Kelly Oliver is the award-winning author of THE JESSICA JAMES COWGIRL PHILOSOPHER MYSTERIES, including WOLF (2016, IPPY AWARD, GOLD MEDAL, Best Mystery ebook & FORWARD AWARD FINALIST, Best Mystery), COYOTE (2016, READER’S CHOICE SILVER FALCHION AWARD), F.O.X. (2017, FINALIST KILLER NASHVILLE CLAYMORE AWARD; 2018 FINALIST SILVER FALCHION AWARD), AND JACKAL (2018).
Kelly was born on July 28, 1958 in Spokane Washington, went to University High School in Spokane Valley, graduated from Gonzaga University with honors in 1979 with a double major in philosophy and communications, and earned a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in philosophy in 1987. Kelly has held teaching positions at various Universities, including George Washington University, University of Texas at Austin, and Stony Brook University. Currently, Kelly is W. Alton Jones Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University.
Kelly’s nonfiction work includes over 100 articles and over twenty books, including: Hunting Girls: Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape (which won a CHOICE AWARD for Outstanding Title); Earth and World: Philosophy After the Apollo Missions; Technologies of Life and Death: From Cloning to Capital Punishment; Knock me up, Knock me down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film; Animal Lessons: How They Teach us to be Human; Women as Weapons of War: Iraq and the Media; The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Oppression; Noir Anxiety: Race, and Maternity in Film Noir; Witnessing: Beyond Recognition.
Jessica James is the gritty protagonist of your book Wolf, and she is a very powerful character. What was your inspiration for her personality? Also, what do you love the most about her, and what are your least favorite aspects of her personality?
In many ways, WOLF is a very autobiographical novel. It was my way of working through stuff that happened to me in graduate school. Jessica has a quick wit and a smart come-back for everything, which also gets her into trouble. Speaking of trouble, she may have a little issue with drinking too much whiskey. And, she tends to be a tad irresponsible. Still, she’s awkwardly endearing and has guts.
While writing this book did you learn anything new about yourself?
WOLF was my first attempt to write fiction, and I learned that I could write a novel! I also learned that writing fiction can be a form of forgiveness. For me, writing with humor helps me cope with difficult issues. And when neither humor nor forgiveness cut it, fiction is the best revenge.
How old were you when you decided that you wanted to be a writer, and why?
I had to write for graduate school. At first, writing philosophy was daunting. But, as I advanced to the point that I could write whatever I wanted, it became liberating. Writing gave meaning to my life. But at a certain point, writing philosophy wasn’t enough. I wanted to do something more creative. That desire has always been there. But, it took me fifty years to get the courage to try to write fiction. Now, I wish I’d started sooner!
If you could do anything in the world besides writing, and do it anywhere in the world, what would you be doing and where?
X-country skiing in Glacier Park in the winter—something I do for a few days every year.
What can fans both new and seasoned expect from you in 2019/2020? What else do you have in the works?
Jessica James rides again in number five in the series, VIPER. Donors to the new world class Chicago museum of Russian art are dropping like flies, and Jessica is at the center of the carnage. Can she track down the killer before she falls into his trap? VIPER will be out in December.
My middle grade mystery, Kassy
O’Roarke, Cub Reporter, is in production with Beavers Pond Press, and it will
be out in January. Twelve-year-old Kasandra O’Roarke wants to win the Thompson
prize at her school newspaper. Her pesky little brother Percy tries to help.
That’s when the trouble begins. When Apollo the cougar cub goes missing from
their petting zoo, Kassy puts her detective skills to the test to find him before
Animal Control does. To get him back, Kassy must reconcile with Percy, break
Apollo out of Animal Control, and risk being grounded for life.
And, I just signed a three-book contract with Level Best Books for a new historical mystery series inspired by Agatha Christie. The first in the series will be out next March.