Meet Author and Pitch Wars mentor Kellye Garrett. Her first novel, Hollywood Homicide, will be released by Midnight Ink in August 2017. You can pre-order it by clicking here. Kellye Garrett spent 8 years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for the CBS drama Cold Case. People were always surprised to learn what she did for a living—probably because she seemed way too happy to be brainstorming ways to murder people. A former magazine editor, Kellye holds a B.S. in magazine writing from Florida A&M and an MFA in screenwriting from USC’s famed film school. Having moved back to her native New Jersey, she spends her mornings commuting to Manhattan for her job at a leading media company—while still happily brainstorming ways to commit murder.
Your book is inspired by your experiences working in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles. What made you decide to turn those experiences into a detective novel?
The initial idea for Hollywood Homicide was actually just a woman who decides to solve a crime for the reward money. But they say “write what you know.” And at that point, I’d been living and working in Hollywood for 8 years. I was semi-successful and mega-broke, so, of course, I created a character who was also semi-successful and mega-broke. I made her an actress so no one would accuse me of basically writing myself. 😊
You used some real-life places for the book. How did you choose the ones you used for the book?
I’m actually not a big location and description person when I write. (Don’t tell anyone but I also tend to skim those parts of books I read too.) I’m all about plot and dialogue. So the locations all came from what I needed for the plot. For instance, my main character Dayna needs to talk to an auto mechanic, so it made sense for her go to a well-known place called Platinum Motorsports on Melrose Avenue. In another case, Dayna needs to hunt down her crush because he might have info on the hit-and-run they witnessed. I decided to do it a movie premiere and the ArcLight is one of the go-to locations for premieres in L.A.
Do you think you could ever make a good detective?
Not at all. I’m probably way too much of a scaredy cat to be a good detective. I watch too many crime shows and read too many mystery books. The investigator always almost gets killed! No thank you, ma’am! 😊 The idea for the book actually came from me driving down the street and seeing a billboard offering $15,000 for information about a murder. And my first thought was, “I should solve that for the reward money.” Needless to say, I immediately realized that was a bad idea for real life, but a good idea for a book.
How long was your book on submission and how did you cope with the waiting?
Let’s just say that I wasn’t one of those people who sold in two weeks. Sub is such an interesting thing, especially since you’re not supposed to publicly talk about who has your book, how long they’ve had it, their feedback, etc. I was lucky in that I had a great support system of fellow writers going through sub the same time I was. So they didn’t mind me incessant whining about the entire process. And trust me, I whined. At one point, I was literally at work hiding behind a door having a complete breakdown. (Good times!) I was ready to just throw my book in the garbage. But my agent (Michelle Richter of Fuse Literary) was still so committed getting it sold. I always say that she believed in my book even more than I did.
Was being on submission easier or harder to handle than querying?
Definitely harder. I got my agent through Pitch Wars for my first book so my querying was pretty painless. (And I’m not complaining about that. At all.) Being on sub is also interesting because you’re no longer in the driver’s seat for your career. With querying, it’s all you. You pick the agents. You write the query. You follow up. But with sub, your agent does all of that, which is why it’s so important that you have an agent you trust and one that truly believes in your work and your talent. So people aren’t just trying to make you feel better when they say things like, “You want an agent who believes in your work!” when you get rejected off a full.
While you worked in Hollywood you did some screenwriting. What are the biggest differences between screenwriting and novel writing?
With novel writing, you have to have way more description, which I’ve already admitted I suck at. You can also cheat more in screenwriting because people will literally see it on screen. On the flip side, you could write the most beautifully written screenplay ever and no one will ever read it. The screenplay isn’t the finished product. The movie or the TV show is.
I do think my screenwriting helped me write my book though. With screenwriting, you have a very set three-act structure. I used the eight sequence, three-act structure that included fancy words like Point of Attack and Midpoint that I learned in film school to plot out my book. So if you are a writer that sucks at plot, I’d definitely suggest reading a few screenwriting books.
You recently attended BookExpo 2017 and did a signing for HOLLYWOOD HOMICIDE. Do you get nervous before doing a book signing? Have any tips for authors nervous about doing them?
I’m more giddy than nervous. My publisher sent 100 ARCs and my first thought was, “You really think that many people would want to read this thing?” At BookExpo, my biggest fear was that no one would come because people like John Grisham and Michael Connelly were signing at the same time as I was. My second biggest fear was that I would spell someone’s name wrong. My advice is to just enjoy it. No one is going to stand in line to have you sign their book because they hate your mere existence or hate the very idea of your book. I had a professor in grad school who discussed the “eyes of love.” Remember people are excited to have their book signed (especially if it’s free!) as you are to sign it.
Your time as a Pitch Wars mentee helped you snag your agent Michelle Richter. Other than getting your agent, what was your biggest takeaway from the contest?
My biggest takeaway was definitely my book deal. Hollywood Homicide (albeit two title changes ago) was actually my Pitch Wars book in 2014. And I know everyone says this but we say it because it’s true. The community is the best thing about it. I’ve met fellow mentees and mentors in the contest who are now my best friends. I talk to some of them more than I talk to my own parents.
Do you still keep in touch with your mentor Sarah Henning?
Yes! She couldn’t get rid of me even if she tried. We co-mentored last year and I bug her at least once a week, if not more. In fact, Sarah, my 2015 mentee Kristen Lepionka, and I even have a group chat. I’ve had three mentees in the past two years and I still speak to all of them quite regularly. So yeah, if you are my mentee in 2017, please know that you’ll be stuck with me for life. #SorryNotSorry
You have gorgeous hair. Got any favorite hair products you’d recommend to others?
Best. Question. Ever. I’m obsessed with natural hair, tiny houses and reality shows starring black people in Atlanta. I can go on and on and on about all three. I’ve been natural for six years now so I’ve tried every product under the sun. Some of my current faves are the As I Am line and the TGIN Naturals line. I’d also suggest buying a table top hair steamer. You can get one for like $40 on Ebay.
Want to know more about Kellye? Visit her author site here.
Actress Dayna Anderson takes on the deadliest role of her life: Homicide Detective
Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semi-famous, mega-broke black actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. After witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she figures pursuing the fifteen-grand reward isn’t the craziest thing a Hollywood actress has done for some cash.
But what starts as simply trying to remember a speeding car soon blossoms into a full-on investigation. As Dayna digs deeper into the victim’s life, she wants more than just reward money. She’s determined to find the poor woman’s killer too. When she connects the accident to a notorious Hollywood crime spree, Dayna chases down leads at paparazzi hot spots, celeb homes and movie premieres. She loves every second—until someone tries to kill her.
And there are no second takes in real life.
Pre-order by clicking here.