It's Halloween so Author Julie Kramer explains Playing Dead!

If you have ever wondered how much detail an author puts into their work, then what you are about to read from author Julie Kramer will show you just how extreme one can get into their research.


Julie Kramer is a journalist turned novelist. She writes a series of thrillers set in the desperate world of TV news. Julie has won the Daphne du Maurier Award for Mainstream Mystery/Suspense, RT Reviewer’s Choice for Best First Mystery as well as the Minnesota Book Award. Her book has also been nominated for the Anthony, Barry, Shamus, Mary Higgins Clark and RT Best Amateur Sleuth Awards. She formerly ran WCCO-TV’s investigative unit before becoming a freelance network news producer for NBC and CBS. She lives with her family in White Bear Lake, Minnesota.

Playing Dead by Julie Kramer

I could have simply imagined a lid closing over my face as I lay still in cramped quarters. Or I could have searched the dimensions of a casket online. But I like to live my research, so I visited my friendly neighborhood funeral home: Mueller Lake Mortuary.

I waited until a day when the parking lot was empty so as not to interrupt a funeral. I didn’t want to cause a scene; I wanted to write one.

My upcoming thriller, Delivering Death, needed one more chase scene. And I would go to hell and back to get it right.

A woman greeted me in the lobby, asking how she could help. We appeared to be the only living souls in the building. “I’d like to look at caskets,” I said.

Apparently, it was a common request. She introduced herself as Taelor Johnson and led me back to the show room where caskets were displayed along the walls like the latest models of cars at nearby auto dealerships. She was gentle in her approach. “Tell me a little about what you’re looking for.”

“It’s not for me,” I answered. “Or anyone in particular. I’m a writer. I’m here for research.”

Taelor looked at me skeptically, so I fumbled for a bookmark with my author photo, as if that proved anything. I also name-dropped Lady Madeline, a tortured twin wrongly entombed in Edgar Allan Poe’s macabre “Fall of the House of Usher” – a favorite story of many funeral home employees. The approach worked and Taelor agreed to answer my questions. Within minutes, I learned that caskets were not airtight, so one of my characters could certainly hide inside without suffocating, but that claustrophobia would be the bigger challenge.

Then came the real reason for my visit: “Would you mind if I tried one out?”

Now she looked at me suspiciously, as if I harbored some dark fetish about being buried alive or this whole thing might be part of some creepy bucket list stunt. “I don’t think that would be such a good idea.” Taelor was worred the casket might tip and crash as I climbed inside. Their insurance probably wouldn’t cover that type of accident. At least that’s the excuse she gave.

“How about if we used a chair?” Trying to be helpful, I pulled one out of a corner. Prior to becoming an author, I was a journalist and asking pushy questions came naturally.

“Oh, all right.” She lifted the cover and helped me lower myself inside. “Stay calm now.”

“This requires a certain amount of trust on my part,” I said.

Taelor didn’t respond, so I felt some trepidation that she might not let me out. Life is full of risks, I told myself. My eyes automatically shut as she closed the lid; when I opened them, the interior wasn’t totally black. I could see a dim line of light around the middle. That kept me from panicking, but I was still anxious to finish my research and return to my desk job.

“Breathe slowly,” she advised.

And so I did. The satin padding actually made for a comfortable resting place. I pushed up, my hands against the lid, surprised it was so heavy. And this was without six feet of dirt.

“Would you mind walking around?” I asked. “I’m curious whether I can hear footsteps.” She did and I could. “How about talking? I want to see how much I can hear from inside.”

Taelor’s voice was clear, not at all muffled. “Are you done in there?” She sounded like she was looking at her watch, probably worried a paying customer might walk in on our experiment.

“Just a little bit longer.” I kicked off a shoe and reached for my foot to gauge the amount of wiggle room available.

The light startled me when she opened the lid. “Time to go now.”

I took a deep and welcome breath of fresh air and handed her my cell phone. “Would you mind taking a picture of me in here?”

“That’s not going to happen,” she said. “Enough is enough.”

So no new author photo for me. But I climbed out, energized to finish writing my scene, even if it meant staying up late, working the graveyard shift.

From the author of Stalking Susan comes the latest installment in the “compulsively readable” (WCCO-TV) bestselling Riley Spartz thriller series, featuring a smart, sassy, and always entertaining TV reporter as she matches wits with a media-savvy killer.

The most appealing mystery heroine since Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum, TV reporter Riley Spartz is a star investigative journalist for Channel 3—and no stranger to the seedier side of her hometown. But when she receives a package of smelly human teeth in the mail at work, she’s quickly embroiled in a homicide investigation that spirals into one of the odder cases the Minneapolis police force has ever seen. Though the cops try to keep certain grisly details quiet, this murder has a strange twist—it seems that the killer wants the crime publicized.

Is it a revenge killing, or something more? Riley’s investigation takes her inside a lucrative identity theft ring that links low-life crooks like now-dead Leon Akume to white-collar opportunists like once-wealthy Jack Clemens. Despite a prime motive for murder, Jack also has the ultimate alibi: he's behind bars. While Riley pushes to keep the homicide in the news, her boss is convinced that coverage of the Mall of America’s unique version of a royal wedding is key to the station winning ratings. As the stakes continue to rise for her job and her life, Riley must outwit the killer in a trap that could leave yet another person dead...

An irresistible suspense novel that will keep readers turning pages until the stunning conclusion, Delivering Death brings the humor, intrigue, and twists and turns Julie Kramer’s fans have been waiting for.

1 comment:

  1. Julie, I would have totally taken your picture! -- looking forward to reading the next book!


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