Fictionista, Foodie, Feline-lover

Thursday, March 28, 2024

Interview with Kaye George, multi-genre author and extremely interesting person


I have never met Kaye George in person but I feel like I've known her forever. We came close to meeting a few years ago when I was in Tennessee, not too far from where she lives, but somehow it never happened. She did me the favor of writing a story for a charity anthology I edited and was thrilled when she asked me to submit to an anthology of eclipse stories she was putting together to coincide with the total eclipse. (Day of the Dark). When she asked me to contribute to this year's follow-up, Dark of the Day, I was extremely honored. She asked me back!!! And by the way, Dark of the Day is available in both ebook and paperback on April 1.) Almost every time I talk to her, I find out something new and interesting. And she posts the best memes! So, I wanted to introduce you to her and her work. And she graciously answered my questions the week before Dark of the Day goes live. 

Kaye George is an Agatha nominated novelist and short story writer. She is the author of the Imogene Duckworthy Mystery series (Agatha nomination for best first novel), Eine Kleine Murder by Barking Rain Press (Silver Falchion Award finalist), Death in the Time of Ice (People of the Wind #1) (Agatha nominee and Silver Falchion finalist) and the Fat Cat Mystery series by Berkley Prime Crime (as Janet Cantrell). 

Kaye has been a janitor in a tractor factory, a mental health center secretary, a waitress many times, a bookkeeper, and a short order cook. She's also been a mainframe computer programmer and a nurse's aide along the way.

She is also a world traveler, Wordle enthusiast, violinist, composer, arranger, as well as a parent and grandparent. She attended Northwestern University where she met her husband Cliff and married him the final week of their senior year. His postings took them all over the country, including to Minnetonka, MN, which she says is her favorite. She lost Cliff in 2017 to Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases in 2017.

How did you end up taking violin lessons? Did someone in your family play? Did you play on a family heirloom? 

My parents were too poor to afford music lessons, but my dad was adamant that all his kids were going to get lessons. We all started on piano. Then, in 4th grade, string instrument lessons were offered to us through the school. My mother had bought a violin in Los Angeles when she was whiling away the hours waiting for me to be born. She was also working as a nurse at the Good Samaritan. She never learned to play it, but there it was, so I used that for the first few years. Neither of my parents were very musical, but my brothers both learned piano, then other instruments: sax, guitar, trombone, drums. 

One of my grandchildren is incredibly gifted, musically. He can hear anything, then sit at the piano and play it. He’s also playing violin and trumpet. They all at least can read music and play piano. 

My daughter, a clarinet player in high school, and recorder later, took up violin, viola, AND cello during the pandemic. It’s awfully hard to learn those instruments later in life, but she’s giving it a go and doing very well. 

You’re not onhly a violinist (like Sherlock Holmes) but a composer and arranger. Have you ever used that knowledge in your books?  Do you play regularly? Keep your hand in composing and/or arranging?

 Yes! You’re forgiven for not knowing about those books, since the publisher went out of business a few years ago. I recently finished the third book in my Cressa Carraway Musical Mystery series. I wrote the first two quite a few years ago, and they’ve been out of print for ages. But White City Press, a publisher I recently signed a big contract with, is bringing the first two and this new third one out soon. My main character is a composer, a conductor, and a keyboardist.

They will be called Song of DeathRequiem for Red, and Swan Song

Nobody’s a native Californian, but you are. Where were you born?

I was born in the Good Samaritan Hospital on Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles. My dad used to say I was born in the City of Angels in the Golden State. It sounded so romantic to me! My mother told me she saw all kinds of stars there, Bing Crosby and Bob Hope, I think. But I only lived there for three months, so don’t remember any of it. Although my Aunt Kathryn, the aunt who took nieces and nephews on grand road trips in the summers, drove me there when I was ten, from Illinois, where we lived. It was my first time seeing the Pacific Ocean, and everything else between there and Illinois. 

 What did you study at Northwestern? How did you meet Cliff?

I ended up in Russian studies, wanting to be an interpreter. 

