Saturday, July 07, 2018

Thomas Kies, Guest Author

Type M is very pleased to welcome guest author Thomas Kies, author of the Geneva Chase Mystery Series. The first novel in his new series, RANDOM ROAD, introduced Geneva Chase, “a reporter with a compelling voice, a damaged woman who recounts her own bittersweet story as she hunts down clues” to murders straight out of a nightmare—six bodies found naked and cut to ribbons in a posh Connecticut home. Thomas lives and writes on a barrier island on the coast of North Carolina with his wife, Cindy, and Lilly, their Shih-Tzu. He has a long career working for newspapers and magazines, primarily in New England and New York, and is currently working on his next novel, GRAVEYARD BAY.

How Crazy is Your Research?

From nine until five, Monday through Friday, I’m the President of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce. We’re right on coast of North Carolina and we’re blessed with beautiful beaches, world class cuisine, and some of the best fishing you’ll ever see. I’m the head cheerleader for one of the nicest places on earth.

Being the head of the Chamber of Commerce comes with a reputation that’s wholesome, upright, and good for the community. Heck, when the sun’s shining, it’s called Chamber of Commerce weather. Who else has their own damned weather?

But on weekends and after work, I think about and write things that are dark and, according to my wife, deeply disturbed. I write mysteries.

That requires certain tidbits of knowledge that others may not have, and certainly nothing that a president of a chamber of commerce should be harboring. For example, in my first mystery, RANDOM ROAD, a swingers’ club figures prominently in the plotline. I’ve lost track of the number of people who’ve read the book and asked me how I know what the inside of one of those clubs looks like. Because I worked in newspapers and magazines for over thirty years, I have the inside dope on a lot of stuff. It doesn’t mean I was a member.

In my second book, DARKNESS LANE, there’s a creepy scene that takes place in an exclusive diamond merchant’s shop. It’s expensive, well-secured, hard to find, and by-appointment only. Yes, that’s based on a real jeweler’s establishment. Full disclosure, in real life, the owner was murdered there.

The theater and haunted mansion scenes in DARKNESS LANE? Based on real locations in Fairfield County, Connecticut where the book takes place. I have pictures on my phone. I can share if you like.

 In the book I’m writing now, GRAVEYARD BAY, there’s a scene from a professional dominatrix’s BDSM dungeon. Have I actually seen one? Oh, yes. Was I a client? Hell, no.

But then there’s the stuff I don’t know or haven’t seen.

Let me digress for a moment. When I attended my first Mystery Writers Conference, there were multiple workshops given by authors, publishers, agents, cops, ex-FBI agents, forensic specialists, and physicians. We discussed everything from how to kill someone, to hiding the body, to what the body would look like after being in the water for a week. Questions were asked and answered. Will someone die after eating ground glass? What is a fatal dosage of Fentanyl? When someone is killed and thrown into the water, how do you keep them from floating to the surface?

If you were someone off the street just wandering into one of those workshops, you’d think you’d stumbled onto a coven of psychopaths. Weird? Certainly. Scary? Maybe. Fun? It is if you’re a mystery aficionado.

So, doing research at home is very similar. If someone were to look at my browsing history on my computer (my home laptop, not my work computer…oh, no—that would be wrong), they’d be tempted to call Homeland Security or the FBI. Let’s take a look at some of the topics I’ve Googled or YouTubed: The Russian Mafia, Los Zetas, M-13, explosives, pill mills, AK rifles, handcuffs, sex trafficking, ice pick murders, samurai sword, killer clowns, theater make-up techniques, Aryan Brotherhood, and hypothermia.

Some of the headlines of articles I’ve downloaded: Garage owner charged with selling drugs. Prominent developer killed by train. Real estate agent charged with home burglary. Florida nanny found dead in woods reportedly tortured before her murder. Body found in floating barrel identified, but name is withheld. Students mine data to find where unfaithful husbands live.

Those are actual headlines!

So, speaking of data mining, you can only imagine what Facebook has on me. And the ads that pop up unbidden on my computer screen? There’s an algorithm working overtime that’s dropping the weirdest advertising possible in my emails and on my newsfeed.

But then there’s the old fashion way of doing your research. This is where you get a feel for a scene or the flavor of the action. Talk to the experts. I have friends in law enforcement that help keep me on track (what happens when someone goes missing?). Some of them are avid readers so I want to get it right. There are doctors (so what does that broken arm look like?) and attorneys (walk me through a plea deal) in my Rotary Club who are fans as well. They don’t mind that I ask them questions, even if their answers never make it into a novel.

I’ve also spent time in police headquarters, hospitals, prison (not much time), and courtrooms. It gives you a chance to see, listen, feel, and smell the scene. I love researching my books.

And while knowing your subject matter is a good thing, Stephen King writes, “You may be entranced with what you’re learning about the flesh-eating bacteria, the sewer system of New York, or the I.Q. of potential collie puts, but your readers are probably going to care a lot more about your characters and your story.”

I try to tell the best story I can, but I also try to make it as realistic as possible. I research some pretty strange stuff…just don’t tell my Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

COMING JUNE 2018! The second book in the Geneva Chase series, DARKNESS LANE, is coming in June 2018! Pre-order now to be the first to read Geneva Chase's latest account.

Visit Tom's website at


Donis Casey said...

Do I ever relate, Tom! For one of my books, I did all my research on nitroglycerine at the public library for fear that NSA agents would show up at my house at midnight one night.

Annie said...

Great post, Tom Kies. I can relate! Several summers ago I was researching for a novel that required an incredible number of Google adventures. After a while, I began noticing a black helicopter trolling up and down the lakefront above my house. Coincidence? Well, they never landed, so that was a good thing. For Murder to the Metal, I needed to stall out a vintage car remotely. I contacted my high school friend who owns a car dealership. He asked his "tech guy." He recommending a teensy bit of plastic explosive. I told "Car Man"he should start HIS car remotely. Nobody knows how much fun we're having....until it turns up in a story.