By Kathryn Lane
background. She began working life as a stage and TV actor, then moved behind
the camera at The American Film Institute (AFI) as Assistant to the Director of
Production. She moved on to become a magazine editor and national journalism
award winner. As contributing book editor for Five Minutes to Midnight
(Delacorte), an international thriller, she was convinced writing was in her
blood. Her award-winning Samantha Newman Series of romantic mystery novels
includes The Body Business and The Body Next Door.
Book 3 in the series arrives this summer.
1. KL: Early in your career, Gay, you traded your Screen Actors
Guild membership in Hollywood to work on the other side of the camera at The
American Film Institute (AFI). Part
of the AFI mission is to ‘celebrate
excellence in the art form’. Your simple yet elegant book cover designs reflect
the beauty of simplicity you must have learned at AFI. Is this assumption correct?
glad you like the covers, Kathryn! As Assistant to the Director of Production at
AFI, I was involved in almost every facet of filmmaking, from casting to
location scouting, to procuring costumes and props from the major studios, acquiring
locations for the shoot, organizing transportation to the set, arranging
catering services, scheduling, and post-production services, too. That said, it
was my magazine career that taught me the importance of a cover. As a managing
editor, one of my most critical responsibilities was to oversee the cover
design, which can make or break the success of newsstand sales. The same could
be said of a book cover, too.
2. KL: Did AFI influence you as a writer? One of
their stated values is ‘A Belief in the Power of Storytelling to Change the
a good question, Kathryn! While story can be important in filmmaking, it was my
theater background that helped me understand what a good story is made of. Plot
structure is important, and character motivation is paramount. As an actor, I learned
that our everyday human struggles are universal. Reading stories with
characters who are both very different and very much like us can put us in
touch with that universality and make us more empathetic. I suppose in that
way, storytelling in any form does have the power to change the world.
3. KL: In the Samantha Newman Series, set in Houston
and the Texas Hill Country, you cleverly use a few Spanish phrases. What
prompted you to do this?
I didn’t realize I had any Spanish words in my books! I may have used a Spanish
word or two because in Texas, where I live, people of Spanish heritage are a
large segment of the population, and their diverse cultures are integral to the
fabric of life here. A Texan saying adios instead of goodbye can
be quite natural, even for an English speaker like me.
4. KL: In The Body Next Door, the
widow of a murdered neighbor is hiding in Samantha’s apartment. I love that
plot, but I’d also like to see Sam and Carter stay together. Any chance of that
in book three?
love this question, because it speaks to one of my favorite things about being
an author. When Samantha and Carter meet in The Body Business, I wasn’t
planning to write a series, and thus, had no plan for their future. While the publisher
wanted me to extend that book into a series, it was my readers’ interest and
enthusiasm that encouraged me to continue their relationship. Carter is a man
of mystery in more ways than one, so he is definitely in Book 3. And Samantha
is as headstrong as ever.
5. KL: You’re launching your third Samantha Newman
novel this summer. Can you give us a preview?
readers may remember, Samantha has trouble staying employed, due to
circumstances beyond her control. As
Book 3 opens, she’s starting a new career at a local TV station. But things are
not going well with the man who is supposed to be teaching her the ins and outs
of investigative journalism. And because Sam’s life never runs in a straight
line, complications ensue, with humor and suspense in equal measure. Here are
the working titles: The Body in the News, The News Body, The Body Reports, The
Body Breaks the News… I’m still taking suggestions, so to anyone who offers a
better one, a free copy of the book is yours if I use it.
6. KL: Besides an historical novel you’ve done
research for, have you thought of doing a memoir of your days as an actress? Or
autofiction based on your Hollywood experiences?
the first novel I ever attempted to write was on that subject. Two chapters in,
it felt like I was telling the same tired Hollywood show biz tale that had been
told too many times already. While I did reach the upper membership echelon in
the Screen Actors Guild before I quit, the high points were outstripped by too
many frustrating disappointments. However, a few memories have become hilarious
in retrospect. Perhaps one will inspire a short story someday.
Thanks, Gay, for sharing your fascinating life with us! I can’t wait to read Samantha #3!
Places to find Gay Yellen and her Samantha Newman Series: