Today, Feathered Quill reviewer Ellen Feld is talking with Kathleen Kaska, author of A Two Horse Town.
FQ: Tell our readers a little about yourself. Your background, your interests, and how this led to writing a book?
KASKA: I'm a Texas gal. Except for an eighteen-month hiatus living in New York City after college, I lived in the Lone Star State continuously for fifty years. Since then Texas has been hit and miss—a little hit, but a heck of a lot of miss. There was a time when I thought I would happily die in Austin, Texas. But circumstances and weather—especially weather—changed that. Now I spend most of the year on Fidalgo Island in Washington State with a view of the bay and the mountains. When I gets homesick, my a husband and I plug in the iPhone to Pandora and select Willie—as in Nelson, (Hope you don’t have to ask). Soon we are dancing the two-step, imagining we're at our favorite honky-tonk in Tokyo, Texas where the mayor is believed to be a dog. Who wouldn’t miss that?
It was my love of animals and the outdoors, and my need to support certain social causes that led to the writing of A Two Horse Town.
FQ: Have you always enjoyed writing or is it something you’ve discovered recently?
KASKA: I've been writing for about twenty-five years. It's something I'd always wanted to do, but I had to work up the courage to start. I also had to find the time in my teaching schedule. I started writing in my early forties and retired from teaching about ten years ago. Now my time is spent writing and enjoying free time with my husband.
FQ: Tell us a little about your book – a brief synopsis and what makes your book unique.
KASKA: A Two Horse Town is part of my Animal-Rights Mystery Series. Here's a brief synopsis: With her coffee-guzzling dogs and a welcome mat that starts at the business end of a shotgun, Ida Springfield weathers all the challenges life hands her. Until the local government gets the idea to build a dam to help the ranchers, a dam that would dry up the water on her ranch and destroy the habitat for the herd of mustangs living there. After further alienating the "goofballs at town hall," Ida lets go of her pride and accepts the help of animal rights activist Kate Caraway. Kate feels a need to escape life in Chicago after so many years in her beloved Africa. She's eager to get to Montana and find some peace from rural surroundings. After tumbling down a mountain, finding a body, and getting warned off by the mayor, Kate understands why her husband wants her to come home. But Kate can't leave without saving the mustangs and helping the 82-year-old woman and her mentally challenged twin sister stand up to the town bigwigs. To do that, she has to find out who killed Ida's estranged son and why town officials believe her great-grandson committed the crime.
FQ: What was the impetus for writing your book?
KASKA: The idea for this series started forming in my mind when I was a member of Wildlife Rescue, Inc in Austin, Texas where I helped rehab and raise orphaned wildlife. So, I wanted to write a series that made readers aware of animal-rights issues. The first book in the series, Run Dog Run, published in 2017, takes place in the world of greyhound racing.
While traveling through Montana several years ago, I became aware of the Pryor Mountains Wild Horse Range, which is a refuge for a herd of free-roaming mustangs. These horses have a unique genetic makeup that doesn’t exist in other breeds. I began imagining what would happen if their habitat were threatened, and the plot for A Two Horse Town unfolded from there.
FQ: What was the hardest part of writing your book? That first chapter, the last paragraph, or ...?
KASKA: The hardest part of writing a book occurs about two-thirds of the way in. I plot by the seat of my pants until I reach a point where I have to pull everything together. That's when the work begins.
FQ: The genre of your book is Mystery. Why this genre?
KASKA: I write mysteries because I enjoy reading them. The challenge is making the plot work. I used to compare the process to putting together a jigsaw puzzle, but I've come to realized it more like playing 3-deminsional chess. I also write nonfiction, which has its own challenges in the planning and outlining process.
FQ: Do you have any plans to try writing a book in a different genre? If so, which genre and why?
KASKA: Right now, I'm sticking with mysteries, but I'm writing a hard-boiled detective novel set in the 1940s in Manhattan. l love reading Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, and Mickey Spillane and I wanted to try my hand at the sub-genre.
FQ: Who are your favorite authors?
KASKA: My favorite authors are: Martha Grimes, Dick Francis, Elizabeth Peters, E. B. White, Roger Angell, poet Billy Collins, John Irving, F. Scott Fitzgerald, just to name a few. I also love discovering writers I've never read before. I've recently discovered David Handler, author of the Stewart Hoag mystery series.
FQ: Which do you find easier, starting a story, or writing the conclusion?
KASKA: Starting the story and concluding the story is easy, it's the middle that is challenging. It's definitely a mental workout.
FQ: As an author/writer, what famous author (living or dead), would you like to have dinner with, and why?
KASKA: I would like to spend time with E.B. White. He lived during an era that has always fascinated me. His essays are timeless and I would love to ask him about what inspired him. Although, shying away from talking to people, he might not be easily forthcoming.