Today I’m excited to share a fantastic interview with Libby Kirsch, author of The Big Interview, the second novel in the Stella Reynolds Mystery series. I’ve also got an excerpt of the first chapter so you can get a taste for the author’s writing. The first novel, The Big Lead, is temporarily free this week. Go grab a copy of the first novel to find out what it’s all about and snag a copy of the new one too while you’re there!
The Big Interview by Libby Kirsch
Published: March 31, 2016
Stella’s Saga Continues!
The perfect book for fans of the laugh-out-loud lines in Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series combined with the who-done-it page turning style of a Sue Grafton mystery.
TV reporter Stella Reynolds signs with a new station, excited to move to a bigger city for a better job. When she arrives in Bristol, Virginia, though, she finds a sexist, mean boss, unfriendly coworkers, and a town in love with a sport she’s never even watched—NASCAR! Before she can unpack her bags, Stella is drawn into an investigation when a driver is killed in a fiery wreck on the track. Experts call his death a tragedy, but Stella has insider information that the accident is anything but. With a slippery ex-fiancee, an angry father, and a nosy neighbor, you’ll be laughing on one page and gasping on the next. If all goes according to plan, the facts will be revealed during an epic live Big Interview. But when does anything ever go according to plan? The Big Interview is a standalone book in the Stella Reynolds Mystery Series. If you like a great mystery peppered with laugh out loud moments and cringe-worthy catastrophes, Libby Kirsch’s The Big Interview is for you. Buy Libby Kirsch’s book today, and see how the final big interview goes down when the cameras go live.
Book Links, The Big Interview (#2): Amazon| Goodreads
Please note the first book in the series, The Big Lead, will be temporarily free this week. Go get a copy while you can!
Fun Fact: The Big Lead was chosen for a Publishers Weekly review.
Check out the review here.
Book links, The Big Lead (#1): Amazon| Goodreads
About the Author – Libby Kirsch
Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Amazon | Goodreads
Libby Kirsch is an Emmy award winning journalist, with over ten years experience working in TV newsrooms of all sizes. She draws on her rich history of making embarrassing mistakes on live TV, and is happy to finally indulge her creative writing side, instead of always having to stick to the facts.
Libby lives with her husband, children and soon (don’t tell the kids yet!) a puppy in Ann Arbor, Michigan. She doesn’t know what she was thinking.
Q & A with Libby
What inspired you to write the Stella Reynolds Mystery Series?
I started the first book in the series, The Big Lead, about three years ago. Just a two page document on our ancient laptop. I was a TV journalist for about ten years before deciding to stay home with our growing family, and I’d thought for years that a mystery series starring a TV reporter could be fun. So in between nap time and school runs, I jotted down the beginnings of a story and promptly forgot about it. But then last year that older, even more ancient computer stopped working. Memory was maxed out. So I set about clearing out the hard drive. I came across the word document that—months later—would become my first book. Isn’t it funny how life has a way of bringing you back to something important?
If The Big Interview was being turned into a movie, who would play the key roles?
Anna Kendrick would make an awesome Stella. She’s funny and does a great job playing the klutz, but can also be strong and decisive. I could definitely picture a young Matthew McConaughey playing Lucky Haskins. Wouldn’t he make a great charming NASCAR driver?
What are the challenges of writing a series? Did you plan the series out before writing or did the books come together as a series once you’d begun writing the first one?
One of the things I love about my series is that each book will take place in a different location. In TV news, reporters move around all the time. One or two years in small markets, and you’re off to the next challenge. And because ALL the reporters are moving around, you can run into old colleagues at new stations. I worked in three different TV markets (Montana, Tennessee and Ohio) with the same girl! So I just love that Stella will run into my favorite characters from different books—either when they move to her market, or they’re all covering a big story. I hope it’s a fun way to keep the books feeling fresh, but still make it feel like you’re running into old friends as you read.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
I was a waitress for many years, and it’s not that the jobs were terrible… but MAN ALIVE could it be stressful!! I worked at one fancy place in Olde Town Alexandria, Virginia. We were supposed to memorize the nightly specials. One particular night I was on fire—sold like ten different orders of the Veal Parmaganian. My last customer of the night called me over. “No offense meant to your chef, but this tastes like chicken. Not veal.” After a quick conversation with our chef I realized the special was CHICKEN PARM!! I’d been selling people Veal Parm all night and no one noticed, ha!! Thankfully the only people I dish out food to these days
What would we find if we looked in your handbag right now?