You mean our first date? That was…odd. He had gone to school with one of my roommates and had a crush on her, but she was pinned to another guy. One night, Nancy, who had also gone to their high school (in the Chicago suburbs), was at our apartment and said she wanted to see Mary Poppins and would I go with her. She was pinned to a guy at another college, and Cliff was supposed to be looking after her, so she suggested that he come to. 

I said, I don’t really know him. So I wasn’t sure. Then she came up with this wacky idea for us to take him on a date. We picked him up, sat on either side of him at the movie and both held his hand, then we both kissed him goodnight after we walked him back to him apartment. 

I thought to myself, that was really dumb. I’m never see him again. He called the next weekend and we started dating after that. 

We got married on campus during finals week our senior year and he went into the Air Force. This was during Vietnam. 

Minnetonka sounds like where Rocky and Bullwinkle are from. Why was it your favorite of your postings?

I was just talking to my Knoxville son the other night about all my kids moving to Minnesota so we be closer, as I often do. I now have kids and grandkids in Texas, Tennessee, Virginia (DC), and even one in Spain. He brought up the mosquitoes and the cold. But I love it there. It feels like home. Maybe because I’m a large part Scandinavian. Also, because mosquitoes don’t bite me. 

Kaye is a member of Sisters in Crime, the online Guppies chapter, as well as the Smoking Guns Knoxville TN chapter, which she helped organize. She served the Guppies as treasurer, then president for a two-year term. If you're not familiar, it is an online chapter of Sisters in Crime devoted to assisting and supporting unpublished and newly published mystery writers.

Tell me about your work with the SinC “Guppies” group. Did you have mentors yourself? 

 I owe my role as a published author to that group! I love the Guppies! (They DID teach me about overusing exclamation points, but I don’t always do what I’m supposed to.) I have many mentors within that group, and a few from my time in a critique group in Austin, Texas, as well as everyone in a close-knit email group of seven. Kathy Waller, from that TX group, is a reader for me. I used to exchange manuscripts with Jan Christensen, but she suddenly passed away recently. I miss her a lot!

Your latest anthology, Dark of the Day, comes out April first, just in time for the total eclipse. Will you be able to see it? 

Oh yes, I’m not missing that! I’m flying to Austin and we’ll drive to the house of a good friend of my son and daughter-in-law for the event. They live in Dripping Springs and will get a good view of the totality. I ordered new eclipse glasses and a T-shirt for the day!

The 2017 total eclipse came here, to Knoxville! Most of my family gathered on my son’s front lawn and had a perfect view. And the most eerie experience of our lives. 

I’ve always been interested in the stars and planets, and all that stuff up there. I subscribe to Earth and Sky ( to keep up with astronomy things. I think I learned of them on NPR where they used to broadcast a segment regularly. It was automatic to want to support them with the proceeds of the anthology. But I can’t recall why I decided to do that first one, Day of the Dark. Someone talked me into it, I’m sure. I also quickly found a publisher. 

I swore I would never do another one, but I remember who talked me into it this time: Joseph S. Walker. He also got the publisher interested, Lance Wright, at Down and Out Books. 

 What inspired the People of the Wind (Neanderthal) mystery series?

I’ve always loved rocks and fossils. A friend in high school took me on a fossil-hunting trip very close to home once, with her parents, who were into that. I found a gorgeous trilobite and I was hooked! I’ve collected rocks and fossils my whole life. Once, when we were moving, a mover picked up a box and asked, “What’s in here, rocks?” Um yes, that box (and a few more) was full of my rocks. 

My interest in Neanderthals stemmed from the mapping of a genome in 2010. Many new facts about them were uncovered and I was hooked. Completely hooked. I wanted a way to present these remarkable people closer to the way they were, rather than the conventional club-wielding brute who dragged women by the hair. The books were murder mysteries, just because that what I’ve learned how to write. I believe there was one other Neanderthal mystery published when I started these. I read it and it portrayed them as the usual dopes. For a long time, I think mine was the only Neanderthal murder mystery series. Maybe it still is. And new discoveries continue to be made about them.

