Name EM Kaplan or just Emily
Age 43, but I feel like maybe…27 or 32. Those were good years.
Where are you from
I grew up in Arizona, but I’ve lived in California, Texas, Massachusetts, and now northern Illinois a.k.a. The Arctic Tundra (according to me).
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
I tell my kids I completed 19th grade. That’s an undergrad degree, a Master’s in Creative Writing, and then one year of an architecture program. I’m married to contemporary fantasy author, JD Kaplan, and we have two kids. I’ve also been working full-time as a technical writer in for the last couple of decades.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
I’m pleased to say my first Josie Tucker mystery, The Bride Wore Dead, recently won a B.R.A.G. Medallion. It’s now available as an audiobook.
I’m also nearly done writing the draft for my second fantasy book, which will be a follow-up story to my book, Unmasked.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was kind of a late reader. I didn’t really warm up to it until 4th or 5th grade, possibly because I wasn’t interested in kids’ books. Then I hit Gone With the Wind, Agatha Christie, and Daphne Du Maurier at a dead run and never looked back. At the same time, I realized that I could actually create stories, characters, and…magic, basically.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
The first time I wrote something that made someone laugh. I think it was a limerick. A clean one—before you ask.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
My first book is in a box in my basement. It’s horrible and angsty and hopelessly layered with themes and recurring images. It’s like a fever dream of the worst kind and it’s directly representative of how I felt at the time. I’d been sick for about a year and I was between school and grad school. So, it’s an exorcising of some…not demons, but discomfort.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
For my mysteries, I like a casual, snappier style that goes well with humor and fast-paced plots. More like natural speech and my blog posts. For fantasy, I try to use a more flowery, romantic style—unless it’s an action scene.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
The mystery titles are the most fun. Honestly, they’re both the results of brainflashes. The Bride Wore Dead had another title while I was writing it all the way up until I made the cover. I wanted a wild, wild West feel to the title because it takes place in Arizona.
Dim Sum, Dead Some was the same way. I wanted a northern California feel with an Asian influence. One day, it just popped into my head. Now the question is, will the third Josie Tucker mystery also have “Dead” in the title? We’ll see…
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
In my mysteries, I love to play with stereotypes. Stories have always had types, from the mustachio-twirling villain to inscrutable Charlie Chan to heartless business executive, and so on. The best thing about a mystery is that you either can use those archetypes or turn them inside out. No one will ever know what to expect. Maybe the dumb blonde isn’t so dumb. Maybe the evil queen isn’t so evil—especially when you get to learn her backstory.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
I have no idea. My version of reality probably doesn’t resemble other people’s. My mysteries are set in places I’ve been in, so maybe that lends a believable atmosphere. And often characters’ traits are from people I’ve observed. And as for plot, some of the most unbelievable things actually happen in real life. But a story works only if I get you to suspend your disbelief.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Without an attorney present, I will say only, yes. And no. Lies woven with half-truths.
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The Man in the Brown Suit by Agatha Christie, which is more romantic than her regular stories. Pride and Prejudice for character studies. As for mentors, I have many—my older sister, Elizabeth; my favorite writing teacher, Geoffrey Wolff; my mom, who is tough and amazing; and my father, who had so many careers before he had to fight cancer.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading an indie horror book written by my friend, Mark Steen. Also, Wool by Hugh Howey. And Bone Gap by Laura Ruby for my book club.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Indie author, Mike C. Erickson, wrote a book called Pianist in a Bordello that I just read and reviewed. It seriously knocked my socks off. It sweeps through parts of American history with a Forest Gump meets Hunter S. Thompson panache that was just astounding.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
I’m almost finished with a draft for the follow-up book to my fantasy, Unmasked, which made me a semi-finalist in the Illinois Soon-to-be-Famous Author competition. This second book in the series is called Unbroken, Rise of the Masks #2. It’s an epic fantasy like the first one, but with a dash of steampunk. It’s about an unbroken promise, really, between two sisters. Along with a lot of mystical stuff and battles against monsters. Swashbuckling. Squabbling. Sandstorms. And goats.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
Without a doubt, my friends in Sisters In Crime, the professional mystery writer organization that I joined—in particular, my friends and authors, M.E. May and Sue Myers. Because of them, I’ve been to events, signings, and conferences that I never knew existed. I’ve been to the Chicago Printer’s Row Book Festival twice now. And I recently did a local TV interview because of someone I met through them. I really can’t thank them enough.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
