Welcome back, Kristin Kisska!

Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome back our friend, Kristin Kisska.

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

Thank you for hosting me on the Pens, Paws, and Claws’ Writer Wednesday. I am a former contributing writer to this blog, and I’m thrilled to be a part of your animal-loving readership again!

My name is Kristin Kisska and I write suspense fiction. So far, I’ve published seven short stories. “Unbridled”, my horse-themed whodunit, is part of the Lethal Ladies’ mystery anthology, DEADLY SOUTHERN CHARM.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

“Unbridled,” as then mane suggests, is a horse-themed short story. In it, I have three horses that all board in the same equestrian facility located in South Carolina’s low country. Their riders are preparing for the opening competition of the spring season’s horse shows when one of them trots into his stall with an empty saddle, a broken rein, and no sign of his rider.

I’m currently writing my third novel, a domestic suspense which features a tabby cat named Lulu. She’s an intuitive pet, and knows when her teen owner needs a little TLC to cheer her up. Lulu also has a tendency to walk circles under her family’s feet, so can also be a bit of a liability.

What are you reading now?

I’ve just finished reading ICE BLONDE by Elaine Viets. While the novel didn’t include pets, I love a good forensic investigation. Her heroine, Angela Richman, didn’t disappoint. I recently had the privilege of meeting Elaine and hearing her make a presentation on incorporating forensics in writing. It’s amazing how many new investigation techniques are available today!

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m currently writing my third novel, which is called MY GUARDIAN DEAR. It’s a domestic suspense about a grieving mother who searches for her late-son’s child, the granddaughter she learned of only after he passed away. As I mentioned above, this novel includes a sassy little feline named Lulu.

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

I grew up with all sorts of pets: cats, dogs, parakeets, gerbils, fish, and even a guinea pig and a ferret. There was no animal immune to my mother’s adoration! The one pet that comes to mind was Maitreyi, the Romanian calico cat that adopted me when I lived in Bucharest in my late twenties. She was queen of our little corner of villas and had beau vying for her attention most nights.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

For me, I use animals sparingly in my writing because I feel that the strength of their presence in a scene can risk distracting the reader from the plot or even present conflict. I either write them to diffuse the tension for the moment and give the reader a mini-break, or to help convey an emotion the character is experiencing. Animals are highly intuitive creatures, so for example, if a cat is purring, all in her near vicinity is calm.

What’s your real-life funniest pet story?

When I was a young teen, my mother left to run an errand, but didn’t realize our cat had been napping on the top of her station wagon. I saw it and chased her down the street, but she didn’t year me yelling and screaming after her. The cat, by this point had awakened and instead of jumping off the car, sat upright facing the direction of traffic as calmly as if it were driving. Apparently, after leaving our neighborhood, multiple cars kept honking at her to alert her, but it wasn’t until she reached a stoplight that another driver knocked on her window and told her the cat was on the roof. I was never so relieved as to see my mom return home with the (perfectly safe and unharmed) cat sitting in her lap.

When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?

Becoming a writer was a big surprise to me. My education and professional experience was in business and finance, as I was analytically and mathematically bent. It wasn’t until I was almost forty years old when I was inspired to write a story. Within a week of my first inclination, I’d jotted an eight-page outline of a fleshed-out plot for a contemporary thriller. Three years later (I had little kids then so I was only writing when they slept), I finally typed the magic words, “The End.” That novel was never published, but it holds a very dear place in my heart. I’ve been writing short stories and novels ever since.

What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?

I wish I’d known that typing “The End” at the end of my manuscript didn’t really mean that I had a completed book. Sure, it’s a moment to be celebrated, but an author is still facing many rounds of revising, editing, critiquing, and polishing before she has a professional quality book. Often times, the post-production time takes longer than drafting the novel.

I also wish I’d known that while writing is mostly a solo adventure, there’s a huge writing community available to support me and cheer me on along my writerly journey. From my local Sisters in Crime chapter, to the writers I’ve met online (Twitter and Facebook) and in person at conferences, I’ve found my tribe with a wealth of resources and experience to help me improve.

Where is your favorite place to read (or write)? Why?

My absolute favorite place to read is on a balcony overlooking the ocean. The beach my ultimate happy place, so of course, a novel must be open on my lap.

As far as writing goes, I create best while I’m in my home office, sitting at my desktop computer, with absolutely no background noise whatsoever. Anything else is a distraction. I’m envious of authors who can write anywhere, even on the go. I guess I get too distracted by different surroundings and activities.

