Sunday, August 21, 2022

Q&A with Kate Khavari




Kate Khavari is the author of the new novel A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons. She lives in the Dallas-Forth Worth area.


Q: What inspired you to write A Botanist's Guide to Parties and Poisons, and how did you create your character Saffron?


A: A few years ago I was binge-reading historical mysteries (Kerry Greenwood's Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries, Tasha Alexander's Lady Emily series, and Ashley Weaver's Amory Ames series), and while I loved all the books I read, none of them were the absolute perfect mystery for me.


It occurred to me one day that I could write my own perfect mystery that had all my favorite things in it. I wanted a dynamic main character, lush settings, silly banter, and some romance.


And when I found a name combination I felt was worthy of a murder mystery (not Saffron Everleigh, but Eris Ermine!), I felt a lightning bolt of inspiration and the ideas just started pouring out.

I also knew I wanted to begin the mystery with a classic, Poirot-esque dinner party situation, but I needed a reason for the characters to gather, so I quickly settled on them belonging to a university.


A small community like a university provided a lot of interesting characters and opportunities for unusual conflicts. My sleuth needed to belong to that community, so she became a researcher. She needed a discipline, something I could happily research for hours, so she became a botanist since I love plants and gardening.


Then she needed a name, and I loved the idea of a botanical name that could be a sort of running joke, so my detective became Saffron Everleigh.


Q: How did you research the novel, and did you learn anything that especially surprised you?


A: The research was the hardest and most fun part of the writing and revision process. Some things were easier than others to discover, like what sort of clothing was worn at the time. The website Vintage Dancer was my mecca for information about apparel.


Other things were harder to find, like maps of the university’s campus. Fortunately, University College London has a lot of historical information available, and their records department was really kind and gave me some documents that were really useful.


Google Maps street view was my hero! The parts of London I'm using are a mixture of new and old these days, so I could get a good idea of what things looked like by creeping on streets.

The plants were actually the easiest part to research! I learned so much about just the basics of botany, like the names of plant parts and the kinds of leaves plants have, in addition to how certain toxins work in the body. It was a challenge, too, figuring out what would be meaningful to readers without sounding like nonstop scientific jargon.


The hardest aspect was figuring out how the characters would relate to the scientific information they had to discuss. I could easily find out who discovered what and when.


For example, there was work being done on chlorophyll a few years before the book takes place in 1923, but what would Saffron and her colleagues know about that? How would they relate to that information, since they clearly wouldn't be taught about chlorophyll in grade school like we are today.


Figuring out what the characters would know and how they should speak about it was the hardest part. 


Q: Without giving anything away, did you know how the novel would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: Since this was my first book, written without much of a plan apart from "I want to write a mystery!", I would say that the ending did surprise me a little. I knew who the villain was, but not much else when I started writing. The discovery writing process was immensely fun!

I've since changed my method of writing (I stand firmly in the middle of the panster-planner spectrum as a proud plantser, which I feel is appropriate) and I'm happy to say that my endings still surprise me, even if I see them coming from way further away in the story.


Q: How was the book's title chosen, and what does it signify for you?


A: I am so lucky to have a team of people at Crooked Lane Books who know publishing inside and out and they were the ones to devise the perfect title for my story. I love it and the structure we'll be moving forward with for the other books (Book 2 is called A Botanist’s Guide to Flowers and Fatality), and I feel like it totally reflects the sciencey-but-fun vibe of the books.

Q: Can you say anything more about what's next in the series?


A: I can say that the second book has more of everything: more murder, more science, more handsome colleagues, more drama, more kissing (!), and more about Saffron and her friends.


There's some intriguing settings, like a shady jazz club, and a very intriguing mystery centered around floriography, which is the Victorian practice of sending messages through flowers. I'm putting the finishing touches on the next-to-last draft as we speak!


A Botanist’s Guide to Flowers and Fatality comes out Summer 2023, and I also just announced that Saffron will be getting a third book, to be released Summer 2024.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: I am very active on Instagram (@authorkkhavari) and Twitter (@authorkkhavari) and love connecting with readers, book clubs, and other writers through my newsletter, which can be found on my website.


For readers who'd like to know more about each plant mentioned in A Botanist’s Guide to Parties and Poisons, there is a botanical index listed on my website where you can find a bit of information about each one.

I also write in other genres, including fantasy, and I'll be publishing a trilogy of urban fantasy books this year!


The Blood Magic trilogy follows Ali, the servant of a vampire, who was ready for a regular human life, but who is drawn back into the world of magic when her vampire master dies and leaves her household to another vampire who turns out to be an agent of the vampiric government.


Secrets, lies, and magic tangle into a web that Ali can't seem to break away from, and after all the dramatic revelations she learns, she has to decide if she truly wants to leave that world behind. Blood Print, the first in the series, will be released Oct. 4 on Kindle and Kindle Unlimited.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

No comments:

Post a Comment