The cover of Kaye George's Agatha-nominated mystery, Choke
Review: Choke: An Imogene Duckworthy Mystery. Kaye George. Mainly Murder Press. 2011. Paper. $14.95. ISBN: 978-09827952-7-9. Nominated for an Agatha as First Best Traditional Mystery Novel, 2012.
Immy abandons her job in the family diner in Salt Lick, Texas, primarily because of a craving to be a private detective. Her excuse is that Uncle Huey is expecting too much, making her work long hours. His turning up dead after she leaves jumpstarts her new career. Her mastery of all the vocabulary of the private eye doesn’t help, however, when people don’t understand what she’s talking about.
No one in her life is supportive of her career change. Since Immy’s father was a police detective killed on the job, her mother Hortense doesn’t want her anywhere near criminals, plus they need the money from Immy’s diner job to support them and Immy’s pre-school daughter, Nancy Drew. When Hortense is suspected of killing Uncle Huey, Immy’s help becomes more acceptable to her mother, but Immy’s tendency for things to go wrong because of her clumsiness and her inability to grab the right end of the stick leads to one humorous disaster after another. Curiously, she does solve problems with her wrong-footed approach. I’m not sure that that works for most of us. But Immy is a master at pulling a solution out of the chaos she sets off.
One of Immy’s stumbling blocks is Baxter Killroy, a busboy to whom she’s attracted, though he’s older, has the air of wily fox, and the reader knows he can’t be trusted.
Kaye George knows her villages. The world over village people are interested in everybody else’s up and downs. There is a comfortable and a not so comfortable side to this. It can definitely make you want to escape to the wider world. Having lived in Oklahoma some years growing up, Immy’s West Texas world is believable to me, her desire to break free of a limited life working for minimum wage and to live the exciting life of a Private Eye, understandable. Her determination in the face of difficulties that would discourage most folks is both fascinating and admirable.
Kaye George Interview.
1. When did you begin writing? Why?
As soon as I could spell things. I made up stories before then. My mother saved a couple crayon drawings I did at 5 or so. I remember one of the stories that went with one. In my teens and early twenties I wrote what I thought of as literary stories and sent them to magazines. They were all rejected.
2. When and why did you begin writing mysteries?
For some reason, I decided, a little over ten years ago, that I really wanted to be published. Since my favorite reading was mystery, that's what I started writing.
3. Are you writing a series or a stand-alone? Explain your basic idea for your series.
I intend my Imogene Duckworthy Mysteries to continue as a series. Immy wants nothing more than to be a detective, but she's young and naive and doesn't always go about it like anyone else would. She somehow manages to solve a lot of crimes, though--some of them unintentional.
4. Tell us about your journey to publication with this book.
I had queried hundreds of agents with other mysteries I've written. I started querying agents with this book, too, and after about 65 rejects, just couldn't do it anymore. Especially when I knew alternatives were opening up all around me. I queried two publishers. Mainly Murder Press replied first with an acceptance and I jumped at it.
5. Why did you choose to write about the topic, community, issues you chose?
This is a light-hearted, humorous series. It's a reaction to the book I had just finished before this, which was a heavy, serious work. I set it in the Wichita Falls area where we lived for a few years because I thought it lent itself to humor. The town is named after a waterfall that disappeared years ago, shortly after its founding. To compensate, the city leaders built a fake waterfall. It has to be turned off when the water level gets too low and the water is too silty.
6. How have you found it to be published? Share that experience.
It's made a world of difference. This has been a goal for so many years, that I still can't believe I've achieved that. It opens up a whole new world that I know nothing about, but am learning as fast as I can--promotion. Not a natural thing for me, or for most writers, I think.
7. Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share?
I love the review that compared my character to Stephanie Plum, and another that likened my work to a combination of Lucille Ball and Inspector Clouseau.
8. What other books have you published and where, when?
While I was seeking an agent all those years, I broke out in occasional short stories. I saw markets around me and started submitting them. I was intensely pleased when they started getting accepted, and even winning prizes (one was $150!). When it became obvious that I would be doing my own ebook for CHOKE, I self-published a collection of my published stories. I did it partly to learn how to do ebooks, and partly to collect my stories in one place, since some of the magazines and ezines had gone out of business. I have stories now in several anthologies also, by various publishers. I also self-published a small booklet about how to self-publish, to try to save other writers some time and frustration.
9. Do you have a work in progress now? Is it part of a series?
I'm now finishing up the first draft of my third Imogene Duckworthy mystery. Number two is ready to go in a few months. I still love my characters as much as I did when they first came into my life. On days when I can't get to them, it bothers me no end.
10. If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful? How?
I've belonged to local Sisters groups in Dallas and now in Austin and have made many friends there and found critique partners. When we moved to the Wichita Falls area, there was no Sisters in Crime group and I thought I might die. That's when I found the Guppies, and they saved my sanity. I was so grateful to the group that I volunteered to be the treasurer when they needed one. Then, somehow, I became the president and am serving a two year term which will finish in 2013. Some of my best friends are in that group. And some of them are people I've never actually met in person.
11. What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic?
Networking has been the most important thing about going to conferences for me. My two nominations for Agathas have given me such a boost, I could go on writing for another twenty years on the fumes of those.
12. What else would like to say about your books, the next one in your series?
The second Immy book is called SMOKE. Here's an unperfected teaser for it.
Imogene Duckworthy, who yearns to be a PI, has landed a job assisting a real PI in Wymee Falls, Texas. During a sidetrip while bringing home a pot-bellied pig as a birthday gift for her daughter, Nancy Drew Duckworthy, Immy discovers the owner of the local jerky shop dead, hanging from a meathook in his own smokehouse. The pig breeder, Amy JoBeth, is implicated, so Immy feels compelled to try to find the real killer. That gentle, somewhat depressed swineherd couldn't have killed Rusty Bucket. Could she?
Kaye George is a novelist and short story writer whose Agatha-nominated tale Handbaskets, Drawers, and a Killer Cold can be found in her collection. A Patchwork of Stories is available in either paperback or ebook formats.
Kaye does reviews for Suspense magazine and also writes articles for newsletters and booklets.
She, her husband, and a cat named Agamemnon live together near Austin, Texas.
For more information visit www.KayeGeorge.com, or catch her at TravelswithKaye.blogspot.com, her solo blog. She joins other writers at AllThingsWriting.blogspot.com