About Kristin:

Kristin Kisska used to be a finance geek, complete with MBA and Wall Street pedigree, but now Kristin is a self-proclaimed fictionista. Kristin contributed short stories of suspense to seven anthologies, including Malice Domestic’s MYSTERY MOST EDIBLE (2019). She is a member of International Thriller Writers, Vice President of Sisters in Crime-Central Virginia, and James River Writers. Kristin lives in Virginia with her husband and three children.

Let’s Be Social:

Website 

Facebook – KristinKisskaAuthor

Twitter – @KKMHOO

 

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Meet Author Nancy Raven Smith

 

Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.

I’m originally from Northern Virginia where my husband and I lived on a rural farm and raised our family. There we rescued ex-racehorses, dogs and cats, plus a snake or two for over twenty years. As an avid reader with a 4-5 book a week habit, I loved reading but never considered writing.

When we reached empty-nest syndrome, we moved to California. I worked in production on film projects and attended UCLA to expand my understanding of film. One class I attended was about evaluating writing for screenplays. At the time, Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park was in manuscript form and about to be published. Ghost (with Patrick Swayze) had just opened in theaters. Those were two of the projects we studied. And that’s when I became hooked on screenplays and changed my studies to screenwriting.

For a couple years I wrote screenplays that won some nice awards and were optioned by directors and production companies, but none have been filmed yet. I had a wonderful mentor from Women in Film, Sara Parriott Graham (Runaway Bride, Descendents 1&2), who loves animals as much as I do. She suggested I write our family memoir about our life on our farm and our animals as a book first, before a screenplay. So I took her advice and, with my husband and daughters, wrote The Reluctant Farmer of Whimsey Hill. We wrote it from my husband’s fish-out-of-water point of view.

The outcome of writing The Reluctant Farmer was unexpected. I had gone back to UCLA to study novel writing in preparation for The Reluctant Farmer and attended other novel and memoir writing events. To my surprise, I discovered I loved writing books and I loved the camaraderie with other authors. So I followed that one with a mystery, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra which became an Amazon/Kindle Scout Selection.

Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?

Lexi, the protagonist in Land Sharks will be acquiring a West Highland Terrier named Frosty in the next sequel. Frosty will be a recurring character and be involved in future books of the series as appropriate.

In The Reluctant Farmer,  some of the main animals throughout the book are Junior – a thoroughbred show horse with a sense of humor who loved to play games, Figgy – a Connemara pony escape artist who could put Houdini to shame, Pork Chop – the runaway steer, Amy, a very special rescue dog, and Wood and Duck – two Manx cats who arranged their environment to suit themselves.

What are you reading now?

I’ve just started reading Midnight, Texas by Charlaine Harris and am enjoying her writing. On my book pile, there are a sprinkling of interesting books written by fellow members of Sisters in Crime. Some of those include Plantation Shudders (Ellen Byron), Secret Lives and Private Eyes (Heather Weidner), Fallout (Sara Paretsky), and Moonshine Inn (Maggie King).

What writing projects are you currently working on?

I’m writing the sequel to Land Sharks. It takes place in the Australia Outback.

Who is your favorite author and why?

I could spend a week on my favorite authors. And there are so many wonderful ones I haven’t even had the chance to read yet.

The things I enjoy reading or viewing tend to fall into six categories: physical comedy, quirky comedy, caper, mystery, suspense and action-adventure, but I’m open to all genres. I like books and films that take me somewhere different, either physically or mentally. I like writers whose stories or characters have a sense of humor and protagonists that care about the people around them. Also unusual characters with a moral compass. Here are a few of my favorite authors and my favorite book by each, but I love most of their work and re-read them often.

Michael Connelly – The Concrete Blond

Robert Crais  – LA Requiem

Dick Francis – Blood Sport

Elizabeth Peters – The Street of Five Moons

John D. MacDonald – The Deep Blue Goodbye

James Herriott – All Creatures, Great and Small

Suzanne Collins – Hunger Games Trilogy

Michael Crichton – Jurassic Park Carl Barks – Uncle Scrooge Comics

Sara Paretsky – Indemnity Only

Dorothy Gilman – Unexpected Mrs Polifax

Sue Grafton – A is for Alibi

Stella Gibbons – Cold Comfort Farm

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle – The Complete Sherlock Holmes

Cornell Woolrich – Rear Window

Thornton Wilder – Bridge of San Luis Rey

Mary Stewart – My Brother Michael

Andrea Camilleri – The Shape of Water

Did you have childhood pets? If so, tell us about them.

