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Kathleen Kaska—Mystery Author!!

July 2, 2022 by in category Jann says . . . tagged as ,

Kathleen Kaska is the awarding-winning author of the Sydney Lockhart Mystery Series set in the 1950s and the Kate Caraway Animal-Rights Mystery Series. Her first two Lockhart mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the country’s largest book group. She also writes mystery trivia, including The Sherlock Holmes Quiz Book. Her Holmes short story, “The Adventure at Old Basingstoke,” appears in Sherlock Holmes of Baking Street. She is the founder of The Dogs in the Nighttime, the Sherlock Holmes Society of Anacortes, Washington, a scion of The Baker Street Irregulars.

Kathleen is a writing coach. She helps new writers get started, hone their skills, and coaches them on their publishing journey. She also edits and evaluates manuscripts and book proposals.

Jann: Where did you get your ideas for the Sydney Lockhart and Kate Caraway series?

 Kathleen: My husband and I often spend Thanksgiving week at the historic Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas.  On one of those trips, I met Sydney Lockhart while unpacking.  She walked out of the bathroom and told me she was not happy because there was a dead man in her bathtub.  Then she told me her story.  All I had to do was write it down.  By the end of that week, I had the skeletal structure for the series.

I started writing the Kate Caraway Animal-Rights Mystery Series because I wanted to write a series with a social cause—a cause I was passionate about.  I strongly believe in and support animal rights.  At that time I came up with the idea, I was living in Austin, where I volunteered as a rehabber for Wild Life Rescue, an organization that raised and cared for injured and orphaned wildlife.  I used that experience as the premise for my books.

Jann: Your award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series is set in the 1950s.  How much research did you do before beginning the series?

Kathleen: I grew up in the 1950s, so I have a strong sense of what that decade was like, but I needed to familiarize myself with the fashion, music, lingo, and social norms.  So I read several books set in the fifties and watched movies and old TV shows.

Since each book is set in an actual historic hotel, I need to get a feel for the location, which means spending time there and delving into the hotel’s history. I interview the concierge or general manager, who can usually dig up juice tidbits for me. Then I visit the local newspaper office and the library to read back issues to find out what was doing on in the early 1950s.

The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, the setting for the first Sydney Lockhart mystery, has a history display that dates back to the hotel’s conception in 1875.  The Luther Hotel in Palacios, Texas (second book), owned by the same family since the 1930s, has an entire room of scrapbooks, photos, and other memorabilia, like letters from Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, who stayed there often.  The town of Palacios also has a museum, which was a great source of wealth.  Research for Murder at the Galvez was easy because I spend a lot of time in Galveston, Texas.  My husband was born on the island, so I picked his brain about what he remembered about life in the 1950s.

Jann: Tell us about Sydney Lockhart, your main character.

Kathleen: Sydney Jean Lockhart is a twenty-nine-year-old reporter from Houston, Texas.  She grew up in the Bayou City and move to Austin to attend the University of Texas.  As a young college student during World War II, Sydney began admiring the young, brave women who became the backbone of the country’s workforce.  A Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP) poster hung in her dorm room, and when she wasn’t elbow-deep in science-education classes, Sydney attended women’s rights rallies.  She vowed to stay single and independent, having turned down her first marriage proposal at age eighteen.  Having two wacky parents as marital role models also kept Sydney away from the altar.  After graduation, Sydney landed a job as a travel writer for the Austin American.  She discovered she was much better at solving crimes and eventually hooked up with ex-police detective Ralph Dixon.  They joined forces and opened their own detective agency.

Jann: On June 26th, Murder at the Menger made its debut.  What challenges have you set for Sydney?

Kathleen: Since the first book, Sydney has grown and changed a lot in a short time.  In Murder at the Menger, she’s questioning some of the personal and professional decisions she’s made.  She begins to doubt herself and doubt Dixon’s loyalty.  And for this case, Sydney starts out working alone in an unfamiliar city, San Antonio.  To make matters worse, she is attacked and left for dead.  She survived the incident, but her head injury resulted in amnesia causing her to remember only snatches of the case she was working on and why she was in San Antonio.  But her life back in Austin is a complete blur, and she doesn’t know who she can trust. I also made her a murder suspect.

