Message From The Author
Maggie Needs An Alibi
And Kasey Michaels Tells All About Her Funny First Mystery
by Tara Gelsomino
Ever wish your favorite romance hero could come to life? Author Maggie Kelly finds out it's not wine and roses when the hero of her bestselling Regency-set mystery series pops up in the flesh in her living room. While she's coping with his sudden appearance, her creepy publisher/ex-lover is poisoned and then another colleague bites the dust. Maggie is the main suspect and it's up to her hero, Alexandre Blakely, Viscount St. Just, to save the day and clear Maggie's name! It's a great concept for a book and Kasey Michaels' first hardcover mystery delivers a fun, fresh story readers won't want to miss!
What an ingenious concept! Was it inspired by your own
interaction with publishers? Why did you decide to write
Well, thank you! I've always wanted to have something of mine called "ingenious!" Usually the comment on my ideas is "Egad, woman, where did that one come from?" At first, MAGGIE NEEDS AN ALIBI was going to be a single book, but as the ideas grew, I realized that maybe I had the makings of a series here. It just felt right, combining my love of contemporaries with my love of the Regency era (and all those sarcastic heroes I adore). I'd done several books that contained mysteries, but never a straight mystery. So I sat down to write, and got to write Maggie's scenes in a modern style, and Saint Just's in a Regency style—actually working with both of my favorite time periods in the same book. This part is called Writer's Heaven, in case you were wondering —just sitting down with no contract, no rules, and writing whatever pops into your head, letting your imagination run wild, being as silly as you want to be, because nobody said you couldn't, and if it sold, fine, and if it didn't, hey, you had fun. However, as you leave Writer's Heaven and come back to Cold Reality, selling something as different as MAGGIE NEEDS AN ALIBI could be a problem.
So you can imagine how excited I was when my editor at Kensington decided to make Maggie my first hardback, even giving me a contract for several Maggie stories (I mean, wow, they're actually going to PAY me to have this much fun!). From that moment, my life changed. Me, in
hardback at last, after more than 80 books in 22 years. Me, with the greatest cover I've ever seen. Me, going on a book tour. I'm scared
spitless, to tell you the truth—but Maggie would be so pleased!
The book opens with Maggie being messy, neurotic, smoking like a chimney; you describe her as "an All-American cheerleader type with an attitude problem." Clearly she's not your typical romance heroine. How did you develop her?
Oh, dear, now it's confession time. My children, reading the book,
all stopped midway through that opening scene, pointed to Maggie,
and said, "Mom, this is you!" As I wrote, hoping to make this a series,
I decided that I should stick with the familiar, so I wouldn't forget things like the shape of her desk, her work habits, etc. I looked around for
a writer-type, saw me (I mean, I was in my office—pretty handy, no research required), and I wrote me. Yes, I work in my pajamas; my work habits, the way I create, is the way Maggie works and creates. Yes, I color code my M&M's before I eat them. Yes, horror of horrors, I've been
trying to quit smoking for at least 10 years. There is definitely more of me in Maggie than there has ever been a "me" in any of my other characters, up to and including a penchant for having a smart mouth from time to time. But—and it's a big but—I am not Maggie, and Maggie's not me. She's got more guts, for one thing, and probably a few more hang-ups, both professional and personal. Oh, and she's also lots younger, definitely prettier, and loads more successful. Shame on her!
Maggie is often frustrated by the flaws of the characters she created. Does it make you think twice about what traits you assign your own creations?
So many times, while writing a Regency historical and trying to come up with a snappy comeback, I've wanted to write something on the order of "Oh, put a sock in it!" Of course, I couldn't do that; I had to say something like, "That's the outside of enough!" But Maggie gets to say what she wants, when she wants, to her hero come-to-life. What freedom! And then there's that hero. Such a great guy, except that he's a man of his time, and in his time, men ruled the roost. What Maggie learns is what I've always thought—heroes may be great to dream about, but may not be all that easy to live with after that last kiss, when they lived happily ever after, fade to black. After living with my Regency heroes for 20-plus years, I know this guy who is witty and sophisticated and to-die-for handsome could also be a mighty pain in the rear if transferred to today's world.
So it sounds like there'll be more mysteries for St. Just to solve. Will you also continue writing romances?
Ah, yes, next up is MAGGIE BY THE BOOK, in which she and the gang go to a writer's convention in New York. Saint Just is very excited because there will be a costume ball during the convention, and at last he'll get to dress in "real, civilized" clothes. Can you imagine the handsome Saint Just, and his adorable sidekick, Sterling, set loose in a romance convention? The perfect hero, gorgeous and knowing it, surrounded by women who think our hero is a cover model contestant? Oh, and with a murder or two thrown into the mix, of course…
I'm still writing contemporaries for Zebra. THIS MUST BE LOVE is scheduled for February of next year, I think. THE KISSING GAME, my latest Regency historical, will be on sale in January. And I still write special projects for Harlequin and Silhouette, like the Colton series that just finished up in May.
