A conversation with author Mary Keliikoa

Giveaway Ends 8/1

IR– What does it mean to you to be called an author? 

MK– Ever since I started down the journey of writing, I wanted to be published. And I was very specific that I wanted to be traditionally published, and to hold my own book in my hands. Preferably several. To date, I have three books on my shelf, an anthology I’m part of, and a new series starting in October. What also came with this that I hadn’t expected was connection to so many wonderful readers who enjoy my books and other authors. Opportunities to talk about writing, and a true writing community. So bottom line, being called an author is a dream come true. 

IR– Which book are we talking about today?

MK– DECEIVED, which is the latest in the PI Kelly Pruett Mystery series. 

DERAILED was actually the first in the series, and it was a Shamus finalist, and nominated for a Lefty, Agatha and Anthony award. Second was DENIED, which came out last year.

IR– Can you tell us a bit about the story and its main characters?  

MK– PI Kelly Pruett is going undercover to find out what debauchery might be happening in a woman’s shelter. Her client’s granddaughter who had been living at the shelter seems to have gone underground, and another young woman goes missing. Kelly soon gets fired off the case, but she will not let that stop her from finding the missing women.

There are several recurring characters such as Kelly’s daughter, Mitz, her ex-mother-in-law, Arlene, and her ex-husband, Jeff. Kyle has been moved up to detective, and her sidekick, Floyd, is ever present. But I’m also bringing back Hannah, her half-sister, and she has been fun to have back. She offers a very young and new perspective, and a few challenges for Kelly. 

IR– What inspired the idea for your book?

MK– Knowing this would likely be the last in the series, I wanted a case that would bring out Kelly’s maternal instincts. She’s a single mom to a deaf daughter, and Kelly lost her own mother when she was 14. Kelly’s avoided dealing with that loss in the series, and it was time she needed to. I figured, no better way than to surround her with women on the edge of society, who have suffered losses and many forced onto the streets because of home issues. Also, what I found as I dug into it, was that homelessness can be caused by so many issues. It is an issue that has touched people I love, and I think there is a lot of preconception about who being houseless effects. I wanted to shine some light on that subject as well. 

IR– What was the most surprising thing you learned in writing this book?

MK– As mentioned above, just how homelessness can appear in so many forms, and touch people you would never expect. And for reasons you wouldn’t suspect either. It challenged my own view and it challenged Kelly Pruett’s ideas, which was so interesting to explore.

IR– Tell us about a favorite character from the book.

MK– Well, of course, I love Kelly Pruett. She is tenacious and driven, and while she is imperfect in so many ways—too driven sometimes—too bullheaded—she has a big heart and such a desire to get it right. I admire her characteristics, and I have enjoyed writing her.

IR– If you were friends with a character in this book, what kinds of things would you do together?

MK– I love dogs—so I would absolutely be friends with Floyd. Floyd and I would be hanging out at the park, snuggling on the couch, and he’d go everywhere with me! Luckily, I have my own Floyd (in the form of a golden retriever named Bella). So rest assured, Bella would be coming along too and she and Floyd would have a blast together!

IR– How do you define success as an author?

MK– In the beginning, I didn’t really know the answer to that question because I always had a higher goal that I was setting for myself. More books. More readers. More interactions. However, the answer has become clearer over time. The fact that I have books in the world that people connect with, that I have contracts to write more books, and have opportunities like this to talk on blogs, or to speak at events, or be part of panels with other authors I admire—that is success. And I’ve learned to celebrate each of them along the way.

IR– Can you share a day in the life of an author?

MK– It varies, depending on what’s happening as far as upcoming events, or deadlines. But generally, my day starts around 7 am and I re-read whatever I wrote the day before. Then I set out to get at least 2000 new words down. After that, I might switch to doing some social media stuff. Or work on any marketing materials that I need to. Overall though, I spend about 3-4 hours a day working on my writing in some form or another, and I do that five or six days a week.

IR– How do you avoid or defeat writer’s block?

MK– I simply show up. There are days that I don’t feel it, but showing up at the computer, putting my fingers on the keyboard, generally gets things moving. Even if I write junk that I know will probably be deleted the next day, it tends to help get the juices flowing. 

IR– What advice would you give to a writer working on their first book?

MK– Seek out supportive people and keep learning your craft. Go to classes, read craft books and tons of books in your genre, join a critique group, and network. Writing is often a solo endeavor, but that makes connecting with other writers even more important. Only another writer gets what you’re feeling, and having people to brainstorm with, talk to about character, and just about the ups and downs of writing, is crucial.

