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Interview: October 2, 1996

October 2, 1996

On October 2, 1996, THE BOOK REPORT welcomed Faye Kellerman, author of 10 novels, including PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD, THE RITUAL BATH, and SANCTUARY. The Book Report interviewers were Jesse Kornbluth and Jennifer Levitsky.

BookpgJL: We're pleased to have Faye Kellerman here as a guest. Let's start with the first question. How did you create Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus as characters?

FayeKell: A little bit of imagination, a little bit of personal experience and a lot of sweat. Actually, Rina was the first of the duo to be created. Peter came later after I had decided that I needed a professional. They've worked very well together.

BookpgJL: Why do you integrate religion into your books?

FayeKell: The religion in the books comes from personal experience. I am a practicing modern Orthodox Jew and I have a great deal of love for my religion. I felt that maybe I could transmit some of that feeling and emotion. Also, I felt that people would enjoy learning about the rites and rituals of Orthodox Jewry the same way I enjoy learning about other cultures and religions. I'm a fan of many authors who incorporate the ethnic into their stories.

BookpgJL: Given that desire to incorporate religion, why do you write crime novels?

FayeKell: Crime novels speak to the most basic human drives and instincts. There is nothing as compelling as murder. It addresses the darkest recesses of human nature much in the same way that religion does. I like to contrast the two, the sacred and the profane. One deals with the corporeal, the other deals with the spiritual. These are the two most propelling drives or motivational factors that exist within us.

AOLiveMC1: We have a question from the audience, Faye.

Question: Faye did you write when you were a young girl?

FayeKell: Not much. Mostly, I wrote plays. Even today my novels tend to be dialogue heavy. As a youngster I was a math science nature. I was also slightly dyslexic.

BookpgJL: How do you research the grislier aspects of the crimes? Some of the murders are so detailed!

FayeKell: There is no shortage of material out there. The hard part is figuring out how to glean through the masses. Newspapers, calls to police stations, taking lots of long walks and of course, the computer data bases. There is just an endless wealth of information out there.

Question: Peter Decker seems to be getting less religious. Is this so?

FayeKell: Not really. He is getting more comfortable with it. As he eases into the lifestyle, he isn't as preoccupied with the nuances as he once was.

BookpgJL: What authors do you admire? Seek for inspiration?

FayeKell: My favorite author is Jonathan Kellerman, no bias of course. In fact, he is the reason I'm writing today. His encouragement in the initial stages of my so called career was outstanding. I also enjoy female detective fiction, Grafton especially. I like Elmore Leonard. One of my all time favorite writers is James Cain.

Question: I noticed a reference to Marge Dunn, one of your husband's characters in your book. Do you anticipate any collaborations?

FayeKell: I think "Double Indemnity" is my all time favorite novel. We once tried to collaborate on a comic novel. It was so dreadful and unfunny you could have read it at a funeral. I think we'll stick to our separate works. But it's fun to give our mutual readers a little in joke.

Question: Will Rina have more of an input in the stories?

FayeKell: I love Rina. I try to work her in as often as the story allows. Some of the tales are more conducive to her involvement. Others require less of her. But I do try to make her as major a character as possible.

Question: Who are your favorite ethnic writers? Will we ever see the darker side of Rina?

FayeKell: I like Walter Mosley, I like Tony Hillerman. I've read a number of literary novels that have religion as a central theme. Will there be a darker side of Rina? Depends on what she chooses to express to me. Characters take on a life of their own.

Question: Do you have any new books in the works?

FayeKell: The next hardcover is due out in the summer of next year. It's entitled "Serpent's Tooth." After that, It's time for a break from Peter and Rina. The novel in creation will have a fantastical as well as criminal story line.

Question: What is the most common reactions that you get from readers of your works?

FayeKell: Most of the reactions have been wonderful. I have the greatest fans. Of course, I get the occasional "Please Drop Dead" letters. But I try to view them with humor. I also get lots of funny letters with interesting requests. One that comes to mind: Does Peter Decker have a brother who is single?

Question: How much of Rina and Peter's personalities are similar to you and your husband's?

FayeKell: All characters are creations of the mind. Though I try to keep them entities unto themselves I can't help the bits and pieces of personal life that creeps into the story. I think that is what makes them easy to identify with.

Question: What are your touring plans? I was hoping to meet you at Left Coast Crime in Seattle, but it falls on my wife's due date. Have you considered attending Bouchercon? Plans to visit New England?

FayeKell: We will be there at Left Coast Crime. I wish your wife the best of luck. I'm not quite sure of my touring plans, but I hope to make it to New England sometime next year. Hope to see you and your little one there.

Question: You evidenced a new style in "Justice." First person narrative by a main character. I liked it. Will we see more of this style?

FayeKell: If the storyline is compatible with that kind of narrative. The reason "Justice" was written in that fashion? Terry was an old character cannibalized from an old, old attempt. And she spoke in first person in that novel. When I tried to rewrite her in third person, it didn't work. She spoke to me as an "I". So I kept her that way.

Question: I love to write but all the fun is taken out of it by having to clean up the grammar and punctuation, etc. Should I have someone do it? Do you do your own? How much would it cost to do the trimmings, got any ideas?

FayeKell: Whenever you send in any kind of written work, it pays to be meticulous. If you have trouble with grammar or punctuation or spelling, hire a freelance editor or a good friend with a strong English background. FYI, I'm a terrible speller. So take heart.

Question: How do you find time for family, Faye?

FayeKell: What family? What time? Seriously, I wake up very early and go to bed late. Family always comes first whether I like it or not. Mostly, I like it. But there are times with four kids and three dogs and numerous people running in and out of my life, it's a wonder I'm not bald from tearing my hair out.

Question: Your "Elizabethan" novel was one of my favorites. Are you planning any more historical novels, or do the rigors of motherhood demand too much of your time?

FayeKell: Thank you very much. I loved writing "Quality of Mercy." But it was demanding as far as research was concerned. I'd like to do another one eventually. Maybe something in an even earlier time period.

Question: How long does it take you to write a book?

FayeKell: It takes about a full year. Six months to plot and outline. Another six months to write and edit. As a novelist, you're usually working with three books the one you're writing the one you're conceiving and the one you're publicizing.

Question: I'm in a Jewish book group. Any suggestions for our reading?

FayeKell: How about the Talmud? Seriously, Rochelle Krich writes wonderful Jewish mysteries. Me? I read a lot of religious texts. Get a lot of information from them.

Question: Will you ever write a novel without Rina & Peter as the main characters? Will you ever write a book that's not a murder mystery?

FayeKell: The next novel after the one that's due out next year. Got that? Will be a story that will introduce new characters. Although it will be a novel heavily saturated with crime, other elements will come into play.

BookpgJL: The final question. How do you juggle the crimes, the families, the religion, etc.?

FayeKell: With a very organized mind. I write things down. Never depend on my memory. I also have lots of files for story ideas. Pages cut out of newspapers or downloaded from data bases. Web crawling is wonderful. I try to do the best I can. Sometimes, it works and sometimes it doesn't. But I smile through it all. And that's not too shabby.

BookpgJL: Faye, thank you for being here. It's been wonderful. Thanks again!

AOLiveMC1: Yes, Faye, thank you for taking the time to appear with us tonight! And thank you to our other guests, BookpgJL and Bookpg JK! And a special thanks to the audience for joining us. Have a good evening, folks. Until next time, AOL!