Guest Chick: Nikki Knight

            

Vickie here, and it’s a pleasure to welcome as our guest today on Chicks fab author Nikki Knight, whose new Vermont Radio Mystery series just released this month! I had the privilege and good luck to get an advance read of Live, Local and DEAD, and it’s a stellar first entry to this fun series. Today, the author will tell us a bit about the series, and about her own experiences which inspire it. Take it away, Nikki!

Welcome to Vermont

This girl thought she knew everything. 

And she had no idea what hit her when she got to Vermont.

            That’s me, three hair colors, sixty pounds, and four radio stations ago, in my first on-air job, as the news director – read entire news department – at WCFR in Springfield, Vermont. (And you can tell by the shoulder pads in that blazer that it was a while ago!)

At the time, I didn’t realize I was in the middle of a life-defining experience, never mind the inspiration for a mystery. All I knew was that someone had finally given me a chance to take the mic and do what I was so sure I was meant to do…and so sure I could do better than those Big Important Anchors I’d been writing and fetching coffee for at KDKA Radio in Pittsburgh. 

That lasted until I forgot my name in my first newscast.

No kidding. I had my copy and my soundbites all ready to go, my format sheet taped to a copy board – no high tech here! — and I was sitting in front of the mic, all bright-eyed and eager to hear the little music sting that announced my debut.

Too bad my mind went blank the instant I heard it.

For the longest three seconds of my life, I couldn’t figure out what to do. Then, I did, and threw myself into the void with a clean, if overly fast, intro. But I never forgot that feeling.

A couple decades later, I’m still a little nervous every time the mic opens…only now, I know it means that I respect what I’m doing, and it doesn’t rule me.

First big lesson of Vermont.

Most of the other lessons were a lot less about broadcasting and a lot more about life: never take your colleagues for granted, always respect people’s honest beliefs even if they’re different from yours, and never hit the brake when the car starts to spin. I was luckier than I knew, and not just because I survived that spinout on Main Street. I had the good fortune to be surrounded by people and a community that welcomed me and really wanted to teach me how to do it right.

But, yeah. It was still Vermont, and there was still plenty of small-town sweetness if you knew where to look. 

Image courtesy of Nikki Knight

The wonderful old movie theatre on the Plaza that had a big new feature every weekend, and literally everyone went to see it. The tiny town library where I discovered Dorothy Sayers because I’d read everything on the new book shelf. The beautiful little tea room in the next town over where I took my mom for girls’ day whenever she drove up from Pennsylvania. 

Sure, there were also empty storefronts and abandoned factories; it wasn’t the picturesque ski-resort part of the state. But I wouldn’t have been comfortable in tourist Disneyland, since I’m a scruffy kid from the Western PA backcountry. It was enough like home that I was open to it, and enough different that I learned a lot. 

I made friends I’ll never forget, and got my heart broken a few times. 

And, of course, I had adventures.

Some of them made it into LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD, and some of them will have to wait for a future story. I really did crawl across an ice-covered parking lot because it was too slick to stand and I had to get into the station somehow. And we really did have to sweep out the satellite dish in snowstorms – if I’d slipped, they would have found me in the spring. 

Oh, and yes, the governor at the time really did drink maple syrup to prove it was safe. That little real-life incident provided the spark for the wild denouement in LIVE, LOCAL, AND DEAD, where someone ends up wearing the syrup…and I can’t say anything more without dropping spoilers!

Unlike my main character, though, I didn’t have a friendly moose to talk to when things got weird. I had cows and horses. Our station was next to a pasture, and the livestock sometimes came over to say hi. Cows are very good listeners, if you didn’t know.

Soon enough, I got a break and a job offer in Connecticut, and pulled within striking distance of New York. I work at 1010 WINS in Manhattan now, which is the Promised Land for anyone in radio news, even more so for a Westinghouse Girl from KDKA.

And I thought Vermont was just a nice memory until I started thinking about writing a mystery. By then, I’d read all of Joan Hess’s Maggody series, and a bunch of newer ones, and realized that a small Vermont radio station was a perfect setting. When I started writing, I had no idea that it would take three different versions and about five years to get it into print. 

What I did know was that Vermont, at least the fictional Simpson, Vermont, is my happy place. 

It was my happy place in the querying trenches, and sitting in hospital waiting rooms during the family health crisis that took up much of those years. A safe, warm (metaphorically, at least!) and friendly escape from a stressful and scary world. 

And now, a good bit older and blonder, I’m more than happy to welcome you to Simpson. 

