When I read Liar Liar, I wanted to know more about the wonderful author who brought me such fun characters and hysterical dialogue. Imagine my surprise when I discovered K.J. Larsen is three fabulous authors! The series is written by a trio of sisters, and I'm so pleased to be able to introduce you to them here.
I’ve heard of couples working together on books, but this is the first time I’ve encountered three authors behind a single novel. That brings up a few questions:
What kind of home environment produces three authors?? (Or are there more writers, as you come from a family of six siblings?)
Kristen: We grew up in a family where there was a high premium on reading and story-telling. We always read a book together on family vacations. And our parents liked to illicit stories out of us by asking, "Tell me a story?" I think the love of story and story-telling has influenced all of the siblings. In our large family, it was an advantage being a good story teller because it was a sure way to get attention.
Kari: In our family, creative expression had the greatest value. We didn’t have much money but we made a lot of music and art together. We made our Christmas presents: we wrote songs and poems and painted pictures. Our sister Diane spent one Christmas Eve in the emergency room. She slashed a finger carving Rudolph.
Kari: It was an accident. We were joking around one day, talking about our favorite books and characters. Somebody said something about catching cheaters and someone said "Liar Liar!" Then "Pants on Fire Detective Agency!". We thought it would be a funny book. No one else was around to write it so we decided to do it ourselves. It's just as well we didn't know how much work it would be.
Are your individual writing styles similar or did you each have to adjust to keep the voice the same throughout the book?
Kristen: We do have similar writing styles, but each of us brings our own particular strengths and weaknesses into the mix. We don't try to adjust our voices to each others'. We adjust our voice to Cat's voice. It was difficult at first, but once we knew her voice, things went more smoothly and cohesively.
Kari: The one voice thing wasn't entirely new to us. Our dad was a pastor and he had all six daughters pumping out plays for church and community events since grade school. He's retired now and he's writing his first mystery novel. We're his biggest fans.
How do the logistics work? Do you trade emails or get together in person?
Juli: The sisters email me each day's scenes. I put them together and make small changes to insure we have one voice.
Kristen: I live in Illinois and Kari and Juli live in Washington State. We had to figure out how to really write together long distance. The best solution for us has been to Skype every morning, and some evenings as well. We need to see each other while we're working. It's more spontaneous, honest, creative, and quite honestly, fun, when we can see one another's face. And the fun part keeps us at it and enjoying the work.
Juli: We didn't have a plan when we wrote Liar Liar. We were pretty clueless. We'd wake up every morning and say, What happens to Cat today? When we got to the end of the story, each sister thought someone else committed the murder. We sort of solved the case as it evolved. The sister with the most compelling argument won. (Ta Da!)
Kari: There's no bloodshed between sisters. (But we do have bandaids!)
Does each of you bring something specific to the writing process?
Kristen: We like to begin by brainstorming a scene together. There's a lot of silly laughing. Much of the sassy dialogue is created as a team here. The one who's writing the scene will take notes.
Juli: The person writing the scene may zoom off in an entirely different direction. you can't know where the story will take you until you're alone at your computer. You gotta listen to your muse. Sisters adjust.
Kari: Juli is the youngest sister and has the best instincts for this genre. She lightens up the language. She's sassier than I ever was and she has great instincts. She also dresses Cat. When I write a scene, I leave empty spaces and Juli fills in designer bags, shoes and whatever Cat's wearing. Kristen is an amazing writer and has great character development. She sees the big picture. I do mostly humor and dialogue. And I love a splashy finish.
I think of my own relationship with my sister and I wonder, did sibling rivalry ever rear its head while working on the book?
Kristen: People don't believe this when we tell them that No, it really didn't. When we were growing up, we were not allowed to fight. It was just forbidden. Now there are some consequences in growing up in that kind of household that are not positive. But the positive consequence for us was we had to learn to cooperate with each other. I mean, when you can't fight, you eventually learn to listen to each other and work things out. That's really served us well in writing a book together.
Kari: There are times when we have different visions for the story or a particular character. I wrote a scene for Liar Liar where I killed off a rookie cop named Tommy. Julianne wasn't having it. She raised Tommy from the dead and threw him in the hospital. I mostly hated giving up my funeral scene. I thought it was hilarious. Tommy's back again in "Sticks and Stones", and he's one of my favorite characters. Writing as a team is a game of give and take. We have to trust that what we create together is larger than what one can create alone. And we forget the nonsense of being right.
