Home September 2013 Keeping in Character

Keeping in Character

Award-winning author Faye Kellerman was going to be a dentist.  Twenty-seven years and twenty million copies later, this very talented and very down-to-earth novelist still believes in writing about what she feels strongly about – including Judaism – as well as creating characters with “internal combustion” and developing good plot lines.
Kellerman still thinks writing is a wonderful way to make a living and still credits her husband, fellow novelist Jonathan Kellerman, with giving her the encouragement she needed.  The Kellermans are the only married couple ever to appear on the New York Times bestseller list simultaneously (for two different books).
“You have to understand that writing is not just for you but for an audience,” said Kellerman, who will be discussing her craft at a presentation that will be hosted by the Women’s Connection at University Synagogue in Irvine on Sunday evening, September 29, at 7 p.m.  This will be her only Orange County appearance, and the price of admission includes a dessert buffet and a signed copy of her newest Rina Lazarus/Peter Decker mystery, The Beast, for the first 150 people who register.
Kellerman explained that she wants the reader to “have a good ride,” adding that “crime fiction novels “should be fun and create a fast heartbeat.”  She wants characters to jump out of the pages and be interesting and well rounded.  She thinks the best scenes are the domestic scenes between Decker and Lazarus.  “They support each other, but bicker a little bit,” she said.  They’re heroes, but they’re not perfect.  They’re characters, not cardboard cutouts.”
Born in St. Louis, Missouri, and raised in Sherman Oaks, California, Kellerman met her husband in college and married young.  Although she earned a BA in mathematics and a doctorate in dentistry at UCLA, she parlayed her active imagination and listening skills into a career where she feels “privileged to daydream and make a living at it” while being there for her four children.  “Dentistry is doing fine without me,” she quipped.
A practicing Orthodox Jew along with her husband, Kellerman’s writing often deals with Jewish themes and characters, incorporating them into the framework of the traditional mystery.  For instance, the Peter Decker books center on a police detective raised as a Southern Baptists who returns to his Jewish roots after falling in love with Rina Lazarus, an Orthodox Jew, while investigating a rape that took place near a yeshiva.
Kellerman’s groundbreaking first novel, The Ritual Bath, was published in 1986 to wide critical and commercial acclaim.  The winner of the Macavity Award for the Best First Novel from the Mystery Readers of America, the book introduced readers to Peter Decker and Rina Lazarus, termed by People Magazine “Hands down, the most refreshing mystery couple around.”  The New York Times said, “This couple’s domestic affairs have the haimish warmth of reality, unlike the formulaic lives of so many other genre detectives.”
The Decker/Lazarus thrillers include Sacred and Profane; Milk and Honey; Day of Atonement; False Prophet; Grievous Sin; and Sanctuary , as well as her New York Times bestsellers, Justice, Prayers for the Dead – listed by the LA Times as one of the best crime novel of 2001; Serpent’s Tooth; Jupiter’s Bones, The Forgotten, Stone Kiss, Straight into Darkness, The Burnt House, The Mercedes Coffin and Blindman’s Bluff, Hangman and Gun Games.  The novels, Stalker and Street Dreams, introduced Kellerman’s newest protagonist, Police Officer Cindy Decker.  In addition to her crime series, Kellerman is also the author of New York Times bestseller Moon Music, a suspense horror novel set in Las Vegas featuring Detective Romulus Poe, as well as an historical novel of intrigue set in Elizabethan England, The Quality of Mercy. She has also co-authored the New York Times bestseller Double Homicide, with her husband.  She has also written a young adult novel, Prism, with her daughter, Aliza Kellerman.  Her newest novel, The Beast, was released in August.  She is currently under contract for two other Decker/Lazarus novels and a stand alone novel to be released in the future.
Faye Kellerman’s highly praised short stories and reviews have been anthologized in numerous collections including two volumes of the notable Sisters in Crime Series, Sara Paretsky’s, A Woman’s Eye; The First Annual Year’s Finest Crime and Mystery Stories; The Third Annual Best Mystery Stories of the Year; Women of Mystery and Deadly Allies 11. Her personally annotated collection of her award winning stories, The Garden of Eden and Other Criminal Delights, was published in August of 2006.  In July of 2013, Kellerman was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by Strand Magazine.
Kellerman admits that she was concerned that people might find her Jewish characters too parochial at first, but she knew that if she wrote about something important to her, the sincerity would be apparent.  She “wasn’t expecting a bestseller” and was pleasantly surprised.
“Jews are so much a fabric of today’s society, not exotic and not underdogs,” she said.  “What matters is how interesting they are.”
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