Writing What I Know – by Kaye George
Writers are told to “write what we know,” right? This poses a problem for mystery writers because most of us haven’t killed anyone, or even been shot. My life contains so little violence, it’s practically G-rated. So mystery writers soldier on, imaging people shot, strangled, poisoned, and bludgeoned all over the place. Some of us enroll in Citizen Police Academies. I went through one in Austin, TX, and gained an enormous amount of knowledge from it.
But, as far as writing what I know, that’s how I came to create EINE KLEINE MURDER. I’ve played violin since I was 10. I’ll leave you to wonder how years that adds up to. I started piano at age 5 and still noodle away at that occasionally. I even pretend to sing. All that is to say that I have a background in music, mostly classical music. I love composing, which I started doing in high school. I didn’t get too far in taking music theory classes, though, since that wasn’t my major in college and, after freshman year, I dropped out of the Northwestern Orchestra due to time constraints. However, when I joined a string quartet in Dallas called Allegro Strings, we sometimes found ourselves wanting to play something that hadn’t been arranged for a string quartet. I seem to naturally think in four-part harmony, having played in quartets since junior high school, and also having sung in church choirs the same amount of time. I loved arranging for our quartet!
Fast forward a few years, after eons of frustrating short story submissions and rejections, to the point where I decided to take up novel writing. Since my favorite reading was mystery, I already knew the form and the conventions and I gravitated to the genre. The first mystery I wrote that isn’t forever shoved into the back of a drawer, was SONG OF DEATH. This is the novel that eventually became, after publication of several other mysteries, EINE KLEINE MURDER, and has been picked up by Barking Rain Press, much to my overflowing joy.
I have a passion for classical music and hope I can convey that to the reader. I think a lot of people are afraid of classical, but only because they don’t know much about it. But it’s like art: you know what you like. You don’t have to know sonata trio form, or what allargando means. You just have to listen, accept and reject. You’ll know what you like when you hear it.
One of my favorite symphony goers was a guy who worked with my husband a few years ago. He loved going to the symphony, but knew absolutely nothing about music. He asked me what those funny long wooden things were (bassoons), why we shouldn’t clap every time they stopped playing (because you don’t clap between movements, just at the end of the whole piece) and other questions that made me chuckle. But he loved hearing the orchestra because he lived for the moments when all the strings were playing loudly. That’s what he liked and he knew he liked it. And I liked that about him!
I’d sincerely like to know if anyone learns anything about music from reading my mystery, although learning about music isn’t required! I’d also like to know if anyone completely unfamiliar with classical music gets enjoyment from the book. After all, there are deaths–and mystery!
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Kaye George is a short story writer and novelist who has been nominated for Agatha awards twice. She is the author of four mystery series: the Imogene Duckworthy humorous Texas series, the Cressa Carraway musical mystery series, the FAT CAT cozy series, and The People of the Wind Neanderthal series. EINE KLEINE MURDER, the first Cressa Carraway novel debuts in April from Barking Rain Press. DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, the first Neanderthal book, will be published later this year by Untreed Reads. The first FAT CAT book, from Berkley Prime Crime, will appear in 2014.
Her short stories can be found in her collection, A PATCHWORK OF STORIES, as well as in several anthologies, various online and print magazines. She reviews for “Suspense Magazine”, writes for several newsletters and blogs, and gives workshops on short story writing and promotion. Kaye is agented by Kim Lionetti at BookEnds Literary and lives in Knoxville, TN. Homepage: http://kayegeorge.com/
Kaye George, Guppy president, two-time Agatha Nominee/
Imogene Duckworthy Mystery series/
EINE KLEINE MURDER, April 2013/
FAT CAT cozy series, writing as Janet Cantrell, coming 2014/
DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, coming soon from Untreed Reads/
http://kayegeorge.com/ Want my newsletter? Email me and I’ll put you on the list.
0 thoughts on “Guest Blogger: Kaye George – Writing What I Know”
When is your release date? I know next to nothing about classical music. Having a violin playing sleuth “sounds” interesting. Thanks for letting us know.
Actually, I play violin, but Cressa is a keyboardist. I’m not sure how that happened, but I think it works better for a composer to be a good keyboardist. I wish I were a better one! I don’t have an official release date, but it will be soon. The novel will be ready for Malice, and probably a little bit before that–end of this month, Thanks for stopping by, Elaine!
I enjoyed your post, Kaye, and I hope Cressa is just as successful as Lord Peter Wimsey, another keyboardist turned detective. (Not that he was a professional keyboardist, of course. He didn’t have to do anything professionally. That’s one of the nice things about being a lord.)
I suppose Cressa could meet a lord, get married and be a lady. That might be cool!
Kaye – glad to have you visiting today! What a year of firsts for you — EINE KLEINE MURDER, the first Cressa Carraway novel debuting in April from Barking Rain Press. DEATH IN THE TIME OF ICE, the first Neanderthal book, to be published later this year by Untreed Reads and the first FAT CAT book, from Berkley Prime Crime in 2014. When do you have time to breathe?
I’ll admit, Debra, that some of these were written awhile ago. I’ve been hunting for homes for them and finally they all found their niches at once!
Hi, Kaye! I bet people can learn about classical music from a mystery much the way they learn about perfume from MJ Rose in her series! But it’s funny, what you said. Mystery writers haven’t killed or been shot, so yeah, it’s hard to write what you know when you’re writing about something so deadly. But that’s half the fun. We get to experiment and put our imaginations to good work. Good luck with the books, and keep soldiering on!
I hope some people can learn just a little, Terri. Not too much–don’t want to tire them out!
Very interesting post, Kaye. I love the violin (can’t play, though), and I’m anxious to read Eine Kleine Murder. You are having one heck of a year! Congrats on all your successes.
Thank you , Linda. When it rains it pours! Pennies from heaven in my case. 🙂
First, I’m thrilled you’ve had such a great year. I remember Eine Kleine Murder from a long time ago. Maybe it was a synopsis class or The First Five Pages, so I know this book has been a long time coming. Same with your Neanderthal books. I love classical music. My son play bass all through school and through college, so it’s been part of our lives for a long time. Anyone open to learning will learn something from your book. Cheers to you and happy sales.
Yes, it was Song of Death then. 🙂 Thanks a lot, Polly!
I’ll mention here that, if you’ve signed up for the 1st 4 chapter preview (plus a 35% discount on purchase), those chapters will start going out tomorrow. The link to sign up is http://barkbks.me/11LYK7c if you’d like to do that.
Count me in! Hope a lot of folks are taking advantage of signing up for the free chapter preview plus the purchase discount.
I wasn’t musically inclined, although my mother did sign me and my older sister up for accordion lessons, or three of them anyway. I’ll look for EINE KLEINE MURDER.
Helen, my husband took about that many accordion lessons. Funny! You’re not Polish are you?
I think good mysteries combine what we know with solid research. We can’t know everything!
Very true, Jacqueline!
Guess what??? My book is now published! I just put the stuff on my little blog page: http://travelswithkaye.blogspot.com/p/eine-kleine-murder.html