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November 17, 2011

Author Interview: She's here!!! Diane Kelly and Death, Taxes and a French Manicure

Hi, Diane and welcome to the Plotting Princesses. We are thrilled to have you here!!!

How long have you been writing? How did you get from a CPA to writing romance? I always enjoyed writing for fun as a child, but I began writing with hopes of publication in the fall of 2000, when I took a creative writing class at a nearby college.  So I’ve been writing for about eleven years, though I became much more serious about it during the fourth year.  Not coincidentally, that was the year my children were finally old enough to do a lot of things on their own and I was - finally!- free to devote more time to my writing. 

Years ago, I worked at one of the international accounting firms under a partner who was later convicted of tax shelter fraud.  I also worked as an assistant attorney general for the State of Texas under an AG who pled guilty to criminal charges relating to the settlement of the tobacco company lawsuits (he’d diverted funds to his cronies’ law firms).  With my employers repeatedly landing themselves in jail, I decided self-employment would be a good idea.  I’ve since worked as a self-employed tax advisor, which is surprisingly much more interesting than it sounds.  But I also realized that my experiences with white-collar crime would make interesting fodder for novels.  My fingers hit the keyboard and thus began my “Death and Taxes” romantic mystery series.

Who is your favorite author(s) and why?  I blog with a group of amazing authors, all of whom are among my favorites, probably because we have similar styles and tastes – Kathy Bacus, Amanda Brice, Christie Craig, Jana DeLeon, Kyra Davis, Angie Fox, Gemma Halliday, Robin Kaye, and Leslie Langtry.  My critique partners, Trinity Blake, Angela Cavener, and Celya Bowers/Kennedy Shaw are among my favorites, too!

My favorite romantic comedy writer is New York Times bestselling author Kristan Higgins.  She somehow creates stories that will have you laughing out loud one minute, then bawling your eyes out the next.  She’s an expert with emotion and humor.  Her books always end on a positive, hopeful note and with a great catharsis.

For YA, I love Tina Ferraro’s books.  They are cute, light, and fun.

I also enjoy Janet Evanovich, Christopher Moore, and Carl Hiaasen books.

For straight-out humor, nobody beats Jill Conner Browne and Celia Rivenbark.  Those girls are a hoot and a half!

I grew up reading Erma Bombeck in the newspaper and still love her stuff.  It’s funny and touching and real all at the same time.  The ability to find humor in the grind of everyday life is truly a gift.

And of course I’ve been known to read the work of a funny writer named Vicki Batman . . . ever heard of her? (YES! I'm so flattered, I'm fanning my face!!)

So, bottom line, my taste definitely runs to funny stuff.  Humor is a great escape!

Tell us about your new book.  My book stars a feisty Treasury Department Special Agent named Tara Holloway.  She’s a tax cop on the trail of two tax cheats.  The first is a guy who’s driving an ice cream truck and dealing drugs along with the ice cream.  She teams up with a Latina DEA agent to bust the ice cream man.  This plotline provides lots of fun.  The two go undercover and pose as slackers in the ‘hood in order to gain the ice cream man’s trust.  Her second target is a con artist running a Bernie Madoff style ponzi scheme.  Problem is, it looks like her new boyfriend might be involved in the scam!          But come hell or high water, Tara will get her man.
Here’s an excerpt:
Chapter One
Some People Just Need Shooting
When I was nine, I formed a Silly Putty pecker for my Ken doll, knowing he’d have no chance of fulfilling Barbie’s needs given the permanent state of erectile dysfunction with which the toy designers at Mattel had cursed him. I knew a little more about sex than most girls, what with growing up in the country and all. The first time I saw our neighbor’s Black Angus bull mount an unsuspecting heifer, my two older brothers explained it all to me.

“He’s getting him some,” they’d said.

“Some what?” I’d asked.


We watched through the barbed wire fence until the strange ordeal was over. Frankly, the process looked somewhat uncomfortable for the cow, who continued to chew her cud throughout the entire encounter. But when the bull dismounted, nuzzled her chin, and wandered away, I swore I saw a smile on that cow’s face and a look of quiet contentment in her eyes. She was in love.

