Tuesday, November 02, 2010

An Interview with Kathryn Casey

I've been a fan of Kathryn Casey's Sarah Armstrong books for a few years, ever since I read the first one, Singularity.   So, it's time I offered readers the chance to meet the author, and discover her books.  Today, I have an interview with the author, whose third Sarah Armstrong book, The Killing Storm was just released.

Lesa -  Kathryn, I’ve been a fan of yours since I read your first novel, Singularity, but some of my readers might not know you.  Would you tell us about yourself?

Kathryn - I’m delighted to, Lesa. I live in Houston, Texas. Out of college, twenty-five years ago, I began as a freelance magazine reporter, writing for Rolling Stone, MORE, Ladies’ Home Journal, Readers Digest, a bunch of other publications. I wrote about a lot of subjects, interviewed quite a few celebrities in the process. But early on, I started covering sensational murder cases. It seems that I have kind of a knack for it. I got a reputation for crime writing, and editors began calling me to cover big cases.

My first book was published fifteen years ago, Evil Beside Her, on a Houston case. It was a natural outgrowth of my magazine work, when I found a case that screamed for more than 3,000 words. So far, I’ve written six true crime books. It’s been an incredible education in law enforcement and the criminal mind. I’ve been behind the scenes in courtrooms, in squad rooms where homicide detectives banter about perplexing cases, in the homes of victims and their families, behind prison walls interviewing convicted killers. This allowed me to really probe into how things happen and why.

Five years ago I wrote Singularity, my first mystery. I saw it as the logical next step. I have all these experiences, all kinds of facts and scenes and bits and pieces I’ve picked up from my years as a crime reporter that in fiction, I’m able to refashion and use. Let’s just say that I’ve collected a lot of raw material.

Lesa - Your third mystery featuring Sarah Armstrong was just released.  Before I ask you to tell us about the book, I’d like you to introduce us to Sarah.

Kathryn - My protagonist, Sarah, has two lives. On a personal level, she’s a single mom and a widow. Sarah and Maggie, her daughter, live with Sarah’s mom, Norah, on the family horse ranch north of Houston. Like many women, Sarah struggles with balancing family and career, in her case an incredibly demanding one. In her other life, Sarah is a Texas Ranger/criminal profiler, who travels the Lone Star state diagnosing crime scenes and chasing bad guys

Lesa - Now, would you tell us about The Killing Storm, without spoilers?

Kathryn - The book opens with the abduction of a four-year-old named Joey Warner from a Houston park. From the beginning, those involved with the investigation are perplexed by the boy’s mother, who doesn’t act as one would expect. Meanwhile, Sarah is investigating the grisly slaughter of a prize-winning longhorns left for dead with cryptic symbols drawn on their hides.

Before long, Sarah is drawn into the Warner investigation. As the plot builds, Sarah has to decipher the longhorn symbols not only to solve the killings but also to lead her to the missing child. Complicating her quest is that a category four hurricane is bearing down on the Gulf Coast. If Sarah doesn’t find little Joey before the storm hits, the child will die.

Lesa - I find Sarah Armstrong a fascinating character, Kathryn.  As you’ve explained, Sarah is a Texas Ranger and a profiler.  She’s also a widow and a single mother. Why is she your sleuth, and how does her personal life impact her career?
Kathryn - As a magazine writer, I spent quite a bit of time with criminal profilers, interviewing them about their lives and their cases. I’m fascinated with the way they consider clues, everything from victimology and forensic analysis to an overall view of the crime scene, to narrow lists of suspects and focus investigations. Sometimes folks view profiling as rather mysterious, but it’s truly a combination of statistics, experience and psychology.

Once Sarah’s specialty was decided, I considered jurisdiction. Quickly I realized that I didn’t want Sarah to be contained within city and county lines. Along with a rich history, the Texas Rangers have authority throughout the entire state, which gives Sarah (and me) a lot of territory to work with. Yet, being a ranger is a tough job for a woman like Sarah, one who has a family. Perhaps that’s why the Ranger culture is still predominantly male; out of 144 Rangers in Texas today, only three are women.

Lesa - What do you enjoy most about writing crime fiction, as compared to true crime or reporting?

Kathryn - After so many years as a journalist, writing fiction is freeing. I get to put my imagination to work and go where it takes me. I love the feeling of endless possibilities, of constructing plots and inventing characters. I can have fun with the characters, and for the first time, I’m in control. I’m not hemmed in by what really happened. I’m free to answer the question: What if?

