You met Kate Flora back in June for Thursday Thoughts and July for Tuesday Treasures, well today we welcome her back as she talks about going where the story leads and how two of her books came about. So without further ado, here's Kate....
Going Where the Story Leads Me
I didn’t set out to write true crime. Being a lawyer dealing with battered kids and deadbeat dads and representing the Maine Human Rights Commission, I was deeply curious about what led people to be liars and criminals. When I published my first Thea Kozak mystery, Chosen for Death, back in 1994, I was following the footsteps of wonderful role models like Sara Paretsky and Sue Grafton and Margaret Maron. In true Nancy Drew tradition, I was writing about strong women who solve mysteries and saved themselves.
Fate intervened. The series was dropped. As I floundered about, trying to decide what to do, I realized that even writing an amateur PI meant a lot of contact with the police to get the details of my books right. The life they led fascinated me. I decided my new venture would be into police procedurals. With male protagonists. And what an adventure that became!
I started writing my Joe Burgess series, set in Portland, Maine, and not long after I’d started the series, my “go to” guy in the Portland Police Department worked on a real murder that he wanted to write about. That project went from my being his writing coach to becoming his co-writer, and the result was Finding Amy: A True Story of Murder in Maine, a fascinating story that involved three public safety organizations: The Portland police, the Maine state police, and the Maine Warden Service, who came in with their search and rescue expertise and trained cadaver dogs to help find the victim’s hidden body.
I thought I was going back to writing fiction, but then one of the wardens said, “Well, Kate, when you’re ready, I’ve got another one for you.”
I thought, no, never again, writing true crime is too hard and takes too long. Eventually, though, I recognized that I was fascinated by getting to be an insider, looking over the investigators’ shoulders as they told how they worked a real crime. I called up Maine warden Lt. Pat Dorian and said, “Okay, so tell me about the case.” That led me up to northeastern New Brunswick, in Canada, and another murder and another hidden body. Another body that, even though the crime was in another country, had been found by a group of Maine wardens with trained cadaver dogs who had gone up to Miramichi to help out a bunch of frustrated investigators who had been search for Maria Tanasichuk for months.
What had I said before? Writing true crime is too hard and it takes too long. Finding Amy was a 2 ½ year project. Death Dealer: How Cops and Cadaver Dogs Brought a Killer to Justice, took five, because there were lengthy appeals and two long first degree murder trials. And I couldn’t finish the book until the bad guy’s conviction was final.
There’s tremendous pressure that comes from telling the real story. So many of the victim’s friends trusted me with their confidence, and a quartet of stellar investigators shared the story, their files, and even their family dinners as I learned about the case. From the beginning, when a New York agent coldly told me that “no one is going to be interested in reading about a small Canadian crime,” I believed in the story and feared that it might never get published.
Last September, it did.
I’m learning to trust my instincts about going where the story sends me. Death Dealer has been an Agatha and Anthony finalist, and just won the Public Safety Writers Association 2015 award for best non-fiction.
Kate Flora is the author of 14 mystery and true crime books. Death Dealer, her latest true crime, is an Agatha and Anthony finalist and won the Public Safety Writers’ Association Award for Best Non-fiction 2015. And Grant You Peace, her latest Joe Burgess police procedural, won the 2015 Maine Literary Award for Crime Fiction. Her other titles include the Thea Kozak mysteries and the starred-review Joe Burgess police series. Coming in 2016 will be a new Thea Kozak mystery, Death Warmed Over, a 5th Joe Burgess police procedural, And Led Them Thus Astray, and her collaboration with Maine game warden Roger Guay on his memoir, A Good Man with a Dog. Coming this October is Beat, Slay, Love, a serial novel about the killing of famous TV chefs, by the imaginary Thalia Filbert, which she wrote with four other crime writers.
A former assistant attorney general for the State of Maine in the areas of child abuse and child support enforcement, Kate is a founding member of the New England Crime Bake and Maine Crime Wave conferences. She has served as editor and publisher of Level Best Books and as international president of Sisters in Crime. She teaches writing at Grub Street in Boston.
Find out more about Kate and her books by visiting her Website and connecting with her on Facebook and Twitter.
Wow...if you like mystery and true crime books, check Kate's out!
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Until next time...take care & God Bless.