Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Kris Calvin Interview - All That Fall

Photo Content from Kris Calvin

Kris Calvin is the author of the thriller novel, ALL THAT FALL (April 13, 2021; Crooked Lane Books). She served for more than 20 years as the CEO of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and was honored for her leadership in advocacy for children by the California Legislature and Governor’s office. 


Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
Getting to know my agent, Abby Saul. When I used to hear authors go on and on about their agents, I had a hard time understanding why that relationship was so important to them, beyond the fact that the person was a partner in their writing career. But I get it now! Abby is not only smart and savvy about the business of publishing, she’s also kind, and deals in a professional and caring way with the range of emotions I’ve experienced since being published, from insecurity and exhaustion, to my amazement that this is happening at all.

What inspired you to pen your first novel?
I am not one of those people who always knew they wanted to be a writer, who kept diaries and journals as a kid and dreamed of a spot on the New York Times bestseller list. But all my life I’ve been a voracious reader, and as an adult I go through two to three novels a week. Though I read across genres, mysteries and thrillers have become my favorites. While working in California’s capital, Sacramento, I had an idea for a mystery, drawn from the every-day drama and intrigue that occurs here. I found myself distracted by that story as it was evolving in my head. So I decided to write it down, and that became the basis for my first novel.

Tell us your latest news.
My biggest news is the date has been set for ALL THAT FALL’s launch party: Friday 7pm CT April 23, 2021. (The actual pub date is April 13, 2021, but just like people I guess books can celebrate on another day if that works best!) I’m really excited that Gail Lynds, who Lee Child calls “today’s best thriller writer,” will be interviewing me at the event. It’s virtual and free, anyone can join HERE.

In your newest book, ALL THAT FALL; can you tell my Book Nerd community a little about the novel?
An author whose work I enjoy, Mark Wheaton, has said about Emma Lawson that she is “an unlikely hero worth cheering for.” I really like that description!

At age 32, Emma Lawson is California’s youngest government ethics investigator. When she takes a day off to help her best friend, Kate, prepare for the opening of her new business, Rainbow Alley Preschool, the morning takes a shocking turn. The school’s most high-profile enrollee–Vivian Lange, the governor’s granddaughter–is kidnapped, at the same time Kate’s teenage son, Luke, goes missing. Emma is drawn to a web of clues that point toward sordid secrets and a cold-case murder in a shadow world of bigotry and hate. The novel takes place over 48 hours, during which Emma must race against the clock to bring the two children to safety and to stop a calculating killer whose plan threatens all that she holds dear.

What do you hope for readers to be thinking when they read your novel?
I hope readers of ALL THAT FALL find themselves in suspense about what happens, have fun solving the mystery, and feel engaged with the fast-paced, thriller-style action of Emma’s quest. But I also want them to feel comfortable knowing that this adventure story for adults is not intended to shock them with gore or the kinds of trauma that might keep them up at night. I respect authors who write dark stories that require an extreme or twisted level of violence, but that’s not what I’m going for. I want this to be a challenging story, but one that gives hope as to what is possible when friendship, love and loyalty drive the plot.

What was the most surprising thing you learned in creating Emma?
Emma’s mother died when she was young, and her father disappeared shortly afterwards, So as an adult, Emma wants nothing more than to be independent; she does not want to risk another abandonment. I don’t outline, and I was surprised that Emma shows the beginnings in ALL THAT FALL of an understanding that trust can come without dependency. It’s a series, so I had planned that to come in the next book, but I guess Emma had other ideas.

If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
Emma’s best friend, Kate, is a huge Harry Potter fan. I think it would be very cool if Kate could visit a parallel world and meet Hermione to hear her version of the events that come primarily from Harry’s point of view in that series. Like Hermione, Kate is driven to do well and is hyper-organized. I think she and Hermione would get on well.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
Factors related to the pandemic caused revenue to drop precipitously at the nonprofit where I had been CEO for most of my adult life, jeopardizing my employment. It was a hectic and stressful time that coincided with my completion of ALL THAT FALL. That was a big distraction, but having a deadline with the publisher helped. (Since I did lose my job in January, I am so grateful that my debut thriller is coming out, so I have something really grand to celebrate!)

