EM Kaplan grew up in Arizona where she was once chased home from school by javelinas. The Chinese side of her family settled in Deadwood, SD in the 1880s. The other side of her family makes a mean matzoh ball soup. She lives in northern Illinois with her family and dog, Max.
Your Josie Tucker mystery novels seem to hit all the right notes with readers. Can you tell us a little bit about the series?
Thanks. I appreciate that. I have to admit I get a few haters and trolls just like everyone else, but I’ve been lucky so far that my fans are vocal enough with their support that I don’t want to break all my pens and bury my laptop in the backyard (which is frozen right now, so that’d be tough).
I think the thing that keeps people coming back for more Josie Tucker is her sarcastic but hopefully likeable personality as well as those of her friends. I’m much more interested in how people interact and react in weird and interesting situations than in the mechanics of a traditional mystery with piles of clues and a big chase scene—or an Agatha Christie style parlor scene—at the end.
It’s like the Mary Tyler Moore episode about Chuckles the Clown. Nobody cares that it’s a funeral. What makes it hilarious is Mary laughing.
You make a great effort to build up Josie and her group of friends which helps immerse the reader in the world you are building. Can you give us some insight into how you created Josie and the rest of the cast of characters?
Josie is partly wish fulfillment for me. She’s who I’d like to be if I cared less about what people thought—more id than ego. Her boyfriend, Drew, represents everything that’s settled and acceptable. Benjy is whimsical and rootless.
Susan is still a little bit of a mystery to me even though she’s been in two of the books. She’s a beautiful nerd who doesn’t know where she belongs. She was there from the beginning when I created Josie because Josie usually has a running internal monologue in her head, she needs an external foil.
Will we see more from Josie Tucker? If so, how far out have you plotted the series?
I’m about a third of the way through a draft of Josie #4. It’s a barbecue tour of Austin, TX. I’m revealing the cover this week. In fact, here it is…
Texas. Barbecue. Shenanigans.
Location plays an important part in your Josie Tucker series, whether it’s Arizona, San Francisco or the East Coast. Do you like to travel and gain first-hand experience that can be used in your books or is some intense Googling going on?
Google is a beautiful thing, especially Google Maps Street View. However Josie’s mysteries are pretty much a roadmap of the places I’ve lived, including the new one coming out that’s set in Austin, where I lived for about eight years. I grew up in Tucson, went to college near Boston, lived a couple different times in the Bay Area. Now I’m in northern Illinois, which is cold. Very cold. Josie might visit Chicago in the future, who knows.
You’ve also written in the fantasy genre with your Rise of the Masks series. Does switching genres like that allow you to stretch a different set of writing muscles?
Definitely. Fantasy writing—in this case, epic fantasy—takes a lot more world-building and descriptive writing. The other realm in this series of books requires a more flowing, poetic language. There’s more action—what the game makers call “fantasy violence”—and a hint of an old language that’s based partly on Portuguese with some derivations.
To help switch gears, I listen to a lot of music. The Game of Thrones soundtrack was the backdrop for book 2 of this series. I get a little obsessive and I’ll loop one track for days.
Like many writers you maintain a blog (at http://justtheemwords.com/). Can you tell us why you like blogging and how it helps you as a writer?
Blogging helps with a few things. First, it says “Hey, please don’t forget about me” to readers, especially if there’s a big gap between book releases. I sometimes post short Josie Tucker holiday-themed stories. A blog can help new readers find you, if you’re entertaining enough in your posts.
It also helps with writer’s block if you’re stuck. Each blog post is a little writing prompt or exercise. It can help you feel productive when you’re not having significant gains with your work in progress.
As an independent author, you have the freedom to pursue the stories you want to write and have complete control over your work. What do you find most enjoyable about the creative process?
People say reading is escapism. I think writing is the ultimate form of escapism. Not only are you somewhere else, but you’re in charge of the whole place. There are no limits except common sense…and maybe not even that.
You have great trailers for your books. Can you give us some insight into how they were created?
Thanks. My husband, author JD Kaplan, makes my book trailers. He’s done some on commission, too, for other writers. (You can find him at @jedeleh on Twitter.)
When he’s making a trailer for me, I tell him a list of images I have in my mind. Then sometimes I find video clips or stock photos for him. He puts it all together and chooses the music. He’s a musician, too, so sometimes he creates the music.
What are you writing now?
My plan for this year is to release Josie #4 and then finish the Rise of the Masks trilogy. I have a few real-life commitments that have been messing with my schedule, but it’s all good. Later this month, I’m headed to Atlanta for the ALA Mid-Winter Conference. The Bride Wore Dead won some recognition from the indie part of Library Journal. I’m pretty excited about that.
Where can readers find your work and where can they find you online?
I’m pretty easy to find. Here are some of the ways…
Website and blog: www.JustTheEmWords.com