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I am pleased to interview Diane Kelly, an amazing new voice in mystery/romance. In the fall of 2011, I received this package from someone I had never heard of, Diane Kelly. What a great surprise it was, in it was her debut novel, DEATH, TAXES, AND A FRENCH MANICURE. I couldn’t wait to get home and start reading. What I found while reading was an entertaining, comedic suspense novel, which I became instantly addicted to.
DiDi’s interview with Diane Kelly
Diane: I’m a CPA and tax attorney. I thought it would be oodles of fun to sit through the CPA and bar exams on my way to realizing that I really wanted to be a novelist instead. Sheesh! But sometimes it takes us a while to find ourselves, and life has a plan for us even if at first we don’t see it. One of my first jobs out of law school was working as an assistant attorney general for the State of Texas. Because I had an accounting background, I was assigned to represent the State Board of Accountancy in disciplinary actions against CPAs. What an eye opener that was! So much fraud and financial shenanigans going on. Ironically, the Attorney General I worked under was arrested for illegally diverting settlement funds from the tobacco company lawsuits. Go figure, huh? I then went to work for a large international accounting firm. One of the partners was later arrested for tax shelter fraud. Can I pick ‘em or what? These experiences led me to be intrigued with white-collar crime and the people who commit it. They also told me that self employment might be a good idea, lest I end up in an orange jumpsuit looking forward to my next conjugal visit.
DiDi: I am addicted to your Death and Taxes series. Can you give our readers an overview of the series?
Diane: The series stars a rookie special agent with IRS Criminal Investigations in Dallas. Tara Holloway is a recovering tomboy who grew up shooting BB guns in the piney woods of east Texas. Tara is sassy, feisty, and driven, but she’s by no means a model agent. She has her own style and often bends the rules or writes her own. In book #2 – Death, Taxes, and a Skinny No-Whip Latte – she goes rogue in a major way, but it’s all in the name of justice. Adding a good-looking love interest – or two – to the mix keeps things fun and engaging.
DiDi: I fell in love with Tara Holloway’s quirky, kick ass attitude. She is not your normal mystery heroine. What was your inspiration for making her an IRS Investigator?
Diane: As a CPA/attorney, I’m required to take continuing education each year and often the tax workshops are tedious. But when I attended one a few years ago, a criminal defense attorney gave a presentation on tax evasion. That was the first time I’d ever heard of IRS special agents, and I’d been in the tax field for fifteen years! He noted how difficult it was to defend a tax evader because the IRS special agents were incredibly smart, skilled, and determined. I was immediately intrigued. With the growing prevalence of white-collar crime, I figured an IRS special agent would make a new and innovative character. Tara’s got the street smarts and weapons skills of a cop, but financial savvy as well. It’s a unique skill set.
DiDi: In the Death and Taxes series, romance is really not the main focus. What do you classify the series as? Romantic Suspense or Mystery?
Diane: Good question! Most bookstores shelve my books in the mystery section, though some put it in romance, too. I tend to think of them as “cozy mysteries with edge and some fun romance thrown in.” Some of the language and sensuality in my books is not typical of the cozy genre, but my books are intended to be light, fun reads with short doses of suspense. In other words, I have no idea how to classify my books!
DiDi: I love all the humor in your books. Is Tara’s sense of HaHa anything like your own?
Diane: Yep. I tend to be a bit sassy sometimes. Not that I’m at all a mean-spirited person, I just tend to see the irony in life and have a somewhat low tolerance for BS, like Tara. I’ve also found humor to be a great way to relieve tension and deal with the crap life throws at us. Humor is a coping mechanism. If we can see the funny side of life – and ourselves! – it makes everything easier to deal with. Humor is a great ice breaker, too.
DiDi: I just finished DEATH, TAXES AND A SKINNY NO-WHIP LATTE. It is another great Tara Holloway story. This book deals with money laundering and a murderer and several law enforcement agencies are mentioned in the book. What kind of research do you do for your books?
Diane: The IRS and other government agencies have lots of great information on their websites about the latest scams and crimes. I find all sorts of ideas and information just trolling around the fed sites. That said, I try to keep the crimes fairly straightforward. The complexities of some financial crimes can slow things down, so I usually present a Cliff’s Notes version of the crimes in my books. But I do find the overlap of jurisdictions very interesting. Any crime that involves money in any way – whether it be a drug deal, gambling, or killing for hire – is a potential tax case, too.
DiDi: One of the first things that caught my eye when I saw DEATH, TAXES AND A FRENCH MANICURE was the cover, it is so cute! The second was the name, I find it quite catchy and unique. I realize the covers compliment the name of the books. How did you come up with the names?
Diane: Thanks! The artists who worked on the covers are very talented and captured the concepts well. I get many compliments on the covers and couldn’t be more proud that my work gets to wear them!
As far as the titles, when I first wrote the manuscript for what later became Death, Taxes, and a French Manicure, I called it “Filing Status: Single.” It was also originally written as a stand-alone book. I worked briefly with an agent and things didn’t work out. We did some revisions, but she felt the manuscript still needed more work than she had time to devote to it. Looking back she was probably right, though it hurt horribly at the time. I had a fun story idea, but I still had a lot to learn about how to craft a novel. After that experience, I wanted to wipe the slate clean, so to speak, and refresh the manuscript. So I brainstormed for awhile and came up with the Death and Taxes concept. I went through several ideas before settling on “French Manicure.” When I said it out loud, it made me laugh and I knew I’d hit the nail on the head.
Diane: My editor said that Extra-Hold Hairspray has been her favorite so far. There’s a lot of sexual tension in this one, more quirky characters, and lots of over-the-top humor. I especially enjoyed writing the ending. It came together very naturally, almost as if it wrote itself!
DiDi: I have read other reviewers compare Tara to Stephanie Plum. Now I have only read one SP novel, and the only thing I can see is that both series are humorous, beyond that I don’t see the comparison, other than if people like SP they will like Tara Holloway. What are your thoughts on the comparision?
Diane: I’ve read every Stephanie Plum book and love Janet Evanovich’s voice. I think the fact that our voices are similar is where the comparison comes from, since Janet Evanovich is the go-to author for a funny read and I’m still relatively new on the scene. But Tara is far more skilled and trained than Stephanie, and the crimes Tara deals with are generally more intricate. Tara is also more introspective.
DiDi: Last question – Guilty Pleasures, we all have them. What is your Guilty Pleasure?
Diane: Time alone! This probably sounds selfish, but every once in a while I love to get away from my husband and kids and pets and just have some time to myself with no responsibilities for anyone else. I feel a little guilty that I enjoy it so much. But that’s not going to stop me from doing it! : )
DiDi: Diane, thank you for the great interview, is there anything else you would like to say to our readers?
Diane: To everyone who has or will read my books, thank you! Without you, my dream would not be coming true. I know readers work hard for their money, and I can’t even begin to tell you how flattering it is to know that a reader has ventured into a bookstore or searched online, seen my book, and shelled out their hard-earned money to buy it. I wish I could go to every reader’s house and return the favor, maybe wash their car or do their laundry! Also, I love to Skype with book clubs and will be happy to provide “party favors” to any book club who reads one of my books.