Thank you so much for being here, Kylie Logan. I’m a long time fan of your Pepper Martin series and feel privileged to have met you in person twice.
1: First off, I know you have several names you write under. Why do you feel the need to use a pseudonym and how do you come up with the names?
Easy to explain that one. The Pepper Martin mysteries, the ones I write as Casey Daniels, contain a paranormal element (Pepper works at a cemetery and solves mysteries for the ghosts there). The Kylie Logan Button Box mysteries are straight cozies, about a woman who owns an antique button shop and gets involved in murder. It made sense to keep these two different kinds of books apart by using different pen names. As for how I come up with them . . . it’s kind of like choosing names of characters in books. What mood am I trying to convey? What sort of feeling? Once upon a time, I wrote a series of young adult horror books as Zoe Daniels, so I just kind of figured she had a sister named Casey! As for Kylie, I like the flow of the name, the energy.
2: I like the name, too. So, how long have you been writing and what was your first book and series?
In January, it will be (gulp!) 20 years since my first book was published. It was a historical romance called “Twilight Secrets.” Since then, I’ve published 40 novels. As for mysteries, the Pepper Martin books were my first, and the first book in that series is “Don of the Dead.” In addition to msytery and historical romance, I’ve written YA, contemporary romance and one children’s book. Romance readers might know me as Constance Laux or Connie Lane.
3: I remember those names and enjoyed your visit to our chapter of RWA. Tell us, what do you like the most and least about writing?
Well, when you’re a writer, you get to stay at home and you never have to wear pantyhose to the office! That’s a big plus. And obviously, getting to let my imagination run free is a lot of fun, too. What do I like least? There are plenty of days when it’s hard for me to make myself sit down and work. So many other distractions in life, and so many things I’d like to try and do!
4: I know the feeling. So, what do you for fun and relaxation when not writing?
I am very into fiber arts. I weave, knit, crochet and spin (I’m really bad at that last one, really bad!). Love that kind of thing. I’m also a beekeeper. I have two hives and love watching the bees almost as much as I love stealing their honey!
5: A beekeeper, wow, that sounds so interesting. If my information is correct, you started off writing romance. When and how did you begin to write mysteries?
I answered the first part of your question earlier. As to how I started writing mysteries . . . I’ve always liked to read mysteries and I was afraid I could never be clever enough to write one. Finally convinced myself that if I didn’t try, I wouldn’t know if I could or couldn’t do it. The Pepper Martin mysteries were the result.
6: Well you certainly proved you can do it. That's a great series. I believe I’ve read every book. Different kind of question - What’s the one thing you’d most like people to know about you?
That my books are fun and interesting and that they belong in every home in America!
7: LOL I can verify that. They are fun. In fact, I learned a lot about Cleveland and the cemetery from the Pepper Martin Books. I know you didn’t use the real name, but being a cemetery buff myself, I made hubby take me there. Awesome place. So, tell us about your current novel, Button Holed. How did you come up with the idea and where we can find it?
I’ve always loved antique buttons. They’re little bits of history and many of them (especially older buttons) are works of art. Amazing little things! So when I walked into an antique shop in Ann Arbor, Michigan and saw thousands and thousands of buttons, I figured I was in heaven. That’s where I got the idea for the Button Box mystery series. Josie Giancola, the heroine of the series, loves buttons even more than I do. What she doesn’t like is being the center of attention, and that’s where she finds herself when an actress is murdered at her shop, the Button Box, and when she’s cleaning up, Josie finds a button where the body was—and it’s not from her collection. The cops ask for Josie’s help, and before she knows it, she’s hot on the trail of a killer who wants to keep Josie’s lips buttoned—permanently.
8: That one is definitely on my to buy list. I love buttons, too. Even as a child I loved playing with my mother’s button box. I wonder where it is now. Probably at my sister’s. The cover of your book is awesome, by the way. Okay, do you have any tips for aspiring authors?
