By Ana Wolken
Kate Birdsall is a Lansing author who recently released her debut novel, The Flats.
Both Kate and her protagonist, Cleveland Police Detective Liz Boyle, are out queer women. LAHR recently chatted with Kate about what it’s like being a queer author and bringing that perspective to the world of mystery novels.
Q: This is your debut novel. Was it important to you that the lead character in your first novel be queer?
A: Absolutely. Writers need to write the characters and books that they want to read. I noticed a huge chasm in mystery fiction, which is my favorite genre, where I never really saw myself and my own identity being represented especially accurately.
There are tons of compelling straight characters, for sure, but they’re straight. And most LGBTQ+ mystery fiction is about the characters’ sexuality. I didn’t want that. I wanted Liz to be a queer character, but the series isn’t about her queerness. It’s about her cases and her life, which at some point will likely include a love interest, but the stories are mystery stories. We want to know who killed the victim, you know?
Q: Why did you choose the Rust Belt as the setting for The Flats?
A: I love the Rust Belt! Who doesn’t?
Seriously though, I grew up in Akron, Ohio, and spent a lot of time in Cleveland when I was a teenager. Liz and I have in common the fact that we used to go to punk-rock shows at dive bars with sticky floors in the Flats, wearing our weird hair and chain wallets and Doc Martens. Even beyond that, though, I think the Rust Belt is the perfect setting for mystery. It’s dark and gritty and very noir. Q: Was the process of finding an agent/publisher impacted by you being an out queer woman? If so, how?
A: Not really, though it did cross my mind. I mean, we all know that one doesn’t just come out once—it’s a process, and although I’m totally secure in my queer identity, I still sometimes worry that I’ll be judged for it. Fortunately, the publishing industry on the whole is really welcoming, and my agent and editors are all remarkable, kind, open-minded people.
Q: Do you have future plans for more Liz Boyle novels?
A: Oh, yeah. The second book is well underway, and I plan to finish the draft in November. After that, it’ll have to undergo pretty substantial editing and rewriting, but such is the glamorous life of a writer. My hope is to have it to my publisher early next year, which would put its release late next year.
Q: Where can LAHR members pick up your book? Are you in any local stores? Any plans for local events?
The book/e-book/audiobook is available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iBooks, and Google Play, through my publisher (Red Adept Publishing), or directly through me. I’m working on getting into Schuler Books, and will likely have another event, probably one that involves beer, in Lansing in December. Stay tuned!
If you read The Flats and like it, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads!