Kate Dolan began her writing career as a legal editor and then newspaper columnist before she decided she was finally ready to tackle fiction. As the author of more than a dozen novels and novellas, she writes historical fiction and romance under her own name and contemporary mysteries and children’s books under the name K.D. Hays. When not writing, she enjoys volunteering as a living history interpreter and riding roller coasters with her daughter.
Her latest book is the cozy mystery, Roped In.
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About the Book:
Life has settled into a more stable pattern for fledgling investigator Karen Maxwell of DS Investigations, but that stability is precarious. At work, she has an uneasy truce with Rodney, the “office maximizer” hired by her brother to do some of the administrative work she used to do. Her brother has not assigned her any real cases and she thinks it’s because he doesn’t trust her after she was fired from her last major assignment.
But she soon gets her chance. The firm’s insurance agent calls in a favor and asks them to investigate whether a valuable parrot was killed as a result of snowfall damage to a house. Karen is pretty sure Dave will assign this to her, since the investigation will involve no money or prestige. But it may help earn back his confidence.
Then Gina Callaghan hires DS Investigations to find out who sabotaged her daughter Hayley’s rope at a jump rope competition. Hayley competes in power jumping events, and she failed to make the top four in the regional tournament. If Karen can prove that one of those top four jumpers behaved unethically, then Hayley, (who was fifth) will have a spot at the national competition, and a chance to go to the World tournament. Dave assigns Karen the lead role in this case, so now she has a chance to prove to her brother that she can conclude an investigation before the client is ready to pull the plug.
Karen bribes her son to take a jump rope class on the day when the jumpers she needs to watch have their practices. Initially, Hayley Callaghan does not want the matter investigated so Karen has to be a subtle as possible. Meanwhile, in the parrot case, Karen’s investigation seems to indicate that the parrot’s owners are telling the truth and not trying to defraud the insurance company. But the picture they offer as proof somehow arouses Karen’s suspicion.
At jump rope practice, she finds a lot of masked hostility and a host of possible suspects, but no one who saw anything. Then Hayley’s sister steps forward and admits that she saw someone rummaging through her sister’s rope bag. Circumstances point to two possible suspects, in addition to the sister herself. But Karen can find no proof of wrongdoing and thinks the break was most likely an accident. Then Hayley changes her position and urges Karen to follow through with her initial suspicions. She immediately wonders why.
But she doesn’t have time to wonder. Her brother insists that she stop working on the insurance case and her client insists that she write up suspicions against one of the other jumpers so they can file a complaint with the national sanctioning commission. Working against the clock, Karen finds proof that the picture is fake, proving that the insurance clients were trying to defraud the agency. But time runs out on the jump rope investigation—once again the dissatisfied client fires Karen before she solves the case. This time, she knows an innocent girl is going to face blame and could be banned from the sport she loves. So she digs on until she uncovers the truth —and possible destroys a family in the process.
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Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Kate. Can we start out by telling us whether you are published for the first time or are you multi-published?
Roped In is my tenth full-length novel, so I guess that makes me “multi-published,” but I still feel like a beginner in many ways.
Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published and why or how did you choose this route?-
By the time I was ready to submit my work, most mainstream publishers were not taking unsolicited submissions directly from authors, so I tried to get an agent. I failed. In the process, though, I did submit my first novel, Langley’s Choice, to a mid-sized publisher who requested the full manuscript. I floated on Cloud Nine for about a week. Then I started to sink and as weeks dragged into months, I was hanging on tenterhooks (is there a cliché I haven’t used yet? Don’t worry, I’ll get to it by the end of this interview.) When the rejection came, it was almost a relief. Almost. Well, not really at all. But at that point I established a goal to always have at least two pieces “out”—either entered in a contest or submitted to an agent or publisher. That way, if I got a rejection or poor score, I still had hope that the second one would come through.
After that crushing rejection, I started looking online for small press publishers and eventually found an editor who liked my voice and offered me a contract. So I was back on Cloud Nine.
Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?
It was almost exactly a year and I’d like to say I spent that time profitably marketing and working on my next novel, but I didn’t do enough of either. But I was still learning and it’s a long learning curve that never ends, so maybe I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.
Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?
I’m afraid I got a little smug once I was a Published Author. I entered contests and submitted my book for reviews thinking that of course my work would be well received because I was Published. I was Wrong. I wasn’t any better after publication than before. But it took me a few months to realize that. In the meantime, I had two huge book release pirate parties with my friends. One party was at Jerusalem Mill Village, the 18th Century historic site where I used to regularly volunteer as a living history interpreter. So most of the attendees at that party wore 18th Century garb and the atmosphere was just right – it was a blast. But then we had to drive 45 minutes to get home and that wasn’t so much fun. The second party was at my house with family and friends closer to home. The pirate decorations were left over from my son’s birthday party so it wasn’t quite as authentic as pirate parties go, but still quite fun.
Q: What was the first thing you did as for as promotion when you were published for the first time?
I know the first thing I should have done, and that was to set up a website. But believe it or not, it took me at least a year to get a site going. I honestly can’t remember the first thing I actually did. I created bookmarks. And I sent out flyers. Probably the most unique thing I did was to make soap. Since Langley’s Choice has a scene where the heroine learns to make soap, I decided to wrap small pieces of homemade soap in period linen fabric and tie them up with a little note about my book. I gave those out at the Baltimore Book Festival. One lady thought I was handing out peppermint fudge and she ate it. Not surprisingly, she did not come back and buy my book. But some people did.
Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?
I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn and always will. There are always ways to improve my writing, and the best way that I know to do that is to read a variety of authors and think about what I like and don’t like about their work AND to give my writing to people I trust to give me honest feedback about what works and what doesn’t.
Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?
I am amazed that some publishers will invest money in a book, pay an advance, pay a series of editors and cover designers and the costs of print set up, and still put no effort into marketing the book to help ensure a return on their investment. I am also amazed at some of the truly awful covers that get approved (including at least one of my own).
Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?
A couple of times I have been able to get into historic sites when they were closed to the public because I begged and said I needed the research for an upcoming project. Of course, if I’d just done my research about the opening days and hours of the sites, I wouldn’t have needed to beg! But it still felt good to get extra access when I was desperate for it.
Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?
Unlike dreams of winning the lottery or being a movie star, the dream of being a published author is completely under your control and that means it’s within your reach. Technology has made it possible for anyone to turn a manuscript into a published book. But to make it a good dream, you need to put in the work to make your book the best it can be. First, you need to put your butt in the chair, as they say, and commit to finishing your book. And then you need to show it to someone who can help you make it better and then (this is crucial) don’t give up on it! Problems can be fixed. Storylines can be changed, awkward phrasing can be edited. But you can’t revise an empty page. So get your butt in the chair and make that dream a reality.
Thanks so much for having me here today!