Welcome! Come on in. Make yourselves at home. Today, I’m visiting with fellow author, L.A. Kelley. I recently finished reading her young adult book, The Rules for Lying and loved it. She sounded like a lot of fun, so I got in touch with her and was delighted when she agreed to let me feature her on my blog.
Some interesting things she has to say about herself: Although born in the North (don’t hold it against me), I went to college in New Orleans and developed a love of beignets, po’boys, and fais do-do. I’ve lived in the South ever since. I’ve been writing since old enough to gnaw on a #2 pencil, but only jumped into publishing a few years ago. I have eight self-published novels and five with an indy press. All have adventure, humor, and a little romance because life is dull without them. No graphic sex or gore so your mama would approve, but a touch of cheeky sass so maybe she wouldn’t. In my spare time, I call in fifolet sightings to the Louisiana Department of Fish and Wildlife. They are heartily sick of hearing from me.
Describe what you consider your ideal writing conditions.
I write every day, but not at a desk. I’ve never found one comfortable. Instead, I prefer to hunker down in an overstuffed armchair. This is my chair. Mine only. Nobody sits there. Get your butt off the cushion or I’ll smack you.
Are you a plotter, a pantser or some combination of both?
I wish I were a plotter, but I’m a pantser. Plotter sounds much more intelligent. I envision a writer (dressed in tweeds with a spaniel at her feet), examining a neat, organized database of characters and interconnecting plot points. She sips a sherry and pats the dog on the head. “What say, Winston, shall we give this a go?” A week later she finishes a full-length novel and takes Winston for a hike through the heather. Then there’s me. I only have a book title and that spurs an idea and then another and another and I’m off and running. Many of the characters even take off on their own tangent, refusing to do what I want. I try to slap them back into a paragraph and behave, but they spit in my eye and escape. All I can do is follow.
I completely understand. And if I don’t listen to my characters, they’ve been known to stage sit-ins.
What is the thing you like best about being a published author?
I can work in my schlubby clothes. If anyone complains, I say, “These are my lucky writing clothes. Now, scram.”
I spend some days in pajamas…why take the time to dress when you’re on a roll?
What is the one thing you like the least about being a published author?
People expect I to be better at grammar than I is. That’s why me has a editor.
I hate it when people assume I’m raking in royalties.
What is the best compliment you ever received as a writer?
One reader complained one of my books made her late for a luncheon (and she was never late for meals.) She had to finish it before she left the house. That’s what every writer wants to hear.
What is something we’ll never catch you doing?
And her Bonus Questions (which I love): What inspired you to set this book in an alternate 1930s New Orleans?
It’s a blast to weave fact and fiction. The Depression
was a tough time in American history with drama of its own. Social safety nets
didn’t exist. People had to rely on each other, and it was easy for
unscrupulous individuals to take advantage of the weak and powerless. It was an
era of rapid political change, too. The problems of the rest of the world
seemed so far removed from America, but evil spread quickly with a rising Nazi
threat. New Orleans is a great place in any decade and throwing magic in the
mix with history heightens the fun.
Tell us more
about Peter Whistler. What makes him tick?
He’s a tough kid who made it his business not to get involved with others. He has one goal in life—leave New Jersey, use his uncanny ability to lie his way to fame and fortune, and never be responsible for anyone. He has a hidden soft side, though, courtesy of the only person who ever cared for him, Elsie Hart, the owner of Little Angels. When a conjuror threatens Elsie and a little blind girl, he’s spurred to action. My, my, will Peter discover he needs people to care for after all? Stay tuned.
well-bred southern girls, Amelie Marchand is trained in deadly martial
arts.” Why did you create her this way?
The great part of writing an alternate history is you get to change facts from true to “Gee, I wish that was true.” Unlike the real 1930s, my New Orleans’ upper crust expects young ladies to follow rules of correct social deportment along with protecting themselves and their families from danger. This is also an equal opportunity era when it comes to magic. Women can be shamans (the good guys) and conjurors (very, very bad guys).
what other secret skills do you have?
I can tell the difference between caffeinated and decaffeinated tea just by peering into a cup and my atonal singing is known to bring grown men to their knees. I’m often slipped a few bucks at parties not to sing Happy Birthday. I don’t mind. Cash is always welcome.
This book is
part of a series. Can it be read as a standalone? How does the next book in the
series tie in with this one?
This can easily be read as a standalone. I hate cliffhangers, but hope I’ve piqued enough interest for a reader to go on to Book 2, The Book of the Practically Undead. Peter’s adventures continue in New Orleans. He learns more about shaman life and runs into trouble with a demonic book, not to mention the growing rise of Nazism in Europe causes unpleasant ripples in the Big Easy.
The Rules for Lying is on sale at Amazon for 99 cents until February 14.
