Author K.B. Owen on Historical Fiction, Mysteries, Gardening, and the Game of Survivor

Like most of the other writers I adore today, I first met Kathy “K.B.” Owen on social media back in 2011.  We hit it off… talking about writing and pop culture, particularly Survivor.

Historical Fiction Author, Kathy "K.B." Owen
Historical Fiction Author, Kathy “K.B.” Owen

But Kathy and I share something greater than our minor obsession for the popular “Outwit, Outlast, Outplay” reality television program—we both LOVE mysteries.  I keep an eye on Kathy’s blog because I know I can count on her publishing some fabOoolous posts, featuring some of the literary and television sleuths I grew up reading and watching… like Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Perry Mason, Columbo, and even Scooby Dooby Doo.  She has also introduced me to a few 19th century historical facts, from clothing, to holiday celebrations, to true crime.  I’ve never been one who’s big on the past, but the stories Kathy shares are fascinating!

However, Survivor, mysteries, and 19th century facts aside, Kathy is also a wife and mother, who squeezes in gardening where she can between writing and taking care of her beautiful family.  She’s one of the most genuine and supportive people I have met and I’m lucky to call her a friend.

For those who are unfamiliar with Kathy, here is a brief bio:

K.B. Owen taught college English for nearly two decades at universities in Connecticut and Washington, DC, and holds a doctorate in 19th century British literature.  A mystery lover ever since she can remember, she drew upon her teaching experiences in creating her amateur sleuth, Professor Concordia Wells.  Unlike the fictional Miss Wells, K.B. did not have to conduct lectures in a bustle and full skirts.  Thankfully.  No doubt, many folks are grateful for that little fact.

Before we jump into the interview, check out Kathy’s blurb for her debut historical mystery, Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery

Enjoy!

Dangerous and Unseemly: A Concordia Wells Mystery –

An unseemly lesson…in murder.

cover art by Niki Smith

The year is 1896, and Professor Concordia Wells has her hands full:  teaching classes, acting as live-in chaperone to a cottage of lively female students, and directing the student play,  Macbeth.

But mystery and murder are not confined to the stage.  Malicious pranks, arson, money troubles, and the apparent suicide of a college official create turmoil at the women’s college.  For Concordia, it becomes personal when a family member dies of a mysterious illness, and her best friend is attacked and left for dead.

With her friend still in danger and her beloved school facing certain ruin, Concordia knows that she must act.  But uncovering secrets is a dangerous business, and there are some who do not appreciate the unseemly inquiries and bold actions of the young lady professor.  Can she discover the ones responsible…before she becomes the next target?

*****

When you were a little girl, did you dream of one day writing a bestseller, or did you have something else in mind?

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be Nancy Drew, LOL.  But I also enjoyed writing short stories as a kid; I just didn’t think of it as a career.  I remember one story I co-wrote with some school friends that involved a gladiator who had his arm severed, and the hand came back to life and took revenge…but that’s another post!

What little girl didn’t want to be Nancy Drew?

Where do you find the inspiration for your stories and what made you decide to write historical mysteries?

My doctoral area of study was the nineteenth century, so I knew I wanted to go with that time period for my mystery.  I was inspired to set it in a women’s college when my mother-in-law passed away; I stumbled upon old letters and yearbooks from her time at an all-female community college back in the 1950s.  My own years in college teaching provided plenty of inspiration, too – lots of quirky characters in that environment, I can tell you.

Who are a few of your favorite authors?

Just a few?  That will be tough, LOL.  Some of my fave mystery writers are Sue Grafton, Anne Perry, Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, Margaret Frazer, and Conan Doyle; outside of the mystery category, I like Jane Austen, Dorothy Gilman and Kazuo Ishiguro (among others).

The cover art for your book is amazing.  Did you design it yourself?

Thanks!  I hired a very talented artist – Niki Smith, who does mostly graphic novel art.  I wanted the cover to be in the art style popular in the 1890s, called “Art Nouveau.”  I sent her some samples and explained what impression I wanted to convey by the cover, and she took it from there!

Many writers imagine a celebrity or familiar face when developing their characters.  Did you have anyone particular in mind when writing Miss Concordia and why?

I didn’t have a visual image of any particular Hollywood celebrity when creating Concordia, but I’ve realized since then that she’s sort of a cross between a grown-up Nancy Drew and Harriet Vane (from Dorothy Sayers’ Gaudy Night).

Speaking of celebrities, who are you thinking of at this very moment?

Ha!  You got me.  Sean Connery.  I don’t care how old he gets, I still have a crush.  I could listen to his accent all day long.  Well, he’s easy on the eyes, too. 😉

Bond. James Bond. AKA Sir Sean Connery. I, too, could listen to his accent all day long…

Besides writing, you seem to love gardening.  Do you consider yourself to have a green thumb, and if so, what plants would we find on your back porch?

