In today’s Interview With the Author, we are talking to Stephen Kaminski, another of my fellow Cozy Cat friends.
STEPHEN KAMINSKI is the author of the Damon Lassard Dabbling Detective series published by Cozy Cat Press. The first cozy mystery in the series, IT TAKES TWO TO STRANGLE, was the winner of the 2012 Reader Views Literary Award for the Mid-Atlantic region. He has just released the second offering in the series, DON’T CRY OVER KILLED MILK. Stephen is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University and Harvard Law School. He has practiced law for over a decade and currently serves as General Counsel to a national non-profit organization. He is a lifelong lover of all types of mysteries and lives with his wife and daughter in Arlington, Virginia.
DON’T CRY OVER KILLED MILK brings Damon Lassard back into action. Jeremiah Milk lived a life filled with emotional extremes. Amniotic band syndrome—a congenital condition—left his fingers and toes malformed. Ridiculed as a child, he became an adolescent hermit. As an adult, Jeremiah’s wounds healed when he landed a position as a park ranger and married a woman who loved him despite his physical appearance. But fate ripped his life to shreds when his wife and infant son died on the same night in separate calamities. Shortly thereafter, the tides turned once more as an act of Jeremiah’s ostensible benevolence translates into a financial boon. The book on Jeremiah’s life closes without mercy when he’s found murdered at Tripping Falls State Park.
Damon Lassard—Hollydale’s loveable civic leader, amateur sleuth, and Jeremiah’s neighbor—springs into action. He’s obstructed by a prickly lieutenant, but wriggles information unknown to the police from a colorful bevy of suspects. Aided by his best friend Rebecca and his reluctant ally Detective Gerry Sloman, Damon engineers a deep dive into Jeremiah’s past to solve the crime. Along the way, Damon strengthens his relationship with the breathtaking Bethany Krims, cracks a local horticultural mystery, and tries in vain to tame his wickedly sarcastic mother.
The Outside Lane: How did you get started writing:
Stephen Kaminski: I began writing in earnest when my wife decided to go back to school in the evenings for her PhD. After we put our daughter to bed, she spends several hours on her school work. So I decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and write mystery novels so we could spend those evening hours together (like nerds on our computers side-by-side).
TOL: Where do your ideas/main character come from?
SK: The ideas for my books come in large part from my life. While the stories are not tied directly to life events, the characters and settings are those with which I’m familiar. For example, in my first cozy mystery, It Takes Two to Strangle, a large part of the book takes place at a traveling carnival. I spent several summers during my youth working at such places (from manning the balloon darts to hawking corn dogs). In my second book, the victim is afflicted with a congenital condition similar to my own.
TOL: What’s been the biggest learning experience of your first release?
SK: The most significant learning experience from my first release took place in the writing phase. My first manuscript was far too long and the pace of the book too slow. Working with Cozy Cat Press, I whittled it down about 30,000 words and sped up the pace. While writing the second book in the series, I found my plot moving along much more quickly. In addition, I learned a lot about writing snappy dialogue and post-release marketing.
TOL: What are your plans for your next novel?
SK: The second book in my Damon Lassard series has just been released. I have begun plotting a third – hopefully for release in the fall of 2014.
TOL: Any advice for writers?
SK: My advice for new writers is to keep pressing forward. Finish a draft, have others review it, edit it repeatedly, then submit it with a very thick skin (even the best of manuscripts will be rejected repeatedly). But most of all, write because you love creative writing. If others eventually read and enjoy what you’ve written, that’s just gravy.
TOL: How did you come to Cozy Cat Press?
SK: Through perseverance. After I finished the original manuscript for It Takes Two to Strangle, I submitted it to numerous agents and publishing houses as a general mystery. It was Patricia Rockwell — the head of Cozy Cat Press – who recognized that my manuscript had a cozy mystery trapped inside. Working with her, I transformed the book (and now the series) into a true cozy.
Stephen, thank you so much for taking time to be with us today! To learn more about Stephen and his books, follow these links.
Amazon link to Don’t Cry Over Killed Milk
Amazon link to It Takes Two to Strangle
Author’s website: www.damonlassard.com