We had a wonderful family Dalmatian named Cindy that my parents bought as a puppy during the Minnesota State Fair. Cindy went everywhere with my sister, brother, and I as young kids. She even climbed the twelve foot metal ladder of a local school playground slide which had flat steps, and would slide down behind us. When Cindy was about six, our family moved to a new house about twenty minutes away. As the family station wagon traveled back and forth with our belongings, Cindy grew more and more concerned. Normally she traveled with the family (because she was family). She wasn’t allowed to visit the new house because every square inch of the car was packed with boxes.

Finally, she just couldn’t stand it any more. When my father lowered the tailgate one morning to start loading the station wagon, Cindy leaped into the car, moved as far in as she could, and refused to get out. No amount of coaxing or food interested her. She was not leaving the car. My father finally packed a space around her and she went with us to the new house. After that, her stress disappeared, and she went whenever we kids did, riding stretched across our laps to save space.

How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?

Animals are definitely individuals and each has it’s own character and personality. I often wonder if dogs and cats aren’t special gifts from the universe to teach humans about love.

Why do you include animals in your writing?

Animals have always been an integral part of my family and my life. They rightfully insist on being included.

What’s your favorite book or movie that had an animal as a central character? Why?

So many good answers to this question. I’m sure National Velvet, both book and movie have been mentioned before. I’ll choose Turner & Hooch, a big favorite in our family. It’d be hard to beat Tom Hanks and that wonderful French Mastiff, Beasley. I had the good fortune to take a screenwriting class with Dan Petrie, Jr in Los Angeles who was  the Executive Producer on Turner & Hooch and a writer on the screenplay. During lunch, I mentioned the movie, and it turns out it was one of his favorites, too. He said that when they were filming, there was no way they could get Beasley to even look mean. So Tom Hanks started playing and roughhousing with him on breaks. Then when they filmed Beasley “attacking” Tom, they shot from different angles while they were roughhousing to make him look as if he was biting Tom. Tom still had to hold Beasley’s mouth near his throat.

On the mean side of animal behavior, One of my favorite scary movies with animals playing the villains is Ghost and the Darkness with Val Kilmer. It’s based on the non-fiction book, The Man-eaters of Tsavo by JH Patterson and tells the story of a pair of large, maneless, Tsavo male lions (with manes in the movie) who, in 1898, preyed on the construction crews who were building the Kenya-Uganda Railway. It’s a very bizarre story of aberrant lion behavior. Patterson, an engineer, was sent from England to build a railroad bridge over the Tsavo river. A crack shot, he started hunting the lions who were killing the workers, only to discover that the lions were stalking him. They also managed to escape every trap he set by very strange means. The lions were credited with killing over a hundred and thirty-five people before Patterson shot them. The actual lions are on display at the Chicago Field Museum.

I’m getting long-winded here, but I also have to mention the brilliant, original Family Dog from Steven Speilberg’s television show Amazing Stories Vol 2. It was written by Brad Bird (later known for The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, Up, Ratatouille, and more) and supervised by Tim Burton (of everything Tim Burton). Don’t mix this version up with the later Family Dog TV series which I believe Brad Bird was attached to also.

It’s about an unloved family dog who gets his day and one of the funniest things I’ve ever watched.

What’s the number one item on your bucket list and why?

I’d love to visit Machu Picchu in Peru because of the architecture, the infrastructure, and the brilliant utility of functioning space at the site fascinates me.

Nancy Raven Smith – Biography

Nancy Raven Smith grew up in the Virginia horse country near Washington D.C. where she was an active member of the equestrian community. Not only did she compete on the national level, but she also managed horse shows, and rescued and retrained former racehorses. Raven Smith was a contributing writer and cartoonist for several sports magazines such as The Chronicle of the Horse and Practical Horseman.

While working at CBS Network News Bureau in Washington, DC, she grew interested in the entertainment business. Later, when she and her husband relocated to California, she traded her horse event experience for film work as a production coordinator and enrolled at UCLA to study screenwriting. Her scripts have won numerous awards, but after she wrote one idea as a novel, she discovered a passion for writing mysteries.

She is a member of Sisters in Crime, Women in Film, Romance Writers of America, & Mystery Writers of America. Her debut novel, Land Sharks – A Swindle in Sumatra, has won several awards and was chosen as an Amazon/Kindle Scout Program Selection Winner by Kindle Press.

Let’s Be Social:

http://www.NancyRavenSmith.com

http://www.Facebook.com/NancyRavenSmithWriter

http://TheReluctantFarmerofWhimseyHill.com

Reluctant Farmer on Amazon – http://amzn.to/1XoblsP

Land Sharks on Amazon – http://amzn.to/1JuIHku

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