Today I’m interviewing Australian author Kasia Radzka. Kasia has a series of crime thrillers featuring her ‘stubborn’ investigative journalist sleuth Lexi Ryder. Kasia and I discuss the origin of characters, writing habits, and whether or not outlining a plot works for her.
I’ve added a new segment to the podcast where I mention new books being released by former guests. I’ll add this intro to the audio recording each week, though it won’t be included in the YouTube video.
This week two guests of the show have new books out. Malcolm Richards, who I spoke to in Episode 11, has released his next book in the Emily Swanson series; the book is called Cold Hearts. You can learn more at Malcolm’s website.
You can find out more about today’s guest, Kasia, and all her books on her website KasiaRadzka.com.
You can also click here to watch the interview on YouTube.
Transcript of Interview with Kasia Radzka
Alexandra: Hi mystery readers, I am Alexandra Amor. This is It’s a Mystery Podcast and I’m here today with Kasia Radzka. Hi Kasia.
Kasia: Hi Alexandra, how are you?
Alexandra: Very well, how are you?
Kasia: Good, thank you. Thanks so much for having me on the show.
Alexandra: Oh you’re so welcome, it’s my pleasure, I’m looking forward to talking to you very much. Let’s give everyone a little bit of information about you.
Kasia Radzka is an author, athlete wannabe and blogger living with her husband and son on the Gold Coast, Australia. In her lack of spare time, she likes to run marathons, eat fine food and drink good wine, discover new places and write action-packed novels. She’s currently working on book number four in her Lexi Ryder Crime Thriller series. So that’s what we’re here to talk about today.
Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about Lexi.
Kasia: Okay, Lexi is an investigative journalist who likes to get herself into trouble. So trouble seems to follow her around everywhere and I suppose she likes to get into the way of people who do bad things.
Alexandra: Was she a character that you, let’s say, that you created from some sort of inspiration or did…where did she come from?
Kasia: I guess I was just doing a character brainstorm and coming up with stories and she actually initially started out a little bit different than what she became. She was meant to be a weak, very weak character who was going to go through some growth progressions I didn’t realize, but then the stories didn’t work, so I had to make her a lot tougher and more gutsier and then story sort of came alive.
Alexandra: Did you figure out that it wasn’t working when she was a weaker character?
Kasia: The plot points just weren’t evolving, the story wasn’t moving forward. I was getting stuck in a lot of places until I sort of realized that she’s not the person who I intended her to be initially. The story sort of started working again I suppose.
Alexandra: Yeah, nice. I like to hear that. I read the beginning of the first book, you’ve got two books out now and let’s just say in the introduction you mentioned you’re working on your fourth book.
Is there a third book out as well?
Kasia: Yeah, there’s three.
“Lethal Instincts” is the first one, “Lethal Disposal” and “Lethal Aftershock”, and now I’m working on “Lethal Attraction”, so they all start with Lethal something. The first one and the third one are novellas, the second one’s a full-length one and number four will be full-length as well.
Alexandra: Oh perfect. At the beginning of “Lethal Instincts”, I notice Lexi is in London, and I loved the first chapter, you don’t have to touch on this if you don’t want to, but I just loved that it didn’t start with her. It made me question…it really…and I love this, when books start out this way, it made me wonder what was going on exactly. And then we start in to chapter two and there’s Lexi and she’s at the university. And you say she’s an investigative journalist.
Alexandra: So is she working at the beginning…
Kasia: A freelance investigative journalist.
Alexandra: Okay, yeah. And so she freelances I guess for various papers in…
Alexandra: And what’s her background? So what brought her to investigative journalism?
Kasia: She wanted to be the voice for voiceless people I suppose. Being a journalist gives her the ability to investigate stories that she feels need to be told.
Alexandra: Okay, and is that personally motivated by something in her background?
Kasia: Well, her background’s been…was very privileged. She didn’t like that sort of pretense of the privilege that she had and she wanted to be able to do good rather than take advantage of everything that was handed to her on a silver platter sort of thing.
