February 2012 | Nate Pedersen

Bibliophile Mysteries: An Interview with Kate Carlisle

Kate Carlisle is the author of the Bibliophile Mysteries, featuring a bookbinder who has a tendency to stumble across murder while restoring old books.  The fifth entry in the series, ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE, was released earlier this month.  We recently spoke with Kate about her mystery series, old books, and publishing in digital vs physical format.

NP: Could you tell us a little bit about the new Bibliophile Mystery, One Book in the Grave?

KC: I'd love to! For readers who aren't familiar with the Bibliophile Mystery series, the books center on pre-eminent bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright, who brings rare books back from the brink of death in her San Francisco workshop. Unfortunately for Brooklyn, every antique book she restores seems to be linked to a modern day murder. (Her guru is trying to help her understand why the universe has chosen her for this peculiar "honor.") The books have a lot of humor, and I work very hard to give readers a true insight into the art and craft of book restoration.

In ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE (February 2012), Brooklyn has been called in to restore a badly weathered, illustrated copy of Beauty and the Beast. As soon as she sees the book, she recognizes it as the treasured possession of a friend who died under mysterious circumstances. The book was stolen shortly after her friend's death. Why has it reappeared on the marketplace now, years later? When she goes to the bookstore where the book first reappeared, she discovers the owner lying in a pool of his own blood. Dead. Brooklyn must figure out who is killing people linked to this rare book, before she becomes the next victim.

NP: Could you also tell us about your new Bibliophile novella series?  I know the first volume, Pages of Sin, is available to download now; are there plans for future novellas as well?

KC: PAGES OF SIN is a Bibliophile Mystery novella that came out in January of this year as an ebook exclusive. It's not a separate series, but more like a bonus Bibliophile Mystery. At the moment, there are no plans for another novella, but I'd love to write another.

NP: As an author with an obvious interest and love of the book as a physical object, how do you feel about the publication of your novella in digital form?  Are there plans to release paper versions?  Does that matter to you?

KC: The irony hasn't escaped me! (Much like the irony that the first Bibliophile Mystery, HOMICIDE IN HARDCOVER, was published in paperback.) The truth is, the books I love as physical objects are those which transcend their "bookishness" and become works of art. I'm talking about the beautiful leather-bound, gilt-edged, illustrated books that one feels honored to hold. The fine books that are celebrated in Fine Books & Collections, to be precise.

I would love, someday, for the Bibliophile Mystery books to be bound so beautifully. In the meantime, I'm happy that my stories, in whatever format, are introducing so many readers to an appreciation of the art form I adore.

There are no plans at this time to publish PAGES OF SIN on paper, but readers who don't have an ereader can get free software to read the book on their computers. You can email me via www.katecarlisle.com for links to where to get the free software. While on my website, sign up for my mailing list for a chance to win a 513-piece jigsaw puzzle featuring the cover of ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE. It's gorgeous! You can also read a free excerpt of each of my Bibliophile Mystery novels.

NP: Have you always been interested in rare books?

KC: Always. My father had a small collection of old books, and I remember spending hours looking in awe at the copyright pages of the books. Then when I grew up, I loved to haunt the antiquarian book shops in my town. Each book told two stories - the story on its pages, and the story of who had touched it during its long lifetime. Who read this book? Where did it go? Who wrote it, and who bought it? Did another girl just like me stay up late a hundred years ago, straining her eyes to read by candlelight because she couldn't bear to close the book?

NP: Do you moonlight as a book restorer, like Brooklyn?

KC: I've never restored a book professionally, but bookbinding has been an avocation for years. I've taken classes in the book arts for years, and I work hard to get the details right in my books.

NP: What books do you personally collect?

KC: My collection is rather eclectic. I have a beautiful leather bound copy of Walt Whitman poems, which I treasure. I have a 1922 edition of Toto the Bustling Beaver - because no collection would be complete without Toto the Bustling Beaver! I love the illustrations in fairy tales (which is why Beauty and the Beast is the featured rare book in ONE BOOK IN THE GRAVE), and I have a lovely edition of fairy tales by Hans Christian Anderson.