This small-town mystery is layered with intrigue and colorful characters, delightfully rendered with a generous dash of humor. The novel is an impressive debut that is garnering accolades from readers and book bloggers. Here's a short description:
Cass Adams is crazy, and everyone in Deacon, Kansas, knows it. But when her good-for-nothing husband, Roland, goes missing, no one suspects that Cass buried him in their unfinished koi pond. Too bad he doesn’t stay there for long. Cass gets arrested on the banks of the Spring River for dumping his corpse after heavy rain partially unearths it.
The police chief wants a quick verdict—he’s running for sheriff and has no time for crazy talk. But like Roland’s corpse, secrets start to surface, and they bring more to light than anybody expected. Everyone in Cass’s life thinks they know her—her psychic grandmother, her promiscuous ex-best friend, her worm-farming brother-in-law, and maybe even her local ghost. But after years of separate silences, no one knows the whole truth. Except Roland. And he’s not talking.
On to our conversation with Kelly!
Welcome to KBoards, Kelly, and congratulations on your debut novel! How does it feel to see the book come to fruition?
Relief is the first thing that comes to mind. It takes a long time to write, edit, edit, edit, did I mention edit? Then a bit of panic, as you send your 'baby' out in the world to stand on its own. Three months after publication, I'm just thrilled that others are enjoying my book as much as they are.
While the subject matter is bleak, there is an uplifting spirit to your writing. It's been aptly described as darkly comedic, and some have commented that their reading of your novel "left a smile on my face." Please comment on how you were able to blend humor and harshness in this novel.
Humor has been a coping mechanism my entire life. In fact, I try to find the humor in any situation -- although, sometimes, I have to keep it to myself. Being able to write it and not hold back was a bit liberating.
Tell us about some of the challenges of writing a murder mystery. What did you learn in the process of writing this book?
I learned a lot about worm farming! I think the challenge in writing any book is learning as much as you can about your character's lives, especially when they have a voice, so when you slip into their POV, you can 'become' them for a bit. One of my challenges in this book was making a small town worm farmer the guy that readers would fall in love with---not a simple task.
Your secondary characters -- like Roland, Clay, Shaylene, and Grams -- are richly drawn, and many of them get to tell parts of the story from their own colorful viewpoint. Tell us about that creative choice to tell Cass's story from multiple POVs.
Staying in Cass Adams's mind for an extended period of time was exhausting and I wanted to show how the other characters were a bit crazy themselves. The best way to do that was to give them a voice and give the reader access to their thoughts. I'm also a huge fan of multiple POVs, and I wanted to write a book that I would like to read.
"Her style of writing reminds me of an American Maeve Binchy: she creates a world that feels so real it's like you're a part of it." That's high praise for your rendition of small-town life! In Deacon, Kansas, everybody thinks they know Cass and have their own opinions on her mental state. How does the small town setting influence Cass's story?
Cass's story really begins when she is born, and in order for the other characters to know the details of her past, they needed to have been a part of her life from an early age. Small towns are like that. People grow up together, grow old together, and at times, have strong opinions about each others' lives. I initially set the story in upstate New Hampshire, but I needed to be more in tune with the setting myself. I grew up in a town like Deacon, so once I moved Cass to Kansas, the characters came to life for me.
The ending is described by one reviewer as "masterful and bittersweet." How early in the writing process did you map out the novel's ending?
I knew the ending shortly after I finished the first chapter. Part of the challenge of writing the book was getting there and not giving away that final twist.
We all carry our own little bit of "crazy," I suppose, whether it be personal demons or harmless personality quirks. Can you share with us a little bit of your "crazy"..?
Aside from Cass Adams, the characters in my book don't see their own "craziness", and I think most of us are like that. My kids could probably give you a list of mine, but, my own assessment would be that I have a strange sense of humor, am very outspoken, and sometimes go to extremes to have fun. There's the Cass in me. I also suffer from depression, so there is the Maryanne side of me. I will say there are two incidents from the book that are from personal experience, my own personal demons, that may be better left in the book. No, I never buried a spouse in the yard, and I never burned down a house.
Well, that's good to hear! You're a university instructor of Communications, Humanities and English. To what extend does that background help you with your writing?
Most writers do a lot of observing of people to build characters, and being on a University campus definitely exposes me to a lot of different personalities to choose from. On another note, watching and helping others achieve their dreams inspires me to keep going on my own.
Readers have described the book as "fascinating," "hilarious," "refreshing," and "flawness". Is there any particular review that stands out for you?
I have several reviews that say I nailed the use of multiple POVs, which is a very hard thing to do and one of my goals in writing the book was to do just that, so those are extremely satisfying. One review that stands out is probably the very first one I got on Amazon, because it was from a reader I don't know. She loved the book, and states that "the author has a great, slightly screwball, sense of humor." I will proudly wear the "slightly screwball" badge.
Did you submit your book to multiple publishing houses? How did you find the experience of working with Red Adept Publishing? How did their involvement shape the development of the book?
I had an agent initially, and after submitting to some of the big publishers, I chose to go in a different direction. I'm glad I did. I think working with a smaller publisher on this book was helpful for me in understanding the process.It has been a learning experience---a satisfying one. My editors at Red Adept were top rate and they really helped me take the book to a higher level.
Do you have plans for future books? Please share what you can about what we might see next from you.
I'm working on a second book set in the same small town of Deacon, Kansas which should be finished by summer. Additionally, I am rewriting a historical fiction novel set during the building of the Hoover Dam, which I also hope to complete this year.
We look forward to those. Thank you so much for talking with us, Kelly!
Thank you for having me!
They Call Me Crazy is available now to download to your Kindle!