Friday, February 17, 2017

Author! Editor! Author! Nicole Kimberling

This week I'm interviewing the madly multitalented Nicole Kimberling who happens to be the Editor in Chief of Blind Eye Books in addition to being one of my favorite writers. That's not a combination you stumble across every day. (Or at least I don't.)

In addition to being an excellent writer, Nicole has the gift of talking both knowledgably and accessibly about writing. She's witty, wise and can cook. Which is pretty much all one can ask for in both an editor and a friend.

So without further adieu, Nicole Kimberling.

JL - Tell us--at the risk of getting slammed with submissions--about Blind Eye Book's mysterious new imprint One Block Empire.

NK - So our original line, Blind Eye Books is all about science-fiction and fantasy.

One Block Empire is devoted to mystery and other kinds of contemporary stories. Basically, I decided it would be neat to expand our brand into stories set in the real world.

The first book in the line is Dal Maclean’s Bitter Legacy, a police procedural set in London’s Metropolitan Police Service (which the author assures me is a real place.)


JL - As you know, I'm a big, big fan of your Bellingham Mystery series. What attracts you to the mystery genre -- this is not the rhetorical question some might imagine because you started out in spec fiction. In fact, didn't Turnskin win a Lambda? So what drew you to these mean streets?

NK - Aw… how sweet you are.
What I love about mystery—especially the classic cozy mystery—is that it is an absolutely perfect vehicle for observational humor. You have the sleuth, who is basically a nosy outsider, going into these different subcultures as a newcomer and reporting on what he or she sees.
So you can write a mystery set at, oh, let’s say Pizza Expo in Las Vegas. And you’ve got this incredibly serious thing—decapitation—happening in a place where the witnessess are showgirls dressed in bikinis that look like they’re made of 3 slices of pizza. And you can make the murder weapon a huge scimitar-shaped mezza luna knife that looks like its from the middle ages.
And the juxtaposition of these images—between the horrifying and the absurd—creates this awesome cognitive dissonance that drives the sleuth (and by extension the reader) to keep trying to solve the mystery. I feel like the best mysteries take the sleuth to a place of true discomfort. Then when the sleuth restores order to the chaos there is this sense of massive relief.
JL - Pentimento Blues is the sixth and final novella in the Bellingham Mysteries series. What did it feel like writing that final chapter? Was it a relief? Bittersweet? Where are Peter and Nick twenty years from now?

NK - Yeah, I did feel a little melancholy. Peter was such fun to write and the city of Bellingham still has so many quirky people and places… But I felt like I’d covered most of the big areas of conflict between Peter and Nick and didn’t want to be that writer who starts inserting the “crisis of the week” just to keep the series going.
I did actually think about where Peter and Nick would be a couple of decades down the road. I feel like they probably acquire some children somehow. Like Peter would agree to watch his itinerant crack-head cousin’s kids for the weekend and then she might never come back. Something like that. Nothing planned or premeditated. Just Peter’s impulsiveness combined with Nick’s deep-down kindness leading to accidental parenthood.
Or instead of children they could accidentally acquire a bunch of alpacas. That’s also possible.

JL - You're Blind Eye Books' Editor in Chef. (HA! Little cooking joke there -- bet you never heard that one before) How do you balance your own creative needs -- heck, how do you even find time to write? -- with the needs of your authors and your publishing house? Do you find it difficult to switch back and forth?

NK - Yes, the transition can be rocky. For me writing fiction requires entering a relaxed, associative, expansive state. And that’s exactly the opposite of the critical, winnowing attitude required of an editor. And both of those are different from the strategic “We’re gonna take that hill, then go to sleep get up and take the next one,” mind-frame necessary to performing the duties of a publisher.
So I try to pick one job every week and just do that, reserving longer blocks of 2-3 weeks to make progress on a piece of my own fiction or to do my final edit another author’s novel.
JL  - What do you like best about editing?
NK I truly love helping authors develop their style and work their manuscripts up to their full capacity. Because one person writing alone can do a good book, but probably not an excellent one. Novel-length prose just has too many moving parts for one person to keep track of them all.

JL - If you had to pick, perhaps for the purposes of a blog interview, what would you say was the one thing lacking in the majority of manuscripts you end up rejecting?
NK - Originality. Do you remember that famous meme from The Player? “It’s like Goodnight, Moon meets Lord of the Flies!” Most of the manuscripts I get are more like, “It’s like X only gay!”
Except “X” is usually just some TV show like Charmed,*  or whatever movie was popular that summer. Even if the writing and voice are both good, a derivative story is always boring to me.

JL -  What do you like best about writing?

