Exclusive interview with "K.M. Hardy"
K.M. Hardy was born in Olney, Maryland. Her father’s work allowed her to travel all over the country throughout her childhood where she was able to meet and observe many different people. When she was eight, she discovered an old, forgotten journal written by her grandfather while he served in World War II. This sparked her interest in writing about every day people and what they would do in certain circumstances. Eventually, her family settled in Utah where she would attend Utah State University Eastern, and later meet her husband. Graduating with a Criminal Justice degree, she went on to work for the government for the next ten years, but she could never leave behind her first love: writing. Eventually, she entered her works into competitions, including for the renowned James Patterson where she achieved a finalist spot. This incredible experience encouraged her to continue her craft until Sampson Angus McKay was born. Apart from writing thrilling novels, she loves cooking gourmet meals, playing pranks on her family, and camping with her dog. But more than anything, she loves being married to her best friend and navigating motherhood with their three rambunctious kids.
Please tell us a bit about each of your books and the inspiration behind them.
Well, as far as my chosen genre goes, I’ve always loved mystery and putting pieces of the proverbial puzzle together. That was actually my chosen career path before I retired at a young age. My main character, Sampson Angus McKay, actually stemmed from a different book I wrote years before that has never been published, with a character that I had affectionately named Kenneth. The book itself was a romance novel with only a small hint of the crime and thriller genre, but it really didn’t work as a whole. However, I was never able to completely ‘get over’ Kenneth and decided that I wanted to build on this character a lot more and create something new. Finally, as a result, Sampson Angus McKay was born. I wanted to create a complex, deep, and not necessarily ‘knight in shining armor’ character, but someone that you would definitely root for and want on your side if you’re in trouble. There are times his methods might disappoint you. He’s human; He makes mistakes, but he has the best of intentions at heart even when he does.
Scots Honor is Sam’s origin story: It completely sets the stage for the reader with his circumstances, as well as what kind of a man he is. First of all, he’s very tenacious. When he’s involved in something that doesn’t make sense or what he considers to be wrong, he won’t rest until he solves the problem. You see that happen when he meets the mysterious Liz: He can’t help but be drawn to her, and he wants to figure out the puzzle that is her life. You’ll meet his team, who are not only loyal to him, but he’s extremely protective of each of them. They all play a crucial role to Sam, whether it’s through cases or even life lessons. You also learn that while Sam is a family man, he’s guilty of letting his insatiable desire to solve cases get in the way sometimes.
The Redcap is the second book of Sam’s adventures, taking place about a year after Scots Honor. In The Redcap, Sam and his team are working together on a permanent basis, and they’re asked by their boss, Director Belinda Copper, to investigate the death of an old woman at the behest of a friend. There turns out to be a lot more to this woman’s death than they expect. In this book, you’ll also learn more about Sam's past and what has shaped him into the person he is today.
What are crime fiction readers going to love about your books?
I think, like me, they will love how complex each of the main characters is. Obviously, when someone reads a crime novel, they want the who, what, when, where, and why of a crime, but to see the way someone makes those decisions to get the answers is, to me, very intriguing. I’ve never met one person in my life that is not deep and complex in their own way; It’s basic human nature. To me, the real mystery is unraveling the reasons and events behind that nature from life experiences, love interests, and tragedy. In all of my books, I keep that mystery at the forefront of my mind, especially when it comes to deciding why my characters do the things that they do.
How do you build suspense in your stories?
To me, a good suspense story is like a roller-coaster: You can’t just start straight from the top of a rollercoaster and then go down for one hill, otherwise you’re on a slide which is too short-lived for a thrill. It has to start with a little jolt, then the build-up is nice and steady before you hit the peak, and then suddenly the rush happens! I try to frame my storytelling the same way: The beginning hooks you into the situation; it’s obviously serious. Then, as Sam and the team continue to uncover every piece of evidence and get closer to the truth, they’re faced with more dangers that point in the direction they should be going to reach the conclusion. When they get to the peak, all hell suddenly breaks loose. Like I said, it’s a rollercoaster. But I should mention that while I use that analogy for suspense, I’m actually terrified of roller coasters.
Did your work in Law Enforcement and Corrections have an impact on your writing?
It has in the sense of thinking like a police officer. The science of Criminal Justice is ever-changing: The physical forensics science is always trying to be improved, new laws and policies are always being made, and every law enforcement official of every sect is required to always be aware of these changes so that they can do their jobs without many problems. I mean as far as legal proceedings goes. I do my very best to use what knowledge I’ve gained in being correct in my writing, and I also subscribe to the updates in laws and science so that I may be aware of new changes. It’s not the same as being there in the present, obviously, but I like to think that my knowledge and experience is not only fun to read but also accurate in representation.
What are some of the biggest lessons you learned while writing your books?
Listen.To.Your.Characters. I, like many other authors, struggled to find my voice and my niche—the kind of stories I like to tell—when I first started writing. One of the biggest mistakes I made during this process was not really getting to know my characters. And I mean that in the complete sense. You can tell a lot about a person according to their likes and dislikes, and I didn’t have a clue about any of this when I first started writing eight years ago. I always looked at my characters as just people that I invented and knew what they looked like, and they did what I wanted them to. Then, when I realized that they are in fact individuals who use their inner compass to guide them in their decisions, I started asking myself the questions “How would they handle this? Why would they handle it like that? What makes them so passionate about this instance?” Once I started thinking like that, writing came much easier to me. You can decide what kind of trouble your characters are going to get into, but you have to let them tell you what they would do to get out of it.