Read, read, read. And write. I find one problem many aspiring writers have is that they sit down and try to write something, and when it doesn’t come out exactly the way they’d like it to, they figure they aren’t “meant” to be writers. Wrong! All writing is about re-writing. So don’t give up. Write, and change, and edit, and re-write. Writing is not some flashy inspirational thing that flies out of your fingers and on to the computer screen. It’s all about hard work.
9: Boy that’s the truth. I wish some of my friends and relatives knew that. Do you base your characters on real-life people?
Yes. And no. There’s no way to avoid watching people and no telling how much of that watching translates onto the page. But I don’t consciously take people I know and plop them into books. Maybe bits and pieces of Person A and bits and pieces of Person B. But never the whole person. Let’s face it, none of us is that interesting.
10: Very well put. I’m asked that question a lot. I like your answer. So tell us, are you finished with the Pepper Martin series, or does she still have some mysteries to solve?
Book #8 is the Pepper Martin series is called “Wild, Wild Death” and will be out on January 3. In it, Pepper’s going to be visiting New Mexico. I’m currently working on book #9.
11: I’m so glad you’re not done with her. I absolutely fell in love with her from book one. Button Holed is the first in the new series, how many do you have planned?
Book #2 is done and will be published in June. Not sure of a title yet, but it might be “Hot Button.” We’ll see. After that, one more book on this currently contract and (fingers crossed here) many more after that.
In addition to the Pepper Martin and the Button Box mysteries, I’ve recently sold a new series that will premier some time in 2013. More about that when the dates and titles are determined!
12. Oh boy, I can hardly wait to hear about that one. You’re a very busy person, tell us more about the process of writing a book. Are you a plotter or punster?
I’m a plotter. I outline every book pretty thoroughly, chapter by chapter. I don’t always know how something’s going to happen, but I pretty much know what’s going to happen. For me, that’s the only way to logically follow a mystery through to a satisfying conclusion. It also allows me to write faster. I don’t have to stop and think about what’s going to happen next.
13. Oh I wish I could write like that. Where can we find you? Website? Blog?
I’m meeting with a designer next week to get a web site up and going for Kylie and to update the Casey website (www.caseydaniels.com). For now, you can find Kylie at http://kylielogan.blogspot.com Casey blogs at www.thelittleblogofmurder.com every Wednesday.
Thank you again for being here, Kylie.
Here’s the thing about walking into your office at five in the morning and running smack into a hulk of a guy wearing a black ski mask: it tends to catch a girl a little off guard.
Off guard, I sucked in a breath that was half surprise, half gasp of terror and just inside the door of Giancola Buttons, Inc., I froze.
For exactly two seconds.
That was when my instincts kicked in. No big surprise, they told me to turn and run like hell.
I would have done it, too, if there wasn’t another guy–the twin of the giant who greeted me before I ever had a chance to turn on the lights–right behind me. Even as I watched, he snapped the door closed, crossed his arms over a chest the size of Soldier Field and braced his legs. He didn’t say a word. He didn’t have to. The message was loud and painfully clear–no way I was going to escape in that direction.
Trapped, my heart pounded a furious rhythm and my blood whooshed inside my head. There was no use screaming. Five in the morning, remember. And even though my business had only been open for a week and I had yet to meet all my fellow tenants there on the tenth floor of Chicago’s Bannister Building, I was pretty sure nobody but me loved their jobs so much, they came into work before the sun was up.
Too bad. At least if somebody was around to find it, my body wouldn’t lay there for hours until my assistant, Brina Martingale, decided to show up. She’d be late–as usual–and I was betting that by then, I’d be stone cold and as gray as the twinset I was wearing that day with my best pair of black pants.
Oh yeah, things looked pretty grim. I told myself panic would get me nowhere, and while I was at it, I reminded myself that if I just stayed calm, I’d find a way out of this mess. It couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t be a stretch. After all, I am notoriously level-headed, composed and oh-so sensible.
