Then the time has come to. . . welcome break out author KATE GEORGE!!! (psst, she was the winner of the Daphne du Maurier Award for 2009!)
She's here to give us the low down on getting that coveted "call" writers everywhere lust for. Stick around and enjoy an excerpt from Kate's award winning novel, MOONLIGHTING IN VERMONT. Let me tell you, it's a nail-biting tasty teaser!
Tear into your secret stash of Halloween candy and enjoy!! We're priming the pumps for a good time!
1) If you were a book, what would your blurb be?
When sometime writer, Kate George, boasted to her friends that she could write like Janet Evanovich, she never dreamed her friends would call her bluff. Faced with writing a novel or eating her words she pounds out a novel - which her friends like, much to her surprise. A career as a novelist calls to Kate and she yearns to answer that call, but Her four dastardly children, three unruly dogs, two non-hypo allergenic cats, and one demanding husband (sorry honey), conspire to put an end to her hopes and dreams. Will Kate's dreams die like the poor hapless victims she writes about, or will she be able to consume enough chocolate and caffeine to keep the writing alive? The future reveals all.
It's okay. I know I'm lousy at writing blurbs. My editor wrote the one for Moonlighting.
2) Using three words, describe your voice.
Warm, Funny, irreverent - or maybe irreverent and funny are the same? In that case I'd put in exciting. But on second thought I don't think funny and irreverent are the same after all. Then I'd want to add Crisp maybe, and believe-it-or-not, not longwinded!
3) Congrats on the first place ranking in the 2009 Daphne du Maurier Unpublished Division! How exciting! Tell us, how did it feel to get that call? What's advice to you have for other unpublished writers about entering contests?
I was thrilled to get that call! There were so many good entries - I judged a category that I wasn't entered in so I know the competition was tough. I'm can't tell you how awed I am to be in such good company. My advice: Make sure you are entered in the correct category. I entered the wrong category in contests many times before a judge was kind enough to tell me that I should have entered Mainstream mystery (or mainstream with romantic elements) and not romantic suspense. If you aren't sure ASK! - and if you are sure make sure you understand how the categories are defined.
4) How has your writing/career changed since the big win?
Here's what happened. I entered the Daphne and then pretty much forgot about it. Shortly after that I heard Mainly Murder Press was looking for submissions so I cut thirty thousand words out of Moonlighting in Vermont and sent it in. (MMP only publishes books up to 70,000 and Moonlighting was 98,000 words at that time.) MMP accepted Moonlighting for publication and a couple of weeks later I heard MIV had made it to the final round in the Daphne!! Wow, what a rush last spring was! So then I had to check with my publisher to make sure I hadn't broken any of her rules, and with the Daphne to make sure I hadn't broken any of theirs! I hadn't and it was all grand. Even better when I discovered I'd won the Mainstream division.
Because Moonlighting was published during the process I couldn't say what impact the win has on my career, other than to spur me on. It's tremendously validating and I'm going to continue to write!
5) What's your favorite writer's reference book or site and why?
Ack! I don't really use writer's reference books. I sometimes look up words online when I'm looking for an synonym. And I check with friends sometimes. The reference books I most enjoy reading are Stephen King's On Writing, and Janet Evanovich's How I write.
6) How do you balance writing time and family time?
Add a full time job to that! Balance, there is no balance. Or better yet: Balance? We don't need no stinking Balance. Now I'm dating myself, I know. Luckily I have a job which allows me to spend some time writing during the week. I also have a good friend with an isolated office in her attic where I can get some work done. It's next to impossible for me to work at home anymore, because I'm never here alone! I had a job fall through the year I wrote Moonlighting, and luckily we were in a spot financially that I didn't have to find a new one immediately. So I wrote. Now I'm having to carve time. The housekeeping has definitely gone to H E double hockey sticks!
7) What's up next for Kate George?
Now that I know I can write, I decided to up the ante - I'm doing two books at once. (Actually, I wrote a decidedly awful novella in my twenties, and then there are the multiple volumes of poetry, but I'm trying to put the past behind me.) I'm working on a sequel to Moonlighting in Vermont called California Schemin' (working title), where Bree thinks she might have witnessed a murder while in California with Beau, AND a story about a FBI dropout who gets wrapped up in stuff she really wanted to avoid. That one is called Tank and Maggie Meet the Mob. I've had so many requests for more of Bree that I'm focusing on CS for now and I'll finish TMMM when I'm done. I have enough material for about one book as of now, two bad it's two different stories!
