Author Dana Killion has published three thrillers in the Andrea Kellner series. Like her lead character, Dana is a Chicago resident. Her fourth book, “Tell Me a Lie,” will be out in January.
EC: Your books are set in Chicago and the city plays such a significant role you could almost call it a character. But some of your scenes are set in such iconic Chi-Town locales, they might easily overwhelm your characters and the action. How do you keep that in balance?
DK: I’m a writer who starts my drafting process with a scene-by-scene outline. In that outline, I’m working through the plot as my primary focus. It’s a “who-does-what” and “why-do-they-do-it?” exploration. But once I’m in draft mode, my head switches to character. By knowing who my characters are, I can formulate ideas about where they might live and work, which then leads to setting.
I base my choice of specific settings on what I know of the people. Andrea is a city girl like me, and that means she’s out and about in her neighborhood and her investigations take her where the plot demands. For me, it’s never a specific place that starts my thought process, the place is dictated by the events or plot points of the story. In my books, setting is there to enhance and support action and character. Chicago has such rich history and variety, that setting is the easy part.
EC: What are some of your MC Andrea’s favorite Chicago haunts?
DK: This is one area where Andrea and I are one and the same. I gave her a home and a neighborhood that I know well. Her co-op is based on one that I looked at quite a number of years ago and really, really wanted to buy. I have a remodeling passion and it was a grand old wreck that needed someone to love it again. My husband was not enthralled, however. Being a city girl, Andrea enjoys her restaurants and her wine, so all of the restaurants, vino, and specific dishes, are real things I have first-hand knowledge of. When I eat out, I’m secretly evaluating the “Andrea worthy” status of the joint. Tough research!