Jann: How many books do you have planned for this series?

Kathleen: I’ll keep writing Sydney mysteries as long as I enjoy it and people enjoy reading them.  I have a list of hotels I plan to use.  Murder at the Pontchartrain is the next one up.  It takes place at the Pontchartrain Hotel in New Orleans, one of my favorite cities.  It will be released early in 2023.

Jann: Later this summer, the third Kate Caraway animal rights mystery, Eagle Crossing, will be available.  What trouble will she be riding into?

Kathleen: Kate Caraway and her husband, Jack Ryder, are on Lopez Island in Washington State, visiting an old friend who owns a wildlife rescue facility called Eagle Crossing.  They hope to relax and recuperate after the previous machinations Kate was involved in in A Two Horse Town.  But, of course, that doesn’t happen.  Before Kate can unwind, trouble begins.  A family gathering and celebration turns tragic.  Soon three people are murdered, and an attempt is made on her life.

Jann: The first book in the series, Run Dog Run, made the Chanticleer International Book shortlist for best mystery.  That had to be exciting.  What are your plans for this series?

Kathleen: The subplot in the Kata Caraway series deals with Kate’s desire to return to Kenya, where she has an Elephant research camp.  However, because of her involvement with poachers, she was forced to leave the country at the beginning of Run Dog Run.  It might be time in book four to send her back to Africa.

Jann: What do you want readers to come away with after these two series?

Kathleen: In reading the Sydney Lockhart series, I want readers to sit back, laugh, and enjoy the ride.  After reading my Kate Caraway series, I hope folks will consider supporting a social cause, whether it’s saving whales, rescuing dogs, or improving the environment.

Jann: Do you find yourself returning to certain themes in your stories?  What?  Why?

Kathleen: The theme for both series is strong women standing up for their beliefs. I love reading about woman going above and beyond the norm and accomplishing great undertakings and overcoming unbelievable obstacles.

Jann: What’s the best writing advice you ever received?  What’s the worst?

 Kathleen: The best: finish your manuscript, polish it, and then look for a publisher or agent.  In other words, do not put the cart before the horse.  And always, read, read, read.

The worst: if your first book isn’t a bestseller, don’t write your second.  I scoffed at that one.

Jann: How do you stay motivated?  What drives you to keep writing?

Kathleen: I write because I love to, so the motivation is always there.

Jann: What are you dying to try next?

 Kathleen: After an amazing trip to Egypt I came up with an idea about writing a historical novel set in ancient Egypt. I have the research books on my shelf, now I just need to schedule time to write it.

Jann: Where can we get your books?

Kathleen: My books are traditionally published, so they are available at most bookstores.  If they aren’t on the shelf, they can be ordered.  They are also available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, my website, and my publisher’s website.


Jann: Do you have a website, blog, or Twitter where fans might read more about you and your books?

Kathleen: I do. I have a blog series called “Growing Up Catholic in a Small Texas Town, which can be found on my author website. “Five-Minute Writing Tips” can be found on my coaching website.










Jann: Do you ever run out of ideas?  If so, how did you get past that?

Kathleen: Thankfully, no.  I just seem to run out of time.

Jann: What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Kathleen: After graduating college, instead of finding a real job, I packed two suitcases, put everything else in storage, and moved to New York City with my dog.  I had no job and no place to live.  I was too naive to believe I couldn’t do it.  It only took me one day to find an apartment and one week to find a job.  Living in New York City had always been my dream.  Growing up in a small town of 2,000 in Central Texas, I wanted desperately to experience big city life, and what better place to do it than Manhattan.  I stayed for a year and a half before returning to Austin to begin my teaching career.

Thank you, Kathleen, for taking time to share your writing life with us here at A Slice of Orange. You have created two fabulous mystery series!!

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