Friday, April 28, 2023

Q&A with HelenKay Dimon



HelenKay Dimon is the author of the new novel Moorewood Family Rules. Her many other novels include The Last Invitation (written as Darby Kane). A former divorce lawyer, she lives in San Diego.


Q: What inspired you to write Moorewood Family Rules, and how did you create your character Jillian?


A: This book grew out of a rewatch of the movie Ocean’s 8. Moorewood Family Rules is totally unrelated to the movie, of course, but Sandra Bullock does deserve some credit for this becoming an actual book.


There’s a scene where her character explains that everyone in her family is a con artist except for one great aunt. I began playing the “what if” game and thought about a person like that who got out of prison and returned home to fix her scamming family instead of pulling a new con.


We talk a lot about the “what happens behind closed doors” idea. I was a divorce lawyer for more than a decade and frequently dealt with people who acted one way in public and another at home. So, I thought about how a family of con artists would act when no one was watching. Could they turn off the lying and deceit? I decided no, as is obvious in the book.


Jillian Moorewood is the reluctant center of the family. She’s not exactly innocent. She could leave…if she wanted to, and that was the part of her personality I played with in the book.


I think we all take on these roles in our families—the practical one, the fun one, the smart one. It’s usually not conscious and sometimes we fight against it, but what and who defines us are universal questions.


I thought about that distance between who we want to be and who we are while crafting Jillian and decided she couldn’t escape her role any easier than some of us could. That makes her relatable even though she comes from a very different world from most of us.

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


A: I really view this book as a sort of dysfunctional family hijinks book. That’s a made-up genre, but I’m going with it.


Because the family is the prominent feature in the book—as opposed to romance or suspense—I wanted their last name right in the title. It seemed to me a family that thrived on chaos and subterfuge would need a few rules to carry off a successful generational grift. That led to the “rules” part of Moorewood Family Rules, and every chapter starts with one of those rules.


Q: Did you know how the book would end before you started writing it, or did you make many changes along the way?


A: I knew the tone and where Jillian would be at the end of the book. I wasn’t so sure about the others. She had the capacity for growth, but I wasn’t totally convinced when I started writing that the rest of the Moorewood family could, or would want to, change their messy ways.


Q: Picking up what you said before, the Kirkus Review of the book says, in part, “Readers who enjoy dysfunctional family dynamics will find entertainment here.” What do you think of that description?


A: I love that description because it nicely sums up the book. Shows like Succession highlight how much we enjoy peeking through the window into the lives of dysfunctional families, especially dysfunctional families with money. The Moorewoods have money, some legitimately earned and some not.


One of the things I wanted to do was suck the reader in to the Moorewoods who-can-you-trust world in a fun way, with some humor. I hope I achieved that.


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I also write thrillers under the name Darby Kane. They are totally different books from Moorewood Family Rules. Still filled with secrets but much darker and with a higher body count. I am finishing copyedits for my next thriller release, The Engagement Party (it sounds like a fun time, but it’s not), which comes out Dec. 5.


Then I need to work on my next HelenKay book. I have an idea for another Moorewood adventure and an idea for a totally different chaotic non-grifter family. Not sure which way I’m going to go yet.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: We tend to think of books in terms of fitting neatly into a genre. I debated pitching Moorewood Family Rules to my editor because it’s not a neat fit. It has a bit of romance, a bit of suspense, and a lot of family messiness, all in a lighter tone.


Clearly, there isn’t a shelf specifically for that type of book in a bookstore (general fiction, maybe?). But, if that mix sounds good, and I hope it does, then the Moorewoods might be a good reading fit for a reader. This was a book I wanted to read, so I wrote it.


--Interview with Deborah Kalb

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