Sunday, March 22, 2015

Interview with Tonya Kappes Author of A Ghostly Undertaking

A Ghostly Undertaking: A Ghostly Southern Mystery by Tonya Kappes.  William Morrow, Witness, An Imprint of HarperCollins.  Mass market paper. 296 pp.  $7.99.

1.  When did you begin writing? 

I was not a reader. In fact, my love for reading didn’t happen until I was in my early 30s when I had gone through a divorce. I had become recluse, especially when my son from the marriage would go visit his father every other weekend. I was in graduate school and one of my classmates asked me to come to her book club. It cracked me up because I didn’t read, but she said they had wine and chocolate so I asked her what time I should be there. I didn’t buy the book, I just showed up. I continued going to book club for the socialization and finally after a few months, I did go to the bookstore and buy the book club book. I still didn’t pick the book up for a couple of weeks and then the magic happened. I got lost into the world of fiction. I found out how they took me out of my real life situation for just a few hours and it made me feel good. I began coming out of my depression and back among the living. 

A few more years until I was remarried and with four small boys and same book club, my husband had picked up one of my many books and read a couple of pages. He told me I could tell a story better than the author and just an hour later I was telling a story to my book club and some of them even told me to write a book because I could tell a good story. 

Two people in one hour encouraged me and that was all it took for it to stick into my head. That night I woke my husband up and asked him if he was serious about me being able to tell a story. He was. I also asked him if he thought I could help one person escape their problems with a story like books had helped me so many years ago. He said yes. The next day, with only ONE reader in mind, I started writing under a big oak tree at my son’s peewee football practice and I’ve never looked back.

2.  When and why did you begin writing mysteries? 

It wasn’t until a year or so later I began writing mystery. I really wanted and thought I was a romance writer. It wasn’t until another writer who was reading my material asked me if I was sure I was a romance writer because there was no romance but hand holding and a dead body showed up in every few chapters. She was right! I was hooked on killing people!

3.  Are you writing a series or a stand-alone?  

I’m a serial writer. All of my novels are tied to series. My current series, A GHOSTLY SOUTHERN MYSTERY, is about a young funeral home director who sees ghosts of clients that have been murdered. The small town is just as much of a character as the protagonist. The town has all the Southern charm you can think of and colorful characters who live there. 

4.  Tell us about your journey to publication with this book. 

Well, originally I self-published A Ghostly Undertaking, the first novel in the Ghostly Southern Mystery Series, and sold over 80,000 copies in the first few months. I had interest from some NY publishers and I hired an agent, Steve Kasdin with Curtis Brown LTD. It was very important for me to hire an agent who got me and my journey since I had self-published over 26 novels and had success when two of my novels made the USA Today Bestsellers list as well as becoming an Amazon top 100 and Barnes and Noble top 100 author. I didn’t want to give over 100% of my creative control. 

Steve got me. He knew my vision. We ended up selling the first four novels in the Ghostly Southern Mystery Series to HarperCollins in a dream deal. They wanted A Ghostly Undertaking as well. 

It was very important to me for the books to be released pretty close to each other because I knew my readers and in today’s book world, readers are reading so fast and they don’t want to wait the year or year and a half between books like traditional publishers do. HarperCollins agreed to my terms and they are releasing the first four books this year. I’m over the moon about it.

5.  Why did you choose to write about the topic, community, issues you chose? 

Writing about an undertaker sounds very morbid, but I write with humor making it a little more fun. When I decided to write this series, I used my own experience growing up with a friend whose family owns a funeral home. It was like a second home for us and we ran around like it was her home. There wasn’t another series out there that I knew of where the protagonist was a female funeral home director. I also pulled on my experience from growing up in a small town to place my protagonist and her funeral home. I grew up in a small Southern town where everyone knows everyone, you never locked your doors, your waved at everyone who drives by, and funerals were more of a social gathering than a wedding. 

Then I threw in a murder and ghosts who can’t cross over until the undertaker helps them figure out how and who murdered them. The ghosts are snarky and full of fun which is where the humor comes in. It has been a lot of fun to write this series and these characters.

6.  Do you have comments from readers or reviewers you’d like to share?

“Usually I take a pass when it comes to novels like this with talking ghosts and other supernatural elements, but after reading just a few chapters of this one I was hooked. Not only are the characters fun, but the writing is also crisp and the plot features some unexpected twists and moves quickly.”

“I love this series it has everything you can think of--romance between Emma Lee and her sheriff Jack Ross, it has great characters that add something to the story.  This book flew fast for me. I found I was finished and wanting more.  I can't wait to read the next book--it really is addicting.  I especially love everyone referring to Emma Lee's funeral trauma as an excuse for Emma acting weird or odd.  Tonya Kappes has really hit on something with this book!  I am a huge fan of her work.” Community Bookstop

“If you like twists and turns and a good mystery.  With Southern charm and well Ghosts tossed in then this is deff for you.” Crossroads Reviews

“2015 Books I've loved so far: A GHOSTLY GRAVE & A GHOSTLY UNDERTAKING by  @tonyakappes11” 
Murder By the Book Bookstore , Houston, TX

“This book was a lot of fun. From the character of Emma Lee Raines, to the antics of her grandmother, and the sometimes acidic personality of Ruthie Sue Payne. All the characters bring life to the story, and really bring the small Southern town to life. Each character is very well designed and developed, and has a robust personality. Even the side characters are 3 dimensional and add to the story.” Rhoades Reviews

“Kappes has written a whimsical mystery with plenty of Southern charm and humor with snippets such as the old saying that "when the husband dies, the widow blossoms like a morning glory." Iron Mountain Daily News

7.  What other books have you published and where, when? 

I have 26 published titles that can be bought at any online book retailer. If the bookstores do not have them on the shelf, you can always ask them to order one for you. 

8.  Do you have a work in progress now?  Is it part of a series? 

I have two other series out there right now where my agent is working on a deal as well as continuing to write other novels in my self-published series. 

9.  If you belong to Sisters in Crime, and/or the Guppies, has that been helpful?  How? 

I do not. I have in the past and didn’t find it very helpful though I’m sure they do help a lot of writers.

10.  What benefit to you has it been to go to mystery conferences like Malice Domestic? 

I’m always looking to connect with my readers. If a conference draws them, I will be there. 

11.  What else would like to say about your books, the next one in your series? 

I’m just very excited how my readers don’t have to wait a year between releases so they can stay connected with their favorite characters. 


Tonya Kappes has written more than fifteen novels and four novellas. all of which have graced numerous best seller lists,including USA Today.  Best known for stories charged with emotion and humor and filled with flawed characters, her novels have garnered reader praise and glowing critical reviews.  She lives with her husband, two very spoiled schnauzers, and one ex-stray cat in northern Kentucky.  Now that her boys are teenagers, Tonya writes full-time but can be found at all her guys' high school games with a pencil and paper in hand.  Come on over and fan Tonya on Goodreads.  

1 comment:

  1. I know I would love your books, Tonya. I hope you will be a Malice so I can buy several and have you sign them.