Good morning, my bookish peeps. Today, The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a visit by the best-selling mystery author Susan Kandel in celebration of her latest release, Dream A Little Death. Ms. Kandel will be discussing kitchen remodeling, mood boards, and writing inspirations. Thank you, Ms. Kandel, for your visit and taking the time to give us insight into your writing process.
After twenty-six years of cohabiting with a dysfunctional kitchen — I’m talking drawers fused permanently shut, tiles that looked fresh when Bush Sr. was President, trashed hardwood floors you can’t walk on barefoot without getting splinters, a disposal that shoots carrot bits into the air like soggy pieces of confetti — I’m doing a remodel. With no idea how to accomplish this goal short of throwing myself at the mercy of a minimum-wage employee at Ikea, I hightailed it over to the local fancy kitchen showroom, where I was greeted by a decidedly not minimum-wage designer sporting a one-shouldered silk dress, kitten-heeled mules, and perfectly highlighted blond waves.
“How might I be of service?” the woman asked.
You could tell me where you get your hair cut, and do an edit of my closet.
“I’m looking for ideas,” I said haltingly. “I’m remodeling my kitchen. I think maybe the appliances are okay. They’re stainless steel. And less than fifteen years old. But everything else is a disaster.”
Sensing she was dealing with a novice, the woman, whose name was (of course) Fabienne, led me over to her desk and sat me down with a coffee. A double espresso, actually, made with a gleaming machine from Italy that I was suddenly desperate to buy, even if it meant forgoing a mortgage payment.
Fabienne began by asking me if I’d heard of Pinterest. I had, vaguely, though when it comes to new ideas for using the computer to make life easier, I usually duck for cover. Fabienne explained that she always tells her clients to get started on their remodels by getting onto Pinterest, finding boards to follow, choosing one board from an individual or following all of that person’s boards, then moving on to creating their own boards, deciding if they’re public or private, blah, blah, blah.
At that point, despite the double espresso, I must’ve looked weak and unfocused because Fabienne took my by the shoulder and said, “Have you ever heard of a mood board? That’s all I’m talking about.”
Well, why didn’t you say so?
Mood boards are my everything.
People always ask writers how they get their ideas, and how they organize them into novels with beginnings, middles, and ends. For me, the beginnings are always the most challenging, and that is where my mood boards come in.
In my garage-cum-office, I keep an enormous clippings file. Inside there are stories from newspapers and magazines that have caught my interest over the years, about anything from “faux mitzvahs” to the woman accused of faking her own kidnapping to the sordid confessions of a “honey trapper,” who, I learned, is someone paid to come on to men to see if they’ll cheat. Dig a little deeper into my file and there are pages ripped out of fashion magazines, of the outlandish, sometimes demure, sometimes elegant-beyond-measure outfits that at one time or another inspired me to wonder, “Who is that girl?” Deeper still are pictures of charged objects that may or may not wind up as Maguffins: a red lipstick (a clue?); a rare Nancy Drew 1st edition (a motive?); a unicorn Frappucino (in the hand of a sorority president type?); a black ice cream cone with dark chocolate ice cream and dark chocolate sprinkles (in the hands of the perpetually angry sister who just might want to do away with her?) There are fortunes from fortune cookies that seem like novels in themselves (“Your luck has entirely changed today”). And finally there are postcards of places and settings interesting enough to want to write about: Bugsy Siegel’s former gambling hideaway in Lake Arrowhead; the tattoo parlor around the corner from my house; the unexpected lake in the middle of Echo Park; an historic Spanish-Moroccan castle in Los Feliz; Raymond Chandler’s favorite restaurant on Hollywood Blvd.; Cher’s over-the-top Beverly Hills mansion.
Perhaps you’re getting the idea. When I am starting a new book, the first place I look is in my file. I start pulling out clippings and pictures, arranging them on a large corkboard that covers an entire wall of my office, and seeing what kinds of associations they trigger, how they play off of one another, what kinds of stories they might tell. In my previous life, I was an art critic and would spend my days looking at paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations, trying to translate what the artist does visually into a story I can tell in words. I suppose old habits die hard, because this is in many ways exactly how I go about my work as a fiction writer. I begin with the visual, and work my way into the verbal.
Back to Fabienne at the kitchen showroom. I walked out of there without the espresso maker, but with a promise to myself to get onto Pinterest as soon as I got home. That was a year ago. Maybe by the time you are reading this, you will find me there. Or maybe not. I suppose some things — including my still-broken garbage disposal — are meant to forever remain mysteries.
on Tour May 23 – June 23, 2017
From critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.
The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly, with long, silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.
Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.
Meet Dreama Black. A 28-year-old, third-generation groupie trying to figure out who she is after being publicly dumped by the rock god whose mega-hit, “Dreama, Little Dreama” made the name and the girl world-famous. Now Dreama supports herself by running custom-designed, themed tours of her hometown of L.A. When she is hired by a Raymond Chandler-obsessed rap producer to create a “L.A. noir” tour as his present to his soon-to-be bride, Dreama gets pulled into the middle of a possible murder, corrupt cops, and an unforgettable pair of femme fatales.
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0062674994 (ISBN13: 9780062674999)
Series: A Dreama Black Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Goodreads
An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.
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Here’s Your Chance to WIN!
This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Kandel and Harper Collins. There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. The giveaway begins on May 23rd and runs through June 27th, 2017.
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