Best-selling author Kelly Irvin’s latest thriller is set in La Villita

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HELOTES — Author Kelly Irvin is sorry for killing so many people in San Antonio. Look at this. She’s sorry for putting so many murders in her novels in San Antonio.

“I almost feel like I should apologize because San Antonio really is a pretty safe place,” Irvin said with a laugh.

In his latest book “Trust Me” ($16.99 HarperCollins/Thomas Nelson), Irvin takes on two fellow San Antonio residents, while providing his usual colorful travel diary of some of the city’s most popular sights. city.

“Trust Me” revolves around the murder of Delaney Broward’s best friend, Ellie, whom she finds stabbed to death in Ellie’s candle shop in La Villita. To compound the tragedy, Broward’s brother, Corey, was similarly murdered 10 years earlier.

Shortly after discovering Ellie’s body, Delaney is attacked by the killer, who warns her, “Stay out of this or you’re next.”

Of course, she doesn’t.

Meanwhile, Delaney’s boyfriend Hunter, who was convicted of Corey’s murder, has just been released from prison and asks for Delaney’s help in investigating both murders.

“So history is fundamentally about trust,” Irvin said recently, sitting in the cozy living room of her Helotes home, a jet with pictures of shelves full of books on the chair behind her. “Delaney still has feelings for Hunter, but can she trust him when he says he’s not a murderer?”

In addition to La Villita, Irvin staged his grisly tales of murder and mayhem at such San Antonio locations as the Alamo, Haven for Hope, the downtown courthouse, and the Market Square.

Although she didn’t live here, she said San Antonio was an ideal setting for her novels.

“There are so many iconic and historic places here,” she said. “I was being interviewed about this book by a woman who said, ‘We came to San Antonio when I was a kid and I remember visiting La Villita.’ So many readers can imagine these places when they read my books.

Originally from Kansas, Irvin worked for 10 years as a journalist in El Paso and Laredo before moving to San Antonio in 1989 when her husband, Tim, a videographer, got a job at a television station here.

Now 64, Irvin has been writing fiction for nearly 20 years and has a total of around 30 romantic thrillers and Amish novels to her credit. But even with such a track record, changing attitudes toward cultural appropriation and representation are forcing her to rethink who she writes about and how she writes about them.

“It’s definitely on everyone’s mind, and everyone approaches their books with a very keen eye towards, ‘Is this my story to tell?'” she said. . “It’s something I’m hypersensitive to and maybe wasn’t before.”

But as a genre writer, she’s also aware that following the “write what you know” advice often given to authors would severely limit the number of novels she could write and the kinds of people she could portray. .

“So how do I balance that?” she asked. “Especially in a place like San Antonio which is so diverse, so multicultural. I struggled with that because even though I think I know someone’s story, I didn’t walk in those shoes.

One possible answer, she said, is to have a so-called beta reader, someone who is a member of the group she is writing about – whether ethnic, racial or religious – read her manuscripts before the publication and reviews them for missteps and inauthenticities. When she told her agent that she was planning to write a character with muscular dystrophy, for example, the agent mentioned that she had a client with the disease who could review the story to check it out. ‘exactness.

Irvin recently submitted a proposal to her publisher for three books in what would be a new genre for her: women’s fiction.

“It’s more of a family drama, like what Jodi Picoult writes,” she said. “Books that address issues such as domestic violence and postpartum depression.”

Although she touched on such topics in her Amish romance novels, these new books would be set in the secular world and feature women in their 50s facing real-world challenges such as empty nest syndrome, relationship problems and divorce.

“I also want to write about people with health issues, which is pretty important to me,” she said. “How the disease can affect the families of the characters, their spouses and their work. I think these issues can create stories that people can relate to.

In this case, she would write what she knows.

Six years ago, Irvin was diagnosed with primary lateral sclerosis, a motor neuron disease that, although usually non-fatal, slowly destroys nerve cells in the brain that control movement.

But Irvin’s health has not deteriorated, and since she is also battling ovarian cancer, her doctors have since changed her diagnosis to paraneoplastic syndrome.

“Put simply, my immune system tried to fight off the cancer and attacked my central nervous system instead,” said Irvin, who walks on a wheeled walker. “The good news is that as long as we keep the cancer under control, my condition will not get worse.”

[email protected] | Twitter: @RichardMarini

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