NK - I really enjoy immortalizing the unique people and quirky situations that pop up in everyday life—or at least in my everyday life. For the sake of fiction—and certain friendships—I disguise them. But most of the characters in my books, and even some conversations, were inspired by real people.
JL - What do you have planned for us in the way of more mystery or suspense? I know you're partial to decapitations--and they're admittedly infrequent in the cozy subgenre--but I think you're a natural for a cozy series with edgy, even black humor. Plus you like cats. So.
NK - Actually I tried to get a decapitation into Pentimento Blues but my writer’s group told me it was unnecessary, cartoonish and detracted from the story’s main crisis. So I took it out.
But in terms of a new mystery: I’m very slowly slogging away at a new book featuring a chef solving a murder that occurs in the cellar of the restaurant where he works. I have no idea when I will finish it but I figure as long as I keep going I will probably manage to get to the last page before I drop dead.
But I’m nearing the end of writing the third Special Agent Keith Curry novella, which is a crossover fantasy/mystery.

 JL - Name three favorite mystery tropes that may or may not be found in your stories past, present or future.

NK - The Intrepid Reporter
The Red Herring
The Evidence Dungeon
JL  - I know you don't have the time, but do you think you would make a good sleuth?

NK - Well, I am exceptionally nosy but I don’t exactly have the attention span for surveillance. I feel like I’d have all the good intentions of solving the murder but get distracted by some other, lesser curiosity (“What ARE the neighbors remodeling anyway?”) and miss some major clues allowing the murderer to slip past me. But I’d absolutely know what color of bathroom tile just went into the house next door.
Plus it’s hard for me to pay attention to anyone telling a boring story, which I think must be pretty common in RL detecting. So, on the whole it’s probably best if I leave actual sleuthing to others. J


*Full disclosure: Charmed is my least-favorite TV show, by far.

You can learn more about Nicole and her work on her website. Or follow her on Facebook and/or Twitter.



  1. That was awesome ! Two of my favorite authors in the same place! God, I love the Internet :D.

    1. Only on the internet, right?

      (Oh! Or Catalina in a month.) ;-D

  2. I've really enjoyed Bellingham books! And I have Irregulars on my tbr

    1. That series is sadly under-read. It's so good. It is classic amateur sleuth -- absolutely as good as any cozy series you will find in mainstream publishing. Highly recommended.

    2. You two are too kind. And I'm so glad you're going to give Irregulars a try. It was an incredibly fun project.

  3. I noticed that JL left out a very important question: How is Cheeto and will he make an appearance (by appearance, I mean "solve the crime") of the next Keith Curry novella?
    Did you know kippers are a very underrated food item?

    1. Hello Mr. Pinkerton--Cheeto, eh? Well, he's doing well, but is sadly not much of a crime-solver as much as an innocent-looking perpetrator, if you know what I mean. ;)

    2. Yes, actually, I do know exactly what you is one of a cat's greatest qualities.

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  5. Hi Josh and Nicole,
    Josh, thanks for bringing in Nicole. She is truly a treat when talking about really anything!
    Nicole, I love your stories. And Bellingham #6 is excellent. But where I think you are a shining star is when you are explaining the dos and don'ts of writing using the characters Binky and Brutus. I would love to see everything you've ever written starring them in an ebook or print collection. What a laughfest that would be. :-)

    1. Hey Susan, thank you for stopping by! Ah, Binky and Brutus--I really should recall them from their semi-permanent vacation at that Mexican all-inclusive sometime soon...

  6. I just finished reading the first 5 Bellingham Mysteries a few days ago and will be starting the 6th one soon. Fun reads, though I did feel bad for Nick at times. Man must have the patience of a Saint dealing with Peter at times. lol

    I did read and enjoy the Irregulars when it was first released but may have to revisit it soon.

    Thanks for the recommendation of the Bellingham Mysteries, Josh. What better way to be introduced to new authors than by your favorite author. Can't wait to read more of Nicole's books now.

  7. Awesome interview! Thank you Nicole and Josh! :-)
    I adore Turnskin, and also Happy Snak, and of course the Bellingham mysteries. Love Nick and Peter.
    And it's so very exciting that there's a new mystery in the works. Can't wait!

    1. Hey KC, thank you for dropping by. I'm not sure of the fate of Happy Snak now that Samhain is going down. But I'm glad to hear people still remember it. :)

  8. I can't wait for the next Keith Curry story :d

    1. Greetings, Petie: I'm working on it, I swear! (There might also be a little Keith Curry-related surprise later this year. :)

  9. Thank you for the interview, Nicole. I'm right now reading the first three Bellingham mysteries in the print edition, and I would love to know if there is going to be a print edition of the other three. Besides, I really love Agent Keith Curry and Gunther, so I would love to have all their stories collected in a single tome... Any chances of that in a future? (As you see, and a book freak so I love to have print editions of the books I like).

    1. Hello, booksandmore. The answer is yes, we will be collecting Bellingham Mysteries Volume 4,5 and 6 when rights to the print option on the final story reverts to me in a year's time.

      And there is also a print collection of just Keith Curry stories planned as well. It will release when I get this third story written--which I'm working on now... well, not right now, but I'll get right back to it! (I didn't realize Keith had so many fans.)

    2. That's great news! Thank you, Nikki!!!