My goal is to eventually quit the day job and write two books a year. Hey! Everybody needs a dream!
Gunnar was staying in the Spring Meadows Room, a small cabin that sat in a small depression between two hillocks, out of sight of any of the other cottages. He pulled into the covered carport, opened the doors, and escorted us to the door. I’d forgotten he’d been moved out of the room where Vera died. We wouldn’t be finding any clues in this room.
Gunnar ushered us into the room ahead of him. Meg started at the sight of a bronze, life-sized statue of a moose in the entry of the cottage. The hotel was full of stuff like that, but I’d forgotten Meg hadn’t been in many of the rooms.
“It hides the wood for the fireplace,” I told her. “It rolls forward when you push on its hind leg.”
Gunnar tossed his jacket on the moose and motioned us into the living area.
Opulent couches and overstuffed chairs sat artfully on one side of the room. They had been set so that you could see both the fireplace and the hidden, flat-screen TV from one seating area, and out the window overlooking a meadow with a stream running through it from the other. Gunnar motioned us to take a seat, but I walked over to look out the floor-to-ceiling window. I didn’t like being in this room.
"Let me just get a photo for you," he said to Meg. "It’s in the other room.” The minute he left, Meg started rifling through the papers on the coffee table.
“Meg!” I hissed at her. “Stop that. You’ll get caught.”
“He’ll just think I’m nosey,” she whispered back. She moved over to look through the items on his bar.
“Meg!” I glared at her. “This isn’t the cottage Vera died in. We moved Gunnar out of there. You’re aren’t going to find anything.”
“Unless he was involved.” Meg was looking for another spot to search. I shook my head at her. “Stop,” I said. “He’s coming.”
Gunnar returned with a briefcase and made a big show of extracting a photo and signing it for her. She took it from him and smiled.
"Thank you so much,” she said, simpering at him. "It’s very kind of you to go out of your way."
"On the contrary," Gunnar turned around and reached into his briefcase again. "You have saved me a great deal of trouble.” He turned back and pointed a gun at her. Shit. All of a sudden, I didn’t care so much about getting fired. It was way better than getting dead. I must be the queen of getting into stupid situations. Only this time, I’d dragged Meg into it with me.
"You," Gunnar said to me. "Get over here and sit next to her. And don’t do anything stupid, or I’ll shoot your friend. Her husband could be the king of Siam, and I wouldn’t give a shit, so don’t start going on about him being a cop.”
I looked at him intently. Gunnar’s European accent had disappeared. He sounded vaguely like he came from …Chicago? Despite that, I still couldn’t see him as Vera’s killer. Why? What could Vera have done, seen, or heard that would make it necessary for a man like Gunnar to kill her? Why was he threatening us, for that matter? What could have we done or seen? It would be much easier just to pay any of us off. Or threaten us. My head was hurting again.
"Move," he said and rotated the gun in my direction. I moved. I sat next to Meg on the couch while Gunnar pacedfor a few minutes. He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and scowled at it. I would put money on his not getting service in this cottage. I never had service anywhere on Whispering Birches property.
"Okay, change of plan," he said. "Both of you into the bedroom."
We scooted into the bedroom. A huge bed dominated the room. The top of the mattress was probably four feet off the ground. A footstool sat on the floor beside the bed so you could climb up. The headboard was huge, running from the mattress top to the ceiling. It was solid wood, engraved with intricate designs in florals and swirls. Delicately detailed cutouts had been carved out of the wood so that we could see the fabulous gold wallpaper behind the headboard.
Besides the fabulous bed, there was a dresser carved in the same motif, with cut-outs along the bottom. A fireplace faced the bed with a flat screen TV hanging above the mantel. The floor-to-ceiling windows faced the meadow. Through the door to the bathroom, we could see a stone shower stall, and out the door to the main living area, I could see that stupid metal moose.
“Take off your shoes.” He shook the gun at us. “Now.”
Meg looked shell-shocked. Her hands were shaking, and she had trouble getting her shoes untied. I was wearing my favorite cowboy boots, soft black leather. If Gunnar damaged my boots, I was going to kill him. They cost me two weeks’ pay. I slid them off my feet.
“Give me your bags, coats, shoes, belts, everything.” Gunnar looked at Meg, who had started shaking her head. “I’m not taking my clothes off,” she said. She shot him a defiant look.
