Sue Grafton, the author of the famous Alphabet series (A is for Alibi, B is for Burglar, … ) about private eye Kinsey Millhone, is a rather private person herself. The author has a website, but you can’t contact her by email. She prefers the old-fashioned handwritten letter. This way, I contacted Sue some time ago and received a very nice letter back.
Sue tells me that her father was a municipal bond attorney in Louisville, Kentucky, where she was born and raised. He was also a writer, who published three mysteries and even won an award.
Sue went to school in Louisville (and wrote for the school paper) and then went to the University of Louisville), where she majored in English. She started to write short stories when she was eighteen and completed her first full length novel when she was twenty-two. It took her four manuscripts before one was accepted for publication.
She wrote at night, every night, while she was working full time as a medical secretary. This way it too her five years to finish ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI.
She was pretty amazed at the success of the book, and the ones that followed. She works hard on each book, and this is done with the same dedication that went into this first success story.
Right now, Sue has a wonderful life. She has a loving husband, three terrific kids, three granddaughters, five cats, numerous friends, good health, physical fitness, two beautiful houses, and good books to read. And, on a humorous note: still her own teeth and hair!
When Sue started out on ‘A’ IS FOR ALIBI, she did not even know for sure what a private investigator did. She began the long and continuing task of educating herself. She studied police procedures, forensics, toxicology, books on burglary and theft, homicide, arson, anatomy, poisonous plants, … She chose a female protagonist because she is a woman herself and it was her only area of expertise.
When she first came up with the idea of using letters of the alphabet to title her books, she sat and sketched a list of possible titles. Her unspoken rule is that each words needs to be crime related … hence, BRUGLAR, CORPSE, DEADBEAT, etc. She often begins a book with only the vaguest of ideas. For instance, with the C-book all she knew in the beginning was that Kinsey was to work for a dead man. She also knows how the story should end, but it’s the middle that gives her headaches!
Kinsey Millhone is Sue’s alter-ego … the person she might have been had she not married young and had children. Kinsey and Sue are one soul in two bodies. The ’68 VW Kinsey drives (until ‘G’ IS FOR GUMSHOE) was a car Sue owned some years ago and which she donated to a local charity that raffled it off.
Sue plans on finishing ‘Z’ IS FOR ZERO around 2015, and she has no idea what she’ll do afterwards.