Wallet, phone, travel hand sanitizer, 11 hair elastics, 4 tampons (is this anyone else’s fear? Being out and about without protection??), 2 random pieces of artwork from my 4-year-old, 3 water bottles (I have 3 kids and we were at the park today), a half-eaten Clif bar, what appears to be the remnants of a squeezy yogurt (which is scary, we haven’t bought those in weeks), a travel pack of tissues, diapers and wipes. Whew. No wonder my back hurts!!
What do you enjoy doing in your free time?
Huh? What’s that? 🙂
Excerpt – The Big Interview
CHAPTER 1 New Girl
“Stella Reynolds. Hmm. You know it’s weird, I thought we were replacing our ugly reporter, but you’re actually kind of pretty. Let’s see… Where’s your tape? I know it’s here somewhere…” The young, fit, oddly smiley man shuffled things around on his messy, mahogany desk.
Stella looked around the office for the hidden camera. Surely this was some kind of joke. Her new boss couldn’t be serious. Her earnest search for her imminent Punk’dmoment was interrupted when Keith Howard, the general manager of NBC2 in Bristol, Virginia, said, “Ah-ha! Here it is.”
She looked back just as he pulled Stella’s résumé tape out from under a stack of papers. Flashing her a gleaming grin, he tossed the white case behind him and put the tape into the VHS player at his desk.
After a moment, Stella’s green eyes were drawn to her own image on screen. Her long auburn hair looked slightly tangled where it lay next to her face, and she noted with a grimace that she appeared slightly sweaty. You couldn’t tell that she was 5’9”, but as she looked at herself with a critical eye, she thought her button down shirt looked a bit sloppy. Keith pressed play, and sat back with a confused look on his face.
“Right, I remember you now. It’s remarkable sitting here looking at her,” he pointed to the Stella on screen, “and then you,” he pointed to her in real life. “You look like shit on camera. Has no one ever taught you how to wear makeup? Do your hair? Dress? Jesus, how do you people get hired?”
He looked at her accusingly, and she felt the blood rush to her face. “Everything was, uh, pretty last-minute at my old station in Montana. I mean, it was a really small market? And I guess doing hair and makeup for my live shot often took a backseat to shooting, writing, and, um, you know, editing the story.” She stammered out her excuse, then felt herself shifting from embarrassed to angry. She’d been driving for four days, and this was the kind of welcome she was getting?
In her first job as a news reporter, Stella had worked in the tiny town of Bozeman, Montana, as a multimedia journalist. That meant she had done everything to get her story on air—including lugging around the heavy, old, cumbersome equipment she used to shoot video. A few weeks ago, after just six months on the job there, the FOX affiliate had unexpectedly shut down, sending the four on-air employees scrambling for jobs.
Last week, she had accepted a reporting job in this much larger TV market and left her friends and boyfriend—a fellow on-air journalist—behind. She’d driven more than 2,000 miles straight to the NBC affiliate in Bristol, Virginia, where she now found herself across from an idiot.
Keith grinned at Stella, unconcerned. “Small markets are pretty crappy, aren’t they?” He didn’t wait for her to respond. “Listen, you’re supposed to be filling my brainy/ugly slot, so I don’t know what to do with you now that you’re here. Are you at least smart?” Again without a break he continued. “I guess you’ll need to meet with Marty and get settled in. He’ll know what to do with you.”
He bounced up and walked Stella to the door. He was slightly shorter than her, maybe 5’7” or 5’8”, with dusty blond hair. His light blue eyes constantly scanned the room. “Cam,” he called past Stella. “Take her to Marty. Tell him good luck.”
Stella’s face contorted in angry disbelief. She opened her mouth to set Keith straight on just exactly how smart she was—smart enough to not take crap from him—but once again, Keith spoke first.
“Yes! That’s what I’m talking about. Ugly face. Work on that. Awesome.” He nodded his head in satisfaction, then walked back into his office and slammed the door.
