Reading a Kyra Davis book is like drinking a lemon drop martini — you have in your hands a fun twist on a classic. In Davis’ case, her current release Lust, Loathing and a Little Lipgloss, is a murder mystery packaged with a chick-lit sensibility and laugh-out-loud humor. Pretty soon, you’ve downed the whole shaker, feeling buzzed and wanting more.
Davis has had more than her share of hard knocks in the industry, as her interview reveals. But her cheeky writing voice and mind-bending plot twists have garnered her a wide readership, great reviews for her Sophie Katz mysteries, and most importantly, a wide footprint in two expanding market segments: women’s fiction and mysteries. Her current release is the fourth in the series.
Davis, a native Cali girl, draws from her non-traditional upbringing to inform her novels. Her mother, single at the time of her birth, and raised her with the help of Kyra’s maternal grandparents in Santa Cruz, California. Her mother’s side of the family is Jewish of Eastern European descent. Her father was African American and lived in Los Angeles. Her novels have an air of sophistication, tolerance and a feel for the absurd, which for me, as someone who is also from a household of mixed heritage, comes with the territory.
Quickly-paced, riddled with hilarious dialogue, and a protagonist who is both gutzy and vulnerable, Davis has crafted a page-turner. She’s also wisely left questions unanswered and teased us with conflict, which bodes well for the next release in her series.
We’re pleased to present part one of our two-part series with Kyra Davis.
Q. Tell us about your journey to publication.
KD: It wasn’t a typical journey. I was in the middle of a divorce, I was learning to be a single parent to an active two year old boy with special needs and I was struggling financially. I needed an emotional escape and so I made up a little alternative universe in my head and just to make it more tangible I wrote it all down on paper: A story of a woman who has to fight for her survival and triumphs (with the help of her friends) all while making me laugh. I didn’t know I wanted to publish it until I was about fifty pages into it. When I was done I got an agent and within months I received offers from two different publishing houses. I am still with one of them (Mira).
Q. What is your writing process? Do you plot extensively first or do you tend to fly in the mist? Has your process changed over time?
KD: I guess you could say I write the way I live. I always have a plan as to where I want to go in life (and in my novels) and a basic idea of how I want to get there. But then sometimes you hit a wall or you find out that someone (or some character) isn’t exactly who you thought they were and you have to adjust your thinking and ultimately your plan. Occasionally you even have to change your destination entirely. That’s not the same thing as flying in the mist, it’s just that I know when to be flexible.
Q. Your writing voice is very clean, with few dialogue tags and passages of introspection. Was this a conscious choice on your part, or was it part of your evolution as a writer?
KD: Dialogue is something that comes fairly easy to me. I used to act and I trained at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. In a script EVERYTHING is dialogue and there obviously are no tags. Also in a good script each character’s voice is so distinctive that even if you had one person playing twelve characters you would still be able to tell one from the other. I can’t even begin to guess at how many scripts I have studied and I think I’ve somewhat unconsciously utilized that training as a novelist.
Q. Jokes and sly asides pepper your narrative. Does humorous writing come naturally to you?
KD: Years ago I went to see a holocaust survivor speak for a Yom Hashoah service (Holocaust Remembrance Day). He was so funny, telling jokes and engaging the audience. Someone finally got up and asked him how he managed to keep his sense of humor after all he had been through. He grew very serious for a moment and said, Can you imagine the alternative?
I haven’t been through anything like what that man has been through but we share the same philosophy. Humor is how I cope and a huge part of how I live. I put Sophie (my protagonist) through one harrowing situation after another. Not incorporating humor into that would be a challenge for me.
Q. Your books are a mix of romance, mystery and chick-lit sassy humor. How do you balance both? What should writers be mindful when writing books that appeal to multiple markets?
KD: I don’t have a really good answer for this one. My instinct is to tell writers to write whatever moves them. If they have a story that mixes up genres then they should write it. But the problem is that publishers like to buy books that fit into a previously determined genre. I didn’t know this when I wrote Sex, Murder And A Double Latte and I certainly didn’t know that at that point in time publishing houses were looking for Chick Lit murder mysteries. Janet Evanovich, Linda Howard and Susan Isaacs paved the way for this.
In other words I got lucky. If another writer chooses to mix genres they may get lucky too…or not. You have to decide if you’re passionate enough about the project to make the gamble worth it.
Q. Now that you’ve just released book four in the Sophie Katz series and are working on book five, what should writers be mindful of if they hope to create a successful series?
KD: The most important piece of advice I can give is not to give everything away at once. You will have to give your character some back-story but don’t fill in all the blanks in the first book. For instance I mentioned Sophie had an ex-husband in the first book but she doesn’t say much about him and he’s not introduced until the fourth book. We know Sophie went to college in book one but we don’t know anything about her experiences there until book three. So keep some mystery around your characters. Readers have an entire series to learn all their secrets.
Lust, Loathing and Little Lipgloss is available now at all retailers.
Come back next week for part two of our interview with Kyra Davis, where she talks about her bi-racial heritage, ghosts, and her take on the industry. Don’t miss it!