Monday, June 30, 2014

Rainy Day Woman

Rainy Day Woman

  Welcome debut novelist Kay Kendall.

The launch of Kay’s first book ‘Desolation Row’ –Publisher/ Stairway Press- was a welcome insight into the life of the draft dodgers who landed in Toronto and other parts of the country in the middle sixties. Austin Starr, as an amateur sleuth, keeps us rooting to find the killer responsible for the murder her husband has been charged with.

Her Austin Starr mysteries are sure to find a place on the bookshelf of an aficionado of sixties culture and fans of Bob Dylan.  Her second book ‘Rainy Day Woman’ is due for
publication in 2015.

Deception, intrigue and authentic sixties nostalgia. Those who remember this turbulent time-gone-by will connect with the tension and conflict of the passionately anti-war generation that hoped to give peace a chance, but in this entertaining mystery, wound up with murder instead.

Hank Phillippi Ryan, award winning author of ‘The Other Woman’ and other bestselling novels -


Thanks for joining us today at Jamie Tremain’s blog. We first connected through Facebook and came face to face for a hug at the Bloody Words conference in Toronto. We all had a great time socializing and networking.

From the left--Pam, Gloria Ferris, Liz, and the Hyatt's resident hippie Kay Kendall.

As a retired public relations executive do you find the power of the Internet and social media has changed how we communicate for the better?


The Internet and social media have brought a mixed bag of goodies to us. On the plus side, we can connect easily and cheaply with friends who are everywhere on the planet. We can make new friends, grow close, and never meet in person. Social media lets us do the communicating we used to do but makes it so much faster and to greater masses of people.

On the negative side, we are losing some capacity for interpersonal communication. Also our writing skills are not as, hmm, elegant, shall we say, as they used to be. Many digital books are not as carefully edited, for example, as print ones were, back in the day, even if that day was only fifteen years ago. For those of us who’ve grown up in a different world, without social media, I think we can cope quite nicely and retain the refinements of an earlier age. Anyone under twenty-five, just to pick an arbitrary number, doesn’t have the skills we older people do. Of course, as the young’uns like to point out, we don’t have their technical skills either. As I said, a mixed bag.


You hail from Kansas, now live in Houston, but lived for many years in Canada. Was the setting of your first book deliberate (Toronto)? Why not Dallas or another city in Canada? Do you have a connection to Toronto?


When I moved to Canada from Kansas in 1968, I landed in Vancouver. Because I write fiction, I didn’t want to replicate my own experiences so I chose Toronto, where many draft resisters headed. I lived in Toronto from 1987 to 1990 so had firsthand experience with that terrific city. Also, I have friends who were at the University of Toronto in 1968 so was able to tap them for accurate historical detail about the city and the university at that time.

I plan to put my early memories of Dallas in my third book, one that will focus on a crime committed in the past, within Austin’s own family. My second book is set in Vancouver, and it does reflect some of my own experiences with a women’s liberation group at UBC in the late 1960s. Of course, I threw in a murder that needed to be solved. That is sheer fiction, fortunately.


Your picture on the book insert has you holding a cute bunny and I read that you have four house rabbits and a dog! There must be a story here. Please tell us how you happen to have these little guys running around your house? Do they curl up with you when you’re writing?


Alas, our happy rabbit warren is down to only three bunnies now. One passed away of old age right after I returned from the fabulous Bloody Words conference in Toronto.

My husband and I began rescuing rabbits when dreadful neighbors threw out a baby bunny when they moved out after Easter in 1995. Many people buy tiny bunnies and chicks for their children for Easter and then abandon them to the wilds when they become burdensome. This little fellow fit in our hand and was so precious. In fact, that became his name—Precious. When he died at age five (late middle age for a rabbit), I was devastated. We got another bunny from a shelter and have been doing rabbit rescue ever since. The Houston-based organization provides us with support and many, many dear friends. The bunnies reside in my husband’s study as I have become allergic to them. Our spaniel King William, AKA Wills, does curl up at my feet when I am at the PC. He’s resting his chin on my foot as I write this.


You took Russian and Soviets studies during your time at Harvard.
I detect a theme in your future books?


There are Russians in my debut mystery Desolation Row and in my work in progress Rainy Day Women. In fact, they are continuing characters in my Austin Starr mystery series. Austin is befriended by her Russian history professor, Dr. Klimenko, and his daughter Larissa. (Their family name of Klimenko comes from my first Russian teacher.)

The father and daughter sustain Austin in book one while her husband is in the infamous Don Jail in Toronto. In book two Larissa is a prime suspect in a murder in the Vancouver women’s movement, and so Austin rushes out to the West Coast to support her…and then becomes embroiled yet again in trying to solve a murder. She’s so wildly curious that she can’t help herself. She loves playing amateur sleuth.

I should also note that, since this is the Cold War period, Austin’s background includes some CIA training. That stopped when she went into exile in Canada with her draft-resisting husband David. The CIA was interested in Austin because of her knowledge of the Russian language and the Soviet Union and its history.