There are moments—usually as a deadline approaches—that I think, yes, I'd like to write only one book a year. But then I have to think of what I'd do instead…cook dinner every night of the week instead of going out, be Martha Stewart and maybe make free-form art out of dryer lint or something. And I sign another contract… because this is what I love to do, this is what makes me come alive even when I'm moaning and complaining and stressed with too much work. Maybe I'll slow down some day, maybe I won't—but
I don't think I know how to slow down. Besides, my family wouldn't know what to do with a clean house or a wife and mother with enough time on her hands to be able to say, "Hey, hang up that coat, you weren't raised in a barn!"
Excerpt from MAGGIE NEEDS AN ALIBI
Rock music blared from the speakers on either side of the U-shaped work station, aimed straight at Maggie Kelly's desk chair.
M&Ms were lined up neatly to the right of the computer keyboard,
color-coded and ready to eat. Maggie was up to the reds, with the blues always saved for last.
A half-eaten cinnamon-and-sugar Pop Tart topped off the full trash basket shoved under the desktop. An open bag of marshmallows spilled over dozens of scribbled 5 x 8 file cards to Maggie's far left. The bag of individually wrapped diet candies, more a fond hope than a brave supermarket aisle life-changing epiphany, hadn't been opened.
Towers of research books littered the floor like literary Pisas. Others lay open around the base of her chair, scattered about like fallen birds, their spines cracked and broken.…
The entire room, from noise to clutter to smokey haze, advertised the fact that Maggie Kelly was wrapping up the manuscript for her latest Saint Just mystery.
And, sure enough, in the middle of the mess, dressed in an old pair of plaid shorts, a threadbare T-shirt with F-U University printed on it, topped by a navy-blue full-length bathrobe that should have hit the hamper a week ago, sat Maggie Kelly herself.
Thirty-one years old. Short, curly, coppery hair with really great, wincingly expensive dark-blond highlights. Irish green eyes; huge, round horn-rimmed glasses falling halfway down her rather pert nose. Unlit cigarette dangling from a full, wide mouth just now curved into
an unholy grin. An All-American, cheerleader type…with an attitude problem.
That was a quick snapshot of Maggie Kelly, the quintessential "successful writer at home." Five feet, six inches, one hundred sixteen pounds of New York Times best-selling author.
If she stood outside her Manhattan apartment with her empty teacup in her hand, she'd probably snag a quick five bucks from pitying strangers in ten minutes, tops.
Two Persian cats lay at her feet, snoring. A black one, Wellington, and a grey-and-white monster named Napoleon. Napoleon was a girl, but that knowledge had arrived after the inspiration for her name, so Napper was stuck with it.
Maggie dragged on the cigarette, frowned when she realized she hadn't lit it, and rummaged on the desktop for her pink Mini-Bic. She bought only throwaway lighters, one at a time, always swearing she would quit smoking and wouldn't need another one. She was beginning to think she was the one faithful consumer standing between Bic's lighter manufacturing division and Chapter Eleven.
She lit the cigarette, squinted as smoke invaded her left eye, and collected her thoughts. After a few moments, her fingers punched at the keys once more as she hunched forward, eyes shut tight as she concentrated.
Maggie was on a roll. She could creep for chapters, that damn "sagging middle" she slaved over, but the end always came to her in a rush. The faster she wrote, the harder she hit the keys. She began chair-dancing, moving to the rhythm of Aerosmith at its most raucous, and the keyboard practically winced.
Saint Just, she pounded out, damnable, damned sexy quizzing glass stuck to one dazlzing blue eye, pivoted slowly to face the earl. "One of the people present in this room knows precisely what happened here the night Quigley was murdered. Actually, not to be immodest, two of us do," he drawled in his maddeningly arrogant way that melted the innocent (at least the females) and inspired dread in the guilty.
Pause. Open eyes. Hit save. Read. Correct the spelling of dazzling. Eat two red M&Ms, What the hell, eat the whole row. Smile as the next song begins. Keep to the tune, keep to the rhythm.
Maggie tapped both bare-footed heels against the plastic rugsaver beneath her swivel chair while doing her best to "Walk this Way" while sitting down. She could do that today. She could do anything. She was Maggie Kelly, writer. And, hot diggity-damn, by midnight, she'd be Maggie Kelly, a writer having written.
Readers can visit Kasey's website at www.kaseymichaels.com.
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