Monday, May 24, 2010

Today I'm welcoming author and bookseller Kris Neri to my blog!

Kris Neri’s latest title is REVENGE FOR OLD TIMES’ SAKE, the third book in her Agatha, Anthony, Macavity Award-nominated Tracy Eaton mystery series, featuring mystery writer, detective wannabe and the offspring of eccentric Hollywood stars, Tracy Eaton. Also recently published was the first book in a new paranormal mystery series, HIGH CRIMES ON THE MAGICAL PLANE, a Lefty Award nominee for Best Humorous Mystery, featuring fake psychic Samantha Brennan and genuine Celtic goddess/FBI agent Annabelle Haggerty. Kris has also published NEVER SAY DIE, a standalone thriller, and A ROSE IN THE SNOW, a short story collection. She has published some sixty short stories, and is a two-time Derringer Award winner and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee for her short fiction. Kris teaches writing online for the Writers’ Program of the UCLA Extension School. Two of her former students have also produced a mystery writing DVD with her, WRITING KILLER MYSTERIES WITH KRIS NERI, which is based on her UCLA course. And with her husband, she owns The Well Red Coyote bookstore in Sedona, Arizona.

Welcome, Kris! Tell us a little about yourself.

I have a wildly busy, totally book-related life. I'm a published, award-winning mystery writer, as well as the owner of a general-interest bookstore, The Well Red Coyote in Sedona, Arizona. I also teach writing for the Writers' Program of the UCLA Extension School, and I also do freelance editing for writers and for an independent press. At one time I was quite a prolific short story writer -- I've published more than sixty, and I'm a two-time Derringer Award winner and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee for my short fiction. But these days I simply don't have enough time to write that many. I limit my short story publications now to the occasional anthology. My husband, Joe, and I live in Northern Arizona with our pets, our Maine Coon cat Philly, and our Cocker Spaniel Annabelle, both of whom have been named for characters in my books. In the little downtime I have, I love hiking in Sedona's magnificent red rock trails.

You’re the author of two mystery series and a standalone novel. What are the challenges and rewards of writing a series versus a standalone novel?

There's nothing like writing a series. You get to develop your characters so much deeper than any one novel would allow. You put them in so many different situations, it's like actually creating a full life for them. Over time, you build such an instinctive connection to your characters in an on-going series that you don't need to think about what they'd do, because it becomes second nature to you. I love writing series. But I also enjoy variety and a change of pace. It's exciting to get to know new characters, and while it's challenging to put everything you want readers to know in a standalone novel, it's also an intense experience, and gratifying to know you've nailed it.

What appeals to you about writing mysteries?

For me, it's the element of justice. In real life bad things happen to good people, and if that cliche is true, that "what goes around come around," it often comes around too slowly for us to draw any satisfaction from it. But in mysteries, no matter how much chaos enters into our fictional worlds, some level of order is always restored and justice is served at the end, and often in the most poetic way. I think reading about fictional justice helps us to live with the wrongs in our own lives.

Do you write in any other genre and if not, would you like to?

One of my series is an urban fantasy, which is basically a mixture of mystery and fantasy, and often romance. So, in a way, I write in all of those genres. At some point, I'd like to try general fiction, too.

What is your writing schedule like?

I typically write in the mornings and the evenings, and I work in my bookstore in the afternoons.

Are you a plotter or a pantser?

I'm somewhere in between. I always work out the backstory between the villain and the victim, so I understand the roots of the crime. I also know how a book will end, and some of the high points in between, but there's a lot that comes to me along the way. I could never write a complete outline. It would feel as if I'd already written the book, and I know I'd lose the sense of excitement that I experience now.

Can you tell us what you're working on now?

I'm writing books in both of my series. MAGICAL ALIENATION will be the next episode in my urban fantasy series, featuring fake psychic, Samantha Brennan, and Celtic goddess/FBI agent, Annabelle Haggerty. It will deal with domestic terrorism, but with a magical bent. I'm also writing the next book in my Tracy Eaton mystery series, featuring a detective wannabe and the offspring of eccentric Hollywood stars, REVENGE ON ROUTE 66, which will visit various real and made-up places along Route 66. It will be a madcap road romp, with a murder, of course.

Do you have a website or blog?

I have both! My website is: I blog with the Femmes Fatales -- Donna Andrews, Dana Andrews, Charlaine Harris, Toni L.P. Kelner, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Mary Saums and Elaine Viets -- at: We have a pretty engaging blog, with some lively discussion.

What good books have you read recently that you'd like to recommend?

The best mystery I've read lately was THE FATE OF KATHERINE CARR by Thomas H. Cook. I loved that so much, I'm now reading an ARC for Cook's next book, THE LAST TALK WITH LOLA FAYE. I just finished THE 19TH WIFE by David Ebershoff, which is general fiction, although it does contain a mystery; it takes both a contemporary and historical look at polygamy, which I find fascinating, though abhorant. I'm also reading a memoir by Azir Nafisi, THINGS I'VE BEEN SILENT ABOUT. I'm a bookseller -- I read everything.

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

The publishing business has never been more challenging than it is today. Writers today really need to learn their craft, and to make their books as good as they can be before submitting them, because you don't get much time/pages today to attract the attention of decision-makers. Writers should read everything they can, in every genre, because reading will teach you so much about good writing, and you simply absorb it unconsciously. You also need a support system of other writers because nobody else knows how tough it can be.

Thanks for stopping by, Kris!
Click here to check out Kris's books!


  1. Kris, from your picture and your answers, you seem to be very busy and thoroughly enjoying yourself. Good for you!

    Morgan Mandel