Kellye Garrett is someone I admire and am always a little afraid to talk to, just in case she realizes what a goober I am and recoils in horror.
She hasn’t yet, so I worked up the courage to ask her to do a Dearly Departed interview with me! It’s a heckin’ shame the Detective by Day series is over. (Brag note: I was there when she won the Anthony Award for Hollywood Homicide!)
Onward, to the interview!
1. Tell us about the Detective by Day mysteries. What was the premise? Who were the characters?
My series is about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress who takes on the deadliest role of her life: Private Detective. In the first, Hollywood Homicide, Dayna Anderson doesn’t set out to solve a murder. All the semifamous, mega-broke actress wants is to help her parents keep their house. So after witnessing a deadly hit-and-run, she pursues the fifteen grand reward.
The idea was to follow Dayna Anderson as she transitions from retired actress (book one) to apprentice P.I. (book two and beyond…if there had been a beyond.) She works with a very by-the-book former police detective named Aubrey. The other main characters were my attempt to show the different aspects of fame:
Omari: Her love interest who just lands a role on the hottest new TV show of the season.
Sienna: Her roomie who is so desperate to be famous she decides to set a world record for only wearing red.
Emme: Her other best friend who is twin sisters with the biggest movie star in the world. Imagine if after Full House ended, Mary Kate wanted nothing to do with fame and Ashley kept going.
2. Where did the series come from?
I’ve always loved lighter weight traditional mysteries and cozies but could never find a good hook. It changed when I was driving down the street in Los Angeles at a time when I was dead broke. I saw a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for info on a murder and thought, “I should solve that for the reward money.” Dumb idea for real life, but it turned out to be a great idea for a book.
3. Why did it end?
I initially signed a three-book deal with Midnight Ink, the mystery imprint of midsize publisher Llewellyn. I was midway through writing book three when we got a very out-the-blue email that Llewellyn was closing the imprint.
4. Were there any loose ends you wish you could have tied up? How would they have been resolved?
There were a few things I was exploring in book three that I was super excited about. We were going to learn more about Emme (she gets a boyfriend who of course she’s never met in real life because Emme doesn’t leave the house!) and I also very casually mention that Aubrey is gay. Plus, it had way more Z, who was this really fun character who’s introduced in the second book who I may or may not have a crush on.
5. Did you learn anything from writing the series?
I learned that I could write a book, which is something that I’ve wanted to do since I was five but took thirty-plus years to do. No matter what happens with my career—be it I get to write more Day books, another series or just write standalones—Hollywood Homicide will always be my baby. Like it was published in 2017 and I still will just be randomly sitting somewhere and think “Yo, I wrote a whole book!” I still can’t believe it sometimes.
6. What are you working on now?
Just like amateur detective novels, the domestic suspense genre is in desperate need of some color. So I’m working on an #ownvoices domestic suspense novel about a black woman looking into the overdose death of a one-time reality star found within blocks of her house—her own estranged younger sister. My goal is to write a book a la Lori Rader-Day or Megan Miranda.
Thank you so much, Kellye! I learned a lot, and I’ve read the Day books twice!
Kellye Garrett’s first novel, Hollywood Homicide, about a semi-famous, mega-broke black actress won the Agatha, Anthony, Lefty and Independent Publisher “IPPY” awards for best first novel. It’s also one of BookBub’s Top 100 Crime Novels of All Time. The second, Hollywood Ending, was featured on the TODAY show’s Best Summer Reads of 2019 and was nominated for both Anthony and Lefty awards. Prior to writing books, 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 co-founded Crime Writers of Color. You can learn more at KellyeGarrett.com.