The Road to Mystery Trivia
Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on May 12, 2012
The Road to Mystery Trivia with Kathleen Kaska
Kathleen Kaska is the author the Classic Triviography mystery series, which includes The Sherlock Holmes Triviography and Quiz Book, The Alfred Hitchcock Triviography and Quiz Book, and The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz. All three books have just been reissued in by LL-Publications. Kathleen also writes the award-winning Sydney Lockhart mystery series set in the 1950s. Her first two mysteries, Murder at the Arlington and Murder at the Luther, were selected as bonus-books for the Pulpwood Queen Book Group, the largest book group in the country.
From Trivia to Sydney
The road from mystery trivia to Sydney Lockhart meandered, hill-climbed, and detoured. Good detours. Not linear, and with a mind of their own.
I started assembling mystery trivia to learn that craft by dissecting the work of master mystery writers Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle; and suspense filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock. I also wanted to offer something different to catch the eyes of a publisher. The trivia book idea came to me when I read an article in a writers’ magazine about the popularity of those books. The second Stephen King trivia book had just been published as well as one on Clint Eastwood and the Seinfeld TV show. Gazing up at my complete collection of Agatha Christie mysteries on my bookshelf, a cerebral light blub went on. Three months later I completed a proposal and two months after that, I had an agent. He sold the Christie trivia book in short order, and it was followed by my Alfred Hitchcock trivia book (The 100thanniversary of Hitch’s birth was right around the corner. Timing is everything.) Later came my Sherlock Holmes trivia book.
Was I ready to plot my own mystery? I tried hard, attempted an outline, played around with a few settings, and worked on character development. But I couldn’t seem to create anything that resonated. Although aware of the basic plotting formula, I had a difficult time pulling things together. Focusing on what I enjoyed the most, writing travel and outdoor articles, I soon landed a staff-writer position at a local fitness and outdoor adventure magazine. Then after a couple of short-story contest awards and some nice reviews on my trivia books, it was time again to refocus.
Starting a plot outline caused an immediate knot to form in my stomach. What was the problem? I’d done outlines for my trivia books and lengthy articles, but for my first mystery? It wasn’t happening. Then my old “pal” Stephen King came to my rescue again. His “seat of the pants” method of plotting gave me a brand new perspective. Characters seemed to walk into my life and tell me their stories. All I had to do was listen. And write.
Sydney Lockhart introduced herself to me on the long drive from the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas to my then-home in Austin, Texas. By the time I pulled into the driveway, I had gotten to know Sydney very well. The first hotel-setting was in place, and when I started to write, the story flowed fast and furious. I’m now on book number four, and Sydney hasn’t stopped talking.
Sherlock Holmes: “Kathleen Kaska has put together a wonderful mind teaser for all Sherlock Holmes aficionados. She covers it all—stories, books, the media—with lots of questions, puzzles, and trivia facts. No true Sherlockian will want to miss this grand Triviography and Quiz Book.”—Michael R. Pitts, author of Famous Detectives I, II, and III, and co-author of The Great Detective Pictures.
Agatha Christie: “Kathleen Kaska covers every aspect of the Queen of Crime’s life and career in The Agatha Christie Triviography and Quiz Book. She has packed an astonishing number of quotes, characters, plots, settings, biographical details, and pure fun into these quizzes. As Poirot might say, your “little grey cells will get the exercise!”
This book, fiendishly clever and remarkably researched, is pure gold for fans of Agatha Christie.” —Kate Stine, publisher Mystery Scene Magazine
Sherlock Holmes: A must for any fan of filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock and movie history. The quizzes are fun and challenging – and the surrounding text provides a wealth of information on the life/work of the revered filmmaker. A real treat for pop culture enthusiasts!—James Robert Parish, author of The Hollywood Book of Scandals