Kate Flora’s eleven books include seven Thea Kozak mysteries, two gritty Joe Burgess police procedurals, a suspense thriller and a true crime. Finding Amy was a 2007 Edgar nominee, has been filmed for TV and is being considered for a movie. Projects underway include Death Dealer, a true crime involving a Canadian serial killer, a screenplay, and a romance. Flora’s short stories have appeared in numerous anthologies, including the Sara Paretsky edited collection, Sisters on the Case. Flora teaches writing for Grub Street in Boston. This ninth generation Mainer currently divides her time between Massachusetts and the coast of Maine, where she battles slugs, deer, and her husband’s lawn mower, trying to make the world safe for perennials. Visit her website at www.kateflora.com
The heroine of your story in Thin Ice, Gracie, is so complex and layered. How do you think about creating a character like Gracie? Are we going to see more of her in the future?
Oh, you know…Gracie is such a departure for me that I was very nervous about submitting that story. Susan and Ruth and I have been very rigorous with each other’s stories, and I wasn’t at all sure they’d like it. It’s interesting how a character like Gracie comes about, and it really goes to the difference in process between the way that I write a novel and the way I write short stories. With a novel, I’ll spend anywhere from 2 to 6 months “cooking the book.” I’ll carry it around in my head while I figure out who the main characters are, who the victim is and why someone wanted that person dead. How they were killed, who killed them and who else might be the suspects. I’ll know a great deal about the characters and most of the plot before I type “Chapter One.” With short stories, I usually begin with a character in a situation, and it’s a lot like sitting down with them and talking it through to learn what they’re about. So “Gracie Walks the Plank” began with her sitting in that hot, shabby trailer in a faded housecoat, isolated and really angry, and I wanted to know what was going on with her. It takes a number of false starts before I can find a character’s voice and worldview, and understand what their story is about.
You were a founding editor of Level Best Books and co-edited the first seven anthologies. Now you’re a contributor. How does it feel to be in the writer role? What do you miss and what don’t you miss?
I love being back in the writer’s role, although now I join the ranks of writers hunched over their stories while worried about rejection. But whether or not I have stories in future collections, being a part of Level Best Books will always be something that I treasure.
What will I miss? I’ll miss that wonderful sense of discovery, going through submissions. I’ll miss seeing what all the imaginations of all these writers I’ve come to care about have produced. I guess I’ll miss that sense of ownership, or pride, or whatever you call it that comes from finding unknown authors and introducing them to readers. I know that sometimes I spoken with an author who is hurt or disappointed because we didn’t take their story, and it was always so hard, because often, I was a huge fan of their work, I/we just hadn’t seen the right story yet. There are always those writers who submitted a few times and then gave up…and they’ll never know how we eagerly waited for their submissions, hoping this be “the one.” I suppose I’m kind of a Pollyanna about all this…but I think of all the writers who’ve been published in these collections as part of the Level Best family.
And at the risk of charges of favoritism…I frankly don’t understand why readers and other writers don’t worship at Judy Green’s feet. She’s incredible.
What I won’t miss? All those boxes in my garage. Lugging books around. Typing invoices, lugging packages to the post office. Twisting store owner’s arms to give our little anthology a chance and getting snotty treatment because we didn’t have a “distributor.”
What are you working on now?
I’m finishing the too-long delayed second half of Death Dealer, my new true crime. I’m trying to carve out space to rewrite a suspense novel that I’d like to get out to agents. I’m looking forward to my two-week fellowship/residency at The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts in April, where I’m going to start on a new novel that’s completely different from anything I’ve ever done before.
Plotting a new Joe Burgess and a new Thea Kozak mystery.
I’m trying to nudge my collaborator on Finding Amy into working on his book.
Learning to use my Dragon software.
Trying to think of a story for Dead Calm, the new Level Best anthology.