Thursday, June 6, 2024

Q&A with Mary Keliikoa



Mary Keliikoa is the author of the new novel Don't Ask, Don't Follow. Her other novels include the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series. She is based in Washington state and in Hawaii.


Q: What inspired you to write Don’t Ask, Don’t Follow, and how did you create your character Beth?


A: I’d spent 18 years in the legal field in what I deem another life. During that time, however, my love of mystery was born and when I wrote my first novel. Working in the law firm environment was such a great place to be exposed to not only legal proceedings and practices, but so many various and colorful characters.


As I sat down to begin a new project, this time a standalone, I thought the timing was perfect to bring back some of that law firm experience.


Of course, setting is only a small part of the book. The idea of Beth finding her boss dead and her big sister running from the scene was the start of the What If game I like to play when creating a book.


As I went down that rabbit hole, the plot developed. What if everything you thought about your life was a lie? What if the one person you thought you could trust, turns out not to be so trustworthy? What if your big sister knew a whole lot more than she was telling?


As for Beth, she really came to me in a way that was organic. I saw her for the people-pleasing little sister right from the beginning. Perhaps because I can relate to that a bit, writing her was quite easy.


Q: How would you describe the dynamic between Beth and her sister, Lindsay?


A: Complicated! I wanted to challenge the notion that the big sister takes care of the little sister and made Lindsay free-spirited and often reckless, yet successful in her own right as she takes on environmental and social issues.


Beth cares about those same causes, but approaches life in a more conservative way, less direct and more behind the scenes. She believes the subtle approach is more effective.


Sometimes those approaches, however, cause the sisters to not understand where the other is coming from.


There are other differences as well. Beth wants her dad’s approval, but at the same time she wants her independence. She wants life to run smooth, and when Lindsay is often making questionable decisions and getting into trouble, Beth feels it’s her duty to make things right in the family and help Lindsay off the ledge.


On the other hand, Lindsay wants her freedom and could care less about her parents’ approval, but she does love Beth in a fierce protective way that is shown through the book. Although you don’t see much of Lindsay, you know as the story unfolds that she has Beth’s back.

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


A: I had it in my mind how it would end for sure. That’s not always the case—sometimes the ending surprises me. This ending I did know. However, some didn’t think it worked as well. After a few revisions, I could see that perspective was right and so I changed the ending. Ultimately, I’m very happy with the decision and think the ending is quite fitting.


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


A: The working title for the book originally was The Hidden Sister, but as the story developed, I didn’t think it aptly described the novel. This is a story about a little sister that will stop at nothing to find her big sister even if it means destroying the only family she’s ever known.


Her whole life she’s been the “good” daughter. The one that plays by the rules. Does what she’s told—especially when her big sister asks. I thought the words she’s so often heard from her sister made the perfect title: Don’t Ask, Don’t Follow because this time, if Beth follows that directive, her sister could die. I think it worked perfect and that’s the one that stuck!


Q: What are you working on now?


A: I’m working on two projects. The first is the third book in the award-winning Misty Pines mystery series. Hidden Pieces and Deadly Tides are out now, and Killer Tracks will be out in September 2025.


I’m also finishing edits on another domestic suspense that’s a little different from anything I’ve ever written. Game Over’s pitch is: A wife’s quest to one-up her husband results in her frantic search to save him when her prank turns deadly.


I’m so excited about both books, but the domestic suspense I hope will be out on submission soon.


Q: Anything else we should know?


A: If you want to find out more about my Misty Pines series, and my multi-award nominated PI Kelly Pruett series, along with what’s new, please consider checking out my website at


You can also sign up for my monthly newsletter where I keep my fans up to date about new projects and where I will be, and I often host giveaways!


Thank you so much for having me!


--Interview with Deborah Kalb. Here's a previous Q&A with Mary Keliikoa.

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