What is something you think everyone should do at least once in their lives?
I think everyone should get to stop doing things for a little while. Stop meeting deadlines, stop making sure everyone else in their lives has their needs met, and have a chance to step off whatever treadmill they are on. I don’t think it has to be for long but I think “constant busy-ness” is overrated.

Best date you've ever had?
My wedding. Can that be a date? I got married to a good man when I was 23. For me, it was like a fairy tale. I was in a white dress (not necessarily deserved, but we won’t go there) with a lace veil, and there was dancing and cake. (I think all dates should have dancing and cake.) I’ve been divorced for years now, more than I was married, but that doesn’t stop that day from being the best date!

If you could go back in time to one point in your life, where would you go?
I like things right now the best. It took me a long time to recover from a difficult childhood. I’m not unique in that, but it colored everything else for years. But I think I’ve finally “found myself” fairly late in life as an author, in my writing, and I wouldn’t trade that for youth or anything else. But if I could revisit my past, without losing any time in my “present,” it would be when my children were young. I’d love to re-experience that, knowing what I know now, the laughter and silliness of that time, and reveling in seeing them develop their personalities.

What is the weirdest thing you have seen in someone else’s home?
I’m pretty open about design, and about habits. I can’t think of anything that strikes me as weird that I’ve seen in someone’s home. Maybe I don’t get out enough?

What was the best memory you ever had as a writer?
I do many drafts of my work. (For ALL THAT FALL I did 17.) I don’t know that I’m “done” until there’s that moment when I read it aloud to myself and I don’t hear a single “clunk,” no discordant sound that tells me a phrase or even a word isn’t quite right. It happens only at the end of the creative process for me. It’s a wonderful feeling and memory.

First Heartbreak?
I was 19. I stopped in at my boyfriend’s house to get something, I had a key he’d given me. The photo of us together that was always on the nightstand in the bedroom was missing. I found it facedown in a drawer. It wasn’t a stretch to assume someone else had been there with him, someone from whom he was hiding my existence. Rejection is hard enough, but the secrecy made it a betrayal.

Which would you choose, true love with a guarantee of a heart break or have never loved before?
I’d choose (and have chosen) love, love, love. And love again. If heartbreak is the price of admission, terrible as it is, I’m still all in.

Where can readers find you?
In real life—when there’s not a pandemic—at conferences across the country for writers and readers. It’s where I most experience a sense of community: Killer Nashville, Bouchercon, Left Coast Crime, Malice Domestic, and California Crimewriters—I’m sure there are more. I’m also often at the public library and independent bookstores. Online, I’m at kriscalvin.com, readers can connect most easily by subscribing to my blog about what I’m reading or streaming on TV, my writing process, and random other things. (I respond to all blog comments.) I’m also @KrisCalvinauthor on Facebook and Instagram, and @KrisCalvinAAP on Twitter.

  • “No sense dying just to prove a point.”
  • “Everything depended on the girl. And he knew exactly where she was.”
  • “Is this a kidnapping for ransom, all about the money, where once that’s received she’ll be returned unharmed? Luke realized he didn’t want to consider the other possibilities.”
  • “As Emma guided the SUV along the narrow gravel road through rows of walnut and almond trees on either side, she became hyperaware of the fading light, of the deepening blue of the sky.”
  • “Once you’re out, run up the side of the house to the front. Don’t hesitate. Run. The fact that it’s getting darker will help you.”
  • “She definitely wanted to go inside, to take each of their hands in hers, click her heels three times and get them all the hell out of Oz.”
  • “On the far side of the grove, a body sprawled, motionless, indistinguishable from the earth on which it lay.”
  • “Against her chest the girl hugged a small blue bunny with floppy ears, a frayed blue-and-white checked ribbon around its neck.”
  • “It was a poor bluff. She could feel her cheeks redden as she recalled the moment she’d noticed him across the room, his eyes on her.”
  • “After all, she was just a woman terrified out of her mind, what threat could she be? She decided he was about to find out.”
In the first draft of ALL THAT FALL, though it was first and foremost a thriller, I had a fairly strong romantic subplot in which Emma was deciding between two men, Alec and Tommy. But as the storyline evolved over more drafts, it grew heavier on action and suspense, and the timeline condensed to only 48 hours for the entire novel. That meant Emma didn’t have time for two men! Tommy, a homicide detective, was essential to other parts of the narrative, so Alec (and this scene) had to go.


