DEADLY PROSE AND BLEEDING PAGES
INTERROGATING AUTHOR KATHY BENNETT
Kathy Bennett served twenty-nine years with the Los Angeles Police Department—eight as a civilian employee and twenty-one as a sworn police officer. Thriving for the majority of her career roaring from call to call in a patrol car, she also worked assignments as a firearms instructor, a crime analyst in the War Room, a field-training officer, a senior lead officer, and an undercover officer for various assignments. She was named Officer of the Year in 1997.
In 2011, Kathy’s first novel, A Deadly Dozen Roses—featuring Los Angeles Police Officer Jade Donovan—hit the digital bookshelves. Since then, Kathy has written four entries in her bestselling LAPD Detective Maddie Divine series. A Deadly Blessing, the first book in the series, was chosen as a Best Book of 2012 by Barnes and Noble. The fourth Detective Maddie Divine novel, A Deadly Beauty, was released in March 2016 and is quickly becoming a bestselling police procedural on Amazon.
An interrogator should never ask compound, complex questions. They can be confusing and can lead to bad things—like the invoking of rights. But, as she is under suspicion of writing Deadly dangerous prose, Kathy does not have the right to remain silent…So, I’m going to run the risk of asking some pesky compound, complex questions and let Kathy to have free range in her answers…
Oh, dear…Free range in my answers…Hmm, I might get into a lot of trouble.
Were you still ‘on the job’ when you started writing, and do you consider yourself a cop who is a writer or a writer who is a cop (even though you are retired, we know there is no such thing as an ex-Marine or an ex-cop)…Was there a defining moment of separation between cop and writer?
I started writing seriously in 1998 while I was still on the job. I thought I was going to be a romance writer, but when my critique partner would read my work, she would say, "I see plenty of mystery here, but where's the romance?" I'd wave my hand and say, "I'll throw that in later." After many of these discussions, I finally figured out that maybe I wasn't a romance writer.
In regards to separating the cop and the writer, I don't think I've made the break. I like to brand my books as Authentic Crime…Arresting Stories, so I try to be as realistic as I can. The longer I'm retired, the tougher it gets. If I need info about current procedures, I contact friends who are still on the job—although, that gets a little harder every year because many of the people I know have also retired or are getting ready to retire.
Who were your original writing influences…How aware were you of other cop writers when you first put the metaphorical pen to paper?
I've had a lot of writing influences in my life, often different ones depending on where I was in my writing career. The writer who had biggest influence in my writing career was probably Jackie Collins. The first book I read of hers was Hollywood Wives. She wrote in rotating points of view. I loved that style, and I've adopted it in my own work. I’ve also read a lot in the mystery/thriller/suspense genre. In actuality, I think every writer I've read has had an influence whether I'm conscious of their impact or not.
The only cop writer I was aware of when I started writing was Joseph Wambaugh, whom I love. I learned about another writer who was a cop when he came and spoke at one of my romance groups in Orange County. His name was Paul Bishop, and I bought, devoured, and loved his Fay Croaker series. We're good buddies now.
Ha! Quit trying to get on my good side…I don’t have one…You aren’t getting out of this interrogation that easily…What prompted you to change main characters from Jade Donovan to Maddie Divine…How did Maddie take over as your main series character and Jade get demoted to cameo or secondary appearances?
My very first published book was a romantic suspense story featuring LAPD Detective Jade Donovan. I intended the book to be a standalone story. Many writer friends said mystery readers loved book series. I agreed, but I thought I was done with Jade, so I created a new character, LAPD Detective Maddie Divine.
However, readers loved Jade so much they begged me to bring her back. She appears briefly in Maddie's first book, A Deadly Blessing, and then Jade and Maddie are partners in the second book in the series, A Deadly Justice. I haven't ruled out bringing Jade back in a different series in a different location sometime in the future.
How much of your own experiences as a police officer gets on the page—is authenticity more important than story?
I like to call myself Doctor Frankenstein because I take bits and pieces of incidents, people, and my own life experiences, and weave them into my stories. I do my best to stay true to the policies and procedures of the LAPD. However, I write fiction, so I often have officers making moral decisions that are a figment of my imagination. I know I have a quite few current or former police officers from various agencies around the world who read my books. They love my stories and applaud the fact I get the departmental politics spot on. I think police politics is a phenomenon that translates well, no matter the police agency.
How did you come to embrace the brave new world of e-publishing and did you first attempt the legacy publishing route (traditional NY publishers)?
