe’s Faust? The same book that Brooklyn is now in charge of restoring? If so, Brooklyn’s going to have to watch her step, or she could wind up the next victim. But with so many potential killers around, whom should she keep an eye on?

First, there’s Minka LaBoeuf, Brooklyn’s favorite choice for killer, maybe because Minka has a history of messing with Brooklyn that includes an “accidental” attack with an X-Acto knife. Abraham recently fired Minka, and experience tells Brooklyn that Minka doesn’t handle disappointment well.

The Winslow family, owners of the private collection, are acting strangely, and Brooklyn overheard Mr. and Mrs. Winslow argue about a problem with “the book”. Were they referring to the Faust or an old family bible that Abraham had also been restoring? Did her mentor discover family secrets worth killing over?

Even Brooklyn’s own mother can’t escape suspicion. Brooklyn saw her sneaking down to Abraham’s work room shortly before he was killed.

Derek Stone, a British security officer hired for the private showing, vacillates between suspecting Brooklyn and wanting to protect her. Eclectic best friend Robin keeps Brooklyn occupied when she’s not searching for answers. And if she’s searching for answers to more philosophical questions, she can always ask Guru Bob, the spiritually and financially successful commune leader.

Brooklyn makes a delightful sleuth, and the details about book restoration are a fascinating addition to a mystery that’s a joy to read.

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