I am so grateful to that Christine Keleny has stopped by to chat with me today. Christine is a Wisconsin author who writes both adult and children’s fiction. I’ve enjoyed her historical fiction “Rose” series very much (see below). For the middle-grade audience, I highly encourage you to read her Agnes Kelly mysteries. Book 2 – Narrow Escape in Norway – is now out and just in time for the holidays. This is a great family read! Book 1 – Intrigue in Istanbul – won the Midwest Book Award for children’s literature this year!! Narrow Escape in Norway continues to follow Agnes and her grandmother on their quest to learn the true nature of her father’s work. Set in 1961, at the height of the Cold War, mysterious and potentially dangerous characters keep the suspense high. Agnes is a plucky, smart, and delightful character who is a treat to read about no matter your age! (I am already eager for book 3.)
ABOUT THE BOOK:
"Intrigue in Istanbul: An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure" is set in 1961, a time of the cold war and space race. But that isn't on Agnes' radar. Her dad has died and during a trip with her grandmother to Istanbul, she accidentally finds out it was under suspicious circumstances, but that's just the beginning. Book One of the Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure Series will make you laugh, set you on the edge of your seat, and leaving you wanting more - both the older and younger reader alike.
Everyone at the table is as surprised by Grandma’s little maneuver as I am, but I’m not looking at my relatives or even at Peggy, I’ve got my eyes glued on Grandma Agee. She’s reading Uncle Bob the riot act over at the dessert table…I’m concentrating hard on Grandma’s face, specifically her lips. But she’s turned ever so slightly away from me so I can only make out a bit of what she’s saying: “I told ya…” and “…button your lip.” among the finger wagging and eye scowling she’s giving poor Uncle Bob. With Grandma’s odd reaction and my dad being gone, unable to explain himself to me ever again, I feel an urgent need to find out is what in the world did he “get into” that Grandma Agee doesn’t want me to know about.
NEW RELEASE!! Narrow Escape in Norway
The laughs, thrills, and hijinks continue for young and old alike in Book II of the Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure Series, the much-anticipated follow-up to the Award-Winning "Intrigue in Istanbul." But there is more! Grandma and Agnes get in over their heads and end up putting their very lives at risk.
Now Grandma Agee and I are a team, like Charlie Chan and his two kids (I can’t remember their names) or Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. I’m really excited that she is going to keep looking for information about my dad and that Grandma wants me to help. So I’ve got to do what Mr. Morrison, our neighbor, always tells us kids: Carpe diem! Seize the day! ...
So I’m on my way to Norway. I want to be able to tell my mom and my brothers what happened to my dad. It’s sinking in more and more that he’s really gone, and I think it would help all of us if we knew the truth. I know it would help me. But if I’m going to help Grandma find out what really happened, I need more information. And the person I need to talk to is sitting right beside me.
Thanks so much for stopping by and talking with me, Christine!
Can you tell us about the different jobs you’ve had other than writing?
My education was in Physical Therapy, which I did for 30 years. I started writing about 7 years before I stopped working as a therapist and started my publishing company: CKBooks Publishing.
How long have you been writing and how long ago did you publish your first book?
I started writing in college but once I graduated, work and eventually a family put that on a back shelf. About 2003 I started working on my first book, which I then published in 2007.
If there’s anything that you could go back and tell your ‘unpublished’ self, what would that be?
Good question. I guess it would be to take your time getting everything as "right" as you can before you put your book out there. Many times (and it still happens) I have had my books printed and I find more than just one or two errors. It's frustrating but something I should expect and, so I need to wait longer before printing and go over my proof a good 3-4 weeks after I have the proof printed and it has been proofed by others. Time really helps to make those small errors stand out.
I love that you write both for adults and for the children’s market. And as you can tell from my review above, I’m a big fan of your Agnes Kelly mystery series. (While these books are aimed at the middle-grade audience, I have to make sure that everyone understands how lovely these stories are for adults as well.) What was your inspiration for those books?
I am a big fan of Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce mystery series and reading those really inspired me to come up with an American version of Flavia - so Agnes Kelly was born. She's an amalgam of a German/Irish heritage, as I am, and she has only brothers for siblings, like I did.
Can you tell us a little bit about how your ideas develop as a writer? Do you have a clear vision of the main characters from the beginning? Do you outline?
