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Friday, May 13, 2011

Behind the Scenes with Kit Sloane and Her Mystery Thriller Series

Kit Sloane is an Art History graduate, and says that she has loved reading and writing forever.  She was first fiction editor for Futures magazine, which was an offshoot from the SinC “Guppies” newsletter, that published short stories from new and established authors.  She worked, networked, and finally got published in 2000. She says, “Thank heavens for Independent publishers arriving on the scene. Whew!”   Kit Sloane lives in Northern California’s wine country with her professor husband, and lots of animals on a small horse ranch. “It’s great!” she says.

Tell us about the genre of your work.

I write, to quote Booklist, “offbeat” mystery stories. I think this means that I do not fit into a sub-category very well, and my stories do not always feature an actual murder. There is one story that does not even have a body in it. This does not mean these books are not suspenseful. Implied violence and unpleasant personalities have their own measure of evil, and I think they feel real. These incidents could really happen.

Why did you choose this genre?

I love reading mysteries. Started with a Josephine Tey at age nine, and never looked back.

What are some of your books, stories that have been published?

My series of Margot & Max mysteries now number eight books, with number nine in the working stage.  I have been lucky to have my series picked up three different times. Independent presses are wonderful, but, unfortunately, they tend to have a short life span.

The first four, Final Cut, Grape Noir, Bad Actors, & Last Words, with Deadly Alibi Press, are now out-of-print but available used at

Numbers five and six, Extreme Cuisine – takes place behind the kitchen doors with a super chef in L.A.  Margot and Max find a recipe for disaster behind the kitchen doors of a trendy Hollywood restaurant. As Max points out, dinner at these places "...provides an evening of theater and you get to eat it!" Betrayal, revenge, and perhaps something even more unsavory, are on the menu tonight.  (ISBN (1-930754-68-X)
Location,  Location - Accompanying Margot & Max to Panama for a location shoot are a celebrated American actor, a guide from the spiritual sect he has embraced, his powerhouse agent intent on separating him from this sect, two British financiers, and a burgeoning legion of would-be money-men bent on getting in on the action. Filmmaking takes second place on the set as the players scramble for position in a murderous game of multiple upmanship. (978-1-930754-99-7). These two are from Durban House Press, and are
still available at

The most recent two books were published by Oak Tree Books.  The Fat Lady Sings takes place when the female protagonist, Margot, becomes director of a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta trying for a big win, at any cost, at a UK conference (978-1892343-61-1),
This year’s entry, The Magicians, finds the intrepid duo, Margot & Max, taking on the reality TV industry, and they find it can be murder 
All are available from the usual sources as well as discounted from my publisher at My website has a lot of information on why I wrote each particular story, and why each particular cover was designed. See more at
Reality TV?  Sounds like a piece of cake to Max, and a guilty pleasure for viewers not to mention a windfall for the producers. What can be difficult about reality TV? But transported from the eerie confines of a seemingly haunted house in Los Angeles to the sun-drenched, volcanic beaches of Hawaii, Margot and Max discover that the images manipulated for television reality shows are no more real and can be much more deadly than the stories she and Max create for feature films. (978-1-61009-004-9).

How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?
Characters’ names come easily to me. But they have to fit, and I sometimes change them until they feel right. I usually use real place names for cities, etc, but will make up small things, like street addresses and restaurant names. I have no desire to get anyone in trouble!

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

I have a friend who is a film editor, and I met many of her co-workers. Film editors are often women, and usually quite shy and self-effacing people, far from the perceived glamour and glitz of Hollywood. I thought what an interesting profession for someone in a mystery story, a shy person who prefers being in the background until problematic occurrences and circumstances force her forward. Also my daughter, Annie Sperling (who also does my super covers) is a Production Designer in Hollywood. I listen to her talk about her jobs and the people in them. Fantastic material!

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

My “bad guys” are not serial killers, or total ga-ga nut cases, but generally they are people you might actually meet who end up making really bad decisions. Also, I have discovered, NONE of them seem to have a sense of humor. I guess that’s the worst character flaw I can think of!

What’s your favorite thing about your book?

The characters and the settings. I love writing about Hollywood and the movie business. All these different people, from directors and actors to plumbers and carpenters, are working together to make ONE thing, a film. You need confidence, huge talent, and a strong ego to compete in the business.  Lots of opportunities for fireworks! Also, there’s the happy unintended consequence that being in the movie business, I realized I could place the stories anywhere in the world, logically. I have set stories in Guatemala, the UK, Panama, and many places in between.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?

I like writing mysteries because you must have a beginning, middle, and, hopefully, a thrilling climax. And the stories have to make sense. They have to be logical, or they just don’t work. All the rest is up to the individual writer.
Why and when did you begin writing?

My mother was a newspaper editor, and my father wrote short stories for the old Esquire Magazine. I wanted to see if I could write a mystery novel. I quit working (as a medical office manager) for a year to see if I could. I never went back to my day job. Also, looking back, the Apple Macintosh computer had just been invented (this was ‘84-’85), and I often think I never would have completed anything if it had not been for the ease of the machines!
What is your writing schedule?

I live on a small working horse ranch, and I fit in writing when I am not doing chores. It seems to be the perfect situation for me. I live a solitary, and active life, every day!
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

My story in progress is called Close-Up and has to do with older actors and their need for 15-more minutes of fame...

What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write (especially mystery)?
Read. Read everything. I have always been a reader. I really believe you must read, read, read in order to write well. And, do not copy a trend. By the time you get your story written and, hopefully, get it published, it could be years and years later and that trend will be long gone. Write a good story, preferably without gimmicks.
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?

Learn the basics, good grammar and vocabulary. Make your manuscript error-free and easy to read. Believe me, as a former editor, NOTHING turns off the tired eyes of an editor faster than sloppy presentation, typos, and misspellings. It may be the most clever story in the world, but if it is difficult to read OR actually unreadable, it will stay that way!
What do you do when you are not writing?

I read! I also love to garden and, of course; there are the 4-horses, 2-goats, 4-cats and FLASH, the black Labrador, to entertain me. 

What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?

I think finally getting that contract in 2000. It was such a relief and a vindication for all that time I had spent writing. I also having the very distinctive cover for GRAPE NOIR nominated for Best Cover Art at Bouchercon in 2002. We didn’t win, but it was a major step coming for us and our small Indie publisher. 
Find out more about Kit Sloane on her website at:


WS Gager said...

Great Post Kit! Thanks for the interesting questions Sylvia. Pulled some unique answers. Kit I love the cover for Grape Noir too! So catchy visually but with a message in the glass! Nice.

Holli Castillo said...

Kit, I think your advice about grammar and the basics is great for everyone to remember, not just new writers. I am constantly looking up the rules, if for no other reason than to know them before I break them.

Everyone is fascinated by movie stars and Hollywood- some people even form political and religious views based upon what their favorite movie star or singer believes this week, which completely freaks me out. You chose the perfect backdrop for a mystery series!

Holli Castillo

Kit Sloane said...

Oh, thanks for the thoughts. I love movies, at least GOOD movies, and I love the people who work so hard making them. All these production people are just hard working folks who do their thing, and hope for the best!

Thanks for the comments.