More of the Story

More of the Story

Kelli in Alaska; photo by author Bill Cameron

She laughs easily, is a double Gemini, a Dragon in the Chinese calendar, and her favorite colors are blue and green. And Kelli Stanley has been writing a long time.

Her first noir (a play) was produced at the tender age of seven. She played the starring role in the crime melodrama for her third-grade class, precociously breaking gender boundaries as a Jimmy Cagney-like gangster. “No grapefruits were used in the production!” she laughs. “From what I remember, it involved a French love interest named Madeline and ended with the anti-hero’s death in a dark alley.”

In the many years since her precocious literary experiment, Kelli’s done a variety of things: the list includes acting, the start-up and operation of a successful retail business with her mom (a comic book/pop culture store), screenplay writing, living in Italy and traveling through Europe, learning Latin and Greek, and earning a B.A. in Art History and Classics and a Master’s Degree in Classics. Eventually, she decided—at long last—to embrace the life inside her … to become a crime fiction writer.

Where she grew up might have something to do with her eclectic nature and Renaissance woman background. An only child, she moved with her parents from her native Washington State to northern Florida, the Colorado Rocky Mountains to San Jose, California (early Silicon Valley), and finally settled on forty acres in the rugged, rural north—northern Mendocino county.

Kelli lived in Mendocino and attended school in Southern Humboldt, riding thirty miles to school every morning, in addition to helping her parents with a business venture … a horse-back riding stable. “[Humboldt County is] one of the last bastions of wilderness in California—there’s actually a stretch of coast line called ‘The Lost Coast’—when we operated a riding stable with the State Park system, my father took people on horseback tours through the country, and he had to blaze his own trails.”

During Kelli’s adolescence, animals outnumbered people in her everyday environment. [singlepic id=1 w=320 h=240 float=right]She grew up with redwood trees, which she credits with giving her a sense of perspective. And she grew up without a telephone or the PG&E grid. “There was none of the technology we take for granted—light switches, heater controls. Even the water had to be pumped from a spring, about a quarter mile down a steep hillside. I know it sounds like some sort of fable, but I really did study by a kerosene lamp. Our heat was a wood stove. It’s not that we abandoned the modern world—we had a gas generator and a color television. We just didn’t rely on the technology. We were independent of it, which is a great feeling.”

Kelli claims the experience gave her a sense of focus, creativity and a sympathetic ear to the rhythm of nature, which she’s never lost. But she’s also never lost the rhythm of the city, which she’s heard since her first play.

By the time she graduated from high school, she’d read “everything from Defoe to Dickens.” She’d done some acting, and chose to major in Drama at the University of Dallas. UD offered a large, competitive scholarship, and a semester in Italy program, which decided her. She spent a semester in Italy before concluding that she missed California, and returned closer to home.

She moved to San Francisco, where she attended San Francisco State, discovered Classics—which had always been a strong interest—“since reading D’Aulaire’s Book of Greek Myths when I was in second grade”—and is where she now lives, happily ensconced in writing and a long-time relationship.

She spent several years in the retail business of comic books, writing for trade magazines, appearing in Entrepreneur magazine, and earning a coveted spot on the DC National Retailer’s Board. “And I still love comic books!” she adds. “Batman was always my particular totem. Those were happy years. I’m always really touched when someone I knew when they were twelve recognizes me from the store. I have to do instant age progression! It’s a great thing to be a good part of someone’s childhood … or any happy memory.”

Kelli never lost her love of acting, and credits a few years writing screenplays with honing her dialog abilities. She decided to take the plunge into novel-writing while still in graduate school, and soon found representation and publication for her first novel, a combination of classical education and abiding love for hardboiled and noir.

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In the acknowledgments to NOX DORMIENDA, Kelli credits reading Raymond Chandler with teaching her how to write, and cites Hammett, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Woolrich, Hardy, and Steinbeck as other strong influences.

NOX DORMIENDA  enjoyed outstanding success, particularly for a debut small press book. It won the prestigious Bruce Alexander Memorial Historical Mystery Award in 2009, was a finalist for a Macavity (Sue Feder Memorial Historical Mystery Award), and San Francisco awarded Kelli a Certificate of Honor for her creation of “Roman noir.”

Kelli then realized a dream with a move to a major publisher—Thomas Dunne/Minotaur—which publishes her second series, set in 1940 and featuring female P.I. Miranda Corbie. CITY OF DRAGONS was published to rave reviews, reached #2 on the IMBA Bestseller list, won the Macavity Award for Best Historical Mystery, and was nominated for a slew of other awards, including the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.

CITY OF SECRETS, the sequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, was released by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur to great critical acclaim, was nominated for a number of awards and won the Golden Nugget for best mystery set in California.

CITY OF GHOSTS, the third in the series, will be published in 2014 by Minotaur Books.

In addition to the Miranda Corbie novels, Kelli has penned short stories, including”Children’s Day”, a prequel to CITY OF DRAGONS, published in the bestselling anthology, FIRST THRILLS: HIGH-OCTANE STORIES FROM THE HOTTEST THRILLER WRITERS. Seeing her work included alongside heroes like Ken Bruen and Lee Child was an incredible high point for Kelli. “Memory Book”, another Miranda prequel, is available as an e-book exclusive.

THE CURSE-MAKER, the sequel to NOX, was published by Thomas Dunne/Minotaur. Kelli is planning future installments of her original series.

Kelli's Dog Bertie (a Springer Spaniel)

Bertie begging for a treat

Other published fiction includes the historical short story “Coolie”, Kelli’s contribution to  SHAKEN: STORIES FOR JAPAN, the first  charity-driven e-book anthology. The brain child of author Timothy Hallinan, all the proceeds from SHAKEN, including Amazon’s, go to benefit victims of the Japanese earthquake. “Coolie” is set in the immediate aftermath of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Kelli’s first contemporary fiction, “Survivor”, was published in SCOUNDRELS: TALES OF GREED, MURDER AND FINANCIAL CRIMES.

In addition to fiction, Kelli has contributed a number of essays about writers and writing to various anthologies. She is very proud to have been a contributor to the Edgar-nominated and Agatha-winning BOOKS TO DIE FOR: THE WORLD’S GREATEST MYSTERY WRITERS ON THE WORLD’S GREATEST MYSTERY NOVELS, edited by John Connolly and Declan Burke. Kelli chose to write about one of her surprisingly major influences, Agatha Christie, in an essay on MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS.

She has also penned essays on various aspects of the writing craft. She contributed an exercise on how to write believable female characters for NOW WRITE! MYSTERIES: SUSPENSE, CRIME, THRILLER AND OTHER MYSTERY FICTION EXERCISES FROM TODAY’S BEST WRITERS AND TEACHERS, and is a member of Timothy Hallinan’s Twenty-One Writers Project. The latest volume in this series of helpful how-to books is MAKING STORY: TWENTY-ONE WRITERS ON HOW THEY PLOT.

Kelli is always writing … more Miranda Corbie novels, more “Roman noir”, an international thriller and a YA series are projects in the works. She is a member of Mystery Writers of American, International Thriller Writers, Private Eye Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the International Association of Crime Writers.

For rights queries, please contact Kimberley Cameron. For film rights, please contact Cinelit Representation.
For publicity regarding a Thomas Dunne or Minotaur release, please contact Sarah Melnyk, Publicity Manager at Minotaur.
For all other publicity questions, please email Kelli’s publicist.

She loves to hear from readers, and invites you to email her or use the form on the Contact page.