There are so many medieval mysteries out there that I decided to do a series set in Colonial America — I believe that American history is just as bloody and colorful as medieval Britain! Plus there were always brothers, sisters, monks, nuns, priests, even rabbis – so I decided to use main-line Prostestants, and you can’t get any more mainline that the Puritans. Hetty is a mid-20’s widow with wealth and connections to high and low society – she’s able to get information. Increase “Creasy” Cotton (named for his uncle, Increase Mather) is a young minister trained to ferret out the guilty secrets of the human soul. Creasy was originally supposed to be the main detective, but Hetty is such a pushy broad she took over the first book and then the series. I think you have to let a forceful character
have his or her head.
2. Give us a brief description of the latest in the series, Death of a Dancing Master.
DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER – When Francis Perkney is found with a fencing foil through his guts, there are many suspects. Magistrates and ministers harassed the man because dancing masters were not wanted in Boston; angry husbands were jealous; women clients were jealous of his attentions — so who did murder the dancing master? A young minister is arrested for the crime but Hetty and Creasy believe in his innocence. The two detectives have to eliminate each suspect before
they uncover the killer.
3. You began by self-publishing with Xlibris but were quickly picked up by Hilliard and Harris. Congratulations! Can you tell us about that experience?
I began my first book “pod” – that is, ‘publish on demand’ — just so I could get it out there. I was sick of waiting and waiting for the big publishing houses to answer my queries/submissions. I urge beginners to consider pod for the same reason. Once the book was in my hands I could appear on panels with something to show. I was picked up by Hilliard and Harris following a writer’s conference — they certainly gave me great cover art. My fourth book, DEATH OF A DANCING MASTER, is being published by L&L Dreamspell – I had published with them through a short story anthology and was familiar with their work. They offer more in the way of marketing, which is the most important aspect of writing! Nobody tells you about that when you first begin your career. It doesn’t matter if you are published by the biggest NYC publishing house, you are going to have to market your book yourself, first and foremost.
4. In the past, you have taught nonfiction writing courses and dance and have also written several short stories and articles along with your series. Whew. You’ve been busy! Which “hat” do you prefer, writer or teacher?
I would prefer to sit in the house – allowing for lunch breaks and shopping expeditions — and write, rather than teach, but it’s fortunate that I like to give talks because that’s my main marketing tool. Currently I’m giving talks on the Salem Witch Trials, which fits in with my last book, DEATH OF A BAWDY BELLE. Historical societies are a good market for me, but I also love to do libraries. I just drew 95 people to my last talk at a local library. For the release of DANCING MASTER, I’m hoping to unveil the book at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs, NY. (That’s where I take dance lessons.)
5. Tell us about your slide-talk “Naughty Puritans and Saintly Sinners”. (I love that title.)
My slide-talk, “Naughty Puritans and Saintly Sinners,” grew out of my research for my books. I discovered that Puritans in Boston were determined to dress as well as the London and Paris courtiers, so even the men wore elegant laces while the favorite color was scarlet. Hardly a bleak picture, is it? I wanted to show the Puritans, especially our ancestors, as human beings with a love of fine clothing, drink and sex! Our ancestors ate with more gusto, drank us under the table and were less hung-up on sex than we are today. That ‘s not a bad legacy, is it? (In my own family history, the first ancestor landed in Salem in 1636. My ancestors were among the first families to settle my hometown of Oxford, MA in 1713. We’re still there, too.)
6. Describe a typical writing day.
I don’t have a typical day; the only certain thing I do is to answer emails first thing in the morning. Then it’s usually lunch, research, tea and snack, watch The Sopranos reruns, snack, library, dinner, Seinfeld, PBS or Dancing With the Stars, to bed… oh, wait…. Writing???