This background will play a huge part in book three, and I’m toying with the idea of a Cold War spy theme, inspired by the British spy author John le Carré. He is my all-time favorite author in the broad mystery category. So, you see, I have found a way to use my Russian studies in my fiction writing. I also have a dear friend in Houston who is Russian, and I’ve drawn on Irina for half my inspiration for the character of Larissa Klimenko, although at an earlier age. Larissa is actually a mash up with Irina and a dear childhood friend from Kansas.  


If you were on a desert island and could have one book, what would it be and why?


Jane Eyre—if I had to pick just one. It and Doctor Zhivago are my favorite books of all time—well, also John le Carré’s Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. So, I’d take three books to that desert island if I could.

I consider both Charlotte Brontë’s and Boris Pasternak’s novels as romantic suspense. Le Carré’s spy novels provide endless mysteries and riddles to solve, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy is the trickiest and best. I vividly recall reading each of these three for the first time. They had such an impact on me that I’ve read each more than twice, and I haven’t done that with any other novels. Here’s my motto—so many books, so little time—so why would I reread books? With these three special novels, I couldn’t help myself.

I first read these books between the ages of ten and thirty, and they resonate in me to this day. I’ve seen every film version of Jane Eyre and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and loved them all—some more than others of course—and the film of Doctor Zhivago is in my all-time top five. I’ve seen it three times, and I don’t usually repeat movies either. Again, I follow the so-little-time principle!


To write solo or work with a collaborator?


I have only one experience with collaboration, and I enjoyed it tremendously. I worked with an Italian novelist in smoothing out the English translation of his novel from the Italian. We only worked by email, but it was such fun. I learned a lot and could have happily continued. However, I found that I couldn’t sustain my own writing and the collaboration at the same time. So I had to give up working with him.


Book signings, readings in libraries, conferences and book store appearances are all part of a published author’s day to promote their latest darling. Is this something you enjoy?


 I love the networking and marketing and meeting readers so much that it’s easy to forget about the writing at the core of it all…which remains sitting alone in a room and facing an empty screen and throwing type up on it. For me, that is torture. Once I get past the first draft, then the rest is glorious.

Many writers are true introverts, and all they really want to do is sit at home in a quiet room and compose their stories. I meet authors like this at writers’ conferences, where they moan and say how shy they are, how they want to retreat to their hotel rooms. Many don’t like the marketing aspect either, but I can do that because of my former PR career. Really, any kind of communication is fine with me. I love it all. As long as I can connect with readers and talk about books, I am ecstatic.


What are you currently reading?


Field Grey by Philip Kerr, the British author of nine historical mysteries featuring Bernie Gunther.

These unusual but thrilling and historically detailed books follow the life of a Berlin homicide detective from 1932 to 1954. During that time he is pushed by the Nazis to join the army and serve in capacities he loathes. He is captured by the Soviets at the end of World War II, then later the Americans. He’s seen the blackness of the souls of the great powers—British, French, Russian, American, and most of all his fellow Germans. Field Grey serves as an overview of Bernie’s tumultuous life. It has a neat twist at the end—I know that because I’ve read the end before finishing the whole book.

Yes, shortly after starting a book, I usually read the ending, a habit since childhood. It lets me slow down and savor each page, rather than racing to the end just to see “who done it.” I met the author Philip Kerr at a recent book signing in Houston, and since he and I agree on what to do about the current crisis in Ukraine, I think he is brilliant!


 Desolation Row, as mentioned, is set in the sixties – a turbulent time in the history of both Canada and America. Is there anything about that time period that you miss?


This is the toughest question to answer. I was so young then, in the sixties, that everything seemed possible—for me, for the world. I’m wiser now, and see fewer real possibilities for positive change. What I do really miss is the slower and friendlier pace, plus there was much less commercialization of every aspect of our lives. That’s definitely what I miss the most.

Thanks, Kay, for sharing your writing life with us. We had such a good time hanging out with you, and others, at Bloody Words we hope it won't be long before we can meet up again.We wish you all the best with your future books and the publication of Rainy Day Woman.


Kay Kendall set her debut novel, Desolation Row—An Austin Starr Mystery, in 1968. Mysteries about World Wars I and II inspired her to use the Vietnam War to illuminate reluctant courage and desperate love when a world teeters on chaos. Kay’s work in progress is Rainy Day Women, when her amateur sleuth Austin Starr must prove her best friend didn’t murder women’s liberation activists in Seattle and Vancouver. Kay is an award-winning international PR executive living in Texas with her Canadian husband, three house rabbits, and spaniel Wills. Terribly allergic to bunnies, she loves them anyway! Her book titles show she’s a Bob Dylan buff too.

If you want to contact Kay here are some links.




Alison E. Bruce said...

Enjoyed meeting you at Bloody Words, Kay. I get a kick out of the fact that you're a Texan (at least currently) who wrote a novel set in Toronto and I'm a Torontonian (formerly - now in Guelph) who wrote a book set in Texas.

Great interview!

Gloria Ferris Mystery Writer said...

Wonderful interview. I just finished Desolation Row and loved it! I'm certainly looking forward to Rainy Day Woman. And, it was so much fun hanging out with all of you at Bloody Words. Let's do it again soon!

Pam said...

Glad you liked it ladies. Liz and I had so much fun chatting with Kay.

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