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From Dentistry To Detectives
By Julie A. Pierce and Rowdy Rhodes
July, 2007, 16:20

Faye Kellerman was born in St. Louis, Missouri and grew up in Sherman Oaks, California. She earned a BA in mathematics and a doctorate in dentistry at UCLA, and she conducted research in oral biology. Kellerman's groundbreaking first novel, The Ritual Bath, was published to wide critical and commercial acclaim. The winner of the Macavity Award for the Best First Novel from the Mystery Readers of American, The Ritual Bath introduced readers to the characters Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus – described by People Magazine as, "Hands down, the most refreshing mystery couple around." The New York Times enthusiastically agreed, "This couple's domestic affairs have the Haimish warmth of reality, unlike the formulaic lives of so many other genre detectives." There are now well over ten million copies of Faye Kellerman's novels in print internationally.

In addition to her crime series, Kellerman is also the author of New York Time's bestseller Moon Music, a suspense horror novel set in Las Vegas featuring Detective Romulus Poe; an historical novel of intrigue set in Elizabethan England, The Quality Of Mercy; as well as an historical novel Straight Into Darkness, featuring inspector Axel Berg and set in Munich Germany between the two World Wars.

Active in community affairs, Kellerman has served on the board of the Southern California Chapter of the Mystery Writers of America and has been a judge for The Scriptor Awards. She is the proud mother of four children, and one beautiful granddaughter. She lives in Los Angeles and Santa Fe with her husband, Jonathan, their youngest daughter, and a fifteen year old Papillon, Dreamy.

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IN: How did you first start writing when you have degrees in mathematics and dentistry?

FK: I was always a child with a vivid, overactive imagination, but it took marrying the right person to bring out the writer. As a kid, I had a hard time learning how to read. I'm phonetically dyslexic and it's a condition that you don't outgrow. I had a hard time learning how to read phonetically – I sight read by memorizing words. So I went into math because it was easier for me than English.

All the while I loved to read and create. When I married Jonathan Kellerman, also a bestseller, he encouraged my forays into writing. Jonathan was the more natural writer and I regarded him as the expert. When I published in 1986, he had published all of one novel. But he was the one who really guided me in my writing.

IN: Your collection of novels, from The Ritual Bath published in 1989 through to your latest The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights, marks over 18 books you have published, many of them with serial characters Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus. Why did you decide to write a mystery crime series?

FK: I loved mysteries as a reader. I wasn't a Nancy Drew fan; I was more of the gothic novel enthusiast. A gothic novel to me is a girl and a house. I loved Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Rebecca; the list goes on and on.

But then I started reading the novels of the California Thrillers, specifically the master Ross MacDonald. His books just struck a resonant chord in me. So when I tried my hand at writing, I decided to go for the mysteries. It appealed to my mathematical sense because they have beginnings, middles, and ends.

I wound up with the characters of Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus because I also ascribed to the old adage "write what you know." I'm a modern Orthodox Jew, and I thought there'd be people out there who might be curious about Orthodox Judaism the same way I'm curious about other cultures. Thank goodness it's worked out well with the fans.

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IN: What approaches or methods do you use when writing mystery novels?

FK: I approach everything in my life methodically. When writing anything, I usually outline, with very few exceptions. It helps me refer to something when I get bogged down in the middle part of the mystery. Mysteries are like Su Doku Puzzles, each piece affects the next and you have to get a handle on where you're going and where you've came from to make sense of it all.

So outlining seems to be the way I cope. Some of my outlines are shorter – twenty pages. Others are almost mini-books going as long as one hundred pages.

IN: Who have been the most influential people during your writing career, other than your family?

FK: Jonathan is family, but clearly he's been the most important influence. As far as literary influences, there is Ross MacDonald, John D. MacDonald, Elmore Leonard, Sue Grafton, James M. Cain, and all those great Gothic novels. Thank you, Brontë sisters.

IN: What can you tell new writers about your creative processes that might help them establish their own successful careers?

FK: The most important thing about writing is to write. I cannot overemphasize this. The creative process comes from the physical process of writing. When you write, you get ideas. You can't just sit around waiting for the inspirations to come.

Whenever someone approaches me saying that he or she wants to be a writer, I smile and nod and think to myself that it's not going to work. However when someone says that he or she enjoys writing, then I know that there's a chance that this person may actually publish something. You have to love writing to be a writer.

