Today’s special guest is debut author Kathleen Marple Kalb to chat with me about her historical mystery, A Fatal Finale.
Kathleen Marple Kalb grew up in front of a microphone, and a keyboard. She’s now a weekend morning anchor at 1010 WINS New York, capping a career begun as a teenage DJ in Brookville, Pennsylvania. She worked her way up through newsrooms in Pittsburgh, Vermont and Connecticut, developing her skills and a deep and abiding distaste for snowstorms. While she wrote her first (thankfully unpublished) historical novel at age sixteen, fiction was firmly in the past until her son started kindergarten and she tried again. She, her husband the Professor, and their son the Imp, live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.
Please tell us about your current release.
A Fatal Finale (Kensington, 4/28/2020) is the debut of Ella Shane, a Gilded Age opera star who sings male roles onstage and is a perfect lady offstage. She’s playing Romeo when her Juliet drinks real poison and drops dead…and soon Ella, her “confirmed bachelor” cousin Tommy Hurley, and a disturbingly attractive Duke are looking for a killer.
What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved all the romantic old movies with swashbucklers – but never understood why the guy got to have all the fun while the girl stood on the sidelines. But when women play “trouser roles” in opera, they DO get to do their own swordplay…which gave me the idea for Ella, the Diva Who Duels.
In this excerpt from A Fatal Finale, the Duke comes to Ella’s rehearsal studio to ask about his cousin, the late Juliet, and Ella schools him about his assumptions:
“I have already seen the report from New Haven. I want to know what she was doing with you theater people.”
Tommy’s eyes narrowed at the last two words, pronounced in a tone redolent with disdain, and the unmistakable suggestion of all manner of impropriety.
I offered a cool response as my sympathy for the Duke of Something died an early death. “‘Theater people’?” I repeated.
“She was a gently-brought-up young lady who did not belong in that world.”
Well, aren’t you the precious one. I took a breath, and tried to tamp down my Irish temper. I explain—if not excuse—my next action as an effort to do something other than slap the judgmental scowl off his face. I grabbed Tommy’s foil. “How’s your fencing?”
“My practice time is limited, and we theater people have to stay sharp to earn our keep. I’ll talk to you while we spar.”
Gilbert Saint Aubyn’s stern face softened a bit. “All right.”
I tossed him the foil, and he dropped it.
“Good thing we’re fencing and not playing baseball,” I observed, carefully not snickering, in case it was a feint.
Saint Aubyn, who would have been the late, lamented himself if this had been an actual duel, gave me a wry, and rather appealing, shrug. “I have not been on the field of honor in a while.”
“Well, let’s see what you’ve still got. En garde.”
What exciting story are you working on next?
Ella’s next adventure, A Fatal First Night, is due April 27th, featuring a dressing-room death, a high-profile murder trial, and plenty of swordplay, wry humor and slow-burn romance.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t think of myself as a writer. It’s always been a part of my identity, whether as a budding novelist as a kid, or a news writer in my work…or now, writing mysteries.
Do you write full-time? If so, what’s your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I like to call myself an Anchor/Author/Mom…not in that order. I work weekends at 1010 WINS Radio in New York, spend the weekdays as a stay-at-home mom to the Imp, and write whenever I have five minutes and a flat surface for the laptop! I often think through scenes and plotlines while I’m exercising or doing house stuff, so I can make the most of the time I have.
What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I “hear” what I write rather than seeing it in print. I’ve been a broadcaster most of my adult life, and I’m not a hundred-percent sure where to put my commas, but I know exactly how a character would deliver a line. So I revere the copy editor and follow her word to the letter…or the comma!
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Queen of England. But that job was taken, so I had to revise my plan a little…
Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
You don’t have to be an opera fan to enjoy the Ella Shane series. It’s very accessible, just as opera was in the late 19th century. A good way to think of Ella, and her place in the culture of her time: she’s actually a lot like the late James Gandolfini, in the sense that she’s a brilliant artist known for an iconic role and for being a good and giving person in real life.
Thanks for being here today!