Friday, July 13, 2012

Guest Mommy Author: Josi S. Kilpack

When I first saw that my interview would post on Friday the 13th, I immediately began brainstorming authors appropriate to the day. Lots of choices ran through my head, but one stuck out right away, Josi S. Kilpack, author of several cozy culinary mysteries. As a mystery writer, she's the perfect choice for an interview on Friday the 13th. As a mom of four, she's the perfect choice for this blog. 
About Josi: Josi S. Kilpack hated to read until her mother handed her a copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond when she was 13. From that day forward, she read everything she could get her hands on and accredits her writing “education” to the many novels she has “studied” since then. She began writing her first novel in 1998 and never stopped. Her novel, Sheep’s Clothing won the Whitney Award 2007 for Mystery/Suspense. Lemon Tart, the first book in the Sadie Hoffmiller Culinary Mystery series was a finalist in 2009.  Josi currently lives in Willard, Utah with her husband, children, dog, and varying number of chickens.

Josi's latest culinary mystery,  Banana Split.
Me: First off, as a teen I read every Marry Higgins Clark my small-town library had and once thought I, too, could write mysteries. Alas, such is NOT the case. How did you get into writing mysteries and what made you choose cozy, culinary mysteries?
my story was fitting into the "cozy" spere of things, and it was actually my publisher who suggested I put recipes in it. Sadie talked about food and made food throughout the book, so it wasn't hard, but I'd never actually read one before.

Me: Have you ever used incidences from real life for scenes in your novels? Or have any real people inspired characters?
Josi: I had never written a mystery when I started Lemon Tart, and I started it as a contest entry--Jeff Savage did a contest for the first chapter of a mystery novel that involved food. I only wrote that one chapter at first, but had a good time and kept going. In the process, I had to read up on the formula for a mystery and learn a lot of craft-skills that I hadn't had to use with my other books. I was about half-way through when I realized

Me: Where do you get your inspirations for your culinary mysteries? How do you research for them?
Josi: Each book has either started with a recipe or a region. The region parts take a lot of research but I tend to 'spot-research' which means I'll write based on my best guess and when I get to a part where I need a factual thing, I look it up. I get myself in trouble sometimes when I later find out I was 'guessing' wrong, but for the most part it works. I'm not a really great researcher so I never recommend that people do it my way. The story comes together through trial and error and error and error. I'm a sloppy writer and tend to poke around until a plot takes off. I don't recommend doing that either.
Josi: Most of my character start with a real person, but then they always morph into someone completely different. I do use real scenes in my books, but they are always highly fictionalized by the time I finish with them. 
Me: You have four non-culinary mystery books, one book out for the Newport Ladies Book Club and another in the works, seven in the Sadie Hoffmiller culinary mysteries series and another in the works, and any other projects you don't mention on twitter ;) PLUS four kids. So the question is: how?
Josi: I'm neurotic and always stressed. I'm thrilled to be where I am, but it keeps me running. It certainly helps that I love what I'm doing, therefore it's easier to make it a priority, but I'm always unbalanced somewhere in my life and trying to keep up. For now, it's working and it's worth the sacrifices. I've learned to do everything fast and I don't have a lot of down time.

Me: You wrote your first book with two young children and while on bed rest during your third pregnancy, right? How did you hold down the fort at home while writing? 
Josi: With that first book, I had two sisters who were working hard to keep my life going and a wonderful husband who took on a lot of extra responsibility. It was a very hard and frustrating time, for all of us I'm sure, and yet I think it was to distract myself from the hard stuff that I began that first story. I needed to think of something else, and it has grown into something fabulous. A friend said to me once "Thank goodness for bedrest" and it took me a minute to realize what a blessing that was. I've wondered if I'd have taken the time and uncovered the passion for writing if I hadn't truly had nothing else to do. It was a lesson to me that sometimes our trials end up being the door to something unexpected.

Me: How big of a role does your husband play in your ability to pursue a writing career?
I could not do this without Lee. From the very start he encouraged me to pursue it and he's always behind the scenes encouraging me to keep going, letting me vent about hard things, and yet keeping me grounded as well. It's easy for me to get completely lost in my fictional worlds, and he's there to pull me back and remind me of reality and my responsibility here. His confidence in me has been the most important aspect of my writing, without his support I can't imagine my ever seeking this in the first place, let alone sticking to it on the really hard days. He's priceless for me.

Me: What system works in your house for just getting it all done -- kids, writing, housework, etc. etc. etc.!
Josi: My kids have chore days where once a week they are in charge of almost everything--dishes, bathrooms, pets, straightening, etc. It's about an hour of work, but I only have one kid I have to hound and if they all keep up with it then we stay on top of things. I get up early (5:00 most days) in order to exercise and do some home maintenance before they go to school or, since it's summer time, before they wake up. My kids start doing their own laundry at 11, so I only have one that I have to wash clothes for and this helps a great deal as well. I try to write in blocks of time, rather than in small snippets so I'm usually trying to get everything done so I can sit down for a couple of hours. Some days it works, some days it doesn't. For the last year and a half I have gone to our office once a week in the evening and written until midnight with some other writer friends. It's been a very effective thing for me, since getting away from the distractions at home helps me to focus. AND, just a couple of months ago I hired a housekeeper to come in twice a month and do floors and bathrooms. I just couldn't keep up and my kids didn't do a good enough job and it was worth the $200/month to not have to stress out about it. I felt guilty about it for the first hour :-)

Me: The Newport Ladies Book Club series is centered around, well, women and books! Daisy is a mother. How much of your parenting style went into creating her character?
Josi: Daisy is very different from me, but she was reflective more of my 'place' as a mom as my style. My oldest daughter just started college, living on campus, and as her departure got closer I found myself panicking. I have struggled with motherhood, I don't feel like I'm very good at it and it hasn't been as satisfying as I thought it would be when I started it out. For many, many years I was counting the days until my kids grew up and left, and yet now as they are doing that, I'm overwhelmed by it and realizing things I missed or things that will never be the same again. Daisy was an extreme example of someone realizing those things too and through writing it I worked out some of my own demons.

Me: What can you tell us about SHANNON's character for your next NLBC book?
Josi: Shannon is a pharmacist with a good family and good career. She has a step-daughter who has struggled with drugs and alcohol and who comes to Shannon for help. Shannon sees so much potential and wants her success so much that she hides things from her husband and son, and justifies her actions because of her goals, but finds out that in the process she's gone against her own values. I'm only about half way done with it so far and it's been another important journey for me personally. I'm eager to see how it turns out :-) 

Me: Finally, and most importantly, what ice cream flavor is an absolute necessity in your freezer?
Josi: Vanilla. I'm a very exciting person. :-) 

Thanks, Josi for taking time to answer my stimulating questions. ;) You can find out more about Josi by stopping by her web page and blog or following her on twitter.

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