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IN: Your husband Jonathan and son Jesse are both accomplished authors. Is there a competitive nature among the three of you, or do you use one another as sounding boards and your own in-house writing group?

FK: I certainly don't compete with my children. Nothing would make me happier than for Jesse to be a massive, massive bestseller. As far as Jonathan goes, we are peers but we don't compete. It all goes into the same bank account. Furthermore, Jonathan and I have co-written two books of short novels and there wasn't a cross word exchanged in the entire process. Now this could not have happened fifteen years ago, but now we're both older and wiser. We want to have a good time in life and a good time in our writing. If either of us catch a major error, we'll tell each other but short of that, my philosophy is let Jonathan's editor point it out to him.

IN: Socially speaking, do you hang out with other well known authors, and if so who and what are the latest topics of conversation regarding the writing/publishing industry?

FK: Writers are a solitary bunch. You can't write a novel by committee like screen writing. It is a solo effort. Therefore, most of our friends have much more to do with our community than with our professions. All that being said, I've met quite a few writers and for the most part, they are wonderful, bright and highly entertaining. I've also enjoyed the TV Project Murder By The Book. Jonathan and I are coming back in the '08 season.

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IN: What prompted you to break away from the series with Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus and to write the stand alone books The Quality Of Mercy and Straight Into Darkness?

FK: All writers like to stretch creatively. That was certainly my motivation when doing my stand alone books. Both Quality Of Mercy and Straight Into Darkness were unique books set in their own time. There is no possibility of bringing back any of the characters.

For the stand alone book, Moon Music, I still think about Romulus Poe. He's definitely going to come back one day. He was just too good to leave languishing in a single book.

IN: When dealing with agents and publicists what suggestions or warnings can you pass along to "about-to-be published" authors?

FK: If you are a first time author about to be published, my advice to you when dealing with the public is simple. Be nice. Be nice to the publicist, be nice to the fans, be nice to everyone who interviews you even if you do have to answer the same question thirty times. It's the first time that that interviewer has asked the question.

To those who aren't published yet, just write, write, write. Stop worrying about the silly stuff like promotion until you have a published book. If you write and enjoy what you're writing, you won't care about all the ancillary stuff attached to being an author. The joy will be in the writing.

IN: Considering the past twenty years you've been an author and now watching your son recently leap into the fray, what do you see as the greatest challenges facing new writers today?

FK: That's easy: The conglomerations of all these publishing houses. When I broke in there were about twenty houses who competitively bid against one another. Today, there are about seven. Even with that, if you're a darn good writer, someone will publish you. You may not make a killing, but you'll see your name in print.

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IN: You have your own website, What kinds of positive effects have been generated by having an Internet presence?

FK: I love having my own website where I can communicate with the fans quickly and directly. I can also post appearances, new releases and the like. It's a wonderful use of the Internet.

I also use the Internet quite a bit for quick references and information. There is a wealth of information out there that's accessible, but you have to have the patience to wade through tons of garbage to get what you're looking for.

IN: Do you have any other specific advice for our readers?
FK: Just what I've said before, Write, write, write. And write for yourself. Don't try to write a great commercial novel. Write something that you can be proud of.

IN: What's next for you?

FK: My newest Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus novel is coming out this August – 2007 – entitled The Burnt House. I've got a novel after that coming out in 2008 entitled The Mercedes Coffin.

Read Faye Kellerman's excerpt from The Burnt House.


 The Ritual Bath, 1986
 Sacred And Profane, 1987
 The Quality Of Mercy, 1989
 Milk And Honey, 1990
 Day Of Atonement, 1991
 False Prophet, 1992
 Grievous Sin, 1993
 Sanctuary, 1994
 Justice, 1995
 Prayers For The Dead, 1996
 Serpent's Tooth, 1997
 Moon Music, 1998
 Jupiter's Bones, 1999
 Stalker, 2000
 The Forgotten, 2001
 Stone Kiss, 2002
 Street Dreams, 2003
 Straight Into Darkness, 2005
 The Garden Of Eden And Other Criminal Delights, 2006

 Co-authored with Jonathan Kellerman:
 Double Homicide, 2004
 Capital Crimes, 2006
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Julie A. Pierce
Inkwell Newswatch

Rowdy Rhodes is the Site Manager of The Freelance Writing Organization International and General Manager of Inkwell Newswatch (IN). He is also known to freelance an article or two when the fancy strikes him. If you are looking for written content for your web site, ezine, or print publication, drop him a line at and he'll get back to you as soon as possible.

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