His smile was creepy. “You can keep your shirt and pants,” he said. Meg and I handed our stuff to Gunnar. He stowed them in a duffle and then pulled out what turned out to be a bunch of large zip ties.
“If you move I’ll kill your friend,” he said to Meg. He tossed one of the ties at me. “It’s handcuffs,” he said. “Put that on your left wrist.” I looked at the cuff and looped the plastic around my wrist and threaded the end through the ‘lock.’ Gunnar stuck his gun in the back of his pants andgrabbed my left arm. He tightened the cuff on my wrist and slid a second tie around the bedpost through one of the decorative cutouts. Then he looped it through the cuff on my wrist.
Meg was staring at me, horrified. She looked ready to run, but I knew she wouldn’t put me at risk. I wanted to yell at her to get out, but I didn’t. She couldn’t outrun Gunnar in the snow without shoes.
Gunnar approached her. “Same thing,” he said to her.
“You move, she dies.” He handcuffed her to the footboard.
“You make any noise, I’ll kill you. Do anything to attract attention, and I’ll kill you. I think I’d enjoy that.” He showed us his teeth and left the room.
Well, here I was on Gunnar Ericson’s bed. There wasn’t a woman in America who hadn’t dreamed of this. Of course, most of them would have left the handcuffs out of the fantasy. The reality wasn’t nearly as fun. I couldn’t get comfortable with my arm cuffed to the headboard, and I wasn’t really sure why we were cuffed to the bed. I could be wrong, but it didn’t seem to be a sexual thing. Did Gunnar kill Vera?
I could hear Gunnar moving around in the other room. There was a knock at the door. My heart leapt, and I strained to hear what was going on. The door opened, and a husky, male voice spoke in an undertone. I couldn’t understand what he was saying.
“I think they know.” Gunnar’s voice was clear.
“Well, if they didn’t before, they do now.” The husky voice was audible now.
“I don’t see what the big deal is, Gunnar. It hurts me that you date women and keep me hidden away. It’s not like it’s the 1950s anymore.”
“That’s not the half of it, and you know it, Joseph. My fans are all female. If my little habit comes out, my popularity will come crashing down. Do you want to end up on the street? You wouldn’t be nearly as attractive without my credit card.”
“I think he’s gay,” Meg said in a stage whisper.
“You think?” I rolled my eyes.
“These women are nothing to worry about, Joseph,” said Gunnar in the other room. “Nothing at all. I’ve asked that no one enter my room. Now it’s time to go to dinner.” The door clicked shut and the cottage fell silent.
I slumped against the headboard, my head leaning against the scrollwork. Meg climbed up and lay across the foot of the bed, her arms angled out so she could rest her head on the mattress.
How in the world was I going to get Meg out of this? Think. What do I know about this cabin, this room, this bed? This bed. I closed my eyes and pictured how they had gotten the huge headboard into the room. I hadn’t been there, but Brian had told me about it. It was designed to come apart so that it would fit in the door. It was brought into the room in two pieces, assembled on the floor, and then raised and attached to the rest of the frame.
I opened my eyes and examined the wood. The carving was intricate, and the join wasn’t obvious. My arm was shackled a couple of feet above the mattress. It was just possible that I was attached to the connecting point of the post. I swiveled around, stretching my arm as far as it would go, and braced my feet in a couple of the holes. I slid my butt closer to the head of the bed, my legs bent. The cuff cut into my wrist, making me suck in my breath. I anchored my feet in the cutouts, and then I pushed upward with everything I had. Nothing. My wrist was bleeding, but the bed hadn’t moved. I shoved upward again with everything I had, pushing my back down into the mattress, the cuff slicing into me. The headboard didn’t move.
“Crap, crap, crap!” I said.
“What are you doing?” Meg asked.
I looked down the bed to see Meg staring at me. “I think this headboard came in two pieces,” I said. “I’m trying to pry them apart.”
She shimmied up the bed, extending her arm above her head. Gunnar had left a lot more slack in her cuff than in mine, but she was still stretched way out. “I’m not tall enough. I don’t have a lot of leverage, but I can help.” Meg slotted her heels into the wood. There was hardly any bend in her knees at all.
“Get ready,” I said, “on three. One, two, three!” We both pressed upwards with our feet. There was a creaking sound but no movement.