7. What do you like most about writing? What do you dislike most?
What I like most about writing is the writing — also, going on location. I’m lucky in that Old Boston still exists so that I can get the flavor of the place; the narrow streets, the market place, the Union Oyster House, the Common…. I’m planning a trip to Cape Cod to get the atmosphere for my next book, DEATH OF A CAPE COD CAVALIER. For DEATH OF A DUTCH UNCLE I took a boat trip down the Hudson River — there’s not much left of Colonial Albany except along the river front and south of the city. What I dislike is the NECESSITY to market my work — I don’t actually mind doing it, but wouldn’t it be wonderful if publishers gave your books a big push in print ads and paid you to go on road trips???
8. What works best for you in regards to promoting?
I’ve discovered that my best promotion is through historical societies — they are interested in the topic and also they buy books. Libraries are next — librarians are such lovely, enthusiastic people, but the library audiences don’t buy as many books, since they can take them out of the library. However, so long as the libraries buy books, that’s o.k. by me. I also belong to Sisters in Crime/ New England, a very supportive group. I appear on panels and will be at Malice Domestic in Arlington, VA. come May 1st — that’s a biggie. Conferences are a good way to meet authors you admire (Kathy Lynn Emerson comes to mind,) and to get your name out there. Of course chat rooms on the ‘net, like Dorothy L and Crime Through Time and Murder Must Advertise are invaluable in connecting with people and in solving problems with your plot or a character or location. I always learn something from these chat rooms. Right now I seem to have created a special topic on pigs! Well, Priscilla the Tamworth pig is one of my characters, but I didn’t realize there were so many pig-lovers out there! (Check out my web site; mekempmysteries. com)
9. What inspires you as a writer?
What inspires me is the hope that I will earn enough money to buy something sparkly and shiny.
10. Tell us how you met your husband.
How I met my husband? Oh, oh… we don’t want to go there. Actually it was a set-up by a girlfriend, who invited me over to play bridge. Unfortunately, I did not know how to play bridge and her husband was a bridge fanatic, so…. Needless to say, Jack and I have never played bridge since. He’s a sweetie, though, and my biggest booster. He goes to OTB with a stack of books under his arm. Touts and Bookies are my best customers.
11. Tell us about your part of the country.
Saratoga Springs, NY is famous for its race track — the best racing in the world. One goes to see and to be seen in one’s frilliest hat. (Saratoga is the one place left in America where hats are worn.) A thing that should not be missed is breakfast at the track. You watch the horses work out as you sit and drink your juice — which may be a Saratoga Sunrise. Juice with a kick. Saratoga is a neat little city – walkable, with many tourists, nice shops and many wonderful restaurants. (Besides breakfast at the track you shouldn’t miss the french fries (pommes frite) at Ravenous!) There is a great deal of money floating around the city so the consignment shops are hard to beat for real finds!!! Saratoga does a nice job of keeping flowers — baskets and landscape designs — that make the city attractive, and Congress Park is a great place to bring a sandwich and relax, and it’s right in the city. There is also a great deal of culture here, especially when it comes to dance. Skidmore College brings in the best dance companies and the National Museum of Dance does a great job educating non-dancers as to the greats of the art. If you’re into cars we have the Auto Museum and then there’s the Racing Museum…. I should mention that horses are stabled here from April to November, not just for the 6-week summer season. So when I drive down East Street I can see the horses working out at the training track most of the year. When you come, call me up and I’ll give you a tour. Just mention Dames of Dialogue.
12.The Dames love animals. Tell us about your pets.
Pets? Well, Natasha is a sweet little tortoise-shell cat — unless you invade her territory, when she swells up 3 times her size and chases you across the street. (If you’re another cat, that is. She’s shy with other humans.) Boris is just like the Bullwinkle cartoon of Boris Badanov. He looks like a Boris and he acts like one. He’s very affectionate, though, only he hogs all the attention. He also likes dogs, which is a surprise to the local dog walkers, for Boris thinks nothing of walking right up to a dog and nuzzling him. The dogs look for him now when they walk past the house. (This comes from his cousin Albert, my daughter’s dog, who stayed with us for 6 weeks and is such a sweetie that he made friends with Boris right away.)
For more information about M.E. Kemp: http://www.mekempmysteries.com/
(Warning: M.E. Kemp’s website has been officially banned by the Chinese Government!! Way Cool!)