Do you involve other people in your writing, as collaborators or editors? How do you make this work?
I do collaborate with a few people: my beta readers and my editor. My beta readers consist of friends and family, and all of them fall either into the devil's-advocate-critique range or the extremely-supportive-no-matter-what range. I think it’s important to have both. You obviously need someone to point out the little mistakes that you make in a manuscript so that you can fix it, but it’s also good to have the kind supporters that keep you encouraged when you might doubt yourself. And writers do, in fact, doubt themselves. We are our own worst critics. Once the beta reading stage is done, I then have my editor go through everything with a fine-toothed comb to make sure that, grammatically speaking, everything is correct. Plus, sometimes she sees things the beta readers missed. I cannot emphasize enough how important it is for authors to have an editor they like and trust: You need fresh eyes to see anything you missed, but also a person who will enhance your writing voice. I would hate for any reader to miss out on a great story because of a few spelling and nitpicky corrections that could have been avoided. My editor is fantastic at that; I owe her a lot.
Who are some of the crime fiction writers you enjoy reading?
I actually enjoy quite a few more genres than just crime fiction and thriller, but as far as that range of authors goes, it’s a tossup between Tom Clancy and Dan Brown. My very first true thriller experience came from watching the movie “The Hunt for Red October” with my parents when I was a teenager, and I instantly fell in love. Not long after that, I got my hands on the book and couldn’t put it down. I love the way Clancy builds such incredible suspense with the mind games and, eventually, the submarines! Needless to say, I’ve read a lot of Jack Ryan adventures.
Angels and Demons was then recommended to me, and if I remember correctly, I finished that book in one night. The twists and turns that you never saw coming were incredible, to say the very least. And so clever! It takes a lot of careful wording to so expertly drop hints the way Brown does and still not see the end result! I do my best to do the same in my books: drop the hints so the conclusion is not completely out of the blue, but make them ambiguous enough that you can’t see them coming.
Besides writing, what are your favorite things to do?
Cooking is at the top of my list. I love to cook anything and everything. And if I don’t know how to cook it, I learn. My family is so used to trying all sorts of different foods from around the globe, they don’t even question it anymore. I could probably tell my husband we’ll be having deep-fried grasshoppers from somewhere obscure because I wanted to learn how to make them, and his automatic response is, “Okay, I bet it’ll be good!” Anyone who really knows me will tell you that my favorite things in the world revolve around art, and edible art is definitely one of my favorite things.
I also love music—all kinds of music. Before I went into Law Enforcement, I was a violinist, a pianist, and a first Alto singer. I still engage in music regularly; I even have a karaoke app on my phone that I love singing along with. No shame.
I also love travel and adventure; my dad’s work often required my family to travel all over the country when I was growing up. Whenever I talk to people who have never been more than one or two states away from their hometown, it boggles my mind. I don’t think I could ever live like that when there’s so much world to see. Even now, I do my very best to constantly take my husband and kids on random adventures throughout the country so that they can see and experience everything. I hope to be able to do more of that worldwide as they get older. Here’s hoping.
And finally, of course, reading. I’m a picky reader when it comes to the author’s voice (again, do NOT skip the editor step), but when I find a book that I like, no matter the genre, I can’t put it down. Crime thrillers are obviously a favorite, but I also really love fantasy, science fiction, and historical fiction. My favorite book series would have to be the Old Kingdom series by Garth Nix. You want to talk about travel, crime, adventure, and girl power? Those are the books to read!
What advice do you have for aspiring writers who are considering writing a crime fiction novel?
Do your research. If you’re fortunate enough to have experience to lean on, that’s wonderful, but don’t ever assume that you know all that there is to know about the world of crime and politics, even in fiction. If you’re into writing period dramas involving crime, make sure you know all about the world of crime science during your chosen era. If you want to do modern day, stay updated on law and science. If you want to do future, you might have a little bit more wiggle room with that, but don’t forget the basic fundamentals. Always, always do your research. I read a quote once that said “90% of an author's job is research,” and believe me when I say they were not lying on that.
“The Redcap” is your latest novel, correct?
Yes, that’s right.
What reaction have you received from readers so far?
“This was way better than the first one!” seems to be the common consensus, and I would have to agree. Scots Honor was really about giving Sam an origin story, and now I get to really explore and record his adventures as an FBI asset. The Redcap takes place roughly one year after the events of Scots Honor; I made the space in between the novels on purpose because, after a year, one tends to completely settle into their new life, and I figured it would be a good jumping off point now that Sam has his life somewhat in order again. In The Redcap, the readers will not only see Sam solve a difficult crime, but they’ll also learn more about him and what makes him tick. As I’ve stated, to me that’s the really interesting thing about great characters.
Where are your books sold? How can readers connect with you?
My books are just about everywhere now: Amazon, Walmart, Barnes and Noble, Indie Reads, Indie Bound, there’s a whole list of outlets on Goodreads. I have the most up-to-date information linked to my website, https://www.kmhardy.net/ , which also connects to my social media: Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
What can we expect to see next from K.M. Hardy? Any upcoming book tours, signings, etc?
Well, I’m currently busy with book number three of Sam and his team’s adventures. Due to the pandemic, I am doing my best to follow all of the CDC’s recommended health and safety protocols so we can bring this crisis to an end as soon as possible. In the future, however, I would absolutely love to do a tour and a signing. I’ve actually been talking to some vendors in my state about doing a signing tour, and they’re excited to have a local author. We’ll have to see what happens, but I’m confident that tours are in the near future.