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The Sirens of Suspense




.Kelli Stanley is an award-winning author of the Miranda Corbie series and Roman noir. She makes her home in Dashiell Hammett’s San Francisco, a city she loves to write about.

Kelli earned a Master’s Degree in Classics, loves jazz, old movies, battered fedoras, Art Deco and speakeasies. She is walked daily by a Springer Spaniel named Bertie. She credits Raymond Chandler, Ernest Hemingway, Cornell Woolrich, Dashiell Hammett and Thomas Hardy as some of her major influences.

Find Kelli on Facebook and Twitter

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Welcome to the first edition of “Pro-Files”, a series of chats with authors on writing and life. We’ll ferret out their secrets, no matter how arcane or shopworn. (My mantra: Use whatever works.) We’ll share them along with other insights in the hope that some will make your writing journey smoother.

Our first guest is Kelli Stanley, whose second book CITY OF DRAGONS was released last month by Minotaur Books, St. Martin’s Publishing Group. I caught up with Kelli after her book signing at the Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, AZ.

Her literary noir thriller is set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in 1940, where many Japanese were forced to live alongside the Chinese, further fanning age-old racial tensions that skyrocketed after the Rape of Nanking in 1938.

Tough times in a tough city call for a tough protagonist. Enter Miranda Corbie. Talk about a hard-boiled detective; they don’t come tougher than Miranda, ex-Spanish Civil War nurse, ex-escort and current PI. Caught up in the Chinese New Year Celebration, Miranda practically trips over a young Japanese man who was gunned down in front of her. No one cares but Miranda and in true noir form, she won’t quit until justice is served. (Love the way she pushes around the SF cops.)

Kelli weaves the sights, sounds and history of 1940 so convincingly that by the end of the book, you’ll know it as well as your old neighborhood. Her secret? She collected memorabilia from antiquarian bookstores, garage sales and eBay. A 1940 telephone directory and street guide guaranteed that every number and street name were accurate. Old menus, calendars, photographs, etc. ensured that the details were right. (Did you know you could get a steak dinner in 1940 for 80 cents?)

Noir has fascinated Kelli all her life. In third grade, when other children wrote of princesses and castles and unicorns, she wrote a play about a gangster and his lover, both of whom died at the end. So began her writing career. (Children’s Noir?)

Her first novel, NOX DORMIENDA, was also noir; Roman Noir. It won the Bruce Alexander Award for best Historical Mystery of 2008 and was nominated for a Macavity Award. I should have guessed Kelli was what I call a noir-er (Spooky and Snob prefer noir buff) when she showed up wearing a black fedora. Later, she passed out Chinese coins, candy cigarettes, toy fire crackers and Miranda’s business cards. (This lady knows her marketing!) The fedora is more than a marketing tool. Kelli said it helps get her in the mood when she’s working. It also serves notice to her family that she’s in a serious writing mode. (Note to self: Buy a black beret.)

To Kelli, the hardest part of writing is figuring out how to manage her life and invest her time. She juggles writing and family obligations along with a part-time position at San Francisco State University, and dreams of the day she can write full-time. Writing is the dance of the conscious and the unconscious, she believes. Both equally important in writing a novel.

Next month, Kelli will appear at LCC in Los Angeles, serving on its Pulp Fiction Panel. The Sirens will be there, tracking her down to interrogate her for more writing tips and insights. Should be easy. Follow the fedora!



QUESTION FOR KELLI? COMMENT ON THE INTERVIEW? Ask her here, or tell us your thoughts further down on this page, or commenting on this blog entry on our Facebook page.

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