IR– What are you working on in the near future?

MK– I have a new series starting October 25, 2022. HIDDEN PIECES. It features a former homicide detective turned small town sheriff of Misty Pines. Jax Turner is on the case of a missing 14-year-old girl, and it was inspired by a true crime that happened in my hometown in 1979.

I also am currently working on a domestic suspense set on a Paris river boat. I came back recently from France and was inspired to set my next book there and I’m having lots of fun with it!

IR– Do you have any quirky writing rituals?

MK– I keep M&Ms in my drawer and my coffee cup full. Other than that, I just write.

IR– What comes first for you — the plot or the characters?

MK– Character generally comes first. Although I’ve been known to look out in an open field and think – what if there was a body out there?! That’s more of an inspiration though. The plot really comes as I write. I am a pantser. But the character and his or her voice usually helps me find that plot. And for me, the plot is so dependent on the main character. Knowing what their strengths and weaknesses are will determine the story.

IR– What has been your favorite reader feedback?

MK– When people write to tell me how much they can see themselves in Kelly, it makes my day. Her determination and her desire to be a good mom and a PI are such universal issues for women in that work/life balance. So it’s especially gratifying when a reader tells me how they loved Kelly’s tenacity to have it all. 

IR– What is your all time favorite book or author? 

MK– My all-time favorite author is Sue Grafton. I love Kinsey Milhone, and all of the characters that make up Kinsey’s world. As for influence, absolutely. I wrote the PI Kelly Pruett series because I fell in love with the genre. And Sue Grafton had everything to do with that.

IR– What do you look for in a story as a reader?

MK– Generally, I look for something I can connect to in the character or something I can root for. I don’t necessarily have to love or immediately understand the character’s motivations—but I have to relate to something in their voice or the way they view the world. I also like an intriguing plot. A new twist on an old idea is always fun!

IR– What are you reading now?

MK– I’m reading my friend Dianne Freeman’s book, A BRIDE’S GUIDE TO MARRIAGE AND MURDER. 

IR– Aside from writing or reading, what are your hobbies or interests?

MK– I love to travel. I have a map that I’m keeping track of the places I’ve been and where I want to go and I really enjoy planning out the next trip. I also love to golf, and I enjoy finding and testing out new recipes in the kitchen.

IR– If you had your own talk show, what would the topic be and who would be your first guest(s)?

MK– Gosh, my own talk show! That would be fun. I would probably talk a lot about women’s issues. Empowerment. Domestic abuse. I was in an abusive marriage right out of high school and it formed a lot of how I view things and my determination not to be a victim. So I think that would be beneficial as a subject. In relation to that, there were many years I felt unseen and not taken seriously, so empowerment is important to me.

My first guest would be Goldie Hawn. I adore her and I love how she hasn’t always been seen as a powerhouse. I remember her on Laugh-In. Yes, I am dating myself. But I just love her energy, her laugh, and her relationship. And I think she would be fascinating to chat with.

IR– If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?

MK– Write a romantic comedy movie, along the lines of Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail or While You Were Sleeping. They were so full of heart and humor, and I’d love to pen my own someday.


About The Book

Deceived (A Kelly Pruett Mystery)

In the third thrilling book in the Kelly Pruett mystery series–Her world was falling into place. Then women started dropping off the map.

PI Kelly Pruett finally feels like she’s coming into her own. With her personal life well on track, a gig uncovering what drove a client’s granddaughter underground could be good for business. But after her undercover operation at the homeless shelter reveals rampant drug dealing, she’s suddenly kicked off the case… just as another girl goes missing.

Vowing to expose the truth even if it means pro-bono work, Kelly is taken aback when her half-sister helps her hunt down answers in a tent city brimming with distrust. When her investigation doesn’t move quickly enough to save a second woman from a vicious murder, Kelly doubles her efforts unwilling to accept defeat.

Purchase Links

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Excerpt

Nettie led me into the building and pointed to the back corner. “Toiletry kits are available and showers are open for the next few hours. I suggest you use them.”

There’d be no need. I wouldn’t be stripping down.

She continued, “The doors are locked at ten. House rules state no in, no out after. Got it?”

I nodded as she talked and took the opportunity to check the basic surroundings of scuffed floorboards, vinyl wainscotting that reached waist-high, all topped off with the unmistakable smell of bleach.