Level-headed, composed and sensible, huh?
I did my best to ignore the mocking voice inside my head. The one that sounded a whole bunch like my ex and reminded me that what were clearly assets to me added up to a big ol’ b-o-r-i-n-g from his point of view.
And that’s when it hit.
And that’s when I groaned.
It was the first sound any of us had made, and in the deathlike silence, my moan reverberated through my office like a voice from the grave.
So not a pretty simile considering the situation.
Rather than think about it, I looked from Giant #1 to Giant #2.
"Come on, guys," I said, and reminding myself of the above mentioned assets, I skirted the edges of whiny. But just barely. "I know what this is about. It’s Kaz, isn’t it? Damn the man! He owes somebody money. Again. But here’s the thing, see–we’re not married anymore. Get it? I divorced the turkey. Which means I’m no longer responsible for his gambling debts. So if you came here expecting me to make good on his bad luck, it’s not going to happen. And if you think you’re going to find something valuable here that you can take and pawn, you’re wasting your time."
Oh, yes, this last bit was a big, fat lie, but then, I was counting on the fact that goons in black ski masks don’t know that much about antique and collectible buttons. Besides, desperate times, desperate measures, and all that.
"I sell buttons," I pointed out, and downplayed the whole antique and collectible aspect by adding, "Nothing but old buttons. There’s not one thing here that’s worth very much and–" "Shut up!" The guy behind me shuffled closer and just that fast, my false bravado melted like a dollop of whipped cream floating in a hot cup of latte. My eyes were finally adjusting to the play of light and shadow and I looked up just in time to see Giant #1 look down at me. There was nothing about this man that wasn’t sinister, from the shoulders bigger than the desk over on my right, to the scar slashed across his neck. Against the black ski mask, his eyes were sunken and menacing. "Cooperate," he growled with a sort of Arnold Schwarzenegger accent I knew was phony. And no less terrifying because of it. "Cooperate, and nobody will get hurt."
He didn’t need to elaborate. When he said nobody, he wasn’t talking about himself or his friend.
"Nobody ever needs to get hurt. Not ever!" Oh yeah, that was me, all right, teetering on the edge of panic and sounding like I’d stepped straight out of some can’t-we-all-get-along protest march. I darted a look around the front room of my office. When I left there Saturday afternoon, nearly all the one hundred thousand buttons in my collection had been meticulously catalogued and filed in the back room in the cabinets I’d had specially made to accommodate them. Now, the trickle of light from the surrounding high rise buildings glinted against metal buttons and glass buttons and jeweled buttons.
Tray after tray of them, removed from the cabinets, dumped on my desk.
And on my guest chairs.
And on the floor.
Just like that, my fear was forgotten and the button-collecting, order-loving, chaos-aversion side of me kicked in. So did the memory of how much effort it had taken to get all those buttons moved from my apartment here to the office and how many hours I’d spent getting everything organized just so.
"Damn! Do you have any idea how long it took me to put those buttons away? You can’t just toss them around. Old, remember, I said they were old. Which doesn’t mean they’re worth anything," I added, reinforcing my earlier assertion that there wasn’t anything there worth stealing. "But buttons are little pieces of art, you know. And little chunks of history. They have to be treated carefully. Bad enough I’ve got to deal with Brina all day long. The girl doesn’t know a glass button from a gumball. And now I’ve got this mess to clean up, too? And today! Today of all days! What gives you the right to–"
"Is there some part of shut up you don’t understand?" This came from Giant #1, the same guy who’d told me to keep quiet in the first place. He came up behind me so fast, I didn’t have a chance to try and get out of his way. Once his arm went around my throat, I couldn’t have moved if I wanted to. His grip was iron. He yanked me back against a body that felt as if it was made out of poured concrete.
