There are writers, and then there’s Kellye Garrett. Kellye is the acclaimed author of the award-winning Detective by Day series, co-founder of Crime Writers of Color, and overall Fabulous Human Being. Her new suspense novel, LIKE A SISTER, is taking publishing by storm. We’re thrilled to showcase her signature wit and wisdom in our Career Authors 11 Interview.
1. What book changed your life?
I don’t have a book that changed my life. I will say that B is for Burglar by Sue Grafton was one of the reasons I wanted to write mysteries as a teenager. The twist at the end always gets me.
2. Was your first published book the first manuscript you ever wrote?
Yes, but at the time I wrote it I had two writing degrees including an MFA from USC’s famed film school and had spent time as a journalist, TV show staff writer, and communications writer. I did all those things because I was too scared to write a book.
3. Stephen King says, “The hardest part is just before you start.” What’s the hardest part of writing for you?
The first draft because the blank page scares me to death. I call it the vomit draft because I try to just spew things out and clean it up later. As much as I hate writing, I love rewriting though.
4. Do you know the story’s ending before you start?
I always know who did it and the major end of act reveals before I start writing. I am a super plotter but I’ll still allow myself to veer away from that outline as I’m actually writing the story and learning the characters.
5. When you’re having a difficult writing day, what do you tell yourself to get through it?
I’m a sprinter who works best writing in 25-minute chunks with a friend. So I’ll just say “one more session.” I’m not one of those people who writes every day so there are also times where I’m just like “Today’s a wrap” and will go get a cookie.
6. Do you read your reviews?
I try not to. I’ll look at a trade or publication review if my publicist sends it to me but I don’t go on my Goodreads page. I truly believe reviews are reader spaces and I stay out of them. Erykah Badu has a famous line from the song Tyrone: “I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my (expletive).” I know that from a self-care perspective that reading reviews aren’t great for my mental health.
7. Besides being persistent and correcting your spelling errors, what’s your best advice for a new author?
Take the writing advice that works for you and ignore what doesn’t. I also tell emerging writers to keep their eyes on their own paper—meaning don’t compare yourself to anyone else. We’re all on our own journey—and publishing is a marathon, not a sprint.
8. What’s your definition of writer misery?
It’s when you know a scene isn’t working but you don’t have any idea how to fix it. That’s usually when I’ll talk it out with someone or just put a placeholder knowing it’ll change later.
9. What’s your definition of writer happiness?
It’s that last draft you send to your editor before you start the whole production cycle because you’re done with it but you’re not sick of it yet because you’ve had to read it way too many times with copy edits, page proofs, etc.
10. What’s your favorite book on writing?
I worship Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel by THE Hallie Ephron. I used it write my first book, Hollywood Homicide, and will still pull it out when I’m starting a new project. Hallie just does such a great job breaking down every aspect of a mystery novel.
11. What book are you reading right now?
The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family by Annette Gordon-Reed. It’s about one of the slave families that were owned by Thomas Jefferson, including Sally Hemings, the mother to six of his children. It won the Pulitzer.
I normally don’t read historical nonfiction but I was at Tucson Festival of Books—where Gordon-Reed was honored. Then a week later, I was in Charlottesville, VA for the Virginia Festival of the Book. While there, we visited Monticello and took the slavery tour. So those two things made me immediately want to purchase it.
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Kellye Garrett is the author of the suspense novel LIKE A SISTER, a twisty page-turner about a black woman in New York City looking into the mysterious overdose of her estranged reality star sister.
She also wrote the Detective by Day lightweight mysteries, which have won the Anthony, Agatha, Lefty and IPPY awards and been featured on the TODAY show as a Best Summer Read.