Nationally bestselling and award-winning author Kaye George (who also writes as Janet Cantrell) is the editor of Day of the Dark, a new collection of short crime-themed stories inspired by the total eclipse that will occur on August 21st. Published by Wildside Press, the book is available in digital and print forms on all platforms.
What gave you the idea to do a collection of eclipse stories?
Having shepherded the first Austin Mystery Writers anthology—which went on to win the Silver Falchion Award at Killer Nashville—I got it into my head that I could do this. Of course, one shouldn’t do everything one feels one can do. But I was intrigued by the approaching eclipse being publicized by Earth and Sky, which I follow. I wanted to do a story about it and felt maybe some others would too.
Have you ever experienced a total eclipse? If so, when and where?
Never! I’ve seen some partials that were fun, though. Only one since we moved to Tennessee, so it has to have been in the last 4 1/2 years.
You write in several genres. Why did you choose to have all the stories in Day of the Dark be crime fiction?
To reflect a light and dark theme in keeping with the eclipse, I wanted a wide spectrum of styles and sub-genres but felt I had to have something to tie it together in some fashion. Hence, at least a little mystery in each story.
Have you edited other anthologies? Do you find it hard to switch gears from writer to editor?
No, I haven’t done another one, not by myself. Although, I have swapped critiques with lots of writers and have paid for a few. I don’t find it hard to switch since those seem like two completely different things to me. I’m big on plowing through the first draft then stepping back and getting into edit mode.
Do you find it hard to switch back and forth from short stories to longer works?
I use short stories for breaks between longer works. They’re more fun for me and come more easily, so I use them for recreation. I consider writing novels work, but I do love to do them too. They’re just a lot more work for me.
I like the title of the anthology. Are titles easy for you?
I have a title principle, which I sometimes even follow. Give long titles to short works and short titles to long works. In this case—a book of short stories—I guess that principle isn’t relevant, is it? I tossed a few ideas out on an online group, and this one stuck.
I love the Choke/Smoke/Broke titles you use for one of your series. Did they come to you all at once, or were you looking to title a sequel and it just seemed obvious?
DID use my rule for these. I own a rhyming dictionary that is fun to page through and look for words that could be used together. I also brainstormed these with a few other writers, and they came up with a pile of them. I do regret that I didn’t notice there are a LOT of books called Choke.
How did you end up a writer? Did you write stories as a kid? Is there a writer in the family?
I didn’t exactly end up as a writer; I think I was born one. Yes, I told stories before I could write. I used to make up the stories behind my kindergarten crayon drawings. I graduated to doing comic strips and wrote my first “novel” in 5th grade. I believe it was about 4 pages long.
My mother told me she had lots of ideas but never wrote them. I decided to take her cue and actually write my ideas. I’m supposed to have had a pioneer foremother who wrote a book, but the details are lost in the mists of history.
What was the first thing you were ever paid to write?
I got $7.50 for my first published short story. I don’t remember if it was the one in Web Mystery Magazine or the one in Futures Mystery Anthology Magazine. I have a copy of the check around here somewhere, waiting to be framed and hung—since 2005. My office isn’t exactly organized.
How important do you think organizations are for writers—like Sisters in Crime, for example?
For me, very! We moved to a tiny west Texas town after I quit programming. I left behind my Sisters in Crime chapter as well as 20 years worth of friendships and memberships in other organizations. I found some romance writers in Wichita Falls. They were very nice, but they weren’t mystery writers. When I found the Guppies online SinC chapter, that was a life saver!
I’ve also benefited greatly from the in-person crit groups I’ve belonged to. I’m still trying to find one here.
Do you go to the conventions?
I haven’t missed a Malice Domestic in many years. That’s partly because our daughter lives in the area and I always tack on a visit with her. I’ve been to a few Left Coast Crimes and several others. I’ve loved every single one. A whole flock of mystery writers is a happy group to be among. I haven't been to as many as I’d like—they cost a lot!
How active are you on social media, and which platforms do you use?
I guess I use Facebook the most. I have a Twitter account but don’t use it. Now you can post pictures on Twitter, I gather, but you couldn’t at first. I like posting pics like those of the fair I attended recently with the Authors’ Guild of Tennessee and weeds in my yard—stuff like that. Going on Facebook at the end of the day is my relaxation when I have the time for it. I love to find funny things and repost. I like to play around on Pinterest but haven’t had time lately.
Do you write every day?
I wish! My time is not my own right now. If it were, I would write nearly every day. I’ve done so for a long time. My husband requires a lot of care, and I don’t have many spare moments lately. He’s on the waiting list for a residential place, so my situation will change when there is an opening there. He’s looking forward to it, as am I.
Do you listen to music or news or white noise when you write?
Absolute silence. At least, no music. (Or barking dogs.) I can’t listen to music passively. Being a musician, I actively listen to it. My brain gets involved in the rhythmic patterns, harmonies, musical form, etc. It’s kind of like not being able to read mysteries for pleasure anymore since I write them—I’m always analyzing what I’m reading.
You have a series of Fat Cat mysteries. Do you have any cats in your life? How about dogs?
I just counted them up. We’ve had 8 cats, usually 2 at a time, and mostly rescues. We’ve also had two dogs, both Golden Retrievers, which is my favorite breed.
Besides those cats, there was Paddy in my childhood. My 3rd-grade teacher brought a box of kittens to school one morning and told us to ask our parents if we could have one when we went home for lunch. I forgot to do that but was sure it would be okay. So I took one home. It wasn’t exactly okay, but they did let me keep her, and I had her for many, many years. She passed away when I was at college.
We’re petless now, by attrition. I very much miss having an animal in the house but can’t take on anything else at the moment. I will again someday, though. A house is dead without a pet.
Who are some of your favorite short story writers?
My all-time faves are O. Henry and Mark Twain. Of contemporary writers, many of whom I know pretty well, there are too many to name. Plus, I’d leave someone important out if I made a list. There is some excellent short fiction being written today!
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Kaye George is a novelist and short story writer, whose story “Handbaskets, Drawers, and a Killer Cold” was nominated for a 2010 Agatha Award for Best Short Story. It can be found in the collection A Patchwork of Stories, available on Amazon and Smashwords as an ebook and on Amazon and Createspace in trade paperback. She reviews for Suspense Magazine, and her other articles occasionally appear in newsletters and booklets. She and her husband live in Knoxville, TN.
Katherine Tomlinson is a former reporter who prefers making things up. She was editor of Astonishing Adventures Magazine and the publisher of Dark Valentine Magazine. She edited the charity anthology Nightfalls. Her dark fiction has appeared in Shotgun Honey, A Twist of Noir, Luna Station Quarterly, and Eaten Alive, as well as anthologies, including Weird Noir, Pulp Ink 2, Alt-Dead, Alt-Zombie, and the upcoming Grimm Futures, which she also edited. Her most recent collection of short stories is Suicide Blonde. She sees way too many movies.