Harley Jane Kozak is as talented as she is beautiful. She is an accomplished actor (Parenthood, Arachnophobia, The Favor, Necessary Roughness, When Harry Met Sally) and author of the successful Mary Wollstonecraft “Wollie” Shelly mystery series that began in 2004 with the award winning Dating Dead Men. Just released is the fourth in the series titled A Date You Can’t Refuse.
DPL: Where did you come with the idea for a greeting-card-writing sleuth?
HJK: My best friend from 4th grade, Sharon Samek, wrote me some years back, telling me that while I was in Hollywood pursuing my acting dreams, she was back in Lincoln, Nebraska, opening Sharon’s Hallmark Shop. I was so intrigued by the idea of a greeting card shop owner. I had to develop her into a character. Somewhere along the way I realized that Wollie wasn’t simply a proprietor of a card shop, she had an artistic soul, and designed cards too.
DPL: What skills does Wollie possess that make her a crime-solving wizard?
HJK: None. She has no physical courage, no athletic ability, knows/cares nothing about guns, doesn’t drive well enough for the car chases, can’t throw a punch, doesn’t watch enough TV, can’t lie, can hardly bring herself to jaywalk, and at 6’, attracts too much attention for undercover work. Fortunately, she has talented friends that compensate for her inadequacies.
DPL: What’s the coolest investigative or forensic technique that Wollie has employed to track down the bad guy?
HJK: I’m sorry to say that Wollie is more “Harriet the Spy” than “CSI.” She’s not cool. She did plant a bug in “A Date You Can’t Refuse” but it fell into a pot of borsht.
DPL: Beside Wollie, of course, what other characters in your stories are you particularly fond of?
HJK: Her best friend Joey has all the chutzpah, skill at Krav Maga, an Israeli martial art, and questionable morals that Wollie lacks. And her other best friend, Fredreeq,has an outspokenness and social flamboyance that makes her particularly fun to write.
DPL: What skills learned from your acting experiences do you bring to the page? Anything about acting that helps you tell your stories?
HJK: My instinct is to put myself inside the character, inside the scene and approach it from a visceral, emotional starting place. And to write dialogue that I’d love to say. The problem with this approach is that it’s slow and painstaking, and doesn’t lend itself to outlining. My left brain can decide that in Chapter 13, Wollie must get from Santa Monica to San Diego, but my right brain, inside Wollie, will realize that what Wollie wants in response to what happened in Chapter 12 is sex, a box of chocolates, or a trip to Oxnard. And my right brain generally wins.
DPL: The latest book in the Wollie series is A Date You Can’t Refuse. Without giving too much away, what’s it about?
HJK: Wollie finds herself working for an L.A. media training organization called MediasRex, as the “social coach” for a trio of eastern European celebrities (i.e., nutjobs). But she’s also reporting to the FBI on the organization’s peculiar activities. Her first unpleasant surprise is discovering that her predecessor, a former America’s Next Top Model runner-up, drove off a cliff to her death.
DPL: Any signings or appearances coming up?
HJK: I’m at Borders in Thousand Oaks on July 14, and the Ventura County Book Festival on July 25, and with any luck (meaning, no hurricanes) at Heather Graham’s Writers for New Orleans conference on Sept. 4-6.
DPL: What’s next for Harley Jane and Wollie?
HJK: Wollie’s taking a short (and well-deserved) break after Book #4, and I’m writing a thriller, a stand-alone.
DPL: Finally, any words of wisdom for those writers out there still struggling to learn their craft and to see their books in print?
HJK: My first book took 10 years (and 17 drafts) from its beginning to the moment I saw it on the bookshelf. Patience, perseverance, and the willingness to revise, revise, and rethink are what got me through it.
P.S. Thanks for saying I’m beautiful, Doug. As you know, this is Hollywood, so it’s all done with mirrors — but thanks.
P.S. Back At You: Ah yes, but Harley Jane you dress up the mirror so well. Thanks for being with us today.
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