Obviously her family don’t like that about her, so they’re completely different. So there’s that little bit of conflict there as well. She went into journalism, but I think she would prefer to be an investigator in a sense. She likes to get into the investigating of the crimes more than the journalism side of things, which hence the trouble, she likes to get into it, so.
Alexandra: Right, yes, exactly.
The first book starts out in London, but then I notice the second book, “Lethal Disposal”, is set where you are now in the Gold Coast of Australia.
Alexandra: Yeah, and is that where she’s from originally?
Kasia: Yes, yes.
Alexandra: Oh it is, okay.
Kasia: I wanted to write something that was based locally just to give it a go and yeah.
Alexandra: Have you lived in London yourself?
Kasia: No, I visited.
Alexandra: Okay, yeah.
Kasia: Yes. I did want to once, I didn’t actually end up getting there, but there were plans.
Alexandra: Right, yes, yep.
Kasia: As most Australians seems to flock towards London.
Alexandra: Oh do they? Oh, I didn’t know that about Australia.
Kasia: Yeah, a lot of… A gap year, they love to head down down up there.
Alexandra: Okay, got it, yeah.
What are your favorite parts about writing crime thrillers?
Kasia: Escape from reality. I mean we live such ordinary lives and luckily we live such ordinary lives. It’s nice to escape, so I’ve always being drawn to the crime side of things and I’ve enjoyed reading, like, criminology stuff, forensics. I’ve always wanted to write crime thrillers. So yeah.
Alexandra: Oh, good for you.
When you’re writing, what are your favorite types of scenes? Do you have a favorite type of scene to write?
Kasia: Not really, I find dialogue the easiest to write. I don’t know If I’m any good at it, that’s for the readers to decide, but I like…I find it easy to write dialogue. I find it hard to write detailed scenes. So I’ve got an editor who’s helping me overcome that. I think my brain works too fast, so maybe get it all down on paper and so I rush through them, so I need to learn to slow down.
Alexandra: Got it, yeah. Oh nice to have some help with that, some impartial feedback.
Kasia: Yes, definitely. We can’t do it all on our own.
Alexandra: No, absolutely not. And it’s funny because dialogue is my least favorite part of writing books and I love to do the descriptive parts.
It’s funny, everybody has their preferences, right?
Kasia: That’s right. Yes, we’re all very different, but hoping for the same end result.
Alexandra: Exactly, right, yes, a good read, yeah.
What are your writing habits? Do you write every day?
Kasia: I try to write every day. I work four days a week and I have a two-hour commute. So my main writing time is during the commute. I love being on the train, that’s when I get my hour in the morning and hour in the afternoon writing. So the first three…yeah, the first three books were mostly written on the train.
Alexandra: It’s a commuter train, so you’ve got a table and you can take a laptop?
Kasia: No, no, just a seat and my laptop on my lap. And I’m usually scrunched up trying to write.
Alexandra: Yeah, I was gonna say.
How do you block out distractions?
Kasia: I don’t feel distracted at all. I get into that mind frame where this is my writing time, if I don’t do it now, I can’t do it at home. I’ve got a toddler, he’s two and very energetic, so. I’m very strict with how I use my time, otherwise it wouldn’t get done.
Alexandra: No, exactly. Oh, good for you, yes.
Yeah because with a toddler at home, there’s no way.
Kasia: I try to do some work during the weekend, so I’ve got Friday, Saturday, Sundays. So if I can find a babysitter or if he’s really good and is happy to play by himself for an hour or two, then I’ll sit in his room and put the laptop on his book case and write standing up or edit standing up while he’s playing beside me.
Alexandra: Oh fantastic.
The writer in you must kind of look forward to the commute because that’s your time?
Kasia: I do. For a time, I didn’t like it at all, but now I’ve realized that that’s really special writing time, so I value it.
Alexandra: Yes, absolutely. Two hours a day, that’s a good chunk.
Kasia: I’d like to say that everyday is two hours of solid writing time, but obviously there are days where it’s…sometimes I do more editing, sometimes I work on some articles for a blog or something like that, but I try to… Yeah, quality writing time. I have good intentions.
Alexandra: That’s awesome.
