Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Congratulations on the recent release of your new crime novel, Automat! For those who may be unfamiliar, how would you describe the book’s premise, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Stephanie Kane: Who is the lonely flapper staring into a coffee cup in Edward Hopper’s famous painting, Automat? When the young actress playing her is brutally murdered at the launch of The Denver Art Museum’s blockbuster Hopper exhibition, Conservator of Paintings Lily Sparks is driven to use her perfect eye to solve the crime. Her eye tells her that just as the celebrated artist kept painting the same iconic woman, the killer must keep killing her.
Automat is my second crime novel featuring Lily. I picked Hopper because his paintings intrigue and disturb me. Best known for his disengaged customers at a neon-lit diner in Nighthawks, and the flapper in Automat, Hopper returned over and over to a certain hard-featured blonde. My obsession with who she was launched me into a deep dive into Hopper’s past and the women in his life, from his early trips to Paris to his 40-year marriage to artist Josephine Nivison.
BD: What can you share with us about your creative process in bringing this story to life, and what have been some of your creative influences, especially in light of the fact that the book (and its predecessor - A Perfect Eye) is set within the art world?
SK: I’m fascinated by female detectives who look at the world in fundamentally different ways. My first series was legal thrillers about a dyslexic criminal defense lawyer who was a better lawyer because of her difficulties reading. My new heroine, Lily Sparks, was trained from childhood to have a uniquely discerning eye. Both characters were inspired by real people: a young relative who has dyslexia and art historian Amy Herman who teaches cops, lawyers, and med students to hone their observational skills by studying paintings in museums.
Why set a crime series in the art world? Art and crime are flip sides of the same coin: Artists are driven by the passion to create, and criminals by the compulsion to destroy. What happens when those forces collide? Can art inspire crime, and what can a criminal’s identification with an artist drive him to do?
BD: At Fanbase Press this year, our #StoriesMatter initiative endeavors to highlight the impact that stories can have on audiences of various mediums. How do you feel that Lily’s story will connect with and impact readers, and why do you feel that this story was important for you to bring to life?
SK: Lily is driven by reverence for the creative passion an artist pours into his art. Likewise, the bad guys she brings down are motivated by something beyond heists or money. Art moves us in unexpected and thrilling ways. I want readers to think about paintings as more than things hanging on a wall, and museums as more than tombs for dead artists.
BD: Are there any upcoming projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
SK: Can little crimes inspire big ones? Object Lessons, Lily’s third outing, involves crime scene dioramas. When miniature dioramas used to train cops to investigate crime scenes come to Denver and a string of baffling real murders follows, she sees connections between the two. Solving them draws her into the orbit of a killer who is intent on going from master of a tiny universe to playing God.
BD: Lastly, what is the best way for our readers to find more information about Automat and your other work?
SK: My website is www.writerkane.com. The website carries Cold Case Story Blog, which takes a 1973 murder that was reopened as a cold case 30 years later and examines it under a storytelling lens. You can also visit me on Facebook (@AuthorStephanieKane).