I’d been in search of that same feeling for myself ever since.

My partner and I had spent the afternoon huddled at a cluttered desk in the back office of an auto parts store perusing the owner’s financial records, searching for evidence of tax fraud. Yeah, you got me. I work for the IRS. Not exactly the kind of career that makes a person popular at cocktail parties. But those brave enough to get to know me learn I’m actually a nice person, fun even, and they have nothing to fear. I have better things to do than nickel and dime taxpayers whose worst crime was inflating the value of the Glen Campbell albums they donated to Goodwill.

“I’ll be right back, Tara.” My partner smoothed the front of his starched white button-down as he stood from the folding chair. Eddie Bardin was tall, lean, and African-American, but having been raised in the upper-middle-class, predominately white Dallas suburbs, he had a hard time connecting to his roots. He’d had nothing to overcome, unless you counted his affinity for Phil Collins’ music, Heineken beer, and khaki chinos, tastes which he had yet to conquer. Eddie was more L.L. Bean than L.L. Cool J.

I nodded to Eddie and tucked an errant strand of my chestnut hair behind my ear. Turning back to the spreadsheet in front of me, I flicked aside the greasy burger and onion ring wrappers the store’s owner, Jack Battaglia, had left on the desk after lunch. I couldn’t make heads or tails out of the numbers on the page. Battaglia didn’t know jack about keeping books and, judging from his puny salaries account, he’d been too cheap to hire a professional.

A few seconds after Eddie left the room, the door to the office banged open. Battaglia loomed in the doorway, his husky body filling the narrow space. He wore a look of purpose and his store’s trademark bright green jumpsuit, the cheerful color at odds with the open box cutter clutched in his furry-knuckled fist.

“Hey!” Instinctively, I leapt from my seat, the metal chair falling over behind me and clanging to the floor.

Battaglia lunged at me. My heart whirled in my chest. There was no time to pull my gun. The best I could do was throw out my right arm to deflect his attempt to plunge the blade into my jugular. The sharp blade slid across my forearm, just above my wrist, but with so much adrenaline rocketing through my system, I felt no immediate pain. If not for the blood seeping through the sleeve of my navy nylon raid jacket, I wouldn’t have even known I’d been cut. Underneath was my favorite pink silk blouse, a coup of a find on the clearance rack at Neiman Marcus Last Call, now sliced open, the blood-soaked material gaping to reveal a short but deep gash.

My jaw clamped tighter than a chastity belt on a pubescent princess. This jerk was going down.

My block had knocked him to the side. Taking advantage of our relative positioning, I threw a roundhouse kick to Battaglia’s stomach, my steel-toed cherry-red Doc Martens sinking into his soft paunch. The shoes were the perfect combination of utility and style, another great find at a two-for-one sale at the Galleria.

The kick didn’t take the beer-bellied bastard out of commission, but at least it sent him backwards a few feet, putting a little more distance between us. A look of surprise flashed across Battaglia’s face as he stumbled backward. He clearly hadn’t expected a skinny, five-foot-two-inch bookish woman to put up such a fierce fight.


He regained his footing just as I yanked my Glock from my hip holster. I pointed the gun at his face, a couple drops of blood running down my arm and dropping to the scuffed gray tile floor. “Put the box cutter down.”

He stiffened, his face turning purple with fury. “Shit. IRS agents carry guns now?”

Although people were familiar with tax auditors, the concept of a Special Agent–a tax cop–eluded most. But we’d been busting tax cheats for decades. Heck, when no other law enforcement agency could get a charge to stick, we were the ones to finally bring down Al Capone. And if we could nab a tough guy like Capone, this pudgy twerp didn’t stand a chance.

By our best estimate, Battaglia had cheated the federal government and honest Americans out of at least eighty grand and didn’t seem too happy when Eddie and I’d shown up to collect. Now, with my partner on a potty break, Battaglia was treating me like I was a shrimp and he was a chef at Benihana.

