Interrogation of Author Kemberlee Shortland

Under bright lights I slid on my detective hat and interrogated my publisher, Author Kemberlee Shortland. I’ll let you decide if she’s guilty of stealing readers’ hearts.

Murder_in_Mornington_by_Kemberlee_Shortland-coverNow that you’ve crossed to the dark side (crime), will you still write romance?

Of course. I just love writing challenges, and dipping into crime is a great learning curve. My romance tends to be romantic suspense, or light RS. Readers will find Murder in Mornington is primarily cozy mystery, but there’s a little ‘sumpin sumpin’ going on in the background with Sassy and the detective!

As for straight crime, there is something percolating in the background where there’s absolutely no romance. (zipping lips, throwing away the key)

What’s the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received? What’s the worst?

Best: Write what you know. There’s no authenticity in writing something you don’t know. If you don’t know it, learn it!

Worst: Write like your favorite author. We’re all unique and the industry is always looking for new voices. Be the new voice they’re looking for.

You own and operate Tirgearr Publishing (sounds familiar). How do you manage to juggle running a successful house and still find time to write?

Planning. It’s all about planning. I normally schedule time off from work so I can write. I’ll make notes and research during the year, then during my break, I write. For example: I wrote Murder in Mornington last summer in July over a ten day break. After a couple days rest, I dove in and wrote the first draft in about four days . . . 30K. I took a couple days off, then set about working on the first edits, then organized a few beta readers who gave invaluable info. Then off to the editor when I went back to work. Edits were handled on my only day off from the company, Sundays. Planning. It’s all about planning. Oh wait, did I say that already? 😉 

Do you have a strict writing schedule? For instance, do you set a specific word count?

Nope. I’m what you’d call a barfer. I thought I was the only one who used this term, but it turns out Nora Roberts used it a few years ago in an interview when she was asked how she can turn out so much work every year. Paraphrasing, she has a lot of research and notes in files, and when she’s ready for the next story, she pulls one out and pukes out the story all in one go over a couple days. My files aren’t as extensive as Nora’s, but her technique is very similar. 

Are you able to shut off your internal editor? Or do you only edit after the first draft is complete?

I edit during every aspect of writing—through the first draft and through every other version. I’ll write what I need to, and the next day, when I’m back at it, I’ll do a quick read over what I wrote the day before to get back into it. I’ll fix anything I see needs it before carrying on. When I get to the end of the first draft, it’s effectively had a first edit, but not really. I like to leave the book sit for a few days, maybe a week, before starting the first real edit. I might go over it again before beta readers, then again before a real editor. While I co-own Tirgearr Publishing with my husband, my books undergo the same strict editing all of our authors go through. No cutting corners.

Where’s Mornington?

Mornington is a residential community more so than a village or town. Exactly where it is: Go onto and put in 53.722304, -6.253815 and there you are. This GPS will put you at the entrance to the river parking area where Murder in Mornington begins, at the Maiden Tower. Hit the satellite view to see the tower, and how gorgeous the area is. 

I took it one step further and searched Google Earth. Check this out…

Google Earth_Mornington.jpeg

Note: Before I held Kem prisoner in the interrogation room, she discussed the research behind Murder in Mornington. It’s a fascinating post.

You and I have had a great time discussing how the English language varies depending on the locale. How do you deal with these differences in your writing?

Because it will be 19 years since I came to Ireland, I’ve adopted a lot of Irishisms into my every day language, which I hope translates into a better and more authentic story. My family finds it fascinating hearing how my speech has changed over the years.

As for Irish readers, comments I’m getting are rooted in: ‘page-turner,’ ‘couldn’t put it down,’ and one lady said it was a great story but that she didn’t believe I had five books in me. I’ve told her Murder in Mornington is my 13th published book, but that didn’t seem to change her opinion. 

Murder in Mornington starts with a bang—Sassy O’Brien finds a body on the beach while out for her morning run with her dog—and we’re immediately immersed in the story. Did you find the process of crime writing much different than writing romance? If so, how?

Many of my romances have suspense elements in them. Example: a stalker in Rhythm of My Heart, a bully and eventual murderer in A Piece of My Heart, a drug kingpin in Shape of My Heart. This difference with Murder in Mornington is there’s no sex or physical intimacy. Sassy and Liam’s relationship will develop over time . . . meeting each other in book one and the first steps toward friendship. By the end of the series (Body in Bettystown), they may get together. First and foremost is that each book in the Sassy O’Brien series is the crime and Sassy’s involvement in solving them. Because she’s a citizen and Liam is the detective on the case, they’re often pushed together and forced to work side-by-side (unofficially of course) to solve the crime. A relationship of some sort is inevitable. 