Lesa - Kathryn, what authors do you read and recommend to others?

Kathryn - There are so many, I hate to say because I’ll leave someone out. When it comes to true crime, I always read Ann Rule’s books. She’s not only a friend but she’s truly been an inspiration over the years. For fiction, I honestly don’t know where to start. I’m probably among the last on the planet to do so, but I’m currently into the second book of the Steig Larsson trilogy and enjoying it. I have The Help sitting on my desk, and one of Lee Child’s older books, Nothing to Lose, on my TBR pile. I enjoy reading the work of Laura Lippman, James Lee Burke, Michael Connolly, P.D. James, and many, many others.

Lesa - Is there something I missed that you’d like to talk about?

Kathryn - Yes. I’m incredibly grateful to those who read my books and recommend them to others. The importance of such personal reviews can be overstated. There’s so little publicity and marketing for most authors today that many books/authors go unnoticed. Many only succeed because readers spread the word. To those of you out there who have read my books, enjoyed them, and recommended them to others, a sincere thank you.

Lesa - Kathryn, here’s the question I always use to end my interviews.  I’m a public librarian, so I’m always curious.  Would you tell us a story about libraries or librarians in your life?

Kathryn - I honestly worry about our libraries, wonder what will happen to them in the bad economy with its continual rounds of budget cuts and the changes underway during publishing’s electronic revolution. I have a very personal connection with libraries, that goes way back, and I believe that I’m an author today because of a library I walked into as a child.

It happened when I was in middle school. I’m not sure how old I was, but I remember going into the neighborhood library one day to work on a research paper. I’d been there before, but this was the first time I’d used the Readers’ Guide to Periodic Literature. The book was mammoth, so big I had a hard time lifting it, and as I paged through, the type was so small, name after name, subjects, titles, and authors. As I turned the pages, it suddenly occurred to me that a lot of people make their livelihood writing. I guess I’d just never thought about it before, but I remember sitting in that library that afternoon, looking around at the shelves, heavy with books, and smiling. As a child who loved to read, a kid who from elementary school on wrote short stories, the realization that writing offered a career and a future was nearly overwhelming.

Lesa - Thank you so much, Kathryn, for taking time to answer a few questions.  I hope my readers will know a little more about you, now, and, even more important, more about the Sarah Armstrong books.  Thank you.

Kathryn Casey's website is http://www.kathryncasey.com/

The Killing Storm by Kathryn Casey. St. Martin's Minotaur, ©2010. ISBN 9780312379520 (hardcover), 320p.


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

Great interview! I love hearing how writers find their path to publication--and going from magazine writing to true crime books to mysteries sounds like a very logical way to do it! Best wishes for your release, Kathryn.

Yvonne said...

Great interview!

Kay said...

Thanks for doing this interview, Lesa! I'm really interested in Kathryn Casey's books and am planning to read all three very soon. I'm stepping out of the leadership of my mystery book group, but I recommended that SINGULARITY be a selection for next year. I'm happy to say that it will be. Always glad to turn other readers on to a new author. It's why I started that book group.

I wish Ms. Casey all the best and we look forward to reading her works here in our group in Austin!

Lesa said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. It's always fun to introduce readers to an author I've been enjoying.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Yvonne.

Lesa said...

I understand why you started that book group, Kay. Glad you found someone to take it over for next year. You and I both know how much fun it is to present opportunities for readers to discover someone new. But, I give you credit for recommending Kathryn's books to the book group when you haven't read them yet!

K. Harrington said...

I'm a big Kathryn Casey fan. I enjoyed reading about the origins of Sarah Armstrong and her writing career. :)

Lesa said...

Thank you, K. Another big Kathryn Casey fan here, so it was nice to have her take time for an interview.

Janet C said...

Thanks for the interview. I didn't realize the 3rd book was out. I ordered it this morning.

I love the protagonist in this series.

Lesa said...

Glad we could help, Janet! I like Sarah, as well as her mother and daughter.

Kathryn Casey said...

Hi everyone,

Thanks much for all your kind words. I'm having fun with Sarah, Maggie, and Nora. It's almost like having a second family. How wonderful to read that you're enjoying your time with them as well. And thank you, Lesa, for inviting me. I love your blog, and it's great to meet everyone here.

Kay, I do phone-ins with book clubs. If you'd like to set something up, feel free to contact me!

Lesa said...


Thank you, again, for taking time to do the interview. As you can tell, readers were very interested. Thanks, and good luck!