"I said keep quiet." The touch of his breath against my ear turned my knees to rubber–and not in the good way that kind of thing happened back in the day when Kaz whispered sweet nothin’s and I turned into a puddle of mush. This man’s breath was damp and as chilling as a touch of fog. It smelled like a food I couldn’t identify, and that, mingled with the earthy scent of his black leather jacket, sent shock waves through me.
He took advantage of my helplessness to ratchet up my fear, tightening his hold. "You put up a fight and you’re dead," he grumbled, and I guess the way he was holding me, he could feel my feeble attempt at sucking in a breath to inflate my lungs, because he made sure to add, "You scream, and I’m going to snap your little body in half so fast, you won’t know what hit you."
Oh yeah, right about this time, I was so freakin’ scared, my mind started playing tricks on me. That was the only thing that would explain why I almost thanked him for the little compliment. I mean, it was only natural considering I am a middle-sized, average looking woman of thirty-three who had been known to be called cute, but is not, on anybody’s size chart, what might be termed little.
I dragged myself out of these crazy thoughts and tried to talk myself–and these two goons–down.
"Not going to scream," I swore. "If you guys want some help carrying buttons out to the car–"
"Buttons!" The guy who had a hold of me snorted the word and said to his friend, "You take care of everything you were supposed to?"
Giant #2 shook his head, but not like he was disagreeing, more like he couldn’t believe his fellow burglar had the nerve to ask. "You wanna tell me how I’m supposed to know?" Had he been a little less civilized, I’m pretty sure he would have emphasized his point by spitting on my new gray Berber carpet. His hands out at his sides, he pivoted to look around the office. "There’s so much crap here–"
"Watch it, buddy." I squirmed, because squirming wasn’t screaming, and all I had agreed to do was not scream. I had also not agreed to stand by and listen to my life’s work disparaged by some creep who had to hide behind a ski mask. "Those are my buttons you’re talking about. And my buttons are not crap. In fact, they are–"
Apparently, listening to me was not high on the to-do list of the guy who had a hold on me. At the end of his rope, he lifted me off the floor and shook me. Not such a good thing considering that my head snapped back and forth and the world skipped and wobbled before my eyes. But, as it turned out, all was not lost. At the exact moment my toes touched the carpet, his grip on my throat eased up.
It’s the Boy Scouts who are always prepared, right? Well, I’d obviously never been a Boy Scout. Or a Girl Scout, either, for that matter. But I knew an opportunity when I saw one, and I was as prepared as I would ever be.
The second I slipped just a bit more out of his grasp and my feet hit the floor, I folded like a cheap lawn chair in the close-out aisle. I landed on my knees before Giant #1 realized he’d lost his hold on me, and before he could snatch me up again, I took off as fast as a woman can who’s crawling across an office strewn with buttons.
I didn’t yelp or yip, not even when I brought a knee down on a metal button. I didn’t complain, either, (though I prayed it wasn’t one that was too valuable) when I heard a glass button crunch beneath me. All I did was scramble as fast as I could, trusting to the dark to cover my moves and to the fact that I knew this office better than the two burglars ever could.
While they were shuffling around, banging into each other and the furniture as they tried to catch hold of me, I scurried like a sand crab into the back room, jumped to my feet and slammed the door behind me. There was a lock in the doorknob and I fumbled for it. No easy thing considering my fingers were slick with sweat.
Even once I’d flicked the lock, I knew it was only a matter of moments–and the inconsiderable width of one door–before I was in big trouble again. I raced to the work table where I’d imagined never doing anything more strenuous than spending endless quiet hours researching, cleaning and packing buttons for shipment, and it’s a good thing I wasn’t the kind of little woman the burglar had hinted I was, because I got behind that table and pushed for all I was worth. Once it was against the door, I dared to take a breath and think through my next move.
Light or no lights? In a flash, I decided I’d keep them off to buy some time in case I needed to hide once the burglars burst through the door. Besides, I’d spent plenty of hours in the back room these last weeks since I leased the office, and I knew the place like the back of my hand. I didn’t need the lights to grab the phone.