Interview with Kerry Blaisdell
by Sharon Buchbinder
Kerry Blaisdell is the award-winning author of The Dead Series, including DEBRIEFING THE DEAD—2019 Royal Palm Literary Award for Best Published Fantasy, RONE Award for Best Long Paranormal, HOLT Medallion Literary Award for Best Paranormal & Best First Book, and Romance Writers of America RITA® Award finalist—and its sequel, WAKING THE DEAD, an N.N. Light Book Award Winner which InD’tale Magazine recommends for “fans of television shows like ‘Constantine’ or ‘Supernatural.’”
She also writes award-winning Romantic Suspense (PUBLISH OR PERISH, a Publishers Weekly BookLife Prize Quarterfinalist and PRG Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner) and Historical Mystery. She has a Bachelor of Arts from U.C. Berkeley in Comparative Literature (French/Medieval English), and a Master’s in Teaching English and Advanced Mathematics from the University of Portland. Kerry lives in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest with her family, assorted cats and dogs, and more hot pepper plants than anyone could reasonably consume.
I was very happy when Kerry agreed to answer a few questions for this interview. I hope you enjoy it.
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE OR DECIDE YOU WANTED TO BE A WRITER?
Honestly, I’ve been a writer since I was too young to remember. Some of my earliest memories are telling stories to my Dad, who wrote them down for me. Sometimes, I’d illustrate them. He even “bound” one for me, using that cheap brown coloring paper and string. I still have it – if you’re curious, it was about a Princess who gets bored with the Prince and runs off with the Dragon instead. Which is probably why I write “quirky” stories now – LOL!
CAN YOU PINPOINT THE MOMENT WHEN THE IDEA FOR YOUR DEBUT NOVEL AND MULTI-AWARD WINNING BOOK, DEBRIEFING THE DEAD, WAS BORN?
Actually, the other day, I was looking through my “idea box” (a file I created years ago, of story ideas) and I ran across my original paragraph of notes for DTD. What came out when I actually wrote it was wildly different, though! I originally envisioned it sort of like my heroine would be a “gatekeeper” to the Angel of Death. At the time, I was trying to get a literary agent, and getting discouraged, and my sense of humor kicked in. I thought, wouldn’t it be funny if you couldn’t even DIE without getting past a gatekeeper first? (Since agents are/were considered the “gatekeepers” to traditional publishing deals.) Of course, my heroine, Hyacinth, does sort of end up in that “job,” but in a very different way than I anticipated. Even when I plot, my stories are all character driven. So whatever I think a story is going to be about, that’s rarely what I get in the end.
IS THERE A GENRE YOU HAVEN’T WRITTEN IN THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO TRY YOUR HAND AT? YA LEAPS OUT IN MY MIND FOR YOU—LIKE HARRY POTTER MEETS DEBRIEFING THE DEAD?
I do have an idea for a series that I originally thought could be YA. But I don’t think I’m really a “YA” writer. Maybe some day I’ll change my mind, but I think I’m better at “grown-up” characters. As for other genres – I wouldn’t rule anything out. I have a historical mystery I need to polish, that I plan to release maybe this year or next. And another romantic suspense novel. But I don’t necessarily think, “Oh, I’d like to write in THAT genre.” Instead, I think, “Ooh – that would be a great story,” and then I write it, and whatever genre(s) come out via the characters/story itself. (But I would LOVE to read HARRY POTTER MEETS DEBRIEFING THE DEAD – if someone else wants to write it!! LOL!)
YOU HAVE A HECK OF AN ACADEMIC BACKGROUD WITH DEGREES IN COMPARATIVE LITERATURE AND AN MAT IN ENGLISH AND MATH. HOW DOES YOUR DAY JOB INFLUENCE YOUR FICTION AND VICE VERSA?
I’d have to say, lots and not at all. LOL! Actually, PUBLISH OR PERISH was influenced 100% by my day job. When I wrote it, I worked at a brain research institute at a teaching hospital that is cough VERY similar to the one in the book. (I cleverly disguised the real place – Oregon Health & Science University, or OHSU, by changing its name to “OSHU.” ;)) Plus, it’s set in Portland, where I’ve lived for 25 years, so there’s that.
As for THE DEAD SERIES – my day job didn’t influence that too much, per se. Before becoming a middle school math teacher, I worked in Corporate Communications (which is what I did at the above brain institute – I didn’t actually do any of the cool research!). But as you mentioned, my degree is in Comparative Literature – French as my primary language, Medieval English as my secondary. Which basically meant I got to take a lot of history, religion, and language/culture classes, and read a lot of really awesome and really old texts, and call it a degree. So all of that definitely feeds my writing, especially in the DEAD books.
I just have a lot of interests, and I’m always curious. I go to look something up for a book, and it leads me on a tangent, that goes to another tangent, and eventually, all of that winds up in the book, too. I’m like the Curious George of authors!! LOL!
But back to the original question – I do have a story started, that revolves around a high school teacher and the school’s Drama Department (I did all the plays when I was in HS, and my daughter’s a Drama geek now). Of course, it will be a romantic suspense, because every story I write winds up being about death, in one way or another!! LOL!