And so the fourth book is coming out, is that also set in Australia?
Kasia: Yes, it is.
Alexandra: Is Lexi based there now, where you are?
Kasia: Yes, that’s right.
Book one leads her to her home, so hometown is the Gold Coast, and then it explains bits and pieces as to why she’s going to London, why she’s come back.
Alexandra: What would you say Lexi’s character flaws are?
Kasia: She’s stubborn. So that would be her major one. And she doesn’t…she probably should listen to people who mean well and want the best for her, but she like to do her own thing, so. And that can get her into trouble. Like I said, she follows trouble, so that would be her biggest flaw.
Alexandra: Right, yeah.
And then what would you say her character strengths are?
Kasia: Strengths, she’s fearless. So I think, I mean obviously she has that internal fear that, you know…and we all do, but she works to overcome it and take risks not always calculated, not always in her favor. I think that’s a strength. I suppose that could be a strength and a weakness, but depends on which way you look at it.
Alexandra: That’s right.
And of the four books, do you personally have a favorite, one that was, say, more interesting for you to write or?
Kasia: I’m actually really enjoying this one, the fourth one.
Alexandra: The current one?
Kasia: Yeah. The first one was great, it was nice and short. It took me maybe three weeks to four weeks to write and then another… So it was nice, quick. I had that instant gratification almost I suppose, but I’m really enjoying this one.
I’m enjoying the story and I’m trying to wrap up some questions that arose in the previous books and tie some loose ends. So she’s really, I think grown in this book and evolving into something that I didn’t expect her to evolve to. I hope to be able to show that in the story. I won’t get into it though.
Alexandra: No, yeah. Leave it as a surprise.
That’s really great when a character can take you somewhere that you weren’t expecting at all.
Kasia: That’s one of the things I love about writing, you start with a kernel of an idea and you get to something completely different. And, you know, sometimes it surprises you in good ways, sometimes it surprises you in not so good ways, but yeah, we work with what we have.
Alexandra: That’s right.
Do you tend to outline quite closely or do you sorta wing it?
Kasia: I do a bit of both. The first, when I wrote first book…I actually wrote the second book first. Yeah, so that one took me the longest, and that was sort of without an outline, it was trial and error.
And then with the “Lethal Instincts”, I outlined it during…I was having coffee at a cafe and an idea popped in my mind and just started outlining scenes. And yeah, I had an outline for a novel within sort of a couple of hours. And I started writing and that was great.
I still change things a little bit, so I’m not strict to the outline, but yeah, I like to do bit of both. I think it depends on the story as well, so each book is individual. Sometimes outlines work, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes I do an outline in the middle of the book. There’s no real strict, “This is how it’s gonna get done.”
Alexandra: How long does it take you roughly to write a full-length novel?
Kasia: It depends. I mean “Lethal Disposal” took about two years. And, like I said, the novella took about a month. So it just depends on how fast I’m writing.
“Lethal Attraction” I wrote the draft in about two months, but it’s taking me a lot longer to rewrite it because I want to make it better than the other ones. I hope to continuously improve with each book. And I don’t want to write the same book over and over again, so yes. But I think two to three months is a fair time frame to write and then another month or two to edit.
Alexandra: Yes, yeah, lots of revision.
I always say that after the first draft, it’s not a book really, it’s just a draft.
Kasia: That’s right, a skeleton.
Alexandra: Or a ball of clay. And then from there you can turn it into a book.
Kasia: That’s right, exactly.
Alexandra: Would you ever start another series or write a different type of book?
Kasia: I do. I actually have an idea for two series. I’ve got another one that’s more of an international spy type thing. I love spy books, I love espionage, that sort of thing. I’ve got an idea for a character. And I’m working on it, it’s percolating in the back of my mind.
And I’ve got another idea for maybe a fantasy crime book as well, maybe edging on the paranormal, but we’ll see how that goes. There’s things popping up all the time, so I’ve got to make notes. I got too many ideas and not enough time. And there’s couple of nonfiction type things I want to work on as well, so.
