Interview: Kit Frazier
by Ernest Lilley
Review by Ernest Lilley
MIDNIGHT INK Interview ISBN/ITEM#: 0706KFI
Date: June 1, 2007
Links: Kit Fraizer's Website / MIDNIGHT INK /
Gumshoe: Chick Lit as Murder Mystery? Scoop certainly works well on both levels, but did you intentionally cross the genres, and why do you think the audiences overlap?Kit Faizer: To say it was intentional would mean I had to have a plan to begin with, and my mother would gladly tell you that it would be very uncharacteristic of me to have any sort of strategy before beginning a project.
Actually, I didn't really think about a target audience when I came up with the idea. The idea for Scoop was a happy accident--I had an interview with an agent from William Morris who read a book I'd written. She said, "I love your voice and I love your protagonist, but could you get rid of the guy and the baby?"
I said, "No, but I could write you another book." On the way home, Cauley, the protagonist in the Scoop series, came to me whole and fully formed. She looked like Kate Hudson and had a personality like a young Sandra Bullock. I went home from the meeting with the agent and wrote the first 60 pages. So far, I've had as much feedback from men as I do from women on the series, and I hope to keep everyone entertained with series.
Gumshoe: Some usual questions. How long have you wanted to write fiction? Did you work up to Scoop with short stories?Kit: Ahh, I come from a big family of natural-born liars. Sit around on the porch with any member of my family and you'll get an earful of family lore, some of which is true. I've been writing since I could read, and I was quite a little mercenary. When I turned eight, I cut up my birthday cards and made business cards with markers, wrote a script, had the neighborhood kids put on a show and charged their parents admission. I suppose what I'm doing now is not much different.
Gumshoe: How hard was it to get an agent and publisher for Scoop?
Kit: Getting an agent was the easy part. Scoop won a bazillion awards and got a lot of attention on the contest circuit. I had several VPs at the Big Five publishing houses champion it all the way to marketing. The problem was the marketing menagerie couldn't figure out where to shelve it. I kept hearing, "Well, it's really not chick lit, and it's definitely not a romance. It's grittier than most women's fiction, it's more mystery, but the protagonist loves red shoes and secretly wants to fight crime. What do we do with this?" Then along came Midnight Ink, who believed in the series (and me I suppose) and it's turned out to be a match made in heaven.
Gumshoe: So far, what's the reaction to the book been like? How did you like attending Book Expo as an author? (It's where we picked up our copy)
Kit: Getting an all expense paid trip to Book Expo was like winning Publisher's Clearing House and having the big fake check delivered on top of a chocolate cake. I have been to conferences before, but nothing that big and exciting. Seriously, it was the most incredible experience of my life to be among so many people who love books and words and the things that people can do with the same 26 letters of the alphabet (and some inventive punctuation).
And so far, the reaction to the series has been overwhelmingly positive. I've only had one snarky review and most of that was for inventive punctuation of an Advanced Review Copy. So, I let my dog write a reply to her--it said something about hoping she enjoyed her free, unedited review copy and went on to say he read her review with particular interest, but what did he know because he spends an inordinate amount of time licking himself. She deleted the post two hours after it came online.
Gumshoe: You've obviously read, or watched the noir classics. I mean, they're on the TV in the book, and you named the dog that comes to stay after the world's most famous PI. Not Holmes, the other one. Who are your influences?
Kit: Oh, I love Phillip Marlowe. I love Chandler and Hammett and nearly named my dog Dash. Robert B. Parker, Elmore Leonard and Carl Hiaasen have been huge influences on me. My favorite quote from a review was, "Frazier is Carl Hiaasen in high heels." Whoo. I wish.
Outside the genre, I love Pat Conroy, Anne Rivers Siddons and I love discovering new writers.
Gumshoe: Can you give us a top five list for movies and one for books?
Kit: Yikes. That's like asking which dog I ever had was my favorite. Usually it's the one I have right now. I'll do movies first since there haven't been many I loved recently, and it seems to me that a lot of what comes out now won't stand the test of time. I'm not going to count Casablanca, because it's not fair to all other movies out there, and it's what I listen to when I'm writing.
The Big Five Movies:
2. Witness for the Prosecution (Agatha Christie) I don't get surprised very often, but this one got me.
3. The Little Foxes (Lillian Hellman) When Bette Davis gets what she deserves it makes me cheer every time.
4. Philadelphia Story (Phillip Barry) I love everything about this movie, from the snappy dialogue, to the main character (Tracy Lord) getting a snoot full to the way Katherine Hepburn bought the script and had it made when Hollywood wouldn't touch her. 5. And in a severe case of cinematic whiplash, Silverado (Lawrence and Mark Kasdan). It's like the brothers took elements of every western I ever loved (Liberty Valance, True Grit, El Dorado, etc.) and made them into one movie.
Books are a different story. Like many people I have a hard time paring down my keeper shelves and have books piled in stacks in every conceivable crevice in my house. I re-read the same twenty or so, and the rest are there to inspire me via osmosis. Right now I'm reading Anne Lamott's Traveling Merices and loving it. Of course, the following list is like the movie list and is fluid and subject to change.
3. The Prince of Tides (Pat Conroy). Conroy successfully does what I accidentally do and have to delete in every book...he puts in every thing he ever thought of and it comes out like a princess-cut diamond. I mean, come on. He's got everything in that book from an albino dolphin to a man-killing pet tiger and a garden of dead babies. And he pulls it off. I'm still trying to figure out how he makes it work...
4. Time may change my mind, but I loved, loved loved The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd). I bought a copy for every member of my family for Christmas the year it came out.
