Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Mystery Writer Karen Olson Fields Queries About Reporters, Dunkin Munchkins and Billy Joel

posted by Julia Buckley
Karen Olson's new book, DEAD OF THE DAY, comes out today from Penguin. You can find the Amazon link here. Poe's Deadly Daughters are helping Karen start off her blog tour, and we're happy to welcome her here.

Karen, I just finished your book, DEAD OF THE DAY, and I enjoyed it very much.

I’m curious about the title. I know that “Dead of the day” is a newspaper term referring to the people who are listed as the day’s obituaries, but I’m also wondering if you wanted an inversion of the Hispanic notion of “Day of the Dead,” or El Dia de Los Muertos, since many of your characters are Latino.

I’m glad you enjoyed it!

“Dead of the day” is not a real newspaper term. And I hadn’t thought much about the Latino link in the book to the Day of the Dead. This was not the original working title of the book, which was “Waterlogged.” The publisher didn’t like it and had me change it, and it took some time to come up with a new title. My good friend Reed Coleman asked me how the book starts, and I told him and used the term. He said, “You do know that’s your title?” He was right.

I need to know this immediately: your character, Annie Seymour, at one point is eating Dunkin Munchkins, and says that she avoids the jelly filled because she knows how they get the jelly in there. Hey! I eat those. How DO they get the jelly in there?

I don’t know. But I heard someone say that once, so I thought it would be a fun line. But I didn’t really want to know, so I never looked into it. This is pretty much the way I research a book. :)

Me, too. Annie is in a little love triangle, in that she can’t quite decide between two good, attractive men. Do people ever liken you to Janet Evanovich for this reason?

My books have been compared to Janet Evanovich’s, but I’m not sure if it’s Annie’s smart-alecky comments or the love triangle. Maybe a little bit of both. But I promise I will not keep readers eternally wondering about which man Annie will end up with.

The book makes me feel very old and sedentary, because when Annie isn’t tooling around in a vehicle she seems to be running all over the place, and at all hours of the day and night. Is this how it is in the world of reporting?

Being a reporter is being out on the streets, at city hall, at the police department, at crime scenes, at government meetings. Time is spent in the newsroom mainly to make calls and file stories.

You were a journalist for 20 years. How much of the craziness of Annie’s office was similar to yours?

I have tried very hard to keep the authenticity of what it’s like working in a real newsroom in my books. Many times I’ll read a novel with a reporter character and shake my head, wondering whether the author has ever been in a newsroom. Of course, I was never held at gunpoint, I was never taken hostage, and I don’t know any reporters who were. I did once work with a sports editor who kept a gun in his car’s glove box. And at the same paper, one of the reporters told a story about how he’d been stabbed — by his girlfriend — with a kitchen knife.

Wow. Do you miss chasing down stories?

I haven’t chased down a story in years. I was a reporter for six years and I covered small towns, everything from planning and zoning to school boards to town hall and land records. There’s a fair amount of chasing in that, but I found out I could make more money as a nighttime metro editor and copy editor. So I spent 15 years telling reporters where to go. Literally. While I sat at my desk and fixed their sentences and designed pages.

Good for you! I love your new website, although I miss the photo of you in front of the cool brownstone. Did you create the site yourself?

My friend Mike Jones, who used to work at the New Haven Register with me, owns a company called Webkazoo (www.webkazoo.com) and he designed my site with the help of his graphic artist wife Barbara Kagan. He also maintains it.

I must also note that your characters says something about going to a Billy Joel concert “back when people admitted they went to Billy Joel concerts.” Have I missed something? Am I uncool because I still like Billy Joel?

I think Billy Joel probably still draws people “of a certain age,” but he’s not as cool as he used to be. Although I still know all the words to all the songs on THE STRANGER album (but that dates me, too, since I still call them albums and not CDs).

Well, I think we're in the same club, Karen. Are you now working on a fourth Annie Seymour mystery?

The fourth Annie Seymour mystery is called SHOT GIRL. I’ve done all the edits on it and am waiting for the copy editor to finish with it, and I’ll get another chance to go through it.

The cover of your book is neat, and sort of retro. Do you like it?

I love the cover. When I moved from Warner to Penguin, my editor said they wanted to change my “look.” While I really liked the bright colors and big font of the previous two covers, I think this one really hits the mark on showing the reader that it’s a mystery, it’s suspenseful, and there’s lots of action.

Now that you have a different job, do you get any extra time to read? If so, what’s the best book you’ve read lately?

I do read. I take the bus to work every day and have half an hour there and back of uninterrupted reading time. I just finished Lori Armstrong’s SHALLOW GRAVE, which is the third in her Julie Collins series, and is fantastic. I also have recently read Da Chen’s BROTHERS, which is an amazing tale of two brothers during and after the Cultural Revolution in China.

How are you and the family celebrating the publication of your book?

We don’t really celebrate, except maybe my husband will make something special for dinner. I don’t like a lot of fanfare; I just move onto the next project.

Did the First Offenders, your fellow bloggers, throw you a party? :)

It would be difficult for my fellow First Offenders to have a party for me since I’m in New Haven, Jeff Shelby’s in Dallas, Lori Armstrong’s in South Dakota, and Alison Gaylin is in upstate New York. And anyway, since Lori and Alison both have new books out now, too, it would have to be a party for all of us. We’re hoping to meet up at Left Coast Crime in Denver in March. It will be the first time we’ll all be in the same place since Bouchercon in Madison, Wisconsin, last year.

I was at that Bouchercon! Too bad we didn't meet. What’s next for Karen Olson?
I just keep moving forward. I’m working on a proposal for a fifth Annie book and I’m also working on one of those ubiquitous standalones we keep hearing about. It’s a crime novel, although very different from the series in that it’s written from multiple points of view and has a historical base although set in present day.

Sounds terrific--good luck with it. Thanks for chatting with me, Karen!

Thanks so much for having me here!


Chris said...

Great start to the tour!

Louise Ure said...

Nice to see you here, Karen, but you've burst my bubble about the title. I was SURE that it was a nod to the Latino emphasis on the Day of the Dead!

And I'll probably have the wrong idea about Shot Girl, too. What? It doesn't have to do with drinking?

Karen Olson said...

Louise, SHOT GIRL does have to do with drinking. But in a roundabout sort of way.

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Good luck with the new book Karen! I love the cover too. Can't wait to see what trouble Annie gets into this time...See you next week in Madison, CT.


Julia Buckley said...

I still want to know about the munchkins. :)

Literary Feline said...

I was wondering the same thing about the jelly filled when Karen mentioned it in her book. Haha

I actually assumed that Dead of the Day had to do with the quiet time at the newspaper when news was slow. :-)

Karen Olson said...

I'll have to find out about those munchkins...