Thursday, January 21, 2010

Welcome Guest Toni L.P. Kelner

Working Stiff Paula Matter is pleased to give up her usual spot to welcome the delightfully funny Toni L.P. Kelner........

Writing is funny. No matter how much I think I’m keeping myself out of my novels, I manage to sneak in.

Take my latest, Who Killed the Pinup Queen? If you’d seen me while I was writing it and asked, “What are you working on?,” I could have given you a bunch of answers.

1) * A murder mystery.

2) * The second in my series about Tilda Harper, a freelance entertainment reporter who specializes in “Where are they now?” stories.

3) * A homage to TV cowboys.

4) * A celebration of fifties pin-up queens.

I would not have said, “It’s about freelancing versus keeping a steady job.” But that’s partly what it turned out to be.

Fifteen years ago, I left my day job. I’d been a technical writer for ten years, and I liked the work. During most of that time, I’d also been writing, and in 1993, Down Home Murder, my first novel, came out. Dead Ringer followed in February 1994, and I went right to work on Trouble Looking for a Place to Happen. Speaking of trouble, in late 1994 I found out I was expecting my first child.

I’d been able to juggle a day job and writing, more or less, but I had a feeling that adding a child to the mix would change things. So I quit the day job to write fulltime. It was not an easy transition. To go from a steady job to working as a freelancer in an uncertain field was a blow to my ego. Even though my husband’s income was enough, I felt guilty about letting him support me, particularly during the inevitable slow periods and dry spells. I often wondered if I was nuts for trading a salary with benefits for a career filled with uncertainty.

Eventually, I did come to terms with the change, and these days, I can’t imagine going back to the working world. I like my freedom and the flexibility, and feel very lucky indeed to be able to work in my pajamas. I’m still a fulltime writer, after all.

But I guess a lot of those conflicted emotions were still floating around in my brain. Without my really planning it, I added a subplot to Pinup Queen about freelancer Tilda trying to decide whether or not to take a fulltime job with Entertain Me!, the most lucrative of her usual markets.

Don’t get me wrong. The main thrust of the book is still solving the murder of a former pinup queen with clues and red herrings and danger and all the elements that are supposed to be in a mystery, plus cowboys and Tilda hunting down old TV stars. It’s not all about her career choices.

But I guess those issues strike a chord with people. After my mother-in-law read Pinup Queen, her first comment was “I’m so glad Tilda did the right thing about that job.”

And you know what? Most days, I think I did the right thing, too.

We at Working Stiffs think so, too!

Toni L.P. Kelner multitasks. In mysteries, Who Killed the Pinup Queen?, the second in her "Where are they now?" series, has just hit the shelves. In urban fantasy, she edits anthologies with Charlaine Harris. Death's Excellent Vacation is due out in August. In short stories, she has her first noir story coming out in March in Carolyn Haine's anthology Delta Blues. Kelner has won the Agatha Award and a Romantic Times Career Achievement Award, and has been nominated for two other Agathas, four Anthonys, and two Macavitys. She lives north of Boston with author/husband Stephen Kelner, two daughters, and two guinea pigs.


One lucky commenter will win his or her choice of one of Toni's books! Winner will be picked at random and will get to choose between the first of  the "Where are they now?" series: CURSE OF THE KISSING COUSINS  or Toni's newest, WHO KILLED THE PINUP QUEEN?

      Winner will be announced tomorrow morning!


Dru said...

I just discovered your work and have you on my TBR list.

I think a lot of us debate whether to give up a steady income or uncertainty. Bravo for taking that step.

Annette said...

Hi, Toni! Nice to see you here. I'm currently juggling (not very well) three parttime, at-home jobs including the writing all in an effort to avoid full-time employment. Can't wait to read about Tilda's conflict!

And welcome to Working Stiffs!

ramona said...

Freelancing fits a lot of people, particularly those who don't know the meaning of "a day off."

Looking forward to finding out who killed the pinup queen!

Joyce said...

Welcome, Toni!

Although leaving my job wasn't up to me, it's turned out to be a good thing. I don't think I'd have come up with the idea for the book I'm writing now if I still had my job.

Toni L.P. Kelner said...

Dru, don't admire me too much. If my husband didn't have a good job, I'd never have taken the leap. Even then, it was the pregnancy that pushed me.

Annette, keeping all those balls in the air sounds like good juggling to me.

Ramona, in my case it's more of not knowing the meaning of a "day on." I'm kind of lazy.

Joyce, that is definitely making lemonade out of lemons. And sometimes a job loss is the best thing that could happen. My husband loves his job, and wouldn't have taken it if he hadn't been laid off. In fact, his current employer offered him the job before he knew about the layoff, and he turned them down. After the layoff, he decided it sounded better, and it's been terrific.

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm very envious of you. I still can't quit my day job, especially since my health insurance and the DH's are paid for by my day job.

I keep dreaming of the day...Until then, I write when I can.

Morgan Mandel

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Late 2008 when I suddenly found myself unemployed, I told my wife that I might try writing full time. I remember her sweet endearing response:
"Are you out of your f@#king mind?"

Looking forward to 2010, going back to work was probably the right thing to do, two younger daughters in college this year snd a wedding for the oldest daughter.

Toni L.P. Kelner said...

I know how fabulously lucky I am. When Steve and I first got married, we thought he'd be in academia and I'd be the main wage-earner. Then he got a job in the private sector, and our plans changed. And I'm not complaining!

I have two daughters, so college and weddings loom for me in a few years. Again, if weren't for Steve's income, I'd still be writing manuals about the wonders of capacity planning.

Jennie Bentley said...

Thanks for visiting the Stiffs, Toni!

I'm someone else who stopped working to stay home with kids. Eleven years ago now. Got a real estate license at one point, got a book contract at another, and thankfully, DH makes enough to feed and clothe all of us. The man deserves a medal!

PatRemick said...

Welcome Toni, who ranks among the funniest of my fellow New England Sisters in Crime, both in her writing and in person!

I've done freelancing and steady employment -- and sometimes at the same time. It's all hard, especially when you'd rather be living in a fictional world at your keyboard (in your PJs!)

Paula Matter said...

Toni, thanks so much for visiting with us yesterday!

The lucky winner of her choice of books is Dru!

Congratulations! Please contact me for more info at

Dru said...

Thanks Paula.

Anonymous said...

Please enter me in this contest.

dsandyboy said...

Count me in.