The mad man sneered at me, revealing teeth yellowed by age and excessive soda consumption. He waved the blade in the air. “If you shoot me, you better shoot to kill. ‘Cause if you don’t, I’m gonna carve you like a pumpkin.”

My gunmetal gray-blue eyes bore into Battaglia’s. “Daddy had a strict rule about firearms. Anything we killed we had to eat. No amount of barbecue sauce would make a hairy guy like you palatable.

He raised the box cutter higher. Now that just burned me up. He didn’t think I’d do it. He was wrong. Still, I’d only shoot as a last resort. Not because I was some kind of bleeding heart. There was just too much paperwork involved. Besides, gunplay was hell on a manicure and I’d just had my fingers freshly French-tipped yesterday.

Since threats hadn’t worked, I decided to try persuasion. “Look. If I shoot you, I’ll have to fill out a form. I hate filling out forms.”

He snorted and rolled his eyes. “You hate filling out forms and you took a job with the IRS? What are you, some kind of idiot?”

So much for my powers of persuasion. Now I was beyond burned up. Now I was hot and bothered. “Drop the box cutter, you sorry son-of-a-bitch.”

There I went again, exposing my country roots. Growing up in the rural east Texas town of Nacogdoches, my brothers taught me how to curse a blue streak. But now I was a sophisticated city girl living in Dallas, a member of the Junior League, and I needed to act like it. Problem was, this jerk was making it hard to remember my manners.

Battaglia lunged again, a green blubbery blur coming right at me. I ducked aside just in time to avoid being slashed again and hollered for my partner. Eddie appeared in the doorway, spotted the box cutter, and took a running leap onto Battaglia’s back. Battaglia outweighed Eddie by a good hundred pounds. He managed to stay on his feet, but with Eddie riding him his focus shifted from slicing me to shreds to shedding the tall guy playing horsey with him. It was just the opportunity I needed. I took aim.


Thanks, Diane! Diane can be found at:,, and every other Monday at


Kathy Ivan said...

Sorry, everybody, not sure why part of the interview seems to be missing. We're working on the problem and hopefully will have the whole thing up soon. Thanks.

chris keniston said...

LOL- boy do I wish they'd let me carry a gun!! LOL.

I am so delighted to see publishing follow in the footsteps of cinema - humor should always stay in fashion -
thanks so much for sharing with us today!

Karilyn Bentley said...

Hi Diane,
I enjoyed the interview! Can hardly wait to read the book. It's up next on my reading list. :)

Thanks for stopping by today!

Diane Kelly said...

Thanks, Chris! I agree - humor is always in fashion. Who doesn't need a good laugh? : )

Karilyn, thanks for stopping by! Hope you'll enjoy Tara's escapades!

Pamela Stone said...

Hi Diane, great interview. Just by the title, the books sounds wonderful. I love humor in stories. Subtle, dry wit, tongue-in-cheek humor is my personal favorite.

Kathy Ivan said...

I was fortunate enough to get an advanced reader copy of this book, and I highly recommend it! It's funny, witty, and all around a great story.

Thanks again, Diane, for being here with the Plotting Princesses today (technical glitches and all). LOL

Addison said...


Congrats on this release - I SO enjoyed it and am anxiously looking forward to Tara's next adventure!!


Kathy Ivan said...

Okay, barring any more unforeseen technical difficulties, I FINALLY have the excerpt up. So if you missed it earlier, you can read it now.

Back to our regularly scheduled crises!

Diane Kelly said...

Thanks to Kathy for getting the excerpt up! I appreciate your kind words, Pam and Addison! This debut has been lots of fun!

Phyllis said...


So sorry I'm just getting here! I enjoyed the excerpt and the interview. I look forward to reading the book.

What's next for you?


Caroline Clemmons said...

Diane, loved this book. I look forward to the next Tara Holloway adventure!

Liz Lipperman said...

Oh, boy, am I ever late to this party. I keep holding off buying this until I can come to one of your signings, but I think I'll bring one to the DARA breakfast instead. I can't wait to read it.