Friday, June 16, 2017

Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel Interview, Excerpt & Giveaway

Dream A Little Death

by Susan Kandel

on Tour May 23 - June 23, 2017


Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel

From critically acclaimed author Susan Kandel comes a charming new mystery featuring Dreama Black and a cast of zany LA-based characters.

The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly, with long, silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn't have helped that I'd used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should've known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.
Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can't get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.
Meet Dreama Black. A 28 year-old, third-generation groupie trying to figure out who she is after being publicly dumped by the rock god whose mega-hit, "Dreama, Little Dreama" made the name and the girl world-famous. Now Dreama supports herself by running custom-designed, themed tours of her hometown of L.A. When she is hired by a Raymond Chandler-obsessed rap producer to create a "L.A. noir" tour as his present to his soon-to-be bride, Dreama gets pulled into the middle of a possible murder, corrupt cops, and an unforgettable pair of femme fatales.

Book Details:

Genre: Mystery/Thriller
Published by: Witness Impulse
Publication Date: May 23rd 2017
Number of Pages: 304
ISBN: 0062674994 (ISBN13: 9780062674999)
Series: A Dreama Black Mystery, 1
Purchase Links: Amazon  | Barnes & Noble  | Goodreads 

Read an excerpt:

Chapter 1
The first time I set eyes on Miles McCoy, I worried he might try to eat me. He was the size and girth of a North American grizzly bear, with long silver-tipped hair, a long silver-tipped beard, and small dark eyes that bore into me like I was a particularly fine specimen of Chinook salmon. It couldn’t have helped that I’d used a honey scrub the morning we met. I should’ve known better. Not just about the scrub, but about a lot of things.
Like braving the freeway during rush hour.
Like thinking you can’t get a ticket for parking at a broken meter.
Like racing up to his penthouse in Balenciaga gladiator sandals, and expecting not to twist an ankle.
Like watching his fiancée shoot herself, and assuming it was suicide, instead of murder.
But I’m getting ahead of myself, which is another thing I should know better about. Because if I’ve learned anything at all from my study of film noir (which got me into the whole sordid Miles McCoy mess to begin with), it is to tell the story in the precise order in which it happened.
The trouble started the day before, which was Valentine’s Day, a pagan holiday named after the Roman priest who defied Claudius II by marrying Christian couples. After being hauled off in shackles, the soft-hearted cleric was beaten with clubs, stoned, and when that didn’t finish him off, publicly beheaded. Makes you think.
It had poured rain for eight days running, which isn’t what you sign on for when you live in Los Angeles. But that morning, as I stepped outside for a run, the sun was blinding—so blinding, in fact, that I didn’t see the fragrant valentine my neighbor’s dog, Engelbart, had left on the stoop for me. Not that I minded spending the next twenty minutes cleaning the grooves of my running shoe with a chopstick. It was a beautiful day. The rollerbladers were cruising the Venice boardwalk. The scent of medical marijuana was wafting through the air. Engelbart’s gastrointestinal tract was sound.
An hour later, I hopped into my mint green 1975 Mercedes convertible, and made my way up Lincoln to the freeway. I was headed to Larchmont, an incongruous stretch of Main Street, USA, sandwiched between Hollywood and Koreatown. This was where studio executives’ wives and their private school daughters came for green juice, yoga pants, and the occasional wrench from the general store that had served Hancock Park since the 1930s. It was also where my mother and grandmother ran Cellar Door, known for its chia seed porridge and life-positive service. I helped out whenever my coffers were running low. Which was most of the time.
You are probably frowning right about now. Surely a young woman who owns a classic convertible—as well as Balenciaga gladiators—should not be perennially low on funds. But it’s true.
The car came from my grandmother, who received it as part of her third (fourth?) divorce settlement and gave it to me as a gift when I strong-armed my mother into rehab for the fourth (fifth?) time. The sandals I purchased online in a frenzy of self-loathing shortly after watching my ex-boyfriend the rock god serenading his current girlfriend the supermodel on an otherwise uneventful episode of Ellen. I’d tried to return the sandals, but one of the studs had fallen off, making them damaged goods. Like their owner. Not that I’m hard on myself. It’s just that my career—I take clients on custom-designed, private tours of my hometown of L.A.—wasn’t exactly thriving, which is why I was easy prey for the likes of Miles McCoy. But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the good part. The part where I’m driving like the wind and almost don’t notice the flashing lights in my mirror. I knew I should have fixed that taillight.
I pulled over, cut the motor, handed the cop my license and registration. He looked down, then did a double take. “Dreama Black?”
That would be me.
“The Dreama Black?” he continued. “As in ‘Dreama, Little Dreama’?”
Perhaps I should explain.
I am a twenty-eight-year-old, third-generation rock ’n’ roll groupie—or “muse,” as the women in my family like to put it.
My grandmother, a fine-boned blonde who never met a gossamer shawl or Victorian boot she didn’t like, spent the sixties sleeping her way through Laurel Canyon, winding up in a house on Rothdell Trail (a.k.a. “Love Street”) purchased for her by a certain lead singer of a certain iconic band whose name is the plural of the thing that hits you on the way out.
My mother, blessed with thick, dark tresses and a way with mousse, was consort to many of the pseudo-androgynous alpha males of American hair metal, her chief claim to fame an MTV video in which she writhed across the hood of a Porsche wearing a white leotard and black, thigh-high boots. She also bought Axl Rose his first kilt.
As for me, well, I was on my way to freshman orientation when this guy I’d been seeing, who’d played a couple of no-name clubs with some friends from summer camp, intercepted me at LAX, put his lips to my ear, and hummed the opening bars of a new song I’d apparently inspired. Instead of boarding the plane for Berkeley, I boarded the tour bus with Luke Cutt and the other skinny, pimply members of Rocket Science. Four world tours, three hit albums, two Grammys, and one breakup later, “Dreama, Little Dreama”—an emo pop anthem that went gold in seven days and has sold eleven million copies to date—had made me almost famous forever.
“Step out of the car, please.”
The cop removed his sunglasses. Peach fuzz. Straight out of the academy. “So.”
He wanted to get a picture with me.
“I’d love to get a picture with you,” he said.
I smoothed down my cut-offs and striped T-shirt, removed my red Ray-Bans, ran my fingers through my long, straight, freshly balayaged auburn hair. The cop put his arm around me, leaned in close, took a couple of snaps on his phone. Let me guess. He’d had a crush on me since tenth grade, when he saw me in a white tank and no bra on the cover of Rocket Science’s debut C.D., and now he was going to post the pictures on Instagram to show all his buddies.
“Awesome.” He gave me a brotherly punch on the arm. “No way is my wife going to believe this. She’s crazy about Luke Cutt. Hey, is he really dating that Victoria’s Secret Angel? She is smoking hot.”
At least I didn’t get the ticket.