5. When I'm in trouble with my writing and feel like I'm drowning in my own words, I always go back to the green light in The Great Gatsby (F Scott Fitzgerald).
Gumshoe: Male PIs often use their way with women to solve a case. Who is the most attractive fictional PI?
Kit: Jesse Stone from Robert B Parker's New England cop novels. All he needs is a good woman and a dog and he'd be fine...
Gumshoe: Why don't female PI's seem to wrap guys around their fingers? It seems like only the bad girls get to play that game. Not that your character doesn't get to have at least some fun in Scoop.
Kit: I think there's a social stigma about women using their wiles to get what they want. Cauley does to some extent but she tries to earn her way around rather than someone handing it to her because she's cute. She usually does a quid pro quo thing with her guy pals.
Gumshoe: How long have you been writing professionally, who do you do it for, and what got you into it? Do you happen to own a Remington Scout, and does it ever get banged on?
Kit: I've always been surrounded by story, so it was natural that I would fall into it. I've been making up stories since I learned how to talk. As for the Scout...I'm currently in the market for one. My mother gave me one for Christmas the year I turned six (we couldn't afford a computer). I grew up military, and the Scout disappeared in one of the moves. I still miss it.
Gumshoe: Since both you and Cauley MacKinnon, your character in Scoop, live near Austin with a large clever dog and write for newspapers, we know that there's some overlap between you two. Where do you differ, and who has the better time?
Kit: Some people would argue that we're not different but I would beg to differ. I'm not as flighty with men as Cauley is (I'm hearing my friends snort as I'm writing) and I try not to screw up my career as often as she does. Cauley is sort of Wonder Woman to my Lynda Carter.
Also, contrary to popular opinion, I have never slept with a boss or been run into the river by an earless bald guy.
As for similarities. Well, we're both blonde and often bite off more than we can chew. We speak before fully engaging the gray matter and we both have rotten dogs that we love. I think Cauley is like the person I'd be if I'd made different choices in my life, and drank too much caffeine.
Gumshoe: So, for fun and relaxation, you do Search and Rescue? What's that like, and have you ever worked with the Texas Rangers?
Kit: The Search and Rescue thing. An FBI agent friend got me into when I wrote a story about it right after 9/11. I saw what a difference volunteers could make, and I felt so helpless, watching it all on television, and growing up Air Force, I had a lot of friends and family that were actually doing something constructive about it, and I wanted to do something, too. Since no one really needs or wants me within ten feet of a firearm, it seemed like Search and Rescue was the way to go. I know some Texas Rangers, but I've never worked with any of them except in a writing capacity.
Gumshoe: Marlowe (the dog) can't really be as smart as you write him, can he?
Kit: Absolutely. Tahoe, my dog, is so smart we are often locked in a mortal conflict of wills. He taught himself how to open the refrigerator, I have child locks on my cabinets, knows how to ground an electric fence and he knows how to unzip a camping tent. When he was younger, he would steal my car keys and hide them so I couldn't leave without him.
Gumshoe: How long have you been into pet rescue, and what's your involvement?
Kit: I have been adopting strays since I was old enough to pick up a baby bird. Luckily, my mom was pretty tolerant about it. I got heavy into rescue when I worked at a vet clinic in college, but have pared my pet population at home down to two, but I still volunteer and raise money for pet rescue charities. My last big rescue was Tahoe, who I adopted from a puppy mill that was raided in Lockhart, Texas.
Gumshoe: Knowing Texans, having read Scoop, and having seen your picture on the website (and because I'm curious) have you ever been in a beauty pageant yourself? Do Texans feel differently about pageants than folks in other parts of the country?
Kit: Snort. Yes. My mother was one of "Those Moms" and I won my first tiara when I was three. When I was old enough to rebel, I quit dance and piano on Saturdays in favor of catching frogs in the creek behind the house.
Yeah, pageants are for girls what football is for guys here. I don't know if it's the same in other states, but there's an awful lot of importance on the outward stuff. Did you know breast implants were invented in Houston? We're still expecting a statewide royalty check from California.
Gumshoe: I'm a fan of Southern cooking, which has some terrific foods in it. What sort of food do you like, and where do you go for it?
Kit: I cook a lot. My grandfather cooked and my grandmother baked and I learned from them. Granny used to wake us up in the middle of the night and yell, "Who wants chocolate pie?" and we'd all scurry to the kitchen to help. And while I've never been able to replicate Grand Dad's fried chicken, I do a pretty mean imitation of his fried okra.
Gumshoe: How do you feel about the second Cauley MacKinnon book, Dead Copy, now that it's hit the bookstores?
Kit: Thank the good Lord in heaven that one's done. Scoop came to me like a gift wrapped package from Muse Express, but writing Dead Copy was like scrambling my brain and yanking it out of my nose. I didn't think it was possible, but now that it's behind me, I like that book even better than Scoop. Hopefully, each book will get better and better until I just can't stand myself.
Gumshoe: Feel free to help me out here with some areas you'd like to say something about. What are you interested in that we haven't touched on?
Kit: I think you got them all. Except maybe that I love to teach writing. I really believe that when you get something from the world, you ought to give back, and I've found that teaching workshops is a pretty good way to do that.
Gumshoe: Thanks for chatting with us. Feel free to go do more writing so we can find out what happens to Cauley, Logan, Marlowe and the collection of friends and neer-do-wells in her world.
Kit: Thanks for all of your kind words. When the writing gets tough, it's words like yours that make it all worth it. The whole point of writing the Cauley series is to give people a brain break and make them stop and smile, even if it's just for a little while.