Welcome to author Nikki Knight (don’t you just love that name!?!) who answered some fun questions for us today.
If you had to give up either snacks and drinks during writing sessions, or music, which would you find more difficult to say goodbye to?
Music! My main character is a jock (as we radio types call DJ’s) and she wouldn’t survive without her bad power ballads. Neither would I – I listen to “Love Songs at Night” shows to get into the right frame of mind for her.
Which is your favorite season to write in, and why?
Early Autumn. The weather is warm but not too warm, summer fill-in season is over at the radio station where I work part-time, and my son is back in school. So I have time to work, all of that nice New England foliage for inspiration, and windows open. Can’t beat it!
What was the hardest part of writing your author bio?
How much to tell about my family life. My husband is a cancer survivor, and our family’s experience helped shape the story in LIVE, LOCAL AND DEAD. But I also don’t want to over-share or take away from the fun ride of the book. I finally settled on a simple reference to a family health crisis…with the promise to him, and myself, that I’ll discuss it honestly if asked.
What is your favorite time to write, and why?
Early morning, right after I exercise and before everyone else is awake. I always get good ideas when I’m moving, and it’s wonderful to start putting them into words. Of course, everything explodes into the school run pretty quickly, but it’s a treat to have a start on the day’s work.
How many drafts do your books generally to through before publication?
I really don’t have, or count, drafts in the conventional way. Every day, I start by going over the previous day’s pages for an initial edit. As the story grows, I’ll go back to various scenes and polish them. Sometimes, I just want to visit my happy place – the radio station in Vermont – and I read over scenes, inevitably finding and fixing small things. By the time the whole manuscript is done, I’ve probably read it dozens of times, though only a couple of times straight through.
Who is the most supportive person in your life when it comes to your writing?
Tie: My husband and son. My husband married a sensible journalist and found himself sitting across the dinner table from a mystery writer, but he’s backed me all the way. My son? One day I was crying because I’d gotten yet another rejection (it took me 200+ over three projects to get an agent) and he handed me a quarter from his piggy bank, hugged me and said: “I’ll always buy your books.” Every first copy goes to him.
What behind-the-scenes tidbit in your life would probably surprise your readers the most?
I don’t sing. My historical mystery main character, Ella Shane, is an opera singer, and I use my experience with radio voice work to imagine how she feels when she performs. In real life, my singing voice is somewhere between Elvis and an Irish tenor…and it’s better if I don’t demonstrate. Ever.
What has influenced you the most as a writer?
A lifetime in newsrooms. I learned to write “light, tight, and bright” from the best at KDKA in Pittsburgh. Learned how to lay out a fact line and follow it to a conclusion. And learned that I don’t want to use my own time to tell the kind of gritty, violent stories I see at work. I don’t write cozies because I’m a delicate flower. I write cozies because I’m a tough girl who doesn’t want to bring the ugly stuff home.
Do you like audiobooks, physical books, or e-books better? Why?
My first choice is always a real physical book. I just love the feeling of turning pages, the smell of paper and ink, the whole experience. But I have an e-reader and happily use it when I’m traveling. It’s not ideal, but any reading is better than no reading.
Tell us about your latest book?
LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD, coming February 8, 2022, follows New York City DJ Jaye Jordan’s new start at a tiny Vermont radio station, after her husband survives cancer but their marriage doesn’t. She thinks she’s got enough trouble with protests because she replaced angry talk with love songs…and then the talk show host turns up dead in a snowman in front of the station.
Plus her second-chance romance with her old crush – the governor – turns out to be much more dangerous than either of them expected. Add in a colorful cast of locals, the cranky station cat Neptune, and Charlemagne the Moose, who has flatulence issues…and it’s more fun than anyone should be allowed to have in maple sugaring season. (Yes, that’s a hint about the what happens to the villain!)
And, just for the record, despite the presence of talk show hosts and a hot politician, the only political message anyone should take away from this is that we need more local media – and less syndicated yelling. You can just enjoy the fun, but if you want to take it as a love letter to small-town radio and close-knit communities, I won’t argue with you!
Nikki Knight is the pen name of Kathleen Marple Kalb, a longtime New York radio news anchor who also writes the Ella Shane historical mystery series for Kensington Books. Her publishing career began with a lockdown debut after three failed projects, 200+ rejections and a family health crisis, so she’s just grateful to be here. She lives with her husband and son in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.