A bit about N.M. Kelby:
Nicole M. Kelby is the author of Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill (Shaye Areheart/ Random House), Whale Season (Shaye Areheart/ Random House), In the Company of Angels (Theia/Hyperion), and Theater of the Stars (Theia/Hyperion). Named “Outstanding Southern Artist” by The Southern Arts Federation, her work has been translated into several languages and offered by The Literary Guild, Doubleday Book Club, and Quality Paperback Book Club.Her short stories have appeared in many publications including One Story, Zoetrope ASE, and the audio magazine Verb. Her story “Jubilation, Florida” was selected for National Public Radio’s Selected Shorts, and later recorded by actress Joanne Woodward for the NPR CD Travel Tales, and included in New Stories from the South: Best of 2006 (Algonquin Books). Kelby is working on the film version of Whale Season along with Actor/Singer Dwight Yoakam. She is the recipient of a Bush Artist Fellowship in Literature, an NEA Inter-Arts grant, the Heekin Group Foundation’s James Fellowship for the Novel, both a Florida and Minnesota State Arts Board Fellowship in fiction, two Jerome Travel Study Grants, and a Jewish Arts Endowment Fellowship.
Carrie: What inspired you to write this book?
N.M.: I think that life can be a morbid adventure and we all need to be reminded to laugh and take a moment to look at the beauty that is around us. I like to say that I write wildly poetic prose for people who are still willing to believe in joy.
Carrie: Tell us about Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill without giving too much away.
N.M.: Laguna Key is a typical South Florida beachfront retirement community, mired in a swamp. It has everything you need including vultures, bats, the rumor of a resident Skunk Ape, and an authentic tiki bar with a Barry Manilow tribute artist. But, unfortunately, no golf. When a body is found in the dumpster near the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill, the town’s secrets start to unravel. Who’s the killer? Is it Whit, Laguna Key’s loopy millionaire developer? The righteous, yet befuddled, president of the town’s Chamber of Commerce? Or the saxophone-playing stranger who lurks in the mangrove swamp? Helping to solve the mystery are a quartet of unlikely investigators: the community’s only cop, a beach boy (on many levels of the term) who flunked out of the F.B.I.; MacBeth’s last living relative, a charismatic kilt-wearing clown who runs the Rose and Puppet Circus; the Developer’s beautiful daughter, left blind after a scuba accident; and the glamorous owner of the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill, “The Queen of Scream,” who once starred in a string of horror films. As they hunt for the killer, they have their own misadventures, including run-ins with the law, thwarted kidnappings, and stirrings of love.
Carrie: What is the primary message you’d like your readers to take away from this book?
N.M.: Having a big ole’ sloppy heart may get you into trouble but certainly makes life interesting, not to mention fun.
Carrie: Tell us about your writing process.
N.M.: I was a journalist, so writing is a lifelong habit. I don’t have any special exercises to get me started in the morning. I’m just so honored to do this for a living, that I can’t wait to get working.
Carrie: Who are your favorite authors and who influenced your writing?
N.M.: Lots of poets, including my former professor at Boston University, Caribbean poet Derek Walcott. Of course, I’m a huge fan of my mentor Carl Hiaasen; he’s a great guy and great writer. I also love the eccentrics in John Irving work and Louise Erdrich’s sense of the mystical.
Carrie: What are you reading right now?
N.M.: I’ve been reading a spate of mysteries because I’m on tour and usually at one airport or another. I read so quickly, I’m endlessly buying books. I’ve grown fond of Harlan Coben and William Kent Krueger.
Carrie: Can you offer a glimpse into your “real life” and share with us a bit of your personal life—Outside of writing, what’s important to you?
N.M.: I do love my dogs, as you can see from my website, and love to throw dinner parties. I’m a bit of a wicked cook.
Carrie: Tell us something surprising about you and/or something very few people know about you.
N.M.: My parents were immigrants. My father was Polish and my mother French. Despite that wild mix of language, I grew up to be a reporter/weekend anchor at the then-CNN station in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Carrie: Would you be willing to share your biggest challenge and how it changed your life?
N.M.: My daughter died when she was six days old. She suffocated in a crib that was too soft. The Medical Examiner told me that I had two choices. I could do the brave thing and go out and warn other mothers about the danger. Or, I could go home and try to heal. I decided to warn other mothers. We fought the manufacturer and eventually the crib was taken off the market. Everything else I do in this life is easy compared to that moment I found Hannah, and then having to relive that moment over and over again in an effort to warn mothers everywhere.
Carrie: What’s next for you ~ Anything else you’d like to offer?
N.M.: I’m currently working on a craft book for WRITER’S DIGEST, The Constant Art of Being a Writer, an untitled collection of short stories for Borealis Press, and another Florida mystery.
- Nicole has been gracious enough to offer a couple copies of Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill for our giveaway contest. Read an excerpt below and if you’re interested in receiving a copy of the book, leave a comment below or call 206-309-7318 and leave a voice mail message.
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Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill – Chapter One
It was the hissing that caught his attention. Like a tire going flat, like a snake giving warning — but loud. Almost deafening. The security guard was making one last pass before dawn when he heard it. Then saw it.
At first, Wilson thought it was just bats. Laguna Key is home to hundreds of them, maybe even thousands. It’s not one of the features mentioned in any of the retirement community’s brochures, but every night clouds of bats come screaming out of the mangrove forest, fly low along the beach, bank over the tennis courts, cast shadows on the moon, and slip into dreams.
But this was different. Louder. Angry. It made him uneasy. He followed the noise, the hum of it, back behind the bar, back to the Dumpster — then stopped. The air reeked of salt and death.
And there were wings.
Wildly flapping wings. They covered the Dumpster. Made it seem alive, as if it were some sort of a new creature. Iridescent in the blue-white glow of vapor lights. Menacing.
Their hissing seemed to vibrate through his body.
At this point, Wilson thought he screamed. He wanted to. He might have. He believed he did, but the vultures did not move. Hungry, they were trying to push their way inside the Dumpster, hissing at each other, unaware that Wilson was standing there. Or uncaring.
Wilson had a horrible urge to laugh. Sweat slipped along his spine.
A single bald red head turned toward him. The wrinkled neck, the sharp curve of its beak, the cool eye. The frenzy stopped.
Not good, Wilson thought.
The vultures all turned, their crinkled bloodstained heads bobbing in unison.
Wilson’s heart beat hard. A single bird broke away, flew slowly around him. Sniffed. The bird was so close Wilson could smell blood on its breath. It swooped in even closer. Hissed. When the tips of its wings lightly brushed his forehead, Wilson flinched and the other birds began, again, their hissing. Spat at him. Bits of undigested flesh covered his shirt, turned the cool morning air acid.
Really not good.
And so Wilson did the only thing that a man in his position could do. He sang “Surfer Girl.”
“Do you love me… ”
Apparently, the vultures did not. They fled.
Wilson took a deep breath. He was unsure. Uneasy. A little cold. The smell of blood, the rot, was overwhelming.
Carrion, he thought. The polite, less graphic name for roadkill. Then he leaned into the Dumpster.
He was, unfortunately, very wrong.
**Excerpted from Murder at the Bad Girl’s Bar and Grill. Copyright © 2008 by N. M Kelby. Excerpted by permission of Crown, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.