Just a note, I'm really glad you gals didn't kill off Tommy!
When I wrote Family Matters, my mother immediately recognized some of her character traits in Deanna Wilder. Did you pull your characters from people you know? (Please tell me that Mama really exists!)
Kari: I love this question. I hadn't considered similarities between our characters and people we know. Julianne and Kristen are strong women who might recognize some of their character traits in Cat DeLuca. Our paternal grandmother, Inga, scared the crap out of young children. Very much like Cat's. Our Uncle Bart was larger than live (and a bit on the shady side) like Uncle Joey. As for Mama, I suppose she's rather like me.
I was raised in the Chicago suburbs in a Catholic family (but, alas, not Italian.) You've nailed the ethnic neighborhoods and priestly influence so well. Is the book a reflection of your childhoods?
Kristen: We were not raised Catholic, but we have an Italian side of the family. We lived in Chicago for a period of time growing up and there we got to know the ethnic neighborhoods. Do to our father's work, we moved around a lot as children and that gave us a breadth of experience with different groups and how they live their lives.
Kari: The DeLucas reflect some of my own experience with family. The laughter, fierce loyalty, and staggering portions of pasta and guilt.
You left the implied sex to our imaginations, which is something I appreciate. Was there a specific reason behind this decision?
Kristen: Yes! Our father is still living!
Kari: People tell us Liar Liar made them laugh out loud. It's exactly what we wanted. A woman will read the book and pass it on to a grandmother or friend. I love that. I want to write something almost everyone can enjoy. A little romance can make us feel warm and fuzzy inside. A tickle for the imagination.
Juli: I think by leaving it to our imagination, it can be much better than anything put in print.
In Liar Lair, Catarina (Cat) DeLuca (Or DeLucky as one character calls her) runs the Pants on Fire Detective Agency, a private detective firm that exposes cheating spouses. After a subject she is tailing--Chance Savino--tells her he isn't married, he is allegedly killed in an explosion, and his wife, Cat's client, turns up dead.
Why set the book in Chicago?
Kristen: I live in Chicago and the family lived in Chicago for a period of time growing up. We love the energy of the City, the distinctive neighborhoods, and the rich ethnic diversity.
Juli: You gotta love the Windy City. It draws you in. Chicago has a tradition of great literary detectives who hand their shingles there. There's an easy charm you can't quite pull off in Cleveland.
One of the things I loved about the novel is that this heroine is surrounded by strong male characters, including several brothers. Then I discovered that all of your siblings are girls! Was this wishful thinking, or did you have strong male influences growing up?
Kristen: I think all of us sought out male friendships and mentors growing up to try to create more balance. And thankfully, we found them.
Kari: Speak for yourself, Sissy. I'm giving myself brothers and less competition in the bathroom!
The book leaves off on a potential romance. Will these two characters partner up in future books?
Juli: Let me just say this guy is eye candy and Cat is no fool.
Could you tell us something about the second book in the series, Sticks and Stones, which is due for release in August, 2011?
Juli : Sticks And Stones is a kick. Liar Liar readers will remember a client named Cleo. Cleo’s cheating husband was sleeping with her sister. Cleo shot Walter’s bum full of buckshot. He slunk under the radar taking her money, dog and sister with him. At the end of the first book, Cat vows to find her client’s money and dog. In Sticks And Stones, she and Cleo break into Walter’s house. They find Cleo’s dog and a mysterious big ol’ bag of money. And they find Walter’s very dead body. Cleo is charged with murder and the cops suspect Cat is involved. Now it’s up to Cat DeLuca, catcher of cheaters, to bring Walter’s murderer to justice. But with so many enemies dancing on his grave, it’s not going to be easy.
Thank you so much for blogging with me! For those who want to experience the full flavor of the books, K.J. Larsen's website includes recipes from Mama's Kitchen! You can FB KJ Larsen as well!
You can order the book from the usual sources (the website includes some independent bookstores!) and it's available in several formats, including Kindle, and you can order directly from the website. Sticks and Stones is due out August, 2011.