“Wait,” I said. “Maybe we need to loosen the glue or whatever is holding the two pieces together. Try shoving against it like this.” I put my feet flat on the surface of the headboard above where I thought the join was and pushed it back and forth with all the strength in my legs. Meg did the same. There was a splintering noise, and we shifted our feet back into the slots where I thought the join must be. We shoved upwards again. The headboard came loose and crashed down on top of us.
“Ow,” cried Meg. “I think my kneecap just shattered.”
I was seeing stars from the headboard bashing me in the head. “That wasn’t the smartest idea I ever had,” I said. I slid the zip tie up over the broken end of the headboard and wiggled out from underneath it. I pushed the broken wood off Meg and let it crash to the floor. I rubbed my head where the newel post had clobbered me.
“My wrist is bleeding,” I said. “I’m going to rinse it off in the bathroom.” In the bathroom, I held my hand under the cold water until it was numb. Then I dried off on one of the pristine towels. I looked at the bloodstained towel and sighed. With my luck, I’d be the one to have to clean it.
I came back to Meg and sat on the bed. Something Gunnar said hit me. “He’s got a secret. Not that he’s gay, something more.”
“What do you mean?” asked Meg.
“Do you remember what he said before they left? Something about a habit?” I scrunched my face up, trying to remember. “I’m going to search the room.”
“Look for something to cut me free while you’re at it, will you?” Meg was sitting on the edge of the bed, rubbing her knee.
I started rifling through the drawers in the dresser. Nothing but fancy underwear and socks. I checked the closet. I went through the pockets of the clothes hanging there. I pulled the suitcases out of another closet. I knelt on the floor and started unzipping cases.
I found a pocketknife in one of the cases and cut the nylon tie off Meg’s wrist. She rubbed at the red line it made on her skin. “I wonder if his briefcase is still in the other room,” she said. I looked at her.
“You’re brilliant,” I said.
I dashed into the living room and grabbed Gunnar’s briefcase off the bar, where he had left it. I brought it back into the bedroom and set it on the bed. I snapped it open. It was full of papers. The first layer contained fan photos like the one he had signed for Meg. I pulled those out and tossed them on the bed. Under those was what looked like a script.
“Doesn’t look like he’s read any of that yet,” said Meg.
“It’s totally untouched. I’m losing all respect for this guy.”
“Well, then, this will really blow you out of the water,” I said. I held a folder I had dug out of the bottom of the case. I placed in front of Meg and flipped it open, and her eyes just about fell out of her head. She closed it fast.
“I can’t look at this,” Meg said, opening the file again. “These are just boys. Teenagers. They can’t be old enough for this to be legal.”
“No. It’s not legal,” I said. I didn’t need to look at the pictures in the folder anymore. The images were already burned into my brain. “I’m pretty sure he’s a pedophile. And into bondage. And probably gay, but who cares about that?”
“Well, he is supposed to be a heartthrob,” said Meg.
“Every stay-at-home mom in America is in love with him, and half the workingwomen I know TiVo his show. Being gay might hurt that.”
“Not as much as this stuff will,” I said. My stomach started churning, and I ran into the bathroom.
“You all right?” Meg asked as I came back into the bedroom.
“Yeah, I’m fine. That just hit me the wrong way.” I went to a cabinet and pulled a couple of pairs of hotel slippers from a drawer. “Not snow boots, but better than nothing. I’m walking to the next cottage,” I said as I slipped them on. “If I have to, I’ll walk all the way to the main house. It’s not really that far. Less than a mile.” I smiled at her. “Maybe I’ll run into the turndown crew on the way. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Are you kidding? I’m coming with you.”
I heard footsteps on the porch outside the cottage and looked back at Meg. The door clicked open. Meg’s eyes widened. I looked around at the mess I had made. The headboard cracked and lying on the far side of the bed. Clothes hanging out of all the drawers. Gunnar’s suitcases on the floor. There was no time to make this room seem normal.
“Pretend you’re still cuffed to the bed,” I whispered.
“And remember the hind leg of the moose.”
“What are…?” Meg started to ask, but I signaled her to be quiet and dodged behind the door. We heard Gunnar swear in the other room. He strode through the door to the bedroom.