Excerpt: The Grimaldis knew the truth about Pike. He drove their car, so they must be involved in his scheme. A little snooping to discover the truth, and then Mrs. Hart could get on the horn to the Feds. I imagined a squad of G-men storming Grimaldi’s Market and then Nico and Carlotta’s faces peering morosely out the back of a paddy wagon as it drove through town. Maybe I could even convince the coppers to stop for Chauncey.
The unlit streets were deserted as I made my way to the Grimaldi’s house. The black roadster was parked outside the garage. A light shone in a downstairs window, so I snuck across the lawn and peeked in.
Pike sat at the kitchen table; fingers clasped placidly in front, not a glowing eyeball in sight. I gave myself a mental kick in the pants for being such a dope.
The Grimaldis huddled over a piece of paper. Mr. Grimaldi looked up and cleared his throat. “Everything is in order. The carriage house suited you?”
Pike slid an envelope stuffed with cash across the tabletop. “Yes. It was private and exactly as described. We have a deal.”
Mrs. Grimaldi snatched at the bills with undisguised greed. “We wouldn’t do this, you understand, but the Feds raided all the local speakeasies. Our best clients shut down. Times are tough.”
Mr. Grimaldi scrawled a signature on the paper and handed the pen to his wife. She added hers, and then Pike tucked the paper in his pocket. “You needn’t be concerned about the girl.”
My ears pricked up. Girl? What girl? If Pike meant Mrs. Hart, the doctor needed to get his own eyes checked.
Mr. Grimaldi shifted in his seat, a flush tinting his fat cheeks. “People might get the wrong impression if the arrangement is discovered. You understand—they don’t realize our actions are for her own good.”
I sucked in my breath. Mr. Grimaldi lied big time.
“Don’t worry. No one will ever find out.” Pike’s voice was as cold as midwinter ice.
A teensy doubt jabbed at my mind that all this had to do with gangsters, but I brushed it roughly away. Pike and the Grimaldis rose from the table. I darted from the window and ducked behind a tree right before the kitchen door opened.
Mrs. Grimaldi beamed at Pike. “If you need anything else, don’t hesitate to stop by.”
The dark man set the fedora on his head and snapped the brim over his eyes. “I’m quite satisfied. You won’t see me again.”
For some reason, the truth shook me more than a lie. Mr. Grimaldi closed the door, but Pike remained on the stoop. The kitchen went dark and then a light switched on in an upstairs bedroom window.
I peered from behind the tree. Why did Pike wait? To rob the joint after they fell asleep? If so, I had no plan to stop him. I had half a mind to help.
The bedroom light flicked off and the yard went pitch black. One second…two seconds…three seconds…
A yellow beam danced across the door, and my throat nearly closed in terror. That was no flashlight.
The ray from Pike’s eyes narrowed and focused pencil-thin. The smell of burning wood drifted across the lawn as he etched a smoldering hieroglyphic of a flame in the middle of the door. The outline of glowing embers flared and then snuffed out. Pike stepped back from the stoop. He paused for a moment as if to admire his handiwork and then sprinted down the alley.
Heart thumping, I darted to the door. My fingers stroked the spot where I last saw the little flame. The wood was still warm.
I snatched back my hand. The wood now blazed hot, more scorching by the second. The glowing outline flared to life again. A spark shot out, soared overhead, and landed near the chimney. Patches of shingles exploded in flames.
A long thin spark slithered from the symbol, a fiery snake writhing toward the keyhole. Without thinking, I reached to sweep it away only to jerk my fingers from the scalding heat. The spark slid into the opening. With a roar, a curtain of fire engulfed the downstairs windows.
In a panic, I banged on the door. “Wake up! The house is on fire!”
A thick choking cloud of smoke billowed under the doorframe, and I staggered back in a coughing fit. In a blink, the first floor was an inferno. How did the fire spread so fast? Mrs. Grimaldi’s terrified screams cut through the crackling fusillade of flames.
Blistering heat drove me across the yard. The panic-stricken face of Nico Grimaldi appeared at the bedroom window struggling to open the sash.
The wooden supports inside the house splintered and gave way. Mr. Grimaldi vanished in a thunderous crash as the second floor collapsed on the first. His wife’s screams cut off.
Multiple sirens wailed in the distance. I stumbled down the alley as hot cinders rained from above. Embers lit on my clothing, and I slapped them away. The Grimaldi house was now a nightmare of hellfire. I flinched as all the outside walls caved in with a deafening roar.
The first of the fire trucks screeched around the corner. Cops would surely follow asking questions I couldn’t answer. As I ran across the street, the glare of a headlight caught me for an instant.
Tires squealed, and a man yelled, “You there, stop!”
This has been so much fun. Thanks for coming. Let’s do it again sometime.
Check out my review. The Rules for Lying. It’s a great book.