Long Beach mystery writer Tammy Kaehler is, like me, a Northern California transplant. She believes that Long Beach has a lot of character, and it is her work here in marketing that eventually led her to racing … the backdrop of her debut novel from Poisoned Pen Press, Dead Man’s Switch.
Carma Spence: Dead Man’s Switch, centers on the racing world. Are you a fan of racing? How did you choose this “world” to focus on?
Tammy Kaehler: I didn’t know anything about racing until seven years ago, when I was doing corporate marketing for a company that started sponsoring a racing series. I went from knowing nothing to being on the inside of a fascinating, crazy world, full of characters and high-stakes activities. I wanted to share what I was learning with others … and essentially I wrote the book I wanted to read. It’s safe to say I’m a fan of racing now.
CS: Did you have to do much research?
TK: Writing Dead Man’s Switch definitely took a lot of research. I watch a lot of racing on television, and attend four or five races a year. I ask lots and lots of questions of experts — drivers, team members, racing officials, and supporting personnel and manufacturers. And of course, I had to go to racing school to understand what it actually felt like behind the wheel.
CS: What types of genres do you like to write?
TK: I’m a mystery writer and reader. I write plenty of technical and marketing information for my day job, but for my after-hours or novel writing, it’s all about mysteries.
CS: Where do you get your ideas?
TK: I get ideas from news stories, gossip, pieces of overheard conversation, or interesting personality traits in people I meet. A minor tidbit from a source is often the catalyst for a character or plot point that bears no resemblance to the originator, because I start with a nugget of truth and then embellish with my own ideas.
CS: Did you always like writing?
TK: I’ve had a career in technical and business writing, but I had never written fiction until about eight years ago. However, I’ve always been fascinated by language, both as a voracious reader and as a writer.
CS: Do you have a set schedule to do your writing?
TK: I write in the afternoons or evenings. I go to work early so that I have some daylight hours for my own in the afternoon, even in these winter months. I’ll go home, run some errands or exercise, and then try to write for a couple hours. Sometimes the writing will go long and my husband will have to forage dinner for himself. Sometimes the session is brief. What’s important to me is to do some work on my current project every day.
CS: How do you feel about the current state of writing? Is this a good time for writers?
TK: In many ways, it’s a great time for writers. The Internet, and social media outlets in particular, make it easier than ever to find a community of like-minded writers and readers. So, as an author with a book to promote, it’s easier to reach people than it’s ever been.
Writers these days also have more ways to get their work out to readers, with the option of self-publishing through Amazon and other e-readers representing an alternative to the traditional publishing process. Of course, what that means is readers face an enormous number of selections and a huge amount of information when they go looking for books … and it’s a challenge for any one writer to stand out among the crowd. Maybe it’s more appropriate to say it’s a very interesting time for writers!
CS: What is the best advice you’ve ever received as a writer?
TK: “What works is different for everyone.” That advice was given to me in reference to book promotion and publicity, and I took it as license to try a very different approach. Instead of making the more traditional rounds of independent mystery bookstores around the country, I took my debut novel to a number of racetracks to promote it to racing fans.
The advice also resonates in terms of what and how I write. There’s no formula about what kind of characters or writer’s voice will work, and you can’t try to write for what’s currently trendy in the market. You’ve got to write what works for you and what you enjoy.
CS: What is the best advice you can give as a writer?
TK: Write because you want to write. Don’t write and try to sell your fiction because you think you’ll make a fortune or become famous. Do it because you can’t not write. Writing a book is frustrating, thrilling, scary, and rewarding. It’s hard work. Finding a publisher and promoting a published book is even more hard work. Do it because you have to.
CS: What’s next for you and your writing?
TK: I’m promoting and talking about Dead Man’s Switch, my debut novel, and I’m working on writing the second Kate Reilly Racing Mystery. I’m also making plans for what races and cars I’ll cover in the third installment.
CS: What do you like about being a writer in Long Beach?
TK: I like the diversity of the population. Everywhere I turn there are people of different ethnicities, cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds, career choices, motivations, humors, and personalities. The city has plenty of character.
For more information about Tammy Kaehler, visit her website at www.tammykaehler.com. If you’re a racing fan, you might want to check out her blog about racing that she shares with another author of racing mysteries, twofortheroadblog.blogspot.com. You can also find Kaehler on Facebook and Twitter.
Would you like to shine the light on your writing brilliance? You can leverage your presence online to attract better clients, projects and opportunities. DragonWyze Solutions can help. Visit www.dragonwyze.com for more information on how Carma can help you nurture an online footprint that supports your goals as a writer.
NOTE: Are you a writer, author or editor connected to Long Beach in some way? Please contact me … and you can be a part of my series of profiles of local writers!