Some crime writers love research (like moi) and some don’t. Because Murder in Mornington is a cozy with an amateur sleuth, you could’ve gone either way. Did you research? If so, what subject matter?

As you said, Sassy is an amateur sleuth. She has no idea what she’s doing. I’ve never written non-romance before, and that it’s crime, I also have no idea what I’m doing. Sassy and I are learning together as we go.

As a writer, I get ideas from everywhere, and, as it happens, we moved to Mornington over two years ago. The week before the move, a real body was found on the riverbank behind us, in just about the same spot as my fictional victim. It turned out to have been a murder committed in the nearby main town of Drogheda who had been dumped on the riverside. Why? No one knows.

From the moment I heard there had been a murder victim in Mornington, my title rang out and the story percolated in the back of my head for a while until I finally said, “Right. Let’s see how this’ll go.” My research was essentially just walking our dogs down to the river, which we do quite often anyway. The rest was just fiction. Of course, I’ve changed the names of local places but essentially, the area is exactly as it is in the book.

I’m doing more on the research front for book two, Corpse in The Colpe, because the story digs deep into local/Irish history . . . Sassy’s family history, local legends, some genealogy, even some piracy on the open sea! Of course, now that many locals have read Murder in Mornington, they all want me to write them into future stories 😉

The cover is absolutely stunning. Who designed it?


You can thank Alicia Stucky for the cover ( She’s a very talented artist and was amazing at interpreting my notes. I had a vague vision of Sassy in my head but couldn’t find any stock images of a woman who would represent her. Alicia showed me a mock design of what she thought Sassy looked like after my description, and voila, Sassy was born. The background image came from one of my own photographs of the location (see below). Tirgearr works with some amazing designers, but for an illustrated cover with specific requirements, I found a proper illustrator was going to be key. As it turns out, Alicia’s mother, Carley Bauer, is one of Tirgearr’s authors, which is how I met Alicia. Until the cover was complete, we told no one. Not even her mother. Talk about surprised!

If Murder in Mornington was made into a movie, who would you want to play the lead characters?

O. Fitzgerald

Orla Fitzgerald for Sassy O’Brien

Orla is a Cork woman who played a key role in the award-winning Irish movie, The Wind That Shakes the Barley (with Jonathan Rhys Meyer). She, like Jason below, has a very classic Irish look. Plus, she already rocks the Sassy look, don’t you think? She just needs a wolfhound beside her.



Jason O’Mara for Dt Liam Donnelly

Jason was the cheeky attorney, Damian Boyle, on The Good Wife a couple years ago. Jason OmaraAccording to Sassy, As a stylist, she was sure his dark hair would curl if he let it grow out. She loved men with curly hair. His soft, green eyes were almost hypnotic when he gazed at her, even while he took her statement when he’d arrived on the scene earlier in the day. He wasn’t all muscly like the cops she saw on American crime programs, but he was athletically built; he took care of himself.

Tell me you’re not swooning yet over this Dublin born actor! How Sassy could keep her hands off Detective Donnelly is anyone’s guess. Readers will have to read the book to find out!

All writers pull from real life in some respects. Which scene would you say is the most true-to-life?

There really aren’t any scenes that I pulled from my life. Just some shared interests, and locations of course. I love crime programs (I know, ironic since I’m only now starting to delve into them), I’ve always wanted an Irish Wolfhound, and since I’ve lived in Ireland, I’ve owned two Austin Mini’s.

Can you share a sneak peek?

As I said, there aren’t any particular scenes from the book that have come from real life, but some settings and the car —

Kem car

This is my “Wee Beastie,” A 1988 limited edition Jet Black Austin Mini




River Boyne

This is the photo that was used to create my cover. Maiden Tower with the Ladyfinger Tower behind, and the medieval boathouse.

This is the River Boyne near where it empties into the Irish Sea. Check the GPS above and you’ll see the location.


What’s next for you, Kem?

Book two, for starters, Corpse in the Colpe. After that, Lynched in Laytown, which is set around the time of the famous Laytown Beach Races every September, the only sanctioned beach horserace in Ireland, and Great Britain. Three more books follow in the series.

