Author Spotlight: Kellye Garrett talks Hollywood Homicide
Today I'm thrilled to be hosting Kellye Garrett on the blog! Kellye spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case, and her debut novel, Hollywood Homicide, was a Library Journal Debut of the Month. Hollywood Homicide has been racking up praise since it's release in August and was even described as a “winning first novel and series launch” in a starred review by Publishers Weekly.
Hi, Kellye! Congrats on the release of your debut. Can you tell us a little about Hollywood Homicide and what inspired it?
Sure. Hollywood Homicide is the first in the Detective by Day series, which introduces a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: homicide detective.
I got the idea when I worked in television in Los Angeles. At the time I was a semi-successful yet mega-broke writer who was driving down the street and saw a billboard offering a reward for information on a murder. My first thought was, “I should try to solve this for the reward money.” I immediately realized this was the worst idea I’ve ever had in life but I did turn it into a book idea.
Do you agree that ‘plot is everything’ when writing a mystery?
Definitely. #Plotter4Life over here. I’m in awe of pantsers because the blank page scares me. I come from a television background having worked on the TV show Cold Case. Television shows have Writers’ Rooms, where about 10 writers will sit in a conference room all day and figure out the plot for every episode. Once the plot is figured out, one person will go off and write it, while everyone else moves on to the next episode.
Hollywood Homicide is the first in a new series! What excites you most about continuing Dayna’s story?
My favorite thing about both TV and book series are that we get to know—and sometimes hate—the characters. We’re with them for their highs and lows. In Hollywood Homicide, Dayna sees a hit-and-run. When the police offer a reward, all she initially wants is to remember the car so she can get the reward money to help her parents save their house from foreclosure. But she ends up getting more and more involved in investigating.
So in the second book, which is called Hollywood Ending, she’s an apprentice-PI for one of the characters we meet in the first book. I’m excited to chronicle her journey from bumbling amateur detective to still-a-bit-bumbling PI.
What did screenwriting teach you as a writer? Do you ever employ methods found in books like Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat?
My friend Jocelyn Rish told me about but I haven’t used it, probably because I am so familiar with screen and television writing from grad school. Some things I learned from grad school and while working on Cold Case:
Every scene needs to move the investigation forward.
Start the scene as late as possible and end it as quickly as possible. So start it a few beats before the key information and end it soon after.
End each act with a huge revelation/plot twist. For me, I take it one step further. I try to end each chapter with some cool moment so hopefully readers are like, “Let me just read a bit more…"
What has been your most rewarding experience as an author so far?
Not to be cliché, but seeing my book in bookstores is something I’ll never get tired of. My friends and family have been sending me pics of the book in Barnes and Noble stores all over the U.S. And I just want to cry tears of joy with each photo. I still can’t believe that I not only actually finished a book but that it’s now in bookstores for complete strangers to read!
You’ve been a Pitch Wars mentor for a few years. What’s your advice for people who may be giving or receiving an intense critique for the first time?
Resist the urge to get defensive. This can be easier said than done because there’s nothing like thinking you’ve written some great masterpiece and then someone tears it to shreds. I’ve been getting critiqued for over 12 years now. There are times I still get defensive and think, “What a crappy note.” But I still say thank you. Maybe I’ll put it away for a few days then look at it again when I’m calm. I notice when I do this, I can see what the person is trying to say. I might not take their exact note but I get that there’s an issue with this section, scene or plot. And hopefully I figure out a solution that makes us both happy.
What are you reading, or otherwise currently obsessed with?
Between my deadline for book 2 and Pitch Wars, I haven’t just read anything in such a long time. I spend a lot of time watching food competition shows on Food Network and finding any and every TV show involving tiny houses. But I did just pick up The Late Show by Michael Connelly. He’s such a legend in mystery writing and his new series has a female protagonist. It’s also set in my old stomping grounds of Los Angeles.
And finally, what’s your best piece of writing advice?
Writing is rewriting. You first draft is going to suck. That’s okay! Just keep revising it and getting feedback. It’ll get better. I pinky swear!
I hope you enjoyed this interview with Kellye as much as I did! I want to thank her for taking the time to talk about how Hollywood Homicide came to be, and how screenwriting methods can also be applied to novel writing. Be sure to add Kellye's smart and funny debut to your Goodreads list, or order your copy RIGHT NOW from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local indie.
If you want to connect with Kellye, you can find her on Twitter, Facebook, or blogging on the multi-author blog, Chicks on the Case. And for even more information, be sure to check out her full author website at kellyegarrett.com.
And, as always,