Thursday, June 11, 2015

Q&A with Kris Calvin

Kris Calvin is the author of the new mystery novel One Murder More. A former local elected official, she is based in the Sacramento area.

Q: You’ve worked in politics. Why did you decide to write a mystery novel set in the political world as opposed to some other sort of book about politics?

A: I read two to three novels a week, all types. It’s my entertainment and escape. But it never occurred to me to write a book of my own until a few years ago when I picked up Kate Atkinson’s Case Histories, a complex, challenging mystery that tells several distinct stories and then brings them together in the end to solve a puzzle.

Having worked in politics for years, I realized a similar structure might work to explore the many motives for murder and mayhem that exist in politics.  

Q: How did you come up with your main character, Maren? 

A: Most people think of lobbyists as little better than untrustworthy hired guns. I wanted to go against type by writing a mystery featuring an ethical lobbyist. That idea sparked the creation of Maren Kane, a principled lobbyist who finds herself embroiled in a murder investigation. 

Q: The book takes place in Sacramento. Do you think it could take place in another state capital, or is this a story that could only happen in that particular city? 

A: Certainly, other state capitals have been witness to political scenarios as outrageous as the fiction in my novel. A former Chicago governor was convicted of trying to sell an appointment to a state senate seat. 

But the particular diverse set of suspects and sidekicks and trajectory of the plot in One Murder More may be best suited for California. There’s a gorgeous young public defender, half African-American, half Latina, who is the spitting image of a well-known (imaginary) movie starlet, an openly gay dedicated junior homicide detective, and a governor who plays jazz piano and left office to establish nonprofit schools in impoverished areas in Africa.  

Q: Which mystery novels do you particularly like? 

A: I like series best. There are so many good ones. John Lescroart’s Dismas Hardy legal thrillers. Catriona McPherson’s amateur sleuth Dandy Gilvers in 1920s Scotland. Kirk Russell's John Marquez California-based ecothrillers. And I consider some literary fiction to be at its heart a mystery—To Kill A Mockingbird may be the greatest “whodunit.”   

Q: What are you working on now? 

A: The second book in the Maren Kane series, working title A Timely Mystery. It’s in the first stages of development, where anything seems possible, There’s arson, kidnapping and a lost treasure.  Some will need to fall out in rewrites, but for now it’s pleasant chaos.  

Q: Anything else we should know? 

A: My NBA team, the Golden State Warriors, last won the championship nearly 40 years ago. They’re in the finals battling LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers, who’ve never won it all. 

A critical game in the series conflicts with one of my readings/author events for One Murder More, and it’s killing me. I know I can tape it, but it’s not the same. 

--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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