Also, I’m working on the next two books in my erotic romance series, the ABCs of S-E-X: Love by the Letter . . . Beguiler and Conquered (the first was Awakening).

I have a time travel romance I potter with occasionally, The Diary.

And I’m looking at some of my original historical romances, doing some major requites to bring them up to today’s standards. Great stories, newbie writing 😉 I’ve always got my hands in something.

What’s Murder in Mornington about?

The last thing hair stylist Sassy O’Brien expects to find on her morning run on her local beach is a dead body. An addict of TV crime programs, she thinks, “What would Beckett do?” After ringing the police, she takes several crime scene photos on her mobile phone, as you do.

Much to Detective Donnelly’s consternation, Sassy’s involvement becomes instrumental in his investigation, especially as clues are overlooked by his team.

How will Sassy cope when all the clues point to her?

Where can readers find you? And how can they purchase Murder in Mornington?

Kemberlee Shortland authorI can be found here, with buy links on the pages:

I’m also on social media:

I blog here:

Hearticles: Articles with Heart –

Heart Shaped Stones –

Kemberlee was born and raised in Northern California in an area known as America’s Salad Bowl. It was home to many authors, including John Steinbeck, and for a while Jack London and Robert Louis Stevenson.

In 1997, Kemberlee left the employ of Clint Eastwood when the opportunity to live in Ireland for six months presented itself. It was there she ended up meeting a man who convinced her to stay. Kemberlee is now celebrating her eighteenth year in Ireland and has been lucky to travel the country extensively, picking up a cupla focal along the way—a few Irish words.

Kemberlee has been writing since a very young age and over the years she has published dozens of travel articles and book reviews, as well as worked with some notable authors who’ve set their books in Ireland.

2006 saw the publication of Kemberlee’s first two short stories, Tutti-Frutti Blues and Dude Looks Like a Lady, set in her hometown. Since then, Kemberlee has published a number of short stories and novels, many of which are set in Ireland.

Well, folks, what’s your verdict? Is Kem guilty of stealing readers’ hearts?





About Sue Coletta

Member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers, Sue Coletta is the bestselling, award-winning author of psychological thrillers and mysteries. OOTG Flash Fiction Offensive magazine published her flash fiction and her short stories are published in numerous anthologies and collections. InSinC Quarterly featured her forensic articles about Radiocarbon Dating and Skeletal Differences. In 2017, Feedspot awarded her Murder Blog as one of the Top 50 Crime Blogs on the net. Sue's also the communications manager for Forensic Science and the Serial Killer Project. As a way to help fellow crime writers, Sue created a team of crime experts (detectives, coroners, police captains, etc.) and founded #ACrimeChat on Twitter. She's also a proud member of the Kill Zone, where she blogs every other Monday.


  1. A lively and positive interview indeed. Nice, when life allows one the comfort of writing, not just the pressure or longing.

    The words on switching from Romance to Crime seem pragmatic and wise, too. Simple but efficient, I guess.

    My best wishes!

    • You are so supportive, Andre. Thank you! Kem and I had a lot of fun collaborating on this one.

    • Thanks, Andrè. I had great fun writing this book, and I’m looking forward to others in the series. Books two and three have been started. I’m taking a week off in April to finish book two…I hope!

      My romance novels have included suspense elements so moving to cosy mystery was a good challenge. I love challenges! The hardest part of writing this story was keeping the romance out. There’s a little there but it’s a budding friendship. Any romance will have to develop over time. Will they get together later in the series? Maybe. Maybe not. Will they at least be friends? Hard to tell. Currently it’s just two people who’ve just met over a dead body and happen to be thrown together over the clues.

      If you get a chance to read the book, I hope you like it. I’d love to hear your comments.

  2. Cremating bodies is a long standing tradition with some ancient cultures. Look at the Norse and Viking burials. Burn the body and release the spirit back to the gods. It’s really only Christians who bury bodies and expect them to walk again. Can we say Zombie Apocalypse? 😉

  3. Thanks for the inTERRORgation 😉 Really, it was fun.

    And thanks to everyone who’s commented.