Alexandra: Oh wow, yeah. I so often hear writers say they have more ideas then time. And it’s interesting because so often the perception of writers is that creativity is kind of limited. That somehow we could run out of ideas. And in my personal experience, I’ve actually found the opposite.
The more I write and the more I create, the more ideas there are.
Kasia: Completely agree with you.
Alexandra: Yeah, okay, good. I’m not alone.
Kasia: Yeah, definitely. Creativity boosts creativity. If you force the muse to show up, they don’t have a choice.
Alexandra: That’s right. Yes, yes, exactly. That’s a great way to put it, yeah. And one thing I noticed, what I’m doing right now is alternating between series.
Kasia: Okay, yeah.
Alexandra: One is a contemporary mystery, one is historical. I’ll be writing one type and I can feel just sort of in the back of my head, my brain will be working on or thinking about stuff for the other series. And then when I switch, the opposite happens. I’m really focused on this book, and over here my brain is working away on that stuff. I totally get it when you talk about having to jot down notes for the other stories.
Kasia: Do you ever have to force yourself to not move to the other series that you’re not meant to be working on?
Alexandra: Yes. Yeah, absolutely. It would be really easy. Shiny Object Syndrome. I think, “Oh, this’ll be great,” I could just wander away.
I really make myself stick and finish, and then I’m allowed to move on.
Kasia: I’ve been actually struggling with that the last few months. I’ve got to keep to the schedule otherwise it will just get all mixed up and nothing will get finished. It’s so easy to start things and not finish them.
Alexandra: Yes, exactly. Yeah, I was listening to a podcast the other day with Joanna Penn and she was talking about…oh no, it was her new book, “The Successful Author Mindset” and how she’s…
Kasia: Great book.
Alexandra: Yeah, fantastic.
Kasia: Just finished it yesterday.
Alexandra: She was sitting down with an author friend who said he had 15 books. And she’s like, “Wow, 15 books?” And then he finally said, “Well none of them are finished.”
Kasia: It gets to that.
Alexandra: It does. It would be so easy to do that.
Kasia: I’ve gone through my Word files and I found maybe four or five unfinished books. But this is a good thing now since I’ve learned to finish things, that there are ideas for some further standalone books in the future, should I have a bit more time on my hands.
Alexandra: Exactly, right, when your son’s a little older.
Kasia: Yes, maybe, that’s right.
Alexandra: Yes, yeah, exactly. Well this has been awesome, Kasia. Thank you so much for talking to me today. So why don’t you let everyone know where they can find you and more about your books?
Kasia: Okay, well I have a website and a blog. I write about stuff for authors, freelancers and bloggers at www.kasiaradzka.com, so that’s K-A-S-I-A-R-A-D-Z-K-A. I’m also on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. So Facebook and Twitter is @kasiajradzka, that’s Facebook and Twitter, and Pinterest and Instagram I actually have no idea. I’m on there, but I’m not that active on it, so. Still learning, there’s still so much to learn.
Alexandra: Oh it’s such a learning curve.
Kasia: Yeah, but Facebook and Twitter are the main ones and yeah, I’m available on email as well at email@example.com. Yeah, so thank you so much.
Alexandra: Oh, you’re so welcome. Your books are at…on all the…
Kasia: Oh that’s right, my books. I’m sorry. My books are available on Amazon at the moment. In the next month or so, I’m looking at putting them on Kobo and iBook’s as well, but at the moment it’s just on amazon.com, amazon.com AU, U.K., all the Amazon sites that they’re available. And if you sign up for my email list, you can get book two, “Lethal Disposal” free on Kindle or EPUB.
Alexandra: Wow, okay, okay. So that’s good to know. So I’ll put a note in the show notes about that.
Kasia: There’s also if you buy the first book, at the back of it there’s a link in that, so.
Alexandra: As well, okay.
Alexandra: Cool. Well thank you again so much and I hope things warm up for you little bit there.
Kasia: Yes, let’s hope so. Thank you so much, Alexandra, it’s lovely chatting to you.
Alexandra: You too, take care.
Kasia: Have a great day.
Alexandra: You too, bye-bye.