This is a first for It’s a Mystery podcast!

102 Kellye Garrett

Award-winning mystery author Kellye Garrett reads to us from a work-in-progress, which is a first for this show.

When the publisher of her first two mysteries shuttered their doors, Kellye pivoted and began working on this domestic thriller. You’ll hear her read from that book and then we discuss her two Detective By Day books and how they are still impacting readers, the #ownvoices movement, and how writing for the TV show Cold Case helped Kellye when it came to writing fiction.

This week’s mystery author

Kellye Garrett

Kellye Garrett’s Hollywood Homicide, about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress, won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty for best first novel. It’s also one of BookBub’s “Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time.” The second, Hollywood Ending, was featured on the TODAY show’s Best Summer Reads of 2019 and was nominated for both Anthony and Lefty awards. She serves on Sisters in Crime’s national board and is a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color.

To learn more about Kellye and her books visit

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Interview transcript with Kellye Garrett

Alexandra: Kellye Garrett’s mystery, Hollywood Homicide, about a semi-famous mega broke Black actress won the Anthony, Agatha and Lefty for best first novel. It’s also one of BookBub’s top 100 crime novels of all time. The second in the series, Hollywood ending was featured on Today Show’s best summer reads of 2019 and was nominated for both the Anthony and lefty awards.

Kelly serves on Sisters In Crime’s national board, and is cofounder of Crime Writers of Color.

Welcome to the show. Kellye.

Kellye: Thank you so much for having me, Alexandra.

Alexandra: Oh, it’s my pleasure. So you’re going to read to us today. This is kind of unusual and I’m so excited. You’re going to read to us from a work in progress.

Do you want to set it up for us?

Kellye: Sure. It’s a bit more serious than my other books, but it’s a stand alone. It’s like a Lori Raider day or a Megan Miranda type book. Still very much about a woman, first person narrative, looking into a mystery.

Alexandra: As we mentioned in your bio, you’ve got two books in the Detective by Day series.

Tell us why you’ve switched to do this book about different characters.

Kellye: For two reasons. First, my publisher closed, Midnight Ink, before my third book came out. And they still have the rights for the first two. So, for right now I can’t write any more of those books.

And although I’ve always loved cozies, I started reading a lot more domestic suspense, domestic thriller type books, like I was saying, Megan Miranda, Lloyd Raider Day.

I really fell in love with the genre. But one thing I realized that there aren’t really any Black women in those books. And I think there’s certain reasons why. And so I wanted to write a book like that, but how Black woman would have it happen to her.

Alexandra: That brings me to my next question then. Tell us about the hashtag #ownvoices movement. I don’t know anything about it. I did a little bit of research when I was preparing for our interview.

Why don’t you tell us about it?

Kellye: Sure. A few years ago, maybe like five or six, there was a big push, especially in for stories of more diverse, main characters.

And, what happened is a lot of straight CIS white people started writing books with more diverse, main characters, which is a great, nothing wrong with that. But what happens is that they would sell the book, their book and then went to an actual person who was of that group tried to sell it they were told we already have a book like that.

So the idea of #ownvoices – people of their own culture, writing about their culture – grew out of that. And it’s such a big movement right now. And I think a lot of publishers are not just looking for diversity.

They’re looking for the creators to tell their own stories, which is great.

Alexandra: Fantastic. I love hearing that. And I didn’t realize there was that issue with white CIS writers writing about more diverse characters. Because obviously they they’re doing it because they mean, well, at least most of them are but unfortunately, because of just publishing and how it works those people were getting more of a chance than the people who should have been getting the chance.

And if you already have a relationship with a publisher, then you’re more likely to sell the next book than someone they’ve never heard of before.

We were introduced there to Lena and her sister Desire. I wanted to touch on your work on Cold Case because I was really fascinated that you worked on that TV show when you lived on the West coast. And I also noticed that you have an MFA in screenwriting, which I think is really cool.

Kellye: A very expensive, very, very expensive MFA.

Alexandra: What was that experience like working on Cold Case? Do you think it helped you develop skills to write mystery novels?

Kellye: I think so there’s a lot of things that you do in television than I do in my books. A good example is they have what they’re called an act out, which is if you do watch commercials or it’s just something with commercials it’s like that last scene before the commercial break.

