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In Conversation With Professor, Writer & Artist, Kathleen Kelley Reardon
From:
Norm Goldman --  bookpleasures.com Norm Goldman -- bookpleasures.com
For Immediate Release:
Dateline: Montreal , QC
Friday, October 2, 2020

 

Bookpleasures.com welcomesas our guest professor, writer and artist, Kathleen Kelley Reardon.


Kathleen has published tennonfiction books and two crime mysteries. Her debut novel, ShadowCampus, was described by Forbes as “fast-paced” and a“masterful debut.” Damned If She Does (2020), aManhattan-based sequel described by Kirkus as “informed andsearing,” was selected for their September 2020 “Great IndieBooks Worth Discovering.”


Kathleen is a member ofthe Ireland Chapter of the International Women’s Forum. She livesin Schull, West Cork Ireland where the upcoming third book in hercrime mystery trilogy takes place.

A professor of businessand communication, Kathleen has published extensively in journals,magazines, and was a signature front-page blogger with HuffingtonPost from 2005 to 2016.  

She’s also writtenfor The Conversation, Big Think and ThriveGlobal.

Her classic HarvardBusiness Review case, “The Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk,”became a reprint bestseller leading to her first trade book, TheyDon’t Get It, Do They

It’s from this workabout female challenges at work that Kathleen’s two crime mysterynovels emerged - along with writing about sexual misconduct anddeveloping a spectrum from mild forms of offense to egregious onesabout which she was interviewed by David Brancaccio on MarketplaceMorning Report.  

In September, Kathleenpresented online at the International Dublin Writers’ Festival“Crossing the Bridge from Nonfiction to Fiction Writing.” Shedescribed the “false dichotomy” of treating fiction andnonfiction as if in two distinct silos. Nonfiction can inform fiction- as did her nonfiction writing about challenges women face inhostile workplaces before writing her novels ShadowCampus and Damned If She Does.

Her nonfiction trade booksinclude The Secret Handshake, It’s All Politics, TheSkilled Negotiator and Comebacks at Work, whichhave been Amazon bestsellers. 

Norm: Good day Kathleenand thanks for participating in our interview.

How did you get startedin writing? Why do you write? Do you have a theme, message, or goalfor your books? 

Kathleen: Hi Norm. Thanksfor inviting me. My nonfiction books derived from my research as aprofessor of communication and later business.

My two crime mysterieswere influenced by some of that research on gender differences and myown experiences as a professor.

Shadow Campusstarts with a young professor, Meg Doherty, found hanging in heroffice nearly dead the night before her tenure decision.

In Damned If She Does,a sequel, Meg has been keeping a dark secret from everyone, includingher brother Shamus, until she comes upon the body of the man whocaused it all and she quickly becomes the prime suspect. Both booksinvolve a brother-sister duo solving the mystery. 

Norm: What has beenyour greatest challenge (professionally) that you’ve overcome ingetting to where you’re at today?

Kathleen: There have beenseveral.  I would say that overcoming breast cancer in my earlythirties and twenty years later being diagnosed with Parkinson’scertainly presented major obstacles.

Fortunately, by the time Ibegan to realize that I had Parkinson’s disease, much of my careerhad been established. Nevertheless, at the age of 52 I had plans thathad to be reconfigured. I did become a fiction writer and artist, soyou could say that “when a door closed, two windows opened.”

Norm: How do you dealwith criticism?

Kathleen: I’m used toconstructive criticism as a writer. You have to listen to what othersthink when you’re a professor or you won’t be able to publish injournals important to promotion. You get used to editors asking forchanges and the same thing happens when writing nonfiction books inparticular.

Norm: What did you findmost useful in learning to write? What was least useful or mostdestructive?  

Kathleen:  I lovedwriting even as a child. I was fortunate to have some wonderfulteachers early on, especially in my junior year of high school. Judith Kase was extremely encouraging and helped me developconfidence in and enthusiasm about writing. All writers getrejections, especially early on. It’s important to keep writing andto improve by reading the works of highly regarded authors.

Norm: Do you write moreby logic or intuition, or some combination of the two? Pleasesummarize your writing process.  

Kathleen: With crimemysteries, I’d say both are necessary. You have to keep in mindwhat can logically occur. In terms of intuition, I’m oftenasked how I keep readers from knowing who did it. The answer: Ihide it from myself. Any of the primary characters could be thekiller and I keep several as candidates until near the end.

It’s a lot like spinninga number of plates, but that’s what I enjoy about mysteries. If Iknow precisely “who done it” while writing, there’s a goodchance that I’ll accidentally telegraph that to my readers.So, keeping me in the dark keeps them in the dark too. Itruly enjoy that aspect.

Norm: Does the linebetween truth and fiction sometimes become blurred for you?

Kathleen: Most fictionisn’t void of truth. Unlike my nonfiction books, however, there’smore room for play and imagination with fiction.

I’d say that if the lineblurs, it’s purposeful for me. I allow my nonfiction, especiallyabout academia and gender issues, inform my crime mysteries thatoccur in academic contexts. 

But, for example, ShadowCampus starts, as I mentioned, with Meg Doherty, a youngprofessor, found hanging in her office – nearly dead - on the eveof her tenure committee decision. While promotion to tenure is astressful time and people can present obstacles, this was certainly ascene that no one I know has experienced. Yet, it wasn’t beyond therealm of possibility in fiction.