Excerpt from Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. Copyright © 2017 by Susan Kandel. Reproduced with permission from HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved.

Author Bio:

An Agatha, Edgar, and SCIBA nominee, Susan Kandel is the author of the nationally best-selling and critically acclaimed Cece Caruso series, the most recent of which, Dial H for Hitchcock (Morrow), was named by NPR as one of the five best mysteries of the year. A Los Angeles native, she was trained as an art historian, taught at NYU and UCLA, and spent a decade as an art critic at the Los Angeles Times. When not writing, she volunteers as a court-appointed advocate for foster children, and loves to explore secret, forgotten, and kitschy L.A. She lives with her husband in West Hollywood.


1.       When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Honestly, I had a long career as an art historian and art critic, and no particular desire, intention, training, or thought of becoming a fiction writer. The impetus was a vacation to Ventura, CA, where I saw a plaque on the side of an historic building indicating that this building was the location where Erle Stanley Gardner practiced law in the ‘20s and created the fictional character of Perry Mason. I found myself thinking that someone should write a mystery novel set in and around this building that somehow played into the history of Perry Mason, and by the end of my vacation, I’d decided that I was the one who should write that novel! In short, I’ve been a voracious reader, especially of mysteries, my entire life, but I didn’t even think of becoming a writer until I was 40 years old.

2.       How long does it take you to write a book?
It takes me about a year.

3.       What is your work schedule like when you’re writing?
I get up at a leisurely hour, exercise, whip up something healthy like egg whites, go out to my office, work without checking Twitter for four hours until lunch, when I eat a quinoa bowl, walk my dog, then work for four more hours until dinner, which is prepared by my husband, and preceded by a specialty cocktail, and followed by a blissful eight hours of sleep. Just kidding. The reality involves alarm clocks, coffee, cookies, candy, time wasted on the internet, procrastination, random phone calls, plumber’s visits, and a few hours of work if I’m lucky. In short, I write as much as I can in the daytime, and am finished by evening. I try not to work on the weekends to preserve my mental and physical health, as well as my marriage.

4.       What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I use the “Pomodoro” technique, which involves working in concentrated twenty-five minute bursts, with absolutely no distractions or conversations or checking email, followed by five-minute breaks in which you can walk around, talk, be on the computer, etc. After four Pomodoros, you get a fifteen-minute break. Trust me, it totally works. And the work day is a bit less painful.

5.       Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
I am a former academic, so I love doing research, and tend to embed my books with fun and interesting information and trivia. Before I begin writing, I assemble lots of source materials (books, magazines, newspaper articles) that touch upon topics I want to explore, and during the writing, I am constantly checking and double-checking things on the internet. I get my ideas from incredibly disparate sources. In DREAM A LITTLE DEATH, I was inspired by my beloved hometown of L.A.; the Fleetwood Mac reunion tour; SharonaAlperin, the namesake for the Knack’s hit, “My Sharona,” currently a realtor in L.A.; the paper my younger daughter wrote in 9th grade on the person she admired most, groupie extraordinaire, Pamela Des Barres (a long story); the tattoo parlor around the corner from me in West Hollywood; the 1960s British model, Jane Birkin; cop favorite Nick’s Cafe on Spring St. in DTLA; and Destin and Rachel from Bravo’s Millionaire Matchmaker.

6.       When did you write your first book and how old were you?
I wrote my first novel in 2001-2, and I was forty years old.

7.       What do you like to do when you’re not writing?
I have been a bookworm since I was a little kid, and reading is still my favorite hobby. When I’m not reading, I like to take hikes with the dog, do Pilates, ride bikes at the beach, cook (I’m in a cooking club), eat, of course, watch reality T.V., and go shopping. When I was writing my Cece Caruso series, I justified my shopping addiction by telling myself it was research for my vintage clothing-addicted heroine. Now that I am writing the Dreama series, I still shop to excess, but unfortunately, I have no excuse!

8.       What does your family think of your writing?
My family is incredibly supportive. My husband is my biggest cheerleader, and the first one I bounce ideas off of. When I started writing, my daughters were very young, and didn’t exactly understand what I was doing holed away in my office, but they knew enough to stay away from me when the door was shut! One of the most fun things has been having them grow up and become readers of my books, and now that they are adults, not just readers, but more importantly, beta-testers!

9.       What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating your books?
I have had the same best friend since I was 11 years old. And when she finished the manuscript of my first novel, I DREAMED I MARRIED PERRY MASON, she turned to me and said, “Susan, I had no idea whatsoever that you were funny!”  Like many writers, I am quite introverted, and have never been much of a wise-cracker. So the revelation that came through the writing of my books -- that I have the ability to make people laugh -- was both amazing and energizing.

10.   How many books have you written? Which is your favorite?
I have written six novels, five in the Cece Caruso series, and one in the Dreama Black series. I am going to guess that almost every writer has the same answer to this question of their favorite book: the first, and the last. The first -- I DREAMED I MARRIED PERRY MASON -- because it was written purely for me, with no time constraints, no pressure from any outside sources, and no expectations. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to finish it, or even submit it for publication. The realization that I enjoyed the writing process came as a shock, and was truly a great gift. My last novel -- DREAM A LITTLE DEATH -- is my other favorite because I really enjoyed the emphasis on popular music, and also, because over time I’ve become a better writer! 

11.   Do you have any suggestions to help me become a better writer? If so, what are they?
My philosophy about writing boils down to the following: the more you read, the better you write. First of all, and this is especially true in genre fiction, you start to internalize the structures -- those patterns and tropes that you depend on as a reader, but don’t think much about during the process of reading, at least when they are deployed well. Secondly, you learn pretty quickly what works and what doesn’t, at least for you. Do you respond to writerly embellishment, or do you like your prose clean and unfussy? Do you enjoy being jolted by surprises, or do you like to feel swept along on a wave? I think it’s important to think about these kinds of things because to me the key seems to be to write the kinds of books you would like to read. There’s no second-guessing when you follow your own instincts and tastes.

12.   Do you hear from your readers much? What kinds of things do they say?
I get emails from my readers frequently, and it is always a pleasure to hear what they have to say -- from personal connections to places I write about, to memories that some of the books have triggered, to anecdotes about how something I wrote helped them through a hard time, to ideas (several very good ones) for future stories. I should add that I seem to attract very smart readers who on occasion have pointed out errors or inconsistencies that both the copyeditors and I have missed -- and typos, of course!

13.   What do you think makes a good story?
I believe that the most important component of a story is the characters. Regardless of what else you have -- interesting setting, intricate plot, clever writing -- if you don’t have characters with whom readers sympathize with, and with whom they want to spend time, you don’t have what is essential to a great story.

14.   As a child, what did you want to do when you grew up?
I have always been obsessed with office supplies -- as a child I played with pens, papers, file folders, staplers, and paper clips -- and when asked, would always say that when I grew up I wanted to be an important person’s executive secretary.

15.   What would you like my readers to know?
That the best compliment I ever received was being called the Umberto Eco of chick-lit. Loosely translated, it means my books are fun and smart, and who could ask for anything more?

Catch Up With Our Author On: Website , Goodreads , Twitter , & Facebook !


Tour Participants:


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This is a rafflecopter giveaway hosted by Partners in Crime Virtual Book Tours for Susan Kandel and Harper Collins. There will be 5 winners of one (1) eBook copy of Dream A Little Death by Susan Kandel. The giveaway begins on May 23rd and runs through June 27th 2017
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1 comment:

  1. Nice interview. I am going to try the “Pomodoro” method while working!!