Author Spotlight: K.B. Owen

Every month I’ll be interviewing an author who writes historically-influenced fiction, and introducing you to some fantastic new writing talent. Their genres vary, but all of them are writing stories set in the 19th and early 20th centuries. 

This month’s featured author is historical mystery novelist K.B. Owen. Her most recent book is The Case of the Runaway Girl, the third instalment of her Chronicles of a Lady Detective series. You can contact K.B. through her website, on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or by email.

How long have you been writing and what got you started?

I’ve been writing off and on for 13 years. As with most authors, I’d been debating whether to try writing a novel longer ago than that. I knew it would definitely be a mystery. That genre had been such an important part of my time growing up (Nancy Drew, Scooby-Doo, Sherlock Holmes, et al), and continued into adulthood. I wanted to contribute to the genre that gave me so much pleasure and escapism over the decades.

What are the best and worst things about being an author?

It’s the same answer for both: getting to determine your own schedule. I’m still working on finding an optimal process that maximizes productivity while balancing my personal life!

What’s your favourite historical time period to write about and why?

The Progressive Era [1890s-1920s in the United States] is a fascinating time to delve into. There were so many industrial/technological advancements that changed society. People of the time struggled to keep pace, trying to figure out how they felt about it all. Women’s suffrage, the disparities in economic classes, the role of government, and the influx of immigrant groups were some of the hot-button topics of the time, and I enjoy working them into my stories.

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve researched in relation to your writing?

Nineteenth-century bomb-making. In addition to my other sources, I found a fascinating how-to pamphlet written by an anarchist in the 1870s that I bought from Amazon. Of course, my contractor husband despaired of his security clearance and wondered if the NSA would be showing up at our door. So far, so good…

If you could travel anywhere in time and space, when and where would it be?

Great question! After my answers above you would think it would be the 19th century, but actually I’d want to go back to the 1930s—specifically to observe Mildred Wirt Benson put pen to paper and bring Nancy Drew to life for generations of girls.

Where do you find creative inspiration?

That’s tricky to pin down. Some ideas come from a story one hears or reads and others come from a personal experience, perhaps quite long ago.

What’s your favourite historical resource?

Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers

It’s a fab resource for double-checking the contemporary use of a word, reading about crime (some are hilarious, such as the man breaking in and cooking and eating a steak before robbing the family), seeing what products were advertised (bust creams, celery tonics, etc), locations of department stores, and more. There’s an advanced search feature that allows you to zero in on a specific date range, key words/phrases, and a particular state’s newspapers. Sometimes you don’t quite find what you’re looking for, but the accidental discoveries along the way are a lot of fun.

The best place in the world to write is…

…right by my dining room window. It looks out on our back deck, where we have a garden and feed the birds. I love watching the hummingbirds in the summer.

When you’re not writing, what do you get up to?

I enjoy reading, gardening, and doing various crafts, but if I’m being honest…a lot of my time is spent shuttling our youngest (teenager) to his various activities, and taking pictures of my cat to post on Instagram and Facebook. Trust me, she’s adorable.

What are you currently working on?

I alternate between my lady Pinkerton series and my Concordia Wells series, the latter set in a fictitious women’s college in the 1890s. Right now I’m hard at work on the first draft of the seventh Concordia Wells mystery. No title yet, but I’m shooting for a [northern hemisphere] winter release.

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