Get To Know: Kellye Garrett

Back To Interviews

Get to Know Kellye Garrett
A photo of Kellye in front of her book shelf, next to the cover of her book, Like A Sister

Kellye Garrett (she/her) is the acclaimed author of Hollywood Homicide, which won the Agatha, Anthony, Lefty and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel and was named one of BookBub’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time, as well as Hollywood Ending, which was featured on the TODAY show’s Best Summer Reads of 2019 and was nominated for both Anthony and Lefty awards. Prior to writing novels, Kellye spent eight years working in Hollywood, including a stint writing for Cold Case. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for Sisters in Crime and is a co-founder of Crime Writers of Color.

Like A Sister  When the body of disgraced reality TV star Desiree Pierce is found on a playground in the Bronx the morning after her 25th birthday party, the police and the media are quick to declare her death an overdose. It’s a tragedy, certainly, but not a crime. But Desiree’s half-sister Lena Scott knows that can’t be the case. A graduate student at Columbia, Lena has spent the past decade forging her own path far from the spotlight, but some facts about Desiree just couldn’t have changed since their childhood. Lena becomes determined to find justice for her sister, even if it means untangling her family’s darkest secrets—or ending up dead herself.

What inspired you to write Like A Sister?On the surface, I was inspired by a newspaper headline about a “pregnant former reality star, found dead at 26 in Bronx — with no pants and cocaine.” I thought it was a very disrespectful headline that they’d only do because it was a Black woman.

On a deeper level, I was inspired because I want to see more domestic suspense featuring women of color — specifically women who are like me. Single with no children and living in a city. The tropes are still there. There are family issues (with her father and estranged sister); twists (my favorite is in the middle), and a hint of romance. But it’s all told from a perspective you don’t see a lot in the genre.

Describe your book in three words.Instagram-approved Domestic Suspense
(Like how I used that dash to cheat and get four words?)

If you could get lunch with one author (living or dead), who would it be? My mother is also a huge crime fiction lover and would give me free reign of her bookshelves as a kid. That’s how I fell in love with authors like Walter Mosley, Sue Grafton, Valerie Wilson Wesley, and more. I’d love to take them all to lunch. But if I had to pick one person, it would definitely be Barbara Neely! She’s a Black woman who came out right after Walter Mosley in the 90s. Her Blanche White series about a dark-skinned maid who encounters murder while dealing with class issues won the Anthony, Agatha, and Macavity awards for Best First Novel. Needless to say, she was such an inspiration to me and so many others. I even wrote about her in CrimeReads. And I was so embarrassed when I found out her agent sent her the article! We emailed back and forth. Trust me when I say I was trying so hard to play it cool and probably failing. And I was supposed to meet her when she was getting the Grand Master Award from Mystery Writers of America, but unfortunately, she passed away before the award was given out.

What are you listening to?

I just finished listening to a podcast called Welcome to Your Fantasy: The wild true crime story behind the cultural phenomenon Chippendales. I’ve known about Chippendales since I was a teenager. (Rumor had it that my English teacher was a former dancer!) However, I had no idea that someone was murdered because of a power struggle behind the scenes. Also, as a sign of how much I love baked goods: Whenever the host Natalia Petrzela said the word Chippendales, instead of thinking of attractive semi-naked men, I’d think about chocolate chip cookies.

What is the tastiest thing you've eaten lately, and who made it?

This won’t surprise anyone who read the previous answer but I just had a birthday and my writers group (and fellow amazing crime fiction authors Alex Segura, Amina Akhtar, and Elizabeth Little) sent me two boxes of chocolate chip cookies from Jacques Torres’ Chocolate. (Yep, the chef from Nailed it!) They were heaven in a three-inch round circle. I told myself I was going to freeze them and ration them out as a reward for making my word count. Spoiler Alert: That didn’t happen. I ate them all immediately. Not only that, I became obsessed to the point where I took mass transit in New York City during a pandemic (!!!) to go to his store on the Upper West Side and buy more. Ate all those immediately as well.

How have your personal life experiences shaped your writing?

I’m a Black American woman who writes about Black American women. My books aren’t about being black in America. They’re beach reads – but from a decidedly Black woman perspective.

In Like A Sister, you see it in how the media treats her sister’s death–how quick everyone is to just dismiss it as a Black woman overdosing. You see it on how my main character Lena reacts to the murder. That she feels she needs to be a “Strong Black Woman.” And you also see it when Lena has to go to a new place as part of her investigation.  I grew up in a predominantly white town. My mom had a “my kid’s an honor student at Hanover Park High School” bumper sticker so the cops would know we were local. I made Lena’s mom have the same thing. There’s also a line where she says that you can tell the number of black people in a neighborhood by the number of ethnic hair care products in a drugstore.

So later when she gets stopped by a cop in this new place, she’s nervous AF:
I didn’t have the bumper sticker pass here. This was an eighth of an aisle hair product area, stuck in the back of Rite Aid like it was the back of the bus territory. And I was in a car with no idea where the registration or insurance were located. I’d been too distracted and now I was paying for it.

What darling did you kill and why?

I’m the type of writer where I will cut a character, scene, or entire storyline no problem, but will throw a whole temper tantrum if you dare ask me to cut a line I love.  It’s been six years and I’m still miffed that someone had me cut the following line from a scene where my MC is selling her clothes on consignment in what would become my debut, Hollywood Homicide:
“Are they clean?”
I nodded. They were Febrezed. Close enough.

 

Back To Interviews

Listen to an excerpt from the audiobook!