“Where the fuck is my briefcase?” He burst into the room. He stopped short, taking in the disheveled room and staring at the half headboard where I used to be. This is it, I told myself. Now or never. I took a deep breath and launched myself at him. I hit him in the middle of his back, and we both went down on the edge of the bed. I was on top of him, trying to hold him down, but he shook me off, and I stumbled to the floor. I realized I didn’t know where his gun was. It hadn’t been in the briefcase. Shit.
I scrambled to my feet. We stood facing each other. I didn’t know why he didn’t take me. He was big and buff. I knew I was no match for him. I saw a quick movement behind him, and he yelled and flew forward into me. I guessed from his language that Meg had connected with a kidney. I thrust my knee at him but missed the mark and hit him in the thigh. Hardly a take-down blow.
Gunnar grabbed me around the waist and hoisted me up over his shoulder. My hands were trapped under my body. I kicked at Gunnar, but he had my legs snugged against his body. He carried me out through the living room. I looked around frantically, but I didn’t see anything that could help me. Gunnar’s gun was sitting on the coffee table in front of the fireplace. Great. I was hoping it had disappeared. But no, now I had to face the possibility of being shot.
I had a last look at the bronze moose, and we were outside. He carted me over to his car. I heard a lock click, and the next thing I knew, I was in the trunk of his Lexus.
“Hey,” I said. “You didn’t have to dump me in here. That hurt.”
He slammed the lid on me, and I was in the dark. A couple of minutes later, I heard footsteps. Then the trunk opened.
“Where is she?”
“What are you talking about?”
“That woman who was with you. Where is she hiding?”
“I don’t know.” I was hoping that by now Meg had found the other door out of the box we loaded the wood into. If she was fast, she could be halfway to the next cottage.
I saw a movement behind Gunnar, and then Meg was on his back, her arm around his neck, trying to choke him.In one fluid motion, he flipped her off his back. She landed on top of me in the trunk. The air was pushed out of my lungs, and everything went black again as the lid slammed. I heard Gunnar walking away as we scooted around until we were side-by-side, spooning like lovers. It was better than having Meg on top of me.
“You should have run for help.” I felt like howling.
“I couldn’t leave you with that maniac. What if something happened?”
“Well, now we’ll find out.” I shifted my legs, trying to uncramp them.
“How do you like this Lexus now?” I asked. “Comfy?”
“Oh, stop grousing. I don’t want the last words I hearto be grumbling. Any way for us to get out of this?”
“It depends on if he remembers to bring his gun.” The car door slammed, and a moment later we were bumping down the road.
“If he doesn’t have the gun, we could overpower him when he opens the trunk,” I said. “But I don’t think we can count on that.”
“Oh, my God!” Meg said. “What if he never opens the trunk? What if he leaves us in here to starve? Or what if he drives us over a cliff or something?”
“He won’t do that.” I hoped. “Because this is his car, and he won’t want anyone to associate us with it. Don’t cars like this have latches on the inside of the trunk?Maybe we could pop the trunk while he’s driving and jump out when he stops.”
“What’s this?” I could hear her fumbling around. The latch clicked and the trunk flew open. “I did it!”
“I wished you’d warned me first. I’m not ready.”
Gunnar slammed on the brakes, and I slid deeper into the trunk. Meg was up on her knees, struggling to get a leg over the edge of the trunk. She got one leg out and fell onto the road. I heard her hit and some muffled curses.
“Run!” I yelled. “Get up and run!”
She was on her feet looking a little dazed in the evening sunlight. “Run!” I struggled to scoot to the edge of the trunk and rose to my knees. There was a shot from behind me. Meg! I screamed in my head, but my throat was so constricted, no sound would come out. I looked down the road to where Meg was running for all she was worth. Another shot rang out.
“Stop, or I’ll shoot your friend,” Gunnar’s voice came from beside the car.
Meg stopped running. She put her hands in the air and turned around. She walked slowly back to the car. I prayed for someone to drive by. The problem with living in the boonies is that when you need someone around, there isn’t anybody.
OMG! Right? What a perfect blend of suspense and humor! See why Kate took the whole kit-and-caboodle with this story? That was a kickin' scene!
I'd like to thank Kate for letting me interview her. Talk about a calorie-free treat! LOL Here's a big ole THANK YOU to all of you for flashing on over and spending some time with us today.
Who you gonna call to get you in the mood for Halloween? Bet your bippy, you'd dial the GHOSTBUSTERS. Enjoy a young and sexy Bill Murray (ok, so I'm a little odd lol) and hope to catch ya haunting TLN next week!