A Conversation with Kellye
Q: You started your career in magazine, and then became a Hollywood screenwriter. What made you trade LA for your current communications job in New York City and your career as a novelist? Was there any particular or memorable turning point when you said, “It’s time to write that novel?”
Kellye: I’ve been wanting to write books since I was five, but I was always scared. That’s why I did pretty much every other type of writing except attempting a book. It took me being at a career crossroads to decide to finally just go for it. I was out of work for a couple years and had just turned 30. TV writing pays great but isn’t known for job security. So, I decided to move back home to New Jersey and look for a more stable career while I finally wrote a book.
Q: As a Black woman writing in a genre dominated by white men and woman, were there unique obstacles you faced on the road to publication? How about marketing and promotions?
Kellye: Yes, though there are definitely some straight, cis white men in crime fiction who will swear up and down that they don’t have it easier than the rest of us. :-p When I finished my traditional mystery with a Black woman main character in 2014, there weren’t any being published in the genre. I foolishly assumed it was because no one wrote them. I was wrong. It’s only been in the last year or so that publishing has made a concerted effort to publish #ownvoices mysteries, especially cozies and traditional mysteries.
One thing I do find frustrating is when people (whether it’s reviewers or readers) only make a concerted effort to read Black authors during Black History Month. Don’t get me wrong; I appreciate anyone who reads my book (Their time is precious!), but hopefully you’ll enjoy them the other 11 months of the year too!
Q: Many writers try novel-length humor and fail, but you succeed in the Detective by Day mysteries. Any advice for writers who struggle to sustain humor in their novels?
Kellye: First, thank you. Second, humor definitely is tricky. For me, I try to respect what my character is feeling at the time. If she’s genuinely scared for her life, she’s not going to be making jokes. So, I treat that seriously. I try to treat the actual murder seriously as well. I reserve the humor for lighter moments and just in my characters’ outlooks on life.
Q: Do you have a favorite character or scene in your novels? Can you share?
Kellye: SPOILER ALERT. My favorite scene in Hollywood Homicide comes later in the book, so stop reading if you hate spoilers. (I personally love them.) There’s a scene where Dayna and her crew try to trick the bad guy into admitting they did it. They hatch an entire scheme. Of course, it goes completely wrong and ends with Dayna’s best friend and her twin sister (who are cute and each like a size 0) beating the bad guy up. Imagine like the Olsen twins jumping someone.
Q: Your publisher folded, keeping the rights to the Day mysteries and preventing you from writing another in the series for now, but I understand you are working on something new. Can you tell us about it?
Kellye: Yes, but the good thing about them having the rights is that the books are still available! As much as I enjoyed writing a series, I decided to shift to writing a more serious standalone. It still has humor but think along the lines of Megan Miranda or Lori Rader-Day.
I describe Like A Sister, as an #ownvoices domestic suspense novel about a woman looking into the overdose death of a one-time reality star found within blocks of her house—her own estranged younger sister.
Q: What do you like to do when you are not working in Manhattan or writing?
Kellye: So many things: Sleep; mentor emerging authors through the Pitch Wars program; sleep; volunteer with Sisters In Crime organization; sleep; expand the Crime Writers of Color group I started with Walter Mosley and Gigi Pandian; sleep; obsess over what candles to buy. (Bath and Body Works Candle Day is coming up y’all. Anyone who follows me on social media knows that I prepare all year for this.)