Keith’s secretary took her gently by the elbow and said soothingly, in the thickest southern drawl Stella had ever heard in real life, “Don’t you mind him, darlin’, he’s a hot mess just like his daddy. He runs this station like a frat house, but somehow we’ve got the best ratings we’ve ever had.” Cam steered Stella to a seat by the door and practically pushed her down onto the comfy cushion. “Can you sit right here for just a minute? I need to get something out of the copy room, then I’ll take you to the newsroom. Be right back,” she said brightly before disappearing.
Stella looked darkly around the office. She was tempted to walk out and never look back, but she’d signed a two-year employment contract from Montana. The terms were very clear. If she left the station before the end of the contract, she couldn’t work for any other station until six months after the original contract was up! She was locked in, no matter what. Before she could spend too much time debating the legality of a contract like that, she heard the jingle of a cell phone in the hallway behind her. Expletives rumbled out of a man’s mouth like the engine of a semi-truck before he answered the call with a terse, “Hello?”
She smiled, loving that the F-word sounded much the same with a Southern accent as without. She also felt slightly better knowing that she wasn’t the only one having a bad day.
The man on the phone stopped just outside the door to Keith’s office, muttering more swear words and commands to whomever he was talking. Her smile faded when she actually listened to his end of the conversation.
“You can’t kill someone over—no. No you listen to me.” He sounded frustrated. “You can’t do it, you’ll never get away with it. You’re both too high-profile.”
Her mouth dropped open as the voice in the hallway continued.
“I don’t care how good you are. You know who you need to talk to? Yes. I’m hearing there’s been a rift. The right situation could push him over the edge, and he might just be angry enough to do it himself.”
What in the hell?! Now she was convinced that she was on some kind of Candid Camera show. She twisted her head around so she could look out into the hallway, curious as to who was so cavalierly discussing death at her new job. All she could see was the shadow of the stranger. She leaned forward to get a better view, when the sound of Cam’s voice echoed toward her. The stranger to her was obviously no stranger to Cam.
“Hi again, darlin’—Oh, didn’t see you were on the phone there. Sorry.” Cam’s heels clicked down the hallway, past the man on the phone, until she came to a stop by Keith’s door. She blocked Stella’s view of the hallway entirely when she turned halfway back to the man on the phone. Stella could see her profile as she made an exaggerated show of locking her lips and throwing away the key. She then backed into the office and smiled brightly at Stella.
Ready? Yes, Stella certainly was ready to go, and never come back. But despite her misgivings, she nodded slowly at Cam and she stood up. When they left the office, her eyes scanned the hallway but by then it was empty.
She considered what she’d overheard. At first the stranger was trying to talk someone out of murder, then he seemed to pass along a tip to help get the job done. She felt a dull ache building behind her right eye. She should have never left Montana.
Cam led her down the hallway toward the newsroom. Her bleach blond hair stood in stark contrast to her ultra tan, slightly wrinkled face. Her light brown eyes were trained on Stella. “Marty is great. He knew what news was before he knew how to talk. He’ll get you set right up, sweetie.”
Stella clamped her mouth shut, wishing she hadn’t signed the employment contract from Bozeman. She vowed then and there to never take another job without first seeing the office and meeting the boss.
Her new station was part of a much larger TV market, but it was actually made up of three small cities in the far northeast corner of Tennessee. Locals called it the Tri-cities—Johnson City, Kingsport, and the border town of Bristol, half of which bled over onto the Virginia side of the state line.
Cam led Stella down the open hallway, which was lined with framed poster prints of all the popular shows that aired on the network that year. NBC was doing pretty well in 2005, despite losing Friends the year before. The hallway artwork featured shows like The West Wing, Fear Factor, The Apprentice, Law & Order, and Will & Grace.
“The Book just came in, and we beat the competition hands down,” Cam said, referring to the February Sweeps period that had just ended a couple of weeks before. It was a time when audience size was measured at all the stations for both entertainment and news programs. Advertising rates for the coming months would be set based each station’s performance over Sweeps.
If Stella was grudgingly impressed that there were pictures hanging in the hall, it was nothing compared to how she felt when they turned a corner and walked into the newsroom. It was so different from the drywall desk, dirty carpet, and decrepit equipment she’d grown accustomed to in her old office, that she forgot for a moment that she didn’t want the job anymore.
