Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Interrogation Room Suspect #17: KIRSTEN MILLER, author of KIKI STRIKE

I might be investigated by internal affairs after hauling in today’s suspect into The Interrogation Room. I have no just cause for questioning Kirsten Miller -- other than being a big fan!

Kirsten Miller is the bestselling author of the middle grade Kiki Strike series as well as the The Eternal Ones and All You DesireA native of North Carolina, she left her home in the Smoky Mountains at seventeen and moved to New York City, where she's lived ever since.

I bet other fans are as thrilled as I am that Kirsten has two books coming out early next year: How To Lead a Life of Crime (Penguin, February 2013) -- and the much-anticipated third book in the Kiki Strike series, The Darkness Dwellers (Bloomsbury, January 2013). 

A brief peek at both:

The Darkness Dwellers (from Bloomsbury Winter catalog)
In the third installment of bestselling author Kirsten Miller’s Kiki Strike series, this delightful group of delinquent geniuses jump feet first into a fast-paced international pursuit, going underground in Paris to pursue a pair of treacherous royals who have killed Kiki’s parents.

With a dash of romance, a fresh take on good manners, and loads of butt-kicking bravery, Kiki, Betty, Ananka and the other Irregulars sharpen their amazing skills in this highly anticipated new adventure.

How to Lead a Life of Crime (from Penguin Winter catalog):

A Meth dealer. A Prostitute. A serial killer.
Anywhere else, they'd be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they're called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear. Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick's old flame. They've been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other--or will the school destroy them both?
Kristen Kittscher:  I've read that you were a fan of Sherlock Holmes as a kid. Kiki Strike’s all-girl Bank Street Irregulars are a great twist on the “Baker Street Regulars." Were there other authors or books you liked when you were growing up? 

Kirsten Miller: I read a lot of Nancy Drew. (And when I finished those, I moved on to the Hardy Boys.) I haven’t read any of the modern Nancy Drew books, but the older ones (The Hidden Staircase, The Secret in the Old Clock) are amazing. It’s hard to believe they were written in the 1930s. Nancy was always a very cool, butt-kicking chick. I give her a hard time in the Kiki Strike books, but she was (and continues to be) one of my heroes. 

But I gotta admit, my Nancy Drew stage was pretty short lived. Around the age of 10 or 11, I became a devotee of Stephen King. Which should give you a good sense of my personality (ha).

KK: What are some middle grade mysteries you enjoy now?

KM: Believe it or not, I’ve actually been reading adult books lately! (I thought I’d forgotten how.) So my full list may be quite out of date. My all time favorite is The Westing Game, which will always be a classic. I also read The Mysterious Benedict Society recently (if that counts as a mystery), which was awesome.

KK: You have a real range as a writer, taking on a reincarnation-themed romance for older teens and adults with The Eternal Ones series as well your action-packed middle grade Kiki Strike series. 
Can you talk a little bit about the different challenges involved in writing each?

KM: Well, The Eternal Ones (as well as my latest novel, How to Lead a Life of Crime) were labors of love. I can’t even describe how much fun I had writing the third Kiki Strike novel, The Darkness Dwellers. It’s not that I don’t like the Eternal Ones books. They’re actually really darn good (in my not so humble opinion). But I never felt that same LOVE when I was working on them. And without that love, writing is a million times more difficult.

KK: You've talked in previous interviews about the importance of writers "filling their brains."Any advice you can give aspiring (and current) mystery writers on that front?

KM: My biggest piece of advice is “embrace randomness.” Take a new route to school every day. Go to a section of the library that you’ve never visited before and check out the first book that catches your eye. Learn a skill you don’t really need. (Lock picking, silk screening, taxidermy, etc.) Never, ever let yourself fall into a rut. (Advice I still struggle to follow, I’m afraid!)

As for nonfiction books, check out the works of Mary Roach. (Spooked, Stiffed, etc.) If you like ghosts, cadavers, and all things disgusting you won’t be disappointed.
KK: Do you have any special methods of organizing your research? 

KM: I usually write about subjects on which I’m already well-versed. Over the years, I’ve read a lot about New York history, reincarnation, butt-kicking techniques, etc, so I really didn’t need to do any additional research when I sat down to write my novels. I guess you could say that “research” is my primary form of entertainment. So I never really stop. 

KK: Given The Eternal Ones’ focus on reincarnation, I have to ask: what do you think your future selves would say upon glimpsing your current life?
They would be very frustrated by my reluctance to tackle unpleasant tasks. “Just get it over with, already!” I can hear them shouting. “Just clean the darn toilet already!” (That’s just a segue way to the next question. I’m pretty good about scrubbing the toilet on a regular basis.)

KK: I hear that, inspired by the many questions you receive from out-of-towners looking for mysteries in New York, you’re developing The Irregular Guide to New York City that highlights its “hidden houses, secret cemeteries, abandoned subway stations, subterranean tunnels, and ghosts.” Are you willing to offer our readers one sneak peek secret New York City tip? 

KM: Sure! Here’s a special entry about outhouses and privies from the chapter entitled “Poop.” 

KK: My students and I are really looking forward to the third Kiki book. What can you reveal about it?

For starters, it’s my favorite of the three Kiki books. At the beginning of The Darkness Dwellers, Kiki sets off to claim the throne of Pokrovia. But as you might have guessed, things don’t go quite as planned, and Betty Bent must travel all the way to Paris to save Kiki’s rump. That’s all I can tell you without giving too much away, but I can promise bone-filled tunnels, evil etiquette experts, and a revolution—along with appearances by Molly Donovan (NY City’s most famous delinquent), Kaspar (the squirrel-training graffiti artist), and my personal favorite, Iris McLeod. 

Thank you so much, Kirsten! Early next year will be especially fun for me and other fans. 

Interested in keeping up with Kirsten's latest? Check out her blog, follow her on Twitter (@bankstirregular), or stop by Kiki Strike's official website. She's also got a great cover design contest running through 8/31 for How to Lead a Life of Crime. The entries are impressive!
This interview was conducted by Sleuths, Spies, and Alibis' "detective" Kristen Kittscher. Her first book, the middle grade mystery/comedy THE WIG IN THE WINDOW, comes out from Harper Children's next year.


  1. Great interview! Looking forward to checking out these books.

  2. Fellow KIKI fan here! Great interview, Kristen and Kirsten! Thanks! Looking forward to the new releases. Also love the tips for filling your brain, and "embracing randomness." These tips go well with Elisa's post yesterday on refilling the creative wells.

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