Today I welcome Jane Kelly, author of several books set in and around Philadelphia, PA, and south Jersey. She’s also very active in Mystery Writers of America. I first heard Jane speak on a panel at Malice Domestic, an annual conference for readers and writers of mysteries. She and I have kept in touch since then, and I’m honored that she’s here for an interview today.
Let’s start by talking about your new book. What’s the title and what’s it all about?
My amateur sleuth, Meg Daniels, visits another shore town in Greetings from Ventnor City. After her successful mission in Missing You in Atlantic City, she finds herself viewed as somewhat of a missing persons specialist—as well as an expert in the 1960s. Reluctantly, she reaches back to 1968, a very different 1960s from the 1964 of the Atlantic City book, to locate a Ventnor college student who has not been seen since a day of protests at the Miss America pageant. She takes along a new, temporary, investigating partner, a rock star who aspires to see how the other 99% lives.
Tell us a little about your other books.
Killing Time in Ocean City, Cape Mayhem and Wrong Beach Island are light mysteries. I always call them polite and warn people, if they like blood and guts, my books are not for them. My amateur sleuth solves crimes in New Jersey beach towns where visitors do not expect trouble. Missing You in Atlantic City is the first book that adds a historical element when Meg takes on a cold case.
(Click on the covers below to be redirected to Amazon if you want to learn more…Amy)
I also have written books featuring different sleuths set in Philadelphia that I published as e-books for Kindle only. The Writing in Time series deals with cold cases set against the backdrop of significant moments in Philadelphia social history e.g. the September Swoon of the 1964 Phillies. I have only written the first of the Widow Lady series that starts out in 1960 in a neighborhood much like the one where I grew up.
Tell me about your inspiration for Meg Daniels, the main character in your New Jersey beach towns series.
I started reading female sleuths in the 1980s: Sue Grafton, Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller. I especially loved Carole Berry’s books. Her amateur detective was an office temp, whose lack of investigative credentials made me wonder if I could overcome my own lack of technical knowledge and create an amateur detective.
Do you spend time at the Jersey shore? What are some of your favorite places to visit?
When I was a baby, my family always spent the summer in Wildwood Crest, but my mother protested that everyone else got a vacation and she just moved her job. So after the age of three, I never again spent the entire summer at the shore. For several years, my parents would take me to a very elegant guest house in Ventnor where my mother could relax. In the winter, my father, a fair-skinned redhead, would take us to Atlantic City for winter weekends.
As I got older, my Philadelphia classmates often got to bring ‘a friend’ with them on vacation. So I became a ‘friend’ and spent time in many different locales: Ocean City, Cape May, Long Beach Island, Stone Harbor, Strathmere, Sea Isle City. Even different areas within each locale. So, I love revisiting all these locales—at any time of year.
My favorite spot? I love the Oyster Creek Inn in Leed’s Point. No matter how often we go, my friends and I always take pictures. We age, but the scenery stays gorgeous.
What does a typical work day look like for you?
I wish I had a typical day. I once set up a daily regimen that started with a brisk walk. On the first day, I took the walk, came home and slept for three hours. I abandoned that routine, but no matter what I have to do on any day, I make sure I write first.
Can you tell us something about Meg Daniels that the rest of the world doesn’t know?
She shares everything with her readers. They have full access to her internal dialog, but there may be some aspects of her past that she hasn’t revealed yet. Not even to me.
What is the hardest thing about writing, in your opinion?
I love writing. I adore editing. But putting the story together in a clear and well-paced order is the most challenging aspect for me.
Who are your favorite authors to read?
I read a lot of non-fiction, mostly Cold War history and memoir. Right now I have two fiction projects: 1) to reread classic mysteries, and 2) to read the books of the writers I meet. I am horribly behind on both.
What is your favorite movie and why?
The summer Jurassic Park opened I didn’t see it for weeks because Kenneth Branagh’s Much Ado About Nothing was playing in the same theater and I would walk up to the box office and say “One for Jur . . . Much Ado About Nothing.”
I also love older romantic comedies from the era when I was the same age as the characters. I would love to hang out with the crowd in Notting Hill.
What advice would you give your twenty-year-old self?
“When you are forty, you are going to discover that you like writing novels. You might want to get started now.”
Describe yourself in three words.
I can only say what I aspire to be. Open-minded. Humorous. Kind.
Are you in a writing group or a critique group?
No. I am afraid of them. Always have been. I think I would be too easily discouraged. On the flip side, I don’t feel qualified to give advice. I know what I like but I don’t believe that makes it right.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you wanted me to?
Want to meet for lunch sometime?
Definitely! You name the time and place. Thanks so much for being here today, Jane.
Until next time,