Website: M. E. Kemp Mysteries
Welcome to the Dames of Dialogue, Marilyn. Let’s pull up a chair and chat!
1. What kinds of books do you write?
I write historical fiction. My latest book, #5 in the series, is set on Cape Cod with my two nosy Puritans as detectives. In DEATH OF A CAPE COD CAVALIER, Hetty Henry, a wealthy mid-twenties widow, is ostensibly on the Cape to buy a cargo of the famous oysters. Her pal, “Creasy” Cotton, the young minister, is supposed to preach to the Native peoples. Hetty faces a dangerous foe even as her sex life gets lively. (This is my first steamy sex-scene. I tend to write funny sex scenes because you are supposed to write what you know????) The cover art for this book is fabulous.
2. I smiled at the image of funny sex scenes. What are you working on now?
- I’m working on #6, where mysterious accidents are happening to those surrounding Hetty. This book brings back that hunky Mohawk, Billy Blue Bear, at the request of female fans.
3. We like to picture our guests and their schedules. What does your writing day look like?
- I have no work schedule. I wish I had! I keep saying I’m going to set a time but my girlfriend calls me to go to lunch and I’m outta’ there! I do email in the morning, though. Somehow the writing gets done. I work on my couch in the living room, writing longhand on yellow paper. I need that touch of pen to pad to inspire me. Then I edit on computer.
4. In your current WIP, what can you share about the characters?
- As this is #6 in the series, my characters are pretty well defined. Hetty is such a pushy broad she took over the first book and then the series. Hetty, as a widow and ship-owner, has wealth and access to high and low society. Creasy is trained to seek out the guilty secrets of the human soul. I think it’s best to let a character run with it; they know what they are doing even if you don’t!
5. Since our reading sometimes informs what we write about, I’m curious about some of the books you enjoy reading, and why you enjoy them?
Who do I read? Right now I’m re-reading Georgette Heyer, the Regency Romance series with accurate historical details and no sex. Mostly I read historical mysteries. Ellis Peters’ Brother Cadfael series introduced me to them originally. I like Susanne Alleyn’s French Revolution mysteries and Anne White’s Lake George mysteries.
6. Promoting our work is often a challenge. What do you do?
- I promote my work through talks – my Salem Witch Trial talks are very popular – and panels. I organize a writers conference through the Hudson Valley Writers Guild and I am a member of Sisters in Crime/New England, so I do talks for them. I also love to guest-blog.
7. You sound very busy. How long have you been writing?
- I’ve been writing since I was 5 years old. As an adult I started with nonfiction books and articles and finally decided to sit down and write a novel, which is what I’ve always wanted to do. It’s an itch that must be scratched!
8. I can totally relate to that feeling! What can you share about where you live?
- I live in Saratoga Springs, NY, home of the most beautiful race track in the world! People don’t realize that the horses don’t just stay for the six week summer meet; they are here from April until November. I love to drive down the street and watch the horses work out on the training track. Saratoga is famous for its waters, and trainers like i for the horses. It’s one of the few cities where you have to stop on a major street to let horses cross! I sit on my porch and I can see greenery all around me. There are some grand old Victorian mansions just up the block, and I live in an old Victorian cottage that was once home to the cooks and maids who served in the “Big Houses.” I can walk downtown to fabulous shops and restaurants. Saratoga is the summer home of the New York City Ballet and of the Philadelphia Orchestra, and it’s a huge place for dance. I am taking Greek dance classes now and I’ve taken lessons in every other kind of dance, from ballet to Tibetan.
9. Mark Twain said, “Southerners speak music…” Do you have a favorite southern saying you can share with our readers?
Southern Saying: Laissez les bon temps rollez!
10. Speaking of Mark Twain, I am reminded of one of the first library books I read. What books in your childhood most influenced you?
“The Jungle Books” of Rudyard Kipling I first read when I was nine years old. I loved that book and others about animals, like “White Fang.”
11. Do you ever visualize yourself chatting with other writers? If you could talk to any writer, living or dead, who would you choose?
If I could talk to any writer living or dead it would be Herman Melville. I’d love to hear his tales of the sea — he lived what he wrote, and I think he is the American author who wrote the Great Universal Novel. Can you imagine Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne sitting on top of Monument Mountain and talking about their work? I’d love to have been a fly on the wall for that meeting. Hawthorne was about the only one who recognized his genius.
12. Sometimes we need to have input from other writers…and readers. Do you belong to any critique or writing groups?
When I first decided to quit writing nonfiction, which actually paid money, and turn to my heart’s desire to write a novel, I joined a critique group. That group was actually very helpful and I still meet with some of the women members to bounce ideas off each other. It was the men in the group who broke it up. Note that all three of we women members are published and none of the men are.
M. E. Kemp was born in Oxford, MA, where her ancestors settled in 1713 and where her family still resides. As a child Kemp wrote for family gatherings; in high school and college she wrote for the school newspapers, both fact and fiction. In high school she won first prize in a national Scholastics short story contest. She attended Worcestor State College in Massachusetts and received her MA English from Siena College in Loudonville, NY. Under her married name, Rothstein, she wrote nonfiction articles in many national and regional magazines, from Americana to Soccer America. She was commissioned to write a textbook for Cornell Cooperative Extension: What Every Citizen Should Know.
Kemp reverted to her maiden name for her first novel, Murder, Mather and Mayhem, (Xlibris) which introduced her two nosy Puritans as detectives. Hetty Henry is twice-widowed, wealthy, with connections to low and high society. Increase “Creasy” Cotton, named for his uncle Increase Mather, is a young minister with training to reveal the guilty secrets of the human soul. Creasy is the cousin of Cotton Mather, who often acts as comic relief.
Publishers Hilliard and Harris picked up her series with Death of a Dutch Uncle (’07) and Death of a Bawdy Belle (March ’08.) Belle is set during the Salem witch trials.
Kemp’s short story, “Murder in the Mill,” was chosen by Sisters in Crime/NYC chapter for their Nov.’07 anthology of stories set in the Metro NYC area: Murder New York Style. Other shorts have appeared in NEWN and in DEADLY INK. Kemp has also written articles for Mystery Readers Journal, most recently in the historical mysteries ’08 issue.
Kemp travels around the Northeast with her popular slide-talk based upon her research, “Naughty Puritans and Saintly Sinners.” She has taught nonfiction writing courses for several local colleges and for many libraries. Kemp is currently at work on her 4th book in the series; Death of a Dancing Master, which is an outgrowth of her love of dance. (For ten years Kemp/Rothstein taught a program for those aged 50 plus called: Dancing Through Time. She has been privileged to work with dancers from the major dance companies.) She is married to Jack Rothstein and lives with Jack and two cats, Boris and Natasha, in Saratoga Springs, NY, where every summer she touts tip sheets to bettors.