E. B. Davis
Blog – Writers Who Kill
Talking With Author Arlene Kay
Talking with Author Arlene Kay
“Help is coming,” I said. “Don’t worry. You’ll be fine.”
No character in my novels would utter such senseless, banal dialogue but this was no time for editing. Phaedra Jones glared at me as she edged toward the darkness.
“Dim Mak,” she whispered, “Promise.”
“What? Who did this to you?” It was important, a dying declaration that made no sense. I leaned closer putting my ear against her lips as she said it once again. “Dim Mak.”
Then with a final shudder, Phaedra died.
Arlene Kay, Gilt Trip (Kindle Loc. 451)
Among the setting, characters, and vocabulary, I couldn’t resist Arlene Kay’s Gilt Trip, the third book in her Eja and Deming series. Boston’s Back Bay, a wealthy and historical part of Boston, serves as the setting for the series. Arlene’s descriptions of the architecture and depictions of Boston society’s old bastions were captivating. Main character, Eja Kane, is a mystery writer who does first-person research for her books. No mystery writer could resist her. Fiancé Deming Swann practices law in the family firm and has the inside track on who’s who in Boston. In this book, Arlene plies martial arts, marital discord and philandering, with gold and fraternal jealousy. Readers glide through Arlene’s well-written story.
Please welcome Arlene Kay to WWK. E. B. Davis
Could you give our readers your book jacket copy?
Exercise is overrated. Eja Kane joins a dojo to shape up before her wedding but instead of inner peace she finds a simmering cauldron of sex, greed and jealousy. When a con-woman’s corpse falls at her feet, Eja and future in-law Anika Swann confront a cunning murderer and a nasty bullion scheme involving Deming’s clients. Boston society shudders as members of the elite confront their dirty secrets and darkest passions.
What is Dim Mak?
Touch of death, is an ancient Chinese technique that enables one to inflict fatal injuries by exerting pressure on vital organs. Mystery writers always try to unearth bizarre murder techniques and I loved this one. COOL FACT: Last winter after Gilt Trip was published, an episode of NCIS—New Orleans featured the Dim Mak technique. Coincidence—I think not!! Maybe Hollywood is following me and stardom beckons.
Is Eja her real name?
Yes, Eja Kane is her real name. I once had a friend named Eja and this was an homage to her.
Why does Eja decide to sign up for martial art lessons?
Eja is desperate to find a wedding gift that will please Deming, the man who literally has everything. Since he is an exercise fanatic and she definitely is not, she chooses martial arts training. Since Eja (like this author) is clumsy and awkward, her efforts are doomed to fail.
You describe Eja fiancé, Deming Swann, in many ways, one of which is Eurasian. My image of him is of a legal James Bond. Is that actuate?
Deming is definitely hot stuff (a film star crossed with an underwear model), but despite the sophistication and big bucks, he can often be petulant and overbearing. He expects the adulation of women, and Eja violates his playbook. No doubt that is why he loves her and has since they were children. Frankly his daddy (Bolin Swann) is the one who meets your description: Legal James Bond with an Asian twist. Yum!
I had visions of Lauren Bacall when you described Deming’s mother Anika. Am I right? Don’t Anika and Eja have any nomal daughter/mother-in-law adversarial issues even though Deming and Eja are not yet married?
I envisioned Kim Basinger as an Anika Swann type although Lauren Bacall works equally well. My board on Pinterest shows my role models for these characters. Deming and Bolin were based on the young and (now) more mature Russell Wong. Worth considering.
Eja did not grow up wealthy. She won scholarships through school, and yet, she doesn’t seem intimidated by the Swann’s money or the competitive women who vie for Deming’s attention. How did she get so strong?
Eja was raised in a family where intellect was valued over material things. She jokes about her “Trotsky-ite parents” but they were fairly left-wing professors who cherished books not bling. There are objective measurements for intellect, and Eja knows how gifted she is. When it comes to appearance, however, she agonizes over the svelte beauties who surround Deming. (Recall the dreadful Pamela Schwartz). Eja’s first husband Gabriel dumped her for someone better looking and that permanently scarred her.
Deming’s sister CeCe was murdered in a previous book in this series. Her murder makes him very protective. How do Eja and Anika deal with Deming and his father’s interference?
Deming blames himself for his twin’s murder and has therefore vowed to protect Eja and Anika from any danger. Naturally it doesn’t work out that way and it almost ends his relationship with Eja. Bolin Swann is way cooler about the entire thing. As he tells Eja (Mantrap), he had to learn that living with a strong, independent woman was the price he paid for loving Anika. Both he and Deming compromise by trying to anticipate the scrapes that the ladies may blunder into and lessen the blow.
I loved Cato, CeCe’s spaniel, who doesn’t favor men, inherited by Eja. When she is threatened, how does Cato deal with the situation?Cato the wretched spaniel loved only one person—Deming’s twin CeCe. Because he was a rescue, allowances are made for his bad behavior, but Cato is indifferent to canine stereotypes. He metes out affection to Eja in very small doses and considers Deming’s shins his chew toys. On occasion he strikes out at villains but that is by sheer coincidence.
Your vocabulary is amazing, Arlene. Is that a result of your work experience, knowledge of martial arts, or are you a superlative wordsmith?
We moved all over the country when I was a child so I spent plenty of time at libraries. Books and their protagonists became my real friends and helped me to love language. I also went to Catholic schools from kindergarten to my second year of college (I married in order to attend a public university-LOL). In those days nuns wearing scary black habits forced you to memorize vocabulary lists or suffer. I have never been a fan of pain.
Eja is a mystery writer. What mystery sub-genre does she write?
Eja writes mildly acerbic mysteries that are high on snark and low on blood. For her, following the clues and finding the murderer are key. She most often features amateur sleuths although her biggest success involved writing a true crime account of CeCe’s murder (aka Swann Dive).
Lieutenant Euphemia (Mia) Bates, the detective on the case, treats the Swann family with kid gloves. Is it due to their money, influence, and legal know-how? How does she deal with Eja?
I adore this character and featured her in three of the four Swann sagas. In my mind she was the actress CCH Pounder, an incredible, strong woman. With Euphemia (don’t you love that name?), I tried to portray the balancing act that public servants, especially the police, often have to master when dealing with influential stakeholders like the Swanns. Mia considers Eja a nuisance and an obstacle but deep down she likes her. Most law enforcement professionals detest amateurs because they may really do DUMB things that can compromise a case or get someone killed. Eja is respectful but let’s face it, sometimes she’s a pest!
Do you live in Boston’s Back Bay, the setting of this novel?
Although I never lived there I have spent lots of time in that part of Boston, a city I love.
You tweeted recently that book four of this series will be the last. Why, and can you give us the synopsis of this book, “Swann Songs?”
So many of the mystery series that I used to love went on too long and became formulaic. It was such a disservice to splendid characters that I vowed not to let the Swanns suffer that fate. Forthcoming Swann Song tracks Eja and Deming’s married life, which is upended by the reappearance of Gabriel, the husband who broke Eja’s heart. He begs for her help and reluctantly after prodding by Deming, Eja agrees to intercede. Naturally mayhem involving the entire Swann clan ensues. By the end of the novel, they are in a good place, happy and safe, where their lives can sail onward sans murder.
You are on vacation, Arlene. Where are you, and what are you reading?
I love big cities, so I am in the beautiful city of Paris during late fall, reading the latest book (Radiant Angel) by my favorite author Nelson DeMille. That man is a master of dialogue, and I prostrate myself at his literary feet.