And it always has to be some kind of come back to the moment, reveal to make people basically sit through three minutes of commercials. They want to see what happens next. And so I took, took that with the end of my chapters. I tried to end my chapters on really high moments, just so you’re like, Oh, I just want to read one more chapter, one more chapter, and I think another thing is I think I write very plot, heavy books.

They’re very fast paced in the sense that you’re not going to have my characters sitting around and talking about nothing for like three pages. Every scene, the story forward in some way, it’s introducing a character. If it’s planting something that comes up net later on, or if it’s a big red herring or reveal.

That’s because of TV, you only get like, what 40, maybe 42 minutes now so you have to make every scene count. I stole that from television.

Just from a technical stand point, we would write the beats of the story on a whiteboard and on Cold Case, because with TV, it’s a bunch of writers sitting at a conference room, just talking about the story.

I still bust out that whiteboard and figure out my story beats. It’s comforting to me.

Alexandra: Oh, that’s fascinating. And I used to do that too. And now I do it on Scrivener.

Kellye: Everyone talks about Scrivener and I’m so afraid to use it.

Alexandra: I find it really helpful and they do have a recipe card view.

You don’t have to be in that view, but you can be, and then it kind of breaks out your story.

Kellye: I should probably try to get there.

Alexandra: Are you working on anything else or is this your primary project?

Kellye: I’m trying to finish this book. I’m excited about it. I’m happy. I’m about two-thirds finished with it. I’m really happy with where it is and I’m happy with where it’s going. So I’m super excited about that. Hopefully I’ll have that done by October, and then we’ll figure out what’s next.

Alexandra: It’s a shame about Dana and that the rights are still with another publisher.

I guess that’s one bit of a disadvantage when we sell works to publishers, is that if something like this happens like Midnight Ink closing, you can’t carry on with that series.

Kellye: I know a couple of people who are Inkers, as we call ourselves, who were able to sell like a third and fourth, I think Catriona MacPherson did that. Lisa Marie Redmond did that. I did not do that. Midnight Ink is giving a lot of rights back and people are doing different things.

Some people are self-publishing, some are selling them. I love people who self publish. I appreciate indies so much because I don’t have that hustle in me. So right now I’m like really happy that they have my rights and that people can still buy the book because that’s the great thing about books.

My book came out in 2017, the first one in 2018. And I still get messages from people. I still get tweets from people who are discovering the books now and it just came out audio this year. I’m so happy that my books are still available for people to buy them. So I will be forever appreciative to Midnight Ink for that.

Alexandra: That’s a really good point. And fantastic that they are available in audio because that portion of the market just continues to grow.

Kelley: I never really, honestly, I hate to say it, paid attention to audio. I prefer reading. I just started getting into it within the last year.

Especially now because we’re in the pandemic and I’d go on these walks and just listen to a book, and it’s cool to see first, how many people are getting audio deals now for older books like me also to kind of get that different experience.

And I think listening to my book, because I listened to the two books when they came out earlier this year on audio, I think helped me as a writer too, because you’re listening to it and realize, Oh, that’s kind of clunky when I hear her say that, and when I was writing it, it seemed brilliant. But as I hear it said, I could have condensed that down.

I think one thing I do now is I definitely read stuff out loud. When I was kind of like, Oh, I’m stumbling a little bit on this word here, so I should probably condense it down a little bit.

Alexandra: I’ve heard a lot of authors say that I haven’t done it yet, but it’s probably a good idea.

Kellye: I know someone who let’s Microsoft or something read it. Voice or text to voice, I guess that would be. I think she said you hear a lot of not just clunky things, but also mistakes and typos and things like that.

Alexandra: This has been great Kelly. It’s been lovely connecting with you. I’ve wanted to interview you for quite a while and thank you for sharing your work in progress with us. That’s the first for this podcast.

Kellye; Nice. I’m a trailblazer.

Alexandra: Yes, you are. Why don’t you let everybody know where they can find out more about you and your books?

Kellye: Sure. You can find me on my website, which is my name is spelled a little weird. It’s K E L L Y E Garrett, G A R R E T T dot com basically. And you can find me on Twitter. For Twitter, I love to just share book news and retweet other people’s book news.

If you’re a big book nerd like me, you should definitely follow me. And that’s KellyKell, which is K E L L Y E K E L L. And I’m on Instagram too, but I don’t really use Instagram as well as I should, so.

Alexandra: Okay, great. I will put links to those in the show notes so people can find you easily. Well, thanks again for being with me here today.

Kellye: Thank you for having me. Take care.