    The photo you grabbed, Sue, from GoogleMaps is the River Boyne where it opens into the Irish Sea. You can see two of the old medieval shipping markers in the image. There are several which guide ships up the river to the port town of Drogheda, which has operated as such since before it’s founding in 1194. People have been in the area for thousands of years, as the ancient monument at Newgrange is just a few miles outside of town…Newgrange is estimated to have been constructed in 3500BC! Very old area of occupation.

    This image of the river is facing east so the photographer caught it at sunrise around high tide when the water goes like glass. This is a really incredible place. We walk here nearly every weekend, and during the day in the summer months when the days are longer and warmer.

    Anyway, I hope those who read the book will enjoy it. And if anyone has any questions, let me know 🙂

    Thanks again, Sue, for the interview!

    • Wow. I bet it’s breathtaking at sunrise.

      I saw Newgrange on Google Earth. It’s an old stone building, right? I was trying to copy that pic too, but Google is so fussy about what they’ll allow.

      • Newgrange is a burial tomb, but also was probably constructed using the stars, as only one day a year, winter solstice/21 Dec, the sun shines through the light box over the doorway and shines into the back of the tomb. Archaeologists, when excavating the tomb in the 60s when it was rediscovered, found a large concave ‘disk’ (shallow bowl) at the back of the tomb wish human ashes in it. Based on similar tombs in the valley, it’s assumed the ash was interred in the tombs. Why the light one day a year that shines on the ash is anyone’s guess. Maybe they thought the sunlight would either bring the person back to life or see their spirit away on that day.

        The ancient Irish were very spiritual, but this was pre-Christian times…3500 BC vs 0AD when Jesus was meant to have been born. Religious practice dates back at least as far as 3500BC when stones at this site were carbondated (some sites cite 2500BC while others say 4000BC…I’m averaging 3500BC for discussion’s sake). Druids were high priests from the Iron Age forward, 1200BC, but Newgrange dates back to 3500BC, or during the Stone Age (Neolithic Age). Who knows what was in their heads at that time. We only have tombs like this to go by, as well as the mysterious standing stones, stone rows, and stone circles. Most stone circles can trace the path of the moon…13 stones for 13 moons in a lunar year…our calendar year.

        Newgrange was the name given to the site, as this was the estate it sat on when the tomb was discovered. Since then, the Boyne Valley has shown many similar tombs spread around the valley, such as Nowth and Dowth which are now open to the public but not as impressively as Newgrange…which was largely reconstructed. No one knows exactly what it looked like.

        Anyway, the official name is Brú na Bóinne, Palace of the Boyne (river or valley, same name, Boyne)

        The real name of the tomb is Sí an Bhrú, which, interestingly enough, translates to the Fairy Palace 😉 (pronounced shee an broo)

        There’s some good history on Wiki about Newgrange, with some photos:

        Also on the World Heritage: Ireland site:

        Oh, and while on pronunciations (I know you and I have discussed the Irish language a bit lately), the Now and Dow in Nowth and Dowth sounds like Cow…like now vs later, not no/know.

        The Irish don’t make it easy to learn the language, do they? 😉

        • Wow. I wonder why the bowl had ashes in it, considering it’s a tomb. I didn’t think folks…for lack of a better word, cremated bodies back then. A paranormal story that revolves around Newgrange would be very cool…and spooky.

          I swear the Irish do it on purpose to confuse us. 🙂

  4. I think I’m still straddling the RS genre. My writing seems more mystery/thriller than crime, but who knows where the muse will lead.

    I think Kem is awesome. I have a hard enough time managing two titles a year. Hats off to her, and you for hosting her.
    Mae Clair recently posted…That Magical Moment by Mae ClairMy Profile

  5. A fun interview. And I can so relate to the idea of a romance author making the switch to RS and then mystery/crime. I like the “barfer” analogy, something that I try to do during NaNo but is otherwise hard. Hats off the Kemberlee for all she juggles!
    Mae Clair recently posted…That Magical Moment by Mae ClairMy Profile

  6. Great as usual Sue ! Kem’s photo didn’t show up in my copy but other than that it was fun !

  7. I love learning about other writers’ processes. I also love those who try new things. I’m always working on a personal challenge of some kind.

  8. No need for a polygraph here, Sue. Looks like you wrenched the truth from her.

    Best wishes for your crime writing, Kemberlee. BTW, my grandfather was from Ballymena, if you know where it is. That explains the “d” in Rodgers 🙂

  9. This is really interesting! Thanks, both. I really like learning the way others go about the writing task.

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