I have a general idea of my character before I write and as I research the time and place my character lives in, more of that character's features develop. The amount I outline varies and how I do it. Most of the time, I write down a skeletal outline or at minimal, I have it set in my mind. When I write, I don't worry about chapters, I just write. Sometimes chapter endings are obvious, sometimes they are not, and I figure that out later. Not having the story outline or structure down has its drawbacks because at some point you have to go back and make sure that story structure is there to some degree.
As a writer of both novels for adults and children, what appeals to you about writing for different audiences.
The fun thing about writing for kids, I get to be funnier and make fun of adults. As adults we do some silly things because we think we need to and kids see this for the silliness that it is and it's fun to illustrate things like that. Writing for adults is enjoyable for me because I usually write about something I have to research, whether it's about a person or time period. I really enjoy history and learning, and I like sharing the information I've found out about with others in what I think is an enjoyable way to learn - through fiction.
Of all the books you’ve written . . . and there have been quite a few . . . do you have a favorite or is that rather like asking a parent which child is their favorite?
As a fellow writer, you know how hard a question this is. As an author, you like different books for different reasons. But if I have to pick, I guess I like Intrigue in Istanbul. I enjoyed introducing readers to Agnes and her adventure.
I am always curious about other author’s writing environments . . . so where do bring all your wonderful characters to life?
I can write pretty much anywhere but I have two places at home where I write the most. I have an office in our guest bedroom, but I face a corner and sometimes that's a good thing - keeps me focused on what I'm doing - and sometimes I like to sit out in our dining room/living room. We live in the country and we have lots of windows in that space, so I enjoy seeing the birds at our feeders and the sun. Once I start writing, I get into it enough that my surroundings don't get in my way. If I'm not really into it, then it also doesn't matter where I am, I will distract myself ;)
Can we look forward to another book from you soon?
I just put my second Agnes book, Narrow Escape in Norway, up online, so I'm just starting on the research for book 3 in the series (the final installment of this Adventure). I'll let you in on a little secret about book 3 - Agnes and her grandmother are heading to Russia! I have taken some books out of the library, of course, but serendipity has stepped in, as it often does, and sent me a contact in Russia. I don't know anyone who lives or has even traveled to Russia, so to find someone who grew up there and still lives there is wonderful. The Agnes stories take place in 1961, so it's a great help to have someone who has family that is old enough to remember life in Russia in 1961.
Before we move on to the Fast Five list, is there anything else you want to tell readers about yourself or your books?
To celebrate the publication of Narrow Escape in Norway, I have Intrigue in Istanbul on sale for .99! I'll probably keep this sale going through the holidays, so if you are looking for a fun family adventure to share with your kids, now's the time to pick up both books! If you want hard copies, go to my website for free shipping or to see where I'll be this fall, so we can meet in person: https://www.christinekelenybooks.com/purchase
Fav Pizza Topping – onions
Book You’re Reading Now – (which one? I've always got a couple going at once :) - The Rooster Bar (audio book) by John Grisham
Coffee, Tea, or Both – Tea only
Fav TV Show as a Child – The Carol Burnett Show
Best Place You’ve Vacationed – New York City
How can readers discover more about you and you work?
Website: christinekelenybooks.com or agneskellymysteryadventures.com
Blog: ckbooksblog.wordpress.com or for writers - ckbookspublishing.com/blog/
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Christine-Keleny/e/B0052XSHKU/
Thanks so much, Christine!! And as I promised above, here's the info on Christine Keleny's Rose series I loved so much! Visit her website or click on the e-book purchase links below for ordering:
Step into the life of Rose, a precocious young girl in 1930s Wisconsin, who runs away from home to avoid what she sees as a certain path to marriage and motherhood. What she seeks is adventure. What she finds is much more.
Rose is thrown into the lives of the varied people and towns of the Mississippi while working on river boats, going to a prep school in St. Louis where she lives with a black family in the Ville, and working in a bordello in New Orleans (not as a call girl, of course. She is a Catholic girl from the Midwest after all). What she doesn't anticipate are the close relationships that develop with many of the women she encounters. She also discovers the harshness of the world far away from the security of home. Ultimately, Rose realizes what is most important in her life: her family and her friends.