The pandemic has certainly put many things into perspective and changed our daily routines. You have no doubt noticed that the Composite Sketches have been less consistent here on BOLO Books. That said, today we have a wonderful example of why this “simple” questionnaire is so enlightening and popular. With Rules for Being Dead, Kim Powers has written what I have gone on record as saying “I certainly hope is the ‘little’ book that everyone is talking about this season.” If you want to hear more of my thoughts on that novel, you can find them on the BOLO*MUSINGS YouTube Channel. Kim’s answers to our weekly questions are so honest and revealing, I hope that it will encourage you to read all his wonderful work – particularly, Rules for Being Dead.

Name:  Kim Powers
Location: Asbury Park, NJ (land of the Boardwalk and Bruce)

This person from my personal life is such an inspiration:

This is the hardest question to answer, from all of these. Does everyone automatically say their spouse or significant other? I could. My husband Jess Goldstein is a Tony award winning costume designer, but his earliest dream was just to be a working regional theater designer. He ended up – due to hard work and talent (and not inconsiderably, kindness) – becoming one of the most noted designers on Broadway. I could list my friend Jonathan Walker, an actor who devotes so much of his spare time to rallies and protests for BLM and resistance. I could list my young writer friend Santino DeAngelo, who essentially “invented” himself by sheer force of will and got himself out of a small town and into Columbia grad school. He works non-stop juggling writing projects of his own and is maybe one of the sharpest critics and dramaturgs I’ve ever known. I could list my young friend Robert Zepeda (Zippy!), who fell in love with Disney as a kid, and maneuvered his way – through dint of hard, nose-to-the-grindstone work – from being a dancer in Disney parades to one of our most respected producers at ABC News, where I work for 20/20, risking his own safety and health time and again to “get the story.” But do any of those people matter, if you don’t know their names?  

I guess that’s my answer: they DO matter, and they sum up what I admire most and have tried to do with my own life. I’m inspired by anyone who has pulled themselves up from nothing and worked hard to achieve something. Growing up in a lower middle-class family, I always knew hard work was the key to my getting ahead, to getting scholarships and opportunities. I see so many people in New York who’ve just sort of waltzed into their jobs, had them handed to them, due to connections or privilege. That’s why I’m so inspired by friends and colleagues who’ve really put in the work (and are generous and kind; who pay it back, or forward!) So not so much A person, as a KIND of person. It’s not a very sexy answer – but it’s a very real one.  

One of the people I admire most in the crime fiction community is:

Hank Phillippi Ryan! I regard her as a dear friend, even though we’ve never met in person! That’s a testament to her charisma and go-get-it-ness, even though I know her just through emails and social media. First of all, she’s a great writer. She’s won and been nominated for every mystery award under the sun – multiple times, and has the imagination and bandwidth to juggle several ongoing suspense series (as a fellow newsie, her Jane Ryland series is a particular favorite) as well as standalones. AND she does all that writing while pounding the beat in Boston as a reporter and maintaining the wonderful Jungle Red Writers website (along with another great friend, Deborah Crombie.) I wish I could bottle her to get all that done. Plus she maintains such a vivid and fun social media presence: we get to know her, her daily life, reminders about her books (but never in a pushy “BUY IT!” kind of way.)

But most of all, what I admire is her incredible generosity to the entire mystery community, especially newcomers like me and so many others. She’s always sharing the spotlight, and goes out of her way to extend a hand of greeting and inclusiveness to those of us trying to climb.    

And her hair and legs are killer! What’s not to love?   

STALKER ALERT! If this fictional character were real, they would likely need to get a restraining order against me:

Flavia de Luce, the delectable little girl detective invented by Alan Bradley, and the star of a dozen or so wonderfully titled mysteries. I know we would be besties in real life, even though I’m more than a few decades older (I’m sort of ageless and genderless when it comes to Flavia.) I love being transported back to the 1950s with her, to the English country village of Bishops Lacey where she lives. I’d help her solve mysteries and murders – a surprising amount for a small village!; I could let her do her wacky science experiments while I went around her crumbling English manor house, fixing it up with little decorative touches. Plus she’s brilliant, and could do all that chemistry homework for me that I hated doing myself. Maybe it’s more like I want to BE Flavia than hang out with her!

People are always surprised that I am a fan of this individual (singer, actor, or artist):

The group Steely Dan (which is about as butch as I get in terms of music!) It must have been around during my high school years, which dates me, but I didn’t listen to them then. It was about a decade after college that they came back into my life. How or why, I don’t remember, but I do remember going out and buying CDs and cassette tapes (that dates me too!) of all their work. They seemed to have a song for every post-college mood I had, a sort of sad, smart ass irony; they all seemed like short stories. I obsessed over “Rikki Don’t Lost that Number” – before I saw the spelling – because I thought it was written to a MALE Ricky and they were coming out as gay!  

There was a quirky 1995 road trip movie called Boys on the Side with Whoopi Goldberg, Mary Louise Parker and Drew Barrymore, and one of the characters is obsessed with The Carpenters, whose music is used a lot in the movie. (Loved The Carpenters too!) I was writing screenplays back then, and wanted to celebrate Steely Dan in the same way. In my “go back to school reunion/deal with my past while solving a murder mystery” screenplay, called High School Confidential, I wrote a different Steely Dan song into ever scene change! It was my playlist for getting through that script, and I’ve ever since played Steely Dan while writing my books.  

My personal catch phrase is (or should be):

“What would Mary Berry do?”  I first discovered her close to a decade ago, when I began watching The Great British Bake-Off. (Who can forget her catchphrase “soggy bottom”???) Little did I know she was a cultural icon, the reigning queen of British culinary TV. She has such knowledge and kindness, with that sly little sparkle in her eyes. I think asking what she would do – in any situation, in or out of the kitchen – would be a useful guiding principle for all of us!  

Find out more about Kim Powers and his work here:
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