I have a somewhat-green thumb – sometimes plants won’t cooperate, or get diseases, or bugs from hell will descend upon your carefully-nurtured beloveds and feast upon them.  Stink bugs, spider mites, powdery mildew…the list is endless.  But I try to be prepared.  *wink*  In the summer you’ll find tomatoes, peppers, beans, raspberries, impatiens, and morning glories in the backyard.  All container plantings, because it’s mostly deck back there.

 What other hobbies do you enjoy?

I love to read, backyard bird-watch, knit and crochet, and bake yummy things.  I have a real weakness for cookies.

Photo provide by K.B. Owen
Photo provide by K.B. Owen

I wouldn’t be myself without asking about television – what are your favorite television programs airing today? 

Good thing you asked that, Tiffany – I was getting worried there for a minute, LOL.  No pod in the basement…phew!

There are so many good shows out there, but I don’t have time to watch that many.  I do make time to see Survivor, Big Bang Theory, and Downton Abbey regularly – although we’re done with Downton for a while! *sniff*  Sometimes I’ll catch Sherlock, Person of Interest, and Elementary, which are terrific, too!

Let’s switch to the big screen… what is your favorite movie all-time?

Casablanca.  And there are so many quotable lines from that, don’t you think?

“Here’s looking at you, kid.”

What snacks do you order when at a movie theater? 

I’m a big fan of popcorn – WITH salt and butter!  I might as well go all in.  But I don’t go often, so my waistline has been (somewhat) spared!

Lastly, you, like me, love the game of Survivor.  So let’s get down to it… 

Who’s your favorite Survivor all-time and why? 

Wow, you don’t hold back on the tough questions, do you, Tiffany?  While I admire Ozzie and Boston Rob, Rupert has always been my favorite: big, loud, unpretentious, and a heart of gold.

Have you ever applied to be a contestant, and if not, would you tomorrow if the producers came to a town near you? 

No, and no!  I’m definitely a spectator when it comes to that show.  I’d be the wimpy girl that everyone voted out first.  Have you seen all the RATS that crawl around their camp at night?  *shudder*

Can you start fire using only the elements and supplies one would find on a deserted island? 

Sure – if the deserted island had a Bic lighter and a Duraflame log.  No problem!  😉

KBOwen Porch
Photo provided by K.B. Owen

I don’t know, Kathy… if your porch is as beautiful as the pictures you provided, I bet you could start fire using only flint!

What would your one luxury item be? 

Chocolate!  (I would have said my Nook, but it would run out of power fairly quickly).

AND, who are you rooting for this season?  Malcolm, right?  

You bet!  There are a few others on the Favorites tribe whom I wouldn’t mind winning if Malcolm was eliminated (gasp), but fingers crossed!

Team Malcolm!!

*****

Isn’t Kathy great?

Need more Kathy?  Catch up with her at her website, or follow her via her Twitter and Facebook accounts.

Do you have a question for Kathy?  Have you read Dangerous and Unseemly yet?  Or do you enjoy Survivor with us?  We’d love to hear from you! 

To help celebrate Kathy’s debut novel, The Ooo Factor has decided to participate in her book tour and the Whodunnit giveaway!

So, how about a little mystery fun… with a prize!

Each stop in K.B. Owen’s book launch tour has a mystery question/s (below).  The alphabet letter next to the correct answer is what you want.  By the end of the tour you’ll have enough letters to unscramble the answers to which ROOM, WEAPON, and SUSPECT.  

Question #1 –

Sherlock Holmes is partly modeled after a person in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s life.  His name was:

O) Han Solo
P) Dr. Joseph Bell
Q) Dr. Joseph Whittingham
R) Oliver Wendell Holmes

Question #2 –

Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer/amateur detective on the long-running Murder, She Wrote, lived in which town (whose per capita murder rate would have been the despair of local real estate agents)?

J) Ann Arbor, MI
K) Intercourse, PA
L) Cabot Cove, ME
M) Martha’s Vineyard, MA

But it’s just for fun, so even if you just want to answer one quiz question, email Kathy with the answer at kbowenwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.  She’d love to hear from you!

She’ll draw a winner from all the entries and announce it at Karen McFarland’s blog, the last stop of the tour.

What could you win?  A free ebook copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, and a $25 gift card of your choice to either Starbucks, Amazon, or Barnes and Noble!

Find the full details (with the story of the untimely demise of Sir Reginald “Good Riddance” Crenshaw) here.

Good luck!

Email Deadline: Monday, April 1st

And if you can’t wait to win a copy of Dangerous and Unseemly, the first book of the Concordia Wells mystery series, grab a copy today!  Available in KindleNookKoboSmashwords, iTunes, and Scribd formats, as well as in paperback.

Unseemly Pursuits, the second book in the series, will be released later in 2013, and Kathy’s hard at work plotting Concordia’s next adventure.

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