The open, rectangular newsroom had at least thirty desks, separated by half-height, cubical pin-cushion walls. The tile floor was clean and neat. Opposite Stella, the long side of the rectangle was made up entirely of windows, and as they stopped in the wide doorway, someone was opening about a dozen blinds simultaneously with the touch of a button. The view of a beautiful little park below was rapidly expanding. On the short wall closest to Stella, a huge station logo glowed bright against the dark blue background. Across the space, the other shorter wall was covered with TV monitors, showing news from the main cable stations as well as news feeds from all over the country.
The fourth wall was lined completely by desks, with an entrance at either end. Stella’s eyes swept the room, and she took in about two dozen people, some milling around, others hustling across the space. The sheer size of the newsroom was at least four times what she was used to, and the number of employees made her nearly giddy with excitement.
Cam tapped her on the shoulder and smiled. “It’s impressive, isn’t it? I think you’ll like it here, even with Keith to contend with.”
Cam’s wording wasn’t lost on Stella, but by then people had noticed them standing in the doorway and she didn’t have a chance to ask her what she meant.
She felt herself being scrutinized by at least a dozen people and stood up a little straighter, unconsciously sucking in her gut. Cam walked across the newsroom toward what looked to be the command center. There were two desks shoved together in an L-shape in the corner by the windows. The desks were covered with scanners and speakers, a keyboard for sending messages to pagers, and two small, sleek printers. As they grew nearer, a man spun around in his seat and smiled.
“Cam. Who you got?” he asked. His drawl was less pronounced than Cam’s but still impressive. When he said “got,” it seemed to have two syllables, “ga-wt.”
Cam gestured towards Stella and said, “Stella Reynolds here just drove in from Bozeman, Montana, to fill Sonya’s spot.” Marty looked at Stella with surprise. “Yes,” Cam said, “Keith couldn’t believe it either. Apparently she looks quite different on camera.”
Stella shot an accusing look at Cam. She seemed so nice! Now she was singing the party line that Stella looked like crap on TV.
If Cam noticed the glare, she wasn’t concerned. She winked at Stella, and said, “I’ve got to get back to work. Keith has dinner plans tonight, and I’ve got to pick up his dry cleaning before five.”
Stella watched her walk out of the newsroom, and then turned her attention back to the man sitting in front of her. Marty was older, maybe her dad’s age, and had deep wrinkles lining his eyes and mouth. Wire-rimmed glasses were trying to settle into the crevices below his eyes but were held up in place by the pads resting on the ridge of his nose. His brown hair was liberally dusted with grey, and his cheeks were rosy, like he had a touch of rosacea. When he stood up, she found that he was about her height, but a bit stockier.
“Welcome to town, Stella. Thank God we got a redhead. We’re about overrun with blondes ever since Keith came on board two years ago.”
She looked around the newsroom and quickly identified five beautiful blonde women, some sitting at desks, others headed to a conference room.
Marty leaned close and said in a stage whisper, “He thinks a woman without blond hair is smarter. No offense to you, but I don’t believe hair color has anything to do with IQ. You’d have to prove yourself to me even if you had a pink mohawk, got it?”
She nodded, deciding Marty was one of the good guys in a sea of questionable colleagues.
“You’re in luck,” he said, interrupting her musings. “Our chief photographer just got in. I’ll have him show you around town today. Billy Joe,” he shouted past her, making her jump. “Come meet the new Sonya.”
Stella turned to see who Marty was calling, and froze—her mouth stuck between a grimace and a smile.
The man walking toward her was someone she would actively avoid if she saw him on the street. Not just avoid eye contact—but cross the street. Maybe at a run. He stood around six feet tall. His light brown hair was cut into a mullet, the front short, the back longer than Stella’s own elbow-length hair. He wore a black canvas duster, split down the back to allow for maximum mobility, dark sunglasses over his eyes, and a scowl across his face. He grunted hello, and muttered something else Stella couldn’t quite make out.
Marty patted Stella on the shoulder. “Great idea, Billy Joe, take as long as you like.” He turned back to her, “When you get back, we should have your computer set up for you.”
Billy Joe grunted again as he stalked out of the newsroom and Stella scurried to keep up. She followed him down the hall to the elevator, and watched him press the down button. They stood in silence until the doors pinged open. He got in, and with a last, desperate look over her shoulder for a reason—any excuse, really, to not follow him into the tiny, enclosed space—she walked in after him.
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