When I’m not writing novels, I’m a technical writer by day. I’ve been at Motorola now for nine years, which is crazy. So, definitely a career, in one form or another.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
I’m not an outliner. Maybe I’d try that if I did it again. Although…outlining things makes it a little tedious for me. Scenes lose their spontaneity. My final drafts are not that different from my first drafts. I like some improvisation to keep things real for myself.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I’m not really sure, but it probably stems from a deep-seated need to control my surroundings and the people in them.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
They ran as far and fast as they could to keep ahead of the sandstorm. Even this far away, the rotating spiral of reds and browns loomed above them, blocking out half the sky and land as well. Tendrils of dun colored dust snaked out from the layers of dust and dirt. And the sound… a shrieking, wailing mixture. Not unlike a woman or a desert fox facing slaughter. Roaring as well, as if the swirl of sand were made of tormented souls. Each time she turned her head to look, the enormous maligna had narrowed the distance to them. So they stretched their legs, feet barely touching the red soil. But in the end it was no use.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
I’m a naturally terse or succinct writer. When I sit down to write, I re-read what I wrote the day before and often add detail before I go on to write new parts. If I had to do that in the first pass, I think I’d get off track.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
I always go back to Jane Austen. I know it’s trite, cliché, and…girly. But I just can’t get over how great her characters are. Even the minor ones. I love Jane Austen even though I’m an apologist about it.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
No, just back in time mostly. In memories.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
I did both of the covers for my mysteries. My sister, who is a graphic designer, created the cover for Unmasked, which was a finalist in the Book Goodies cover contest last year. She’ll be doing the one for Unbroken, too.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
When I was writing Unmasked, I had the most trouble reining in the sex and violence. I must have been channeling my inner George R. R. Martin when I wrote the first draft. One of my first readers is a high school librarian, who suggested I tone it down—otherwise she wouldn’t be able to shelve it at her school. I did, and now it’s a PG-13 type of book. So, occasionally, I go a little crazy.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
Endurance for writing is not as hard to develop as it seems. If you make it habitual—like physical exercise—you can accomplish more than you ever dreamed.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just keep writing. Even if it’s horrible. Even if other people tell you it’s horrible. Do it anyway. Especially if it makes you happy.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Many thanks for your support. And I’ll never tell you Josie Tucker’s middle name.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I think it was Go, Dog Go. I still like looking at the picture of the dog party at the end of the book. My kids are too old for it now, but I still like looking at all those little dogs.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Everything makes me laugh. Very few things make me cry. I cried at my father’s memorial procession at Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. But seriously, who wouldn’t. That entire place is built to inspire awe. Seeing my dad’s urn transported on a flag-draped casket on a black artillery caisson with the riderless horse…That was the last time I full-out sobbed.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
Uh…St. Peter at the pearly gates. At the appropriate time.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
Small footprint, deep impression.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I dance for fitness. Garden. Cook. Sew. Make snarky greeting cards on occasion.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I started out watching musicals. Gene Kelly and Fred Estaire. I moved on to other black and whites, like Topper and Arsenic & Old Lace. Then foreign films, especially ones about food, like Babette’s Feast and Tampopo. With my dad, I watched cooking shows and movies like Clash of the Titans, Krull, and Excaliber. In high school, I did horror, like The Re-Animator and An American Werewolf in London and every episode of the Twilight Zone when the marathons came on.
Right now, I’m years behind on all of my shows, like Downton Abbey and Game of Thrones. I tend to wait until they’re all done and then binge watch them. I’ll watch any superhero movie, as crappy as it may be. The same goes for end of the world movies with huge explosions. Extremely escapist ones—I like those.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
My go-to comfort food is potstickers. Although a pot roast is always nice.
I love peacock colors: turquoise, green, and purple.
Music is a mixed bag. I listened to a lot of Muse and Radiohead while I was writing Unmasked. Right now, I’l listening to the Game of Thrones soundtrack. I have a love of concert band music from playing an instrument all through my school years.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have liked to have been a chef of some kind.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I do: www.JustTheEmWords.com
Amazon page: http://Author.to/EMKaplan