Emma Lawson was almost out of bed, mistakenly believing that California state senator Alec Joben was asleep. Her back to him, she was trying not to make a sound as her bare feet touched the floor when he reached up and grabbed a handful of her T-shirt. In football it would have been holding, in basketball some kind of defensive foul.

His hands slid under her shirt, then around her waist.

“I've got to get to work.” But even as she said it he pulled her towards him, his intent clear.

The front bell rang, followed by the creak of a door opening. Best friends for five years, Kate Doyle and Emma Lawson had long ago given up on the formality of waiting to be let into one another's homes.

“Emma, have you forgotten, love? The mechanic?” Kate’s soft Irish lilt echoed down the hall from the entryway. “I'm right screwed if we don't get there when they open, I haven’t an appointment.”

Alec’s lips barely brushed against Emma’s, a gentle half-kiss, but the pressure of his hands on the small of her back was firm. He wasn’t letting go.

“I’ll leave in ten minutes,” Emma called back to Kate. “I’ve got the address, I’ll see you there.” She figured she and Alec would take twenty, but that was close enough.

When Emma emerged from the shower, Alec was gone. She smiled as she considered that her wearing only a towel might have been sufficient inducement for him to stay. Then she saw the scribbled note on the nightstand.

Coffee at 10? Text me.

A few months back, Emma had briefly dated a local cop. She was surprised when she ran into him at a charity event recently and found it hard to swallow, a raw heat still hovering between them. But she’d made the better choice in Alec, she knew that.

Outside the temperature was over eighty degrees, despite it being not yet seven a.m. Emma lowered the top on her classic ‘67 Mustang, hoping that when she was up to speed she’d be rewarded with a breeze. As she approached the intersection at the bottom of the hill, the driver of a silver Corolla on the main road belatedly decided her street was his destination. He failed to slow sufficiently to make the turn in a controlled fashion and lost control of his car.

Emma hit her brakes hard and swerved, the oncoming Corolla missing her Mustang by inches.

The other driver continued up the hill without stopping. Emma could see him in her rearview mirror; he was young, a baseball cap pulled low on his forehead, his features obscured in the bright light of the rising summer sun.

Her heart pounded from fear and anger. He should at least have stopped to be sure she was ok.

She considered turning her car around to give him a piece of her mind. But she was already late to pick up Kate. Plus, she remembered Alec had offered to take Kate’s teen son, Luke, to practice driving this morning.

As she eased her Mustang onto the main road, Emma decided to make an effort to channel her sometimes hard-to-access inner calm, and to accept the terrifying near-miss by the driver of the Corolla as a product of his inexperience behind the wheel. Perhaps adopting that perspective would generate enough karmic good will that any mistakes Luke might make piloting Alec’s truck would result only in annoyance for other drivers, not in an accident and injuries, or worse.

Emma Lawson must race against the clock to rescue a kidnapped child and stop a killer whose master plan only begins with murder.

When Emma Lawson, the youngest lead government ethics investigator in California’s capital, takes a day off to help her best friend, Kate, prepare for the opening of her new business, Rainbow Alley Preschool, the morning takes a shocking turn.

The school’s most high-profile enrollee–Vivian Lange, the governor’s granddaughter–is kidnapped, at the same time Kate’s teenage son, Luke, goes missing. Emma is quickly drawn to a web of clues that point toward sordid secrets and a cold-case murder in a shadow world of bigotry and hate.

Over a desperate and harrowing forty-eight hours, Emma races against the clock to solve the most important investigation of her life. But will she be in time to bring the child to safety and to stop a calculating killer whose plan threatens all that Emma holds dear?

You can purchase All That Fall at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you KRIS CALVIN for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of All That Fall by Kris Calvin.

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