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  • Writer's pictureJ J Hanna

Interview with Author Kelly Garrett

Updated: Dec 11, 2019

It is the second week of November, and therefore the second week of NaNoWriMo.

Instead of hearing from me this month, I'm interviewing other writers and authors to let you get a peek into other people's writing processes.

This week I'm joined by Kelly Garrett, a mystery and suspense writer for teens and adults.

Make sure to go check out her most recent book, The Last To Die, before you get off the internet today!

Alright. Without further ado, Kelly Garrett!


What genres do you write?

My work tends to fall into the mystery genre, and I write for both teens and adults.

When did you start writing? How did you get interested in writing?

I've always been a writer, even before I was a proficient reader. After getting a BA in creative writing and political science, I worked in marketing for a while and slowly developed my writer's voice after exploring several genres. I started getting serious about publication several years ago.

What’s your favorite part of writing?

There’s always a spark of an idea when starting a new project, and I love immersing myself into the character and figuring out her world. The discovery phase is always one of the most fun, although the heart of the novel is fully revealed through editing.

How do you get past writer’s block?

I have a theory about writer’s block: if you’re feeling it, you’re writing the wrong thing. Maybe you went down the wrong path and need to back up in your manuscript and figure out where you went wrong. Sometimes, if I’m struggling with what comes next, but think I’m on the right track, I’ll skip forward in my manuscript to the next scene I know should exist and go from there. Usually, I’ll see an obvious bridge between the scenes.

What advice would you give to writers just starting out?

Read widely. You can learn a lot by reading different genres. And spend time reading the types of books you want to write, so you learn the tropes. Also, when you pick up a book you don't like, spend time unpacking why. Did you not like the voice? The pacing? Sometimes deconstructing novels you don't like can be more valuable than focusing on books you loved.

What’s your favorite social media trick? Where can we find you online?

The most crucial social trick is simple: be authentic. Engage with people. And if you really dislike a social media app, don’t force yourself to use it.

You can track me on Instagram and Facebook at @writerkellygarrett, and on Twitter as @garrett_kelly.

What is the hardest part of the creative process for you?

Developing the discipline to finish some of the vital but dull parts of the writing process is one of the hardest parts of the creative process for me. For example, when I write, I accidentally drop articles while writing fast. Going back and listening to what I write—and by listening, I mean having Word read the manuscript out loud—helps me find missing articles and stupid mistakes. This is critical since stupid mistakes take readers out of the story.

What’s something unique you want people to know about you? What distinguishes your brand?

I enjoy characters who have a strong moral code, even if that code is different from most people.

Tell me a bit about your most recent book. What inspired it? What’s it about?

The Last To Die is about a teenage burglary ring gone wrong, told from the perspective of an antihero, Harper. I wanted to write a book featuring a tough teenager who always says what’s in her mind, even if she really shouldn’t. After I finished the rough draft, I heard about the movie The Bling Ring, so I ended up pitching the novel as The Bling Ring meets Heathers. Although one review called it Pretty Little Liars meets Rebel Without A Cause, which made me smile for days.

Who are some of your favorite authors? Why? What are some of your favorite books? Why?

I’m a huge fan of Sarah Hilary’s novels. Someone Else’s Skin is fantastic, and I've enjoyed all of the follow-ups. Hilary's main character, a Detective Inspector whose parents were murdered before the novels start, is a wonderful layered, complicated main character who both understands victims and doesn't want to see herself as one. Everything about her books is great: characters, especially the well-rounded supporting cast, and perfectly paced plotlines.

I read Caz Frear’s debut, Sweet Little Lies, a few weeks ago, and had to buy the follow-up immediately. The combination of her voice and the external mystery of the novel and how it ties into the protagonist’s history was a total win for me.

Ben Aaronovitch's Rivers Of London series, both the novels and graphic novels, are also must-buys for me. I heard his series described as Harry Potter for adults once, and it does have a charming mix of magic set in a recognizable London. I love that Peter—the main character's strength of noticing weird details is also one of his biggest flaws, at least as a police officer.

If I'm in the mood for something amusing and witty, Donna Andrews' Meg Langslow series is a fave. They're hilarious, with quirky side characters and smart mysteries. Plus, there are bird puns in the title. I mean, who can't appreciate The Penguin Who Knew Too Much?

Why do you write the genre you write?

Mysteries have a great structure, and it’s fun to play with the genre’s usual tropes to make something that feels fresh and original. Writing for different categories (teen versus adult) is also interesting, given how expectations change for each target market. I also enjoy the puzzle aspects of mysteries and how to balance clues, red herrings, and reveals.

Why’d you choose an antihero lead for your YA?

I really like unlikable leads, and thought exploring teen life from the POV of a teen girl antihero sounded fascinating. The novel is told in a fractured timeline, which reflects her inner life. It’s freeing to not worry about creating a likable character. But it's also a risk.


Kelly Garrett's debut novel, The Last To Die, was a 2018 Oregon Book Awards finalist and was republished by Sourcebooks Fire in November 2019. She lives in Portland, Oregon, where she spends a lot of time hiking, drinking coffee, and convincing her Great Pyrenees-mix that she's not a sheep in need of protection.


J. J. Hanna graduated from Taylor University

with a degree in Professional Writing. She's currently working with literary agent Cyle Young, learning to be a literary agent, and working as a freelance writer and editor. To hire her for editing, writing, speaking, or consulting, see the services tab. In her free time, she can be found cuddling with a cat, reading the latest suspense novel, or filming YouTube videos about the publishing industry.

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