I was about to retire from the LAPD, and I was looking for an agent. I began to hear a lot about e-publishing and the fact you could do it yourself. I felt my first book, A Dozen Deadly Roses, was a good story and people would want to read it. I decided to publish it myself as an e-book. Fortunately, it took off in a big way—making the list of Top 25 Mystery—Suspense Books at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble and staying there for weeks.
The next year, I released my second book, A Deadly Blessing, which was the first book in the Maddie Divine series. That book also climbed the lists, and Barnes & Noble chose it as one of their Best Nook Books for 2012. The book also caught the attention of one of the most respected agents in the country. He now represents me.
How do you approach the marketing of your books…What has worked for you…What hasn’t…How did you pull your website together…How do you prepare for the launch of a new title?
I've had my website since 2008. I knew from the beginning how I wanted my website to look, and it hasn't changed too much over the years.
I've used Facebook for quite some time. I have my author page, and then I have a closed Facebook group for my SWAT team. The SWAT members are loyal readers who are my Spread the Word Allover Team. They tell their friends and others about my books. I also tweet on Twitter, but I'm not a huge fan.
With my most recent book, A Deadly Beauty, I had the book available for preorder for about two weeks. I did some Facebook posts and a couple of ads for the launch. I also used my newsletter to let my regular readers know about the new book.
Do you attend mystery conventions like Bouchercon or Left Coast Crime...Did you attend writing conferences when you were first starting out…Do you attend them now as a guest speaker…Do they help?
I've attended Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, Thrillerfest, and Romance Writers of America conferences amongst others. I've been a guest speaker at all but Thrillerfest. I think conferences have a small effect on getting your name out there, however, I believe the real benefit is connecting with the other writers and soaking up the energy. Conferences can be expensive, and I'm finding more and more authors are cutting back on conventions so they can concentrate on getting their next book out—which, in my opinion, is the best sales tool of all.
As a writer are you an draftsman (meticulously plotting and outlining) or a horticulturist (planting a plot seed, watering it, and waiting for your story to grow as you write)?
Every book I've written was written in a different way. In the book I'm currently writing, I started out with half the book outlined. Then about a quarter of the way in, the characters started doing their own thing. I'm now writing by the seat of my pants. It makes the process harder and longer. I keep saying I'm going to plot the whole book, but this is my sixth book, and it still hasn't happened.
What are your writing goals...Where do you see yourself as a writer ten years from now—still in the mystery genre or branching out?
I think I'll always be writing in the mystery genre. I love police work, and I like creating the façade of people's lives and deciding how and why they do the things they do. In ten years, I hope people still love what I write and that I'm around to keep writing those stories.
Lastly, a question about law enforcement... Things have changed since you and I were on the job...What do you see as the strengths and failures of law enforcement in today’s critically charged atmosphere...If I snap my fingers and make you LAPD’s Chief of Police, what would be the first things you would do?
I’m not sure the ills of law enforcement can be cured from within the police department alone. I believe society, as a whole, has to change and understand how dangerous and hard police work can be. Like any other profession, police agencies have their share of bad apples, bad decisions, and bad accidents. I think much of society has lost respect for law enforcement officers. But that doesn't mean people should feel entitled to make it open season on police officers. Most of the officers I worked with spent their entire career trying to make the City of Los Angeles a better place to live and many have died pursuing that goal.
With the crime rate going up, police agencies need to get back to the basics. The patrol officers you see on the street every day are the backbone of the police department, and its mission. If someone made me the chief, I would put all able-bodied patrol officers back into basic cars—aka regular patrol. I would get the city to hire civilians to fill the civilian jobs many sworn officers are currently doing. Sworn officers who couldn't work in the field (for whatever reason) would be assigned to non-field assignments, such as (but not limited to) the front desk, Community Relations, Youth Programs, and Communications Division until they were able to work the field again.
That would be my first day. Now, aren't you sorry you made me the chief?
Thx to Kathy Bennett for hanging out and letting me pepper her with questions. Be sure to check Kathy out on Amazon and follow the links below for more information on her books…
A DEADLY BEAUTY
Two women. Two very different deaths. One beauty pageant in common. LAPD Detective Maddie Divine must search for the truth amidst secrets, lies and the scams of Hollywood. Her investigation intensifies when news breaks that two young pageant contestants have vanished. When Maddie uncovers a shocking secret it's clear she's searching for two different killers, not one. In a desperate race against time, Maddie leads an urgent manhunt to save each young beauty before it's too late.
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FOR MORE ABOUT A DEADLY BEAUTY CLICK HERE
FOR MORE ABOUT KATHY BENNETT AND HER BOOKS CLICK HERE