Was it the music? The mysteries? The rescue cats? I no longer recall how I first got to know Deb Grabien. Even before her rock Kincaid novels, Deb was incorporating music into her books, with the Haunted Ballad series, which focused on the crimes and ghosts of British folk. I was honored to contribute to Tales from the House Band, an anthology Deb put together for her own Plus One Press – and to host her here today.
How does a book start for you?
It starts when the characters start telling me it’s time to give them breathing room and let them do their thing. For the first eight JP Kinkaid Chronicles, that was really straightforward. Number 9, the series closer, is not nearly as simple.
Who in your latest book has surprised you most – and why?
A Dominican/French blues superstar guitarist named Winston Dupres (Kinkaid 9, the series closer, is his fourth appearance over the length of the series.) As JP’s wife Bree says, “I didn’t know Winston could hate. I didn’t even know he was capable of that.” The outburst is justified, but the loathing Winston shows for another character shocked me. Characters do that sometimes.
When and/or where is your latest book set and is there a story behind that setting?
The series closer, called Watching The Wheels, is set in Las Vegas. And yes, there’s a fairly unsettling story behind it. JP’s band, Blacklight, is giving a series of free weekend festival shows in selected spots around the globe; they know they probably won’t ever do another major tour. Las Vegas in late October became a logical spot for the huge free show, but right after I wrote the discovery of the body, the shooter from Mandalay Band opened fire on a free music festival. That shook me enough so that I had to step away from writing it.
What are you working on now?
Mostly music. Songwriting, lyrics and music both; it’s a different kind of storytelling, but it’s still what I do. But Kinkaid 9 will get finished, and eventually, I want to go back to my Child ballad series and write the sixth book of that one, to finish that series off. A trip to Edinburgh to refresh my memory of the Royal Mile is needed for that, and it’s tentatively scheduled for September.
Which question didn’t I ask you that I should have?
Hmmmm. Good question…
Deborah Grabien can claim a long personal acquaintance with the fleshpots — and quiet little towns — of Europe. She has lived and worked and hung out, from London to Geneva to Paris to Florence, and a few stops in between.
But home is where the heart is. Since her first look at the Bay Area, she’s always come home to San Francisco. In 1981, after spending some years in Europe, she came back to Northern California to stay.
After publishing four novels between 1989 and 1993, she took a decade away from writing, to really learn how to cook. That done, she picked up where she’d left off, with the five novels of her Haunted Ballads series being brought out by St. Martins Minotaur between 2003 and 2007. Still Life With Devils, a standalone thriller about a serial killer who may not be human, was released in December 2007. Dark’s Tale, her first YA title, draws on her and her husband’s experiences working with the San Francisco SPCA’s feral cat program in Golden Gate Park. Deborah’s essays and short stories and reviews have appeared in multiple publications and anthologies.
Deborah was deeply involved in the Bay Area music scene, from the end of the Haight-Ashbury heyday until the mid-1970s. Most of her friends have been trying to get her to write about those years – fictionalised, of course! – and, now that she’s comfortable with it, she’s doing just that. Her current series, the Kinkaid Chronicles, are the books of her heart.
Narrated by ageing rock superstar guitarist John “JP” Kinkaid, this character-driven mystery series not only takes the reader into the way rock and roll really works at the highest end, but illuminates what living with a chronic progressive illness is like. Like JP, Deborah herself has lived with multiple sclerosis for nearly a decade.Deborah, a lyricist and guitarist, has been happily married to bassist Nicholas Grabien since 1983. Their band, The Sound Field, drew such talents as David Lindley to record on their first CD. They’re presently in the studio working on their second, This Moment Of The Storm.