But when police arrest Maren's colleague for the crime, she's certain they have the wrong man. The cops suspect a crime of passion—love gone wrong. Maren knows that in the capital, money and power drive all things tragic and scandalous. Sex and love are little more than window-dressing.
But will she be able to prove her theory—and free her friend—before she becomes the next victim?
One Murder More is a murder mystery centered on the political ins and outs of state legislation in Sacramento, California. The key player is a lobbyist named Maren Kane who stumbles upon a sinister plot in a “wrong place, wrong time” scenario, but whose current lobbying efforts also place her in peril.
The opening of this book presents an immediate obstacle and threat which Maren has to navigate. She must save two children from drowning in a car that has rolled off the road onto its back. My natural concern for any children placed in such a dire and seemingly hopeless situation drew me into the book and emotionally connected me to Maren as she swam to rescue them. This opening was clever for three reasons. One: heroic aspects of Maren’s character are illustrated when her immediate response is to dive in and pull them from the wreckage. Two: the reader is automatically inclined to cheer her on, creating an instantaneous connection between reader and protagonist. Three: the arrival of a handsome man with a gun who is able to shoot out the windows and assist in the rescue adds the possibility—and likelihood—of a promising romance, introducing a new character that is also heroic in nature in a hi-you’re-oh-so-yummy kind of way. It’s a masterful opening for a well plotted murder mystery.
Read the rest of my review on SDE Magazine!
What made you decide to brave the world of mystery writing?
I work in politics and policy, where the real-life characters and events can be pretty outrageous —a senator in California was recently indicted for trying to raise funds for his political campaign by trafficking with an international gun runner. So, mystery writing felt familiar to me, or at least on the same continuum.
What inspired One Murder More?
I’m an avid reader, two to three novels a week. A few years ago I picked up Kate Atkinson's Case Histories, a mystery with multiple strong plot lines that come together in the end. I thought about the complexity of the political landscape in California, and the stories I might tell based on my experiences there. Also, things happened in California’s capitol at the time that seemed tailor-made to generate motives for murder. One had to do with double-meaning in political language, and the other with passage of a bill to restrict cell phone use by drivers to hands-free. I know neither sounds deadly or sexy, but they provided root ideas, inspiration for One Murder More.
In your bio it states that you served as an elected official. Can you tell us a little about that experience and how it colors your writing?
As a candidate for the governing board of the school district in a small town, I was the target of intense attacks that were at times personal. I expected dirtiness and vitriol by some campaigns. What was more of a surprise was what I witnessed once elected, that even in the presence of ethical officials and staff, the darker sides of human nature find a foothold in politics and government. My writing reflects the dual nature of my experience in elected office: many positives, but enough intrigue and dysfunction that murder might be fostered by what is at stake.
What authors and books inspired you to be such a go-getter?
I think other elements cause me to stay in motion, to go after things: the imperatives of being a single parent, needing a paycheck and the importance of working to foster social and political change. Reading novels offers me a chance to slow down, to reflect and find some measure of calm. The suspense and risk I experience through a thriller or mystery is exciting, but safe. It can't “hurt me” me the way failure to meet my responsibilities in real life might.
My favorite books growing up featured strong female voices, characters faced with adversity: To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Gone with the Wind. Now I’m drawn to crime fiction and suspense with a psychological edge (Lescroart, Dugoni, Russell, McPherson), also fantasy and women's fiction. I recently enjoyed the Russian Lukyanenko trilogy (Night Watch, Day Watch, Twilight Watch,) populated by vampires and werewolves.
Let's talk about your writing process. Are you a planner or more of a discovery writer?
I started One Murder More with two ideas, no outline. Each morning I would reread what I’d written over the last week, and continue the story. Sometimes a thread led nowhere, and I had to drop several chapters. After I completed the first draft, I became methodical. I made charts that showed the frequency of appearance of each character, to be sure I didn't shortchange or overplay someone relative to their importance in the plot.
What specific message or experience do you hope your audience has after reading your book?
Life, no matter how good, is at some level work—an existential struggle. I wanted One Murder More to provide a break from that. My goal was intelligent entertainment. Although the setting is politics, I’m not preaching any point of view, other than that the ethics of one’s actions and goals matter.
What advice would you give an aspiring author?
Identify your stories, what you want to share, and be prepared to work hard to tell them. There is no prescribed path. I think Somerset Maugham first said there are three rules to writing a novel, but no one knows what they are. You may shut yourself in a room or join a writer's group. Don't wait for inspiration, or for the flow to feel right. Put something on paper, you can fix it later. If you don't write, there won't be anything to fix.
If you could have a cup of coffee and chat with any person, famous or otherwise, who would it be and why?
That’s a hard question. But the image that keeps coming to me as I consider options is of myself with my dearest friend, having coffee, laughing, talking about writing or politics or kids. So that’s my choice. I can read about the other people.
What new projects are you working on that we can look forward to?
The second book in the Maren Kane Mystery Series. Maren’s next adventure so far includes arson, kidnapping and lost treasure. Elements will fall out in rewrites, but I'm enjoying the early stages where the pieces don't have to fit.
Describe a day in the life of author Kris Calvin.
I'm a morning person, usually up at 4 am, which is when I write. Then I hike or walk before a full day (and sometimes night) in my job as CEO and policy director for a Sacramento-based nonprofit. That entails copious (nonfiction) writing, policy briefs, memos and emails, and meetings at the Capitol. Twice a week I teach political advocacy to medical residents. Some days I meet a writer friend for coffee or lunch, or I go to the gym and swim. In the evenings (if I'm not still working) I’ll catch a game: Golden State Warriors, SF Giants or 49ers. I read a novel before bed, and have one with me throughout the day for downtime, in line at the market or while filling my car with gas. Interspersed in all that are activities with and for my kids, as well exploring (on a slow path) whether I might find true love. If I'm lucky, I figure I have 10,000 days left on earth. Or it could be only one. I'm not planning on missing anything.
What are some details about yourself that might surprise us?
– I don't have a favorite color, but I have a favorite word: "yikes”. No idea where that came from, but I smile when someone says it.
– I sing pretty well. I've been told I have a nice voice, sort of jazzy. Played Ado Annie in Oklahoma in my high school musical.
– I've been to 13 major league baseball parks and hope to get to all of them.
Educated at Stanford and UC Berkeley in psychology and economics, Kris Calvin uses her training to create "characters that all stand up in an emotionally rich and gripping novel" according to Kirk Russell, critically-acclaimed author of eight thrillers.
One Murder More is the first in Kris Calvin's new Maren Kane mystery series. She is working on Maren Kane's next adventure, A Timely Murder, the second novel in the series.
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