A Review and an Interview - Kelly Mason
I've had Kelly's Paranormal Cafe books on my TBR pile for a little while and after I'd ploughed my way through Les Miserables I decided I deserved a treat, so picked up the first in the series to read. Once I'd finished it and read the author notes, I was straight in touch with her to try and set up an interview!
The books are the ultimate feel good books for people who don't like anything too romantic. There are some romantic interludes, though these are usually interrupted or misinterpreted, which adds comic value to them as well. However, for the most part, these are about Becky's attempts to ignore her 'gift' and run a cafe. Obviously, she's unsuccessful in this quest and those pesky ghosts just keep turning up in her house! Each book stands alone, but I think they are definitely best read in order and expect to get to the end of Book 3 and be impatient for the release of Book 4!
If you are a fan of Agatha Christie and MC Beaton, you will love these books. The paranormal element is vital, but never too heavy and is always treated in a light-hearted way. Becky begins as a sceptic and there are many others who share her views, but as a reader, I honestly don't think it matters either way. The books are just plain good fun and I loved all of them!
Hi Kelly, and thank you for agreeing to the interview. You say in your author notes that you’re a huge fan of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple and M.C. Beaton’s Agatha Raisin books and their influence really comes across in the book. What is it about these characters specifically that you find so appealing?
Thank you for inviting me to the interview. Yes, I do love both Miss Marple and Agatha Raisin, whilst in personality they are rather different, they’re both fearless women striving to discover the truth. They can’t ignore injustice and feel compelled to wade in and save the day. I also love how the characters are timeless, they’re both of an age, but never age further in the books. Even though M C Beaton marks the passing of time with the changing seasons, Agatha is still in her fifties twenty years later. It gives a feeling of infinity.
I know you should never judge a book by its cover, but the covers for all your books are truly works of art and I love that they all feature coffee and cake so prominently. They really complement the style of the stories and they’re definitely eye catching, but that brings me to my next question. The subject matter you’ve chosen could easily have been much darker and scarier and as writers we don’t always write the kinds of books we like to read, so was the decision to go for cosy crime difficult or did you always know that was the direction you were going in?
Whilst we should not judge a book by its cover, I definitely do! And my readers are buying on-line so are judging the book by a thumbnail size cover. That’s why I like the bright colours and pictures that fit with the cozy mystery themes. I found a cover designer who specialises in the genre. I’ve read US cozy mysteries ever since my brother bought me a kindle when they first hit the market. I had planned a cozy mystery series for some time, although it was non-paranormal. When I started writing ‘The Medium of Branden Bay’, it had a working title of ‘Left in The Woods’ and was in fact a psychological thriller. But unfortunately, the first draft gave me nightmares and as it would have entailed months of rewrites/edits, I decided that I could not spend that much time with something dark. So, I cozied it up and put my other cozy mystery series on the backburner! So yes, cozy crime was something I had always planned to write because it is a genre I enjoy. It’s fun and also popular in the United States, indeed 70% of my readers are in the States.
I’d like to talk a little bit about the writing process, if that’s okay. I’ve only read the first book in the series so far, but the characters are all very striking and their backstories are quite well established early on. Lack of character development in the first book can sometimes be an issue when authors begin a series, so a) how did you avoid that and b) did you have the first three books planned before you started writing the first or did they grow organically as you were writing?
I didn’t do any pre-writing character development. I started the initial book during NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) which, as you probably know, is where writers from across the globe come together (on-line and sometimes in person) to write a novel in a month, or at least part of a novel, with the popular target of writing 50,000 words. And whilst the book started as a psychological thriller, the main characters remained the same. I wanted to join in with NaNoWriMo but didn’t have anything prepared, so I based most of the characters on family members. As time went on, the characters developed into new people who no longer resembled any of my relatives! As I wrote all three books before I released the first, I had a chance to go back and make adjustments to the characters’ mannerisms and backstories in book 1, before I released it. It was the same for the setting, I set the story inside my own spooky house (which I’ve recently moved from) and there was even a spiritualist hut which backed onto my garden, and I live in a seaside town, set in a bay. They say, ‘write what you know’ and that’s what I did.
When it came to publishing, you decided to publish the books yourself. Obviously, the more traditional route is to look for an agent etc so it was quite a bold step to take all that on yourself. Can you explain the thought process behind it and also talk a little bit about what you’ve had to do in order to get the books published, out into the world and publicised?
With regard to looking for a publisher versus self-publishing, I decided to go for both. I sent a romance I had written whilst studying for my degree with the open university, to various publishers. I decided to self-publish the cozy mystery series, as I learned that series books can be successful, when it comes to making a living as a writer. There is so much to learn about self-publishing. Some people have the idea that self-publishing is where you pay someone to publish your books. That is not what it is, that is vanity publishing and it can be hugely costly and you hear horror stories of people left with boxes of books in their garages. Self-publishing is where you become a publisher. You must do what a regular publisher does, for yourself. I spent a year researching the area and the more I learned, the more I realised I needed to learn. It’s a steep curve and I wished I’d taken notes from the get-go. But there is a wealth of information out there on the internet. As well as being a writer and publisher, you have to learn marketing. Amazon is a huge store and if you just upload a book, it will get lost in a sea with millions of other books. So, before you write, you ideally need to do a lot of research and find a niche area which you can market to. My niche is paranormal cosy mystery, but I threw in a couple of extra tropes, such as a cute cat and cake!
As far as the process was concerned, there is so much to list! In short, I set up an author platform (website, social media & mailing list), I tooled myself up (cover designer, editor, book formatting software and ISBN’s) then planned and followed my release strategy (set pre-orders, uploaded content, joined promotions, placed adverts, published). Phew!
The self-publishing scene has a great community, where you share experiences, knowledge, failures and successes. And I’ve relied heavily on my writing friends, both those traditionally published, self-published and the writers I’ve met through the Open University. And my family (I thank them all at the end of my books!) It’s been a bit full-on to say the least, but I’m so pleased I decided to go for it. I’ve still a lot to do, like improving my author platform, polishing my Amazon pages and gaining a better understanding of advertising, but I’m learning as I go. It’s a very rewarding experience, and great being completely in control and knowing exactly how many books I have sold, to what market and the royalties I am earning. It’s a lot of work, but for me, it’s been worth it.
Lastly, I’m obviously going to read the other two books that are already out (The Body In Branden Bay and The Haunting of Branden Bay) but can you tell us if there are going to be more Branden Bay Paranormal Café books anytime soon?
Yes, there will be at least three more in the series. I also have another cozy mystery series in development (my original idea) and a stand-alone ‘cozy action adventure’ which isn’t a listed genre! This will be my passion project. The one that probably isn’t marketable but is close to my heart and I’ll be adapting it into a screenplay – for fun! Who knows someone might love it!
Thank you so much for answering my questions and can you let people know how to find you if they want to follow you on social media or find out when you’re releasing the next books?
My website is: www.kellymasonbooks.com
My FB page is: www.facebook.com/KellyCozyMason
About the author
As a child Kelly Mason was obsessed with Scooby-Doo, she progressed to reading Edit Blyton, with her favourite series being, The Famous Five. As an adult, she loves Agatha Christie especially her Miss Marple books and M C Beaton's Agatha Raisin series. Kelly normally writes romance under a pen name but is now turning her hand to the genre she adores - Cosy Mystery. Her writing is inspired by the seaside town she lives in, situated on the South West coast of England, and her three sassy cats all of which were strays before she made the old age mistake of naming them and letting them in the back door!
Book links: Kelly's books can be purchased here.