Kelly Oliver interview with David Alan Binder

posted Jul 28, 2019, 8:59 AM by David Alan Binder

Kelly Oliver interview with David Alan Binder


About Kelly Oliver:  Kelly Oliver grew up in the Northwest, Montana, Idaho, and Washington states. Her maternal grandfather was a forest ranger committed to saving the trees, and her paternal grandfather was a logger hell bent on cutting them down. On both sides, her ancestors were some of the first settlers in Northern Idaho. In her own unlikely story, Kelly went from eating a steady diet of wild game shot by her dad to becoming a vegetarian while studying philosophy and pondering animal minds. Competing with peers who'd come from private schools and posh families "back East," Kelly's working class backwoods grit has served her well. And much to her parent's surprise, she's managed to feed and cloth herself as a professional philosopher.

Kelly's Jessica James, Cowgirl Philosopher Mystery Series moves between the Chicago area and Western Montana.

When she’s not writing Jessica James mystery novels, Kelly Oliver is a Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. She earned her B.A. from Gonzaga University and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University. She is the author of thirteen scholarly books, ten anthologies, and over 100 articles, including work on campus rape, reproductive technologies, women and the media, film noir, and Alfred Hitchcock. Her work has been translated into seven languages, and she has published an op-ed on loving our pets in The New York Times. She has been interviewed on ABC television news, the Canadian Broadcasting Network, and various radio programs.


Her Website:


Kelly Oliver FACEBOOK


twitter @kellyoliverbook



1.     Where are you currently living?

Nashville, Tennessee, although I escape the heat and spend the month of July in a log house on a mountain in northern Idaho.


2.     What is the most important thing that you have learned in your writing experience, so far?

Writing is a portal to another world. It takes you out of yourself. When the words are flowing, you’re in touch with something beyond yourself.

More specifically, writing fiction, I’ve learned that one little tweak can change the whole world.


3.     What would you say is your most interesting writing, publishing, editing or illustrating quirk?

When I write nonfiction, I eat kale and drink carrot juice. And when I write fiction, I eat cookies and drink coke.


4.     Any insights eBooks vs. print books and alternative vs. conventional publishing?

EBooks are easy to horde and devour. They don’t take up much space. They’re cheaper than print books. They’re light--you can take hundreds on an airplane. Once I finally gave in and started reading books on a kindle, I find that I don’t have the same relationship to the author or the book. There is something about seeing the book cover every time you open a print book that makes it hard to forget who and what you’re reading!


When I want to study a book for its style or content, I really need a print book so I can underline and write in the margins.


5.     Do you have any suggestions or helps for new writers (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

Remember, you are unique and therefore your story is unique. Not everyone will like it. But your audience is out there. You just have to find it. Trust your gut, but get a good editor.

6.     What was one of the most surprising things you learned with your creative process with your books, editing, publishing or illustrating?

As I mentioned earlier, I was surprised at how changing one small detail can change the whole world. Sometimes revising and editing can seem daunting until I remember how easy it is to change very big things in a novel.

7.     How many books have you written?

I’ve written sixteen nonfiction books on topics ranging from philosophy and film to capital punishment, war, and animal ethics. I’ve written six novels: four in the Jessica James Mystery series, one in a new middle grade mystery series called Kassy O’Roarke Cub Reporter, and one in a new historical mystery series. I’m almost finished writing my seventh novel, which will be the fifth in the Jessica James series.


8.     Do you have any tricks or tips to help others become a better writer (please be so specific that this most likely will not have been seen elsewhere)?

Read the best novels in your genre and beyond. Like everything else, writing gets better (and easier) with practice. Get a good editor.


9.     Do you have any suggestions for providing twists in a good story?

Only you know your character’s inner most secrets. Everyone lies about something. And the lies we tell ourselves make the best twists.

10.                        What makes your or any book stand out from the crowd?

I like a good balance of humor, suspense and romance. A book that delivers all three and is beautifully written is a real treat.


11.                        What is one unusual way in which you promote your work?

I shamelessly post pictures of my gorgeous Persian cats sniffing my books. I also have some wild book trailers on YouTube.


12.                         What is the one thing you would do differently now (concerning writing or editing or publishing or illustrating) and why?

I have been writing nonfiction for decades, but if I could start over, I would have started writing fiction much earlier. In fact, instead of—or in addition to—a Ph.D. in philosophy, I would have gotten an MFA in creative writing.


13.                        What saying or mantra do you live by?

One of my philosophical heroes, Nietzsche, says, “Everything decisive in life comes against the greatest obstacles.” I remind myself of that nearly every day.


14.                        Anything else you would like to say?

Thanks, David!