“Laundry’s available, but you need to be here much earlier if you plan to get in line for that. Questions?” she asked.

“Not so far,” I said.

We stopped at the edge of the dining room where a buffet ran parallel to the long rows of tables crowded with women of various ages, no children.

Some of the women were unkempt, others well-groomed. Some stared blankly into space and others had their heads down. They were putting the food into their mouths at a rapid pace. Many carried on full conversations with themselves and a few to each other. Some were thinner than others which told me that a place that offered a hot meal would be a magnet to many homeless women.

Kyle had prepared me for some of what I’d seen. What he hadn’t prepared me for was how many women were here, and I couldn’t wrap my head around how that was possible. One could be down on their luck, and things could go wrong with no family or friends. Women could also be a victim of domestic abuse and even be abandoned by a spouse; but how had this many women have nowhere else to turn?

I had to stay focused and do what I came here to do: assess the situation and discover who the low-life drug-dealers were and then inform the man who’d hired me.

I turned back to Nettie with a nervous smile. “Are all of these women regulars?”

“A few, but beds aren’t promised. We’re not a residential, stay all day facility. If you’re on a list, that helps, but you must check in on time, and if you’re late, there are no guarantees. We open at four in the afternoon. If you want a bed, come earlier rather than later.”

I nodded, looking again on the dining room. Where did I even begin to get answers?

“We’re serving dinner.” Nettie placed her hand on my shoulder. “Get something to eat. You’ll feel better. I can see you’re fairly new to the streets.”

My dirty clothes hadn’t made me look any less like a newbie. “That obvious?”

“The deer in the headlights look wears off after a while. It becomes more internalized and hardens you. You, however, have that shock in your eyes. You’re wondering how you got here. But there’s no use crying over spilled milk, as they say. You’re here. Warm and dry. Make the best of it. Now go, get some food, and find yourself anywhere you’d like to sit. You’ll be fine here.”

Except people weren’t always fine here.

Someone in here knew something about Amber, but Bernie’s orders had been quite clear: this was a fact-finding mission, no heroics, no going it alone. I was not to do anything that might spook Amber (and/or the people who’d scared her into hiding). If I did my job, Bernie might trust me with more investigative work.

All I had to do now was blend in and find someone who would talk to me. There’s one in every group, and they’re never that hard to find––at least not in the world when standard operating rules applied and where safety nets were in place. Perhaps it was different once you fell through the cracks; only one way to find out.

I shrugged the pack off my back and looped the strap over one shoulder. A stack of gray trays piled high started the buffet line. Despite having eaten a few hours ago, nerves had my stomach growling. What I wouldn’t give for a spoon of peanut butter.

Tray in hand, I fell in line behind a tall brunette. Her polyester pants hung off her waist and her shoes, which could have fit Big Bird, were held together by duct tape. She smelled sour. She looked sixty but could be forty. It was hard to tell. Sadness, addiction, weather, and mental illness had to take its toll out on the streets. I looked thirty-two. If I had to spend time out here, my looks would change fast. This lady’s tired eyes had none of that deer in the headlights look.

Dinner was beef stew, with chunks of potatoes, celery, and carrots. It smelled delicious. A hawkish woman with glasses dropped a roll onto my tray and grunted, indicating that I keep it moving. There was a holdup around the dessert, which was a choice of orange or green Jell-O. A dollop of Cool Whip was its only redeeming feature.

The line started to move again. I balanced the tray with one hand, grabbed the marshmallow-filled orange version, and was clearing the line when an elbow slammed against my shoulders. As I turned, a hand slapped up under my tray, sending the stew flying into the air and then raining down on my shirt. So much for blending in.

 

About the Author

Mary Keliikoa is the Shamus finalist and Lefty, Agatha and Anthony nominated author of the PI Kelly Pruett mystery series, and the Misty Pines mystery series featuring former Portland homicide detective turned small-town sheriff. Her short stories have appeared in Woman’s World and in the anthology Peace, Love and Crime.

A Pacific NW native, she spent years working around lawyers and admits to being that person who gets excited when called for jury duty. When not in Washington, you can find Mary on the beach in Hawaii. But even under the palm trees and blazing sun, she’s plotting her next murder—novel that is.

Author Links

Website: https://marykeliikoa.com/
Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Mary.Keliikoa.Author
Twitter:  https://twitter.com/mary_keliikoa
Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/mary.keliikoa.author/
Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/mary-keliikoa
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/20038534.Mary_Keliikoa

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