Norm: How do you choosethe names of your characters?

Kathleen: That’s a funquestion, Norm. I take time with this. Meg and Shamus, the leadcharacters, are from and Irish American family, and I like thosenames. Jeffries in Damned If She Does needed a name thatsuited a tough detective. It took a few walks to come up with hisname. I think it suits him well. Sometimes I hear a name and realizethat it will fit a character.

Norm: Do you ever dreamabout your characters?

Kathleen: Yes. And aboutthe plot. The characters and their story become part of your lifewhen you’re writing.

You begin to know whatthey would and wouldn’t do. I should mention that Meg’s dreamsequence in Damned If She Does was partially derived from adream I’d actually had when writing the book. It was so unsettlingthat it woke me up ? 

Norm:   What doyou think most characterizes your writing?  

Kathleen: I do a lot withdialogue rather than telling the reader exactly what characters looklike or what they’re doing. Take Shamus, for example, there arehints in my books about what he looks like, but I find readers comeup with their own version of Shamus. I like giving them that option.

Norm: Could you tell usabout your latest novel, Damned If She Does?

Kathleen: Damned If SheDoes is first and foremost a New York City crime mystery. Butfiction often conveys messages about reality. In this case theplot involves Meg Doherty keeping a dark secret for six years. Thisis how it’s described on Amazon:

When a renowned professoris viciously murdered at a Manhattan conference, Meg stumbles uponthe scene and quickly becomes the prime suspect. It falls to herbrother, Shamus, to help prove her innocence.

The estranged sister andbrother we met in Reardon's debut novel, Shadow Campus, nowfind they know less about each other than they thought. Caught inNYC's blinding media spotlight, gilded society and criminalunderworld, the pair must confront not only Meg's secret but along-suppressed family mystery.

Damned If She Does"artfully stirs" what Kirkus Reviews describes as a"dangerous cauldron of ambitious scholars." "Informedand searing" in her "takedown of ivory tower politics,"Reardon makes us work for answers throughout the "page-turningscenes" of this MeToo whodunit.

Norm: How did youbecome involved with the subject or theme of your book?  

Kathleen: As a professor,I was tenured at two universities. I knew the process well. Iremember waking up one morning with the plot of Shadow Campus inmy head. I had to get the bones of it down. So, I started writingvery early that morning.

After my three childrenhad gone to school, I spent much of that day writing. I rememberbeing on spring break and putting everyday of that week into ShadowCampus.

With my academic work,though, I had to put it away and mostly work on it during the summersfor a few years. You could say that I was immersed in the context ofthe novel by being a female professor in a department where women hadnot successfully attained tenure through the system. I was the first.

And, it was a struggle –much like the one Meg experiences in Shadow Campus. DamnedIf She Does takes place at an academic conference. I attendedthose for years, some in New York City. So, again my experience as aprofessor influenced the story.

Norm: What were yourgoals and intentions in Damned If She Does, and how well doyou feel you achieved them? 

Kathleen: My primary goalwas to write a second crime mystery that would be a challenge for thereader. I believe that was achieved given what readers tell me. Ialso wanted to bring Shamus and Meg back to life and present themwith a number of dangerous challenges. There’s a helicopter scenethat is particularly harrowing.

Norm: What was the mostdifficult part of writing Damned If She Does and what did youenjoy most about writing this book?  

Kathleen: The difficultycame mostly from the cognitive challenges I have with Parkinson’s.I used to be able to fit two days into one. Cognitive issues were oneof the earlier symptoms for me and one of the most troublesome as aprofessor and writer.

I learned that exercisingmy brain as I did when writing blogs, helped. Still, I would haveloved to put in four hours a day writing Damned If She Does,but it wasn’t possible most days.

I meditate using BernieSiegel’s “Morning and Evening Meditation.” I met him when I wasdiagnosed with breast cancer in my early thirties. My oncologistintroduced me to him. His meditations have made a world of differencein terms of restoring my energy to write each day and also to paint. 

Norm: Where can ourreaders find out more about you and your books?

Kathleen: Both ShadowCampus and Damned If She Does are available on Amazon.comand described there. And right now, Damned if She Does is only$5.00 on Kindle. Also, the audible version of Damned If She Doeswill be ready soon.

You can also follow me on MY BLOG

I’m excited about that.Two performers, Brendan Conroy and Camilla Griehsel did the readingnear where I live in West Cork, Ireland. I produced it and because ofCovid-19, we communicated daily by video conferencing. My husband,Chris, is editing it. 

Norm: What is next forKathleen Kelley Reardon?

Kathleen: I have the thirdcrime mystery of the trilogy to write. It’s partially done. I’mlooking forward to writing a memoir. Friends and family have beenencouraging me to do that. I’m beginning to warm up to the idea.I’ll continue to paint as I love it. Some of my painting is atwww.paintingdoc.com and at www.mizenartists.com

Norm: As this interviewcomes to an end, what advice can you give aspiring writers that youwished you had gotten, or that you wished you would have listenedto?  

Kathleen: Don’t waituntil you think you have a story good enough to write. Start writingnow. Short stories or even journal entries will get you going. 

Norm: Thanks once againand good luck with all of your future projects.

Kathleen: Thank you verymuch, Norm.

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