Kelly Oliver is the award-winning author of THE JESSICA JAMES COWGIRL PHILOSOPHER MYSTERIES, including WOLF (2016, IPPY AWARD, GOLD MEDAL, Best Mystery ebook & FORWARD AWARD FINALIST, Best Mystery), COYOTE (2016, READER'S CHOICE SILVER FALCHION AWARD), F.O.X. (2017, FINALIST KILLER NASHVILLE CLAYMORE AWARD; 2018 FINALIST SILVER FALCHION AWARD), AND JACKAL (2018). Kelly was born on July 28, 1958 in Spokane Washington, went to University High School in Spokane Valley, graduated from Gonzaga University with honors in 1979 with a double major in philosophy and communications, and earned a Ph.D. from Northwestern University in philosophy in 1987. Kelly has held teaching positions at various Universities, including George Washington University, University of Texas at Austin, and Stony Brook University. Currently, Kelly is W. Alton Jones Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University. Kelly's nonfiction work includes over 100 articles and over twenty books, including: Hunting Girls: Sexual Violence from The Hunger Games to Campus Rape (which won a CHOICE AWARD for Outstanding Title); Earth and World: Philosophy After the Apollo Missions; Technologies of Life and Death: From Cloning to Capital Punishment; Knock me up, Knock me down: Images of Pregnancy in Hollywood Film; Animal Lessons: How They Teach us to be Human; Women as Weapons of War: Iraq, Sex and the Media; The Colonization of Psychic Space: A Psychoanalytic Theory of Oppression; Noir Anxiety: Race, Sex, and Maternity in Film Noir; Witnessing: Beyond Recognition.
If you are looking for some grit, thrills and chills this summer, look no further, the Jessica James Series is the Must Read series of the summer.
Fans love to know the back stories of their favorite books. What inspired you to write your first novel "Wolf"? And then create the Jessica James Mystery Series?
The inspiration for my first novel, WOLF, A Jessica James Mystery, came from my own experience in graduate school. That was decades ago, when I was one of the very few women graduate students in philosophy. All of my professors were men, and most of them thought women had no place in philosophy. My first dissertation director was no exception.
He's only one person I've ever imagined killing. I'd lay awake fantasizing about stalking his jogging route, hiding in a dark alley in my beat-up Chevy Vega, then running him over. Of course, I wasn't ever seriously considering murder, even if he'd made my life hell for four years. Killing him in a novel was the perfect solution. And it was a lot more fun and cheaper than therapy.
So, I created Jessica James, my gritty protagonist, inspired by my own experiences, but capable of so much more than I am. She comes up with all those clever one-liners I wish I could have at the time.
With more wit than grace, Jessica James stumbles into murder, art scams, rape conspiracies, human trafficking, corruption, and a ring of Ivy League egg harvesters. Former Montana cowgirl and barrel racing champion, Jessica is out of her element as a philosophy graduate student at Northwestern University. Before moving to Chicago for graduate school, she'd never tasted Thai food, stood at the base of a sky-scraper, jumped on an elevated train, or seen a dead body. The queen of the quick comeback, Jessica gives as good as she gets.
Not only are you a bestselling novelist you are also a professor of Philosophy at Vanderbilt University so I have to ask has a student ever asked you about your novels? And if so what was that like?
When my students read my novels, they wonder how much is based on my own experience. They say, "Wow! How much of this stuff really happened?" Then, I have to plead the fifth. But, I will say, for the record, I did NOT murder my dissertation director.
When fans turn the last page in your books, what do you hope they take away with them?
I hope readers get a sense of a world where women working together can do much more than any one woman alone. I hope that they get a sense of a world where justice prevails in violence against women, and that maybe one day we can imagine a world without violence towards women. I also want readers to see that a feminist protagonist can be fun and funny.
Jessica James is all about solving mysteries. Did you ever want to be a detective?
As a kid, I'd always wanted to be a detective. During recess, I'd eavesdrop on other kids. I'd hide in the ball-box and peek out to spy on them. Like Agent 81 from Get Smart, I'd talk into an imaginary shoe to report back to headquarters. Okay, I was a weird kid. Writing detection fiction seemed the best way to actualise my childhood dreams, given my limitations as an academic.
Being a professional philosopher is a lot like being a detective. You follow clues in books and piece together the puzzle, even if that puzzle is the meaning of life instead of whodunit.
You are a prolific writer with five books in the Jessica James Mystery Series, is there another book in the works?
I just finished writing Kassy O'Rourke, Cub Reporter, the first in a new Tween mystery series, Kassy O'Rourke, Pet Detective. Imagine Nancy Drew had a pesky little brother and lived in a petting zoo.
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