 Your website is elegant and functional. Did you put it together yourself?

That’s so nice to hear! Yes, I love doing stuff like that. A left-over from my computer programmer days. I used to be a mainframe programmer for a living, and like to dabble in PCs for a hobby. They are NOT the same! I learned HTML and did my first one from scratch. I use the WIX interface now. Much easier. 

Was Cliff your alpha reader? Now that you've been a widowed, have you ever "written your grief" as mystery writer Louise Penny has?

One of the major design flaws I will complain about if I ever talk to the designer, is that men don’t usually live nearly as long as women do. I’m sure there are a lot of lonely women who wish they still had a spouse. Not that men don’t lose their partners, too, but I have only experienced my own version. 

No, he never read my stuff. But he encouraged me to do my writing every step of the way. He sometimes gave me suggestions when I talked to him about plot and characters, but they…well, they weren’t very good.

The way I wrote my grief, after two grief support groups and so very, very much help from friends and relatives, was to pay that help forward. I put together a booklet that contains the ideas and thoughts that comforted me, that got me through the first ragged year or so. I list it online as cheaply as I possibly can, and also give a lot of them away. It’s published as an e-book and as a paperback. (Handbook for the Widowed).

                                                    And some silly questions

Do you have any pets?

I’m petless after a life of many cats and dogs, and a few fish, turtles, one bird, some newts, and probably some others. This is kinda gross, but I’ve told my kids, when they say I should get a cat or a dog, that I am now officially done with pee and poop. I sure draw on the ones I’ve had in my writing, though. 

You sometimes write cozy mysteries, a genre where many of the protagonists seem to be good cooks. Are you a good cook? What’s your favorite thing to make (or eat, if you don’t enjoy cooking?)

I don’t much like[cookin]. I love baking, but now that I live alone, I don’t do much. I can’t eat all of a cake, or pie, or batch of cookies. I love chocolate, because I’m human. At this stage, I like anything that comes in a small serving size and doesn’t take a lot of prep.

What’s your favorite scent?  

Lavender! I have lavender hand lotion and bath salts, and luxuriate in the smell. 

You lived in Texas a while. What’s your take on Dr. Pepper?

A hard, hard yes! Dr Pepper is the nectar of the gods. (I agree, although I once heard the flavor described as carbonated prune juice and I can never quite get that out of my mind.)

 Coffee or tea?

Tea, just because coffee has always upset my tummy. That shouldn’t happen, since I’m a large part Swede and they drink a ton of it. I’ve lived on ice tea for years, but I suspect it hasn’t done my chronic cough much good, so I’ve cut way back. 

 Do you follow sports?

Not really. I like to watch hockey and like the Dallas Stars and the Minnesota Twins, since we lived there. We had season tickets to the minor league hockey team in Wichita Falls. Those games were very fun!

 And what’s next?

After the eclipse anthology Dark of the Day?

I have a suspense novel coming out from Rowan Prose Publishing! That genre is a complete departure for me, but I love to read it, so had to give it a try. 

I’m presently working on another cozy series with a cat. This cat is telepathic and named Velma. She’s a Rag Doll, inspired by the Rag Doll, Daisy, that my son’s family recently got. Daisy and their huge chocolate lab, Henry, are working on a truce. 

I can't wait--mysteries and cats are catnip to me.

Check out Kaye's website for free short stories, news of upcoming events and new releases as well as free short stories, study questions for book clubs, and links to her articles and interviews.

Read Kaye George. Here's a list of her books.

She's also had more than 50 short stories published. he first Austin Mystery Writers anthology, Murder on Wheels, which she helped organize, won a Silver Falchion at Killer Nashville.  Here's where you can find her stories.

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  1. Thanks so much for the interview! Love how you did it.

  2. Great interview. I always knew you were interesting. I didn't know how versatile you are outside of writing, but now I do. I'm sure there are many more things for you to explore and achieve.

  3. A great interview! Kaye, nice learning more about you. Wishing you continued success in your writing career.

  4. Loved this interview. Even though I've known you for several years, I never knew some of these interesting details about your life. Way to go, you!