Author Interview with Robert Kidera

Today we welcome Robert Kidera.

Book ‘Em:  Tell us about you and your life outside of writing.

Robert Kidera:  I was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and spent most of my life in New York state, where I retired early from my academic career in 2000. Before that, I worked in the motion picture industry in NYC. I relocated to Albuquerque and began a second career as a novelist. I’ve had an interest in history all my life, it’s what I studied and later taught, and it plays an important role in my stories. My other interests are baseball, classic films, mystery novels, and gardening.

Book ‘Em:  Which books have you written? What are they about and why did you choose to write them? Do your books have a message? Are they fiction or nonfiction?

Robert Kidera:  I write the Gabe McKenna Mystery Series for Suspense Publishing: RED GOLD (2015 – Winner of the Tony Hillerman Award for best fiction, and named Best Mystery at the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards), GET LOST (2016 – named Best Mystery at the NM/AZ Awards), and CUT.PRINT.KILL (just released eight weeks ago). The protagonist in my hard-boiled novels is a widowed, retired professor of early American history who moves to New Mexico to start over and becomes involved in mystery and adventure. I chose to write them because being an author was THE deferred dream of my life. The main theme of the series is that life is a continuous journey toward the Truth for those who pay attention, but there is a necessary loss if innocence along the way.

Book ‘Em:  Do you have a work in progress?

Robert Kidera:  Yes, I am currently working on the fourth book in the McKenna Series. It’s called MIDNIGHT BLUES and should be out late in 2018. It focuses on the human-trafficking/sex-trafficking problem in the Southwest, especially on the pueblos and reservations. I want to make more people aware of this ongoing tragedy.

Book ‘Em:  What was the most difficult section/piece you ever wrote? What made it difficult?

Robert Kidera:  My debut novel took the most time, because I was learning the ropes as I went along. I have also had to write scenes in which a beloved character dies. It is difficult for a writer to let go of her/his creations, perhaps even more painful than it is for the readers to say good-bye. I’ve only written one “sex scene” in the series so far, but that was a challenge as well, crafting the words to reveal less of the flesh and more of the character of the people involved.

Book ‘Em:  What sort of research do you do for your work?

Robert Kidera:  I do a great deal of research, both into the historical aspects of what I write and into the contemporary and story details. In addition to getting the “facts” correct, I try to visit all of the locations I use in my novels, to get my feet on their ground, to experience their sights and sounds, to get the feel of each place. You can’t convey these places to someone who has never been there if you haven’t been there yourself. I also write extensive biographies for my main characters, profiles to which I can refer as the series goes along. These are useful for consistency, and for charting their character development.

Book ‘Em:  Which books and authors do you read for pleasure? Is there an author that inspires you?

Robert Kidera:  I would not be an author today if not for Raymond Chandler. He is my main inspiration, not only for his stellar prose and intriguing characters, but also because he started writing novels later in his life, as I have. His style, tone, and voice are unparalleled. I read Chandler’s entire body of work every few years. Another author I admire is Donald Westlake, who also wrote under the name of Richard Stark. His ability to meld humor with mystery and adventure is amazing. Among today’s writers, I admire Lawrence Block and his Matt Scudder books, also Michael Connely, especially his Bosch novels, and I’d like to mention an excellent thriller writer who deserves to be better-known, Joseph Badal, whose work is terrific. Check out his Danforth Saga novels. Great stuff. I read mysteries, thrillers, biography, and historical non-fiction for pleasure.

Book ‘Em:  Was there a person who encouraged you to write?

Robert Kidera:  I would have to say my father influenced me to be a writer more than anyone else. He was a professor of journalism at Marquette University when I was a young man and I spent many hours watching/pestering him when he wrote Fundamentals of Journalism. That book put food on our table. Beyond that, as I mentioned before, Raymond Chandler showed me that it was not too late to get into the game.

Book ‘Em:  What would you say are your strengths as an author?

Robert Kidera:  Ah, now we get to the tough questions! To be honest, it is easier for me to evaluate other writers’ work than it is my own. But if I had to choose, I would say that I’ve been able to develop compelling characters with whom my readers connect. Gabe has his fans, readers who care about him and his friends. One thing I have worked very hard to improve is my use of dialogue. I think it was a weakness when I began my writing career. Now it might be a strength. I’ve worked hard to improve in all areas. My main goal as a writer is to make each new book I write the best book I have ever written.

Book ‘Em:  How often do you write, and do you write using a strict routine?

Robert Kidera:  I work on my writing every day. Sometimes that involves research. Some days I write new pages, some days are given to revision and critique. I’m not a fast writer, so I need to be consistent and persistent. Then of course, there’s always social media and its demands. They have to be met. This is my life now. It’s who I am and what I do. I consider it that important every day.

Book ‘Em:  Five years from now, where do you see yourself as a writer?

Robert Kidera:  Doing what I do now, only even better. I don’t frame my goals in terms of sales, or fame. It matters more to me that I grow in skill and in the ability to move my readers. One thing I do expect is to branch out a bit and write some historical fiction. Gabe McKenna will always be lurking near my keyboard and in my imagination. But I’d like to put my background in American history to work in my writing to a greater extent. I have an idea about a novel set in the silver mining days of New Mexico in the 1880s. Hopefully I can tell that story soon.

Book ‘Em:  If you could offer one piece of advice to a novice writer, what would it be?

Robert Kidera:  Jump into the deep end of the pool, with both feet. Don’t hang back and expect success to happen, to hope to “someday” become a writer. If this is what you truly want, make it happen, and go after it the sooner the better. It’s about commitment and focus. Pour yourself and your heart into your writing and spend the time.

Book ‘Em:  What would you consider the best compliment a reader could give your book?

Robert Kidera:  While I’m grateful for the recognition and awards I’ve won, what matters more to me are affirming comments from my readers that they’ve enjoyed my books and characters. And the best compliment they can give me is, “When’s the next book coming out?”

Book ‘Em:  Provide an excerpt of your writing that you would like to share with our members.

Robert Kidera:  Here’s a short excerpt from my latest novel, CUT.PRINT.KILL. It’s a fateful moment when Gabe McKenna agrees to begin a new job that will one day threaten his own life:


Tony Fredericks didn’t just sit in his chair. He possessed it, elbows jutting out over its Spanish carved arms, hands resting atop a mountain of flesh. Taking off tinted bifocals, he lit a cigar the size of a baby’s arm. A steady, bejeweled hand set the lighter, shaped like a naked woman, back on his desktop. He blew it a kiss and returned the glasses to the tip of his nose, obscuring the deep crow’s feet around his eyes. No amount of makeup could hide a bad case of rosacea.

“You are…” he paused to read from a paper in front of him, “Professor Gabriel McKenna?”

“Yes. I am.” I looked away and read the framed motto on the wall behind his head. “Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”

A blue silk shirt lay unbuttoned halfway down his chest. Gray hair curled its way out, like a nest of newly-hatched snakes. A heavy gold chain around his neck looked faintly green as ten o’clock sunshine flooded the office.

He glanced up from the paper. “You’re interested in serving as historical consultant on my upcoming film?”

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