Nikki Knight is the pen name of Kathleen Marple Kalb, a longtime New York radio news anchor who also writes the Ella Shane historical mystery series for Kensington Books. Her Vermont story, “Bad Apples” recently won an Honorable Mention in the Black Orchid Novella Award contest. Since her publishing career began with a lockdown debut after three failed projects, 200+ rejections, and a family health crisis, she’s just grateful to be here. She, her husband and son live in a Connecticut house owned by their cat.

Live, Local and Dead (A Vermont Radio Mystery) “I shot the snowman, but I did not kill the guy inside.” From that first line, New York City DJ Jaye Jordan discovers that her new start in Vermont is going to be a lot less moose and maple…and a lot more murder. On the down side, there’s an angry talk-show host, angrier fans, and winter weather. On the up side? A second-chance romance, good friends and family – and a friendly but flatulent moose.

Links:

Website:  https://kathleenmarplekalb.com/nikki-knight

Twitter: https://twitter.com/NikkiKnightVT

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/Nikki-Knight-101660128672615

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kathleenmarplekalb/

Have you ever been to Vermont? Has a move to another town/state been a life-changing, life-defining moment for you? Share in the comments.

27 thoughts on “Guest Chick: Nikki Knight

  1. I used to live in MA and I’ve been to Vermont quite a few times. A nice vacation spot was along Lake Champlain. So peaceful. We moved to Florida 5 years ago and it’s been like living in Paradise every day except when those pesky hurricanes come through. I have your book on my list to read, sounds very interesting.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Great cover, Kathleen! Interesting premise and I look forward to reading more. Never made it to Vermont, but we retired to a small town in Central Texas and live on Main Street in a 115-year-old converted department store. My wife and I call it loft living in the country, and we love the perks of our adopted town.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you! I somehow managed to respond in the wrong place..anyhow, I had the idea for the opening for years, but didn’t find the right place for it.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Oh, I loved your blog post today and I wish you success with your book. I’ve been fortunate to be military (daughter, self, spouse) and so, moved lots and lots of times. I think every move, regardless of how far, allows for change. The physical view is different, which allows the mental view to change, even if you move just down the block.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Congratulations, Nikki! We went to Killington right before the pandemic for a vacation. The Hubby and The Boy ski and snowboard (respectively) so they had a great time. I had a great time in the lodge in front of the fire. 🙂

    And I live near Pittsburgh, so I’m very familiar with KDKA.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. Thank you! That was the goal! I actually had the idea for the opening for years, but hadn’t found the right place for it.

    Like

  6. This sounds like a great series! I love the idea of Vermont (and I picture every town in it to be a picturesque small town with friendly talking moose), but I haven’t been yet! It’s on my list, along with all of New England. I’ve been as far as CT, RI, and NY, but I suspect that’s not the same. Like people telling me because they’ve been to Nebraska they know what Colorado’s like.

    Thank for visiting us today and good luck with it all!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you! I live in CT now — and no, it is definitely not much like Vermont! But I can’t imagine telling people I know Nebraska because I’ve been to Colorado — that’s a stretch!

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  7. I interviewed for a judicial clerkship at the federal district court in Burlington, VT back when I was in law school, thinking it might “be fun” to live in New England for a couple of years. But then California gal in me woke up and realized, “I don’t even like the summer fog in Santa Cruz; do I really want to live in a place where it SNOWS–a LOT?” And there went that idea out the window. But it was a beautiful town! (In the summer.)

    Thanks so much for visiting the Chicks today, Kathleen, and congrats on the new series–it looks terrific!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank YOU! I actually took the job in Springfield in June — and figured I knew for winter because I’d been in Pittsburgh. When the first snow fell on Halloween, I realized how wrong I was!

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  8. Nikki, thanks for hanging out today with the Chicks — you already know I loved the book!
    Hubs and I moved from Tennessee to Michigan’s upper peninsula eleven years ago, which was quite a change! Like Vermont, we have charming towns, maple syrup, LOTS of snow — and quite a few moose. I’ve never been close enough to a moose to talk to one or feed it candy, but that’s probably for the best!

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you so much! I really appreciate all of your support! When I was in Vermont, we liked to say that it’s good to see a moose anywhere except in your headlights. (The moose in the book is a good bit friendlier than most real-life ones!)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much! The Ben & Jerry’s is definitely worth it — and the foliage if you get up there for that one gorgeous week in October!

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  9. Welcome, Nikki! Congrats on the book. It sounds wonderful. You’ve touched on three of my favorite places – VT, CT, NY. I’m a native New Yorker (grew up with 1010WINS), my family had a cottage on Bantam Lake in CT for 35 years, and I spent a ton of time in VT on family vacays and going to the Dorset Writers Colony and theater before I came to L.A. I adore VT’s small towns.

    Just looking at your cover made me homesick!

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Wow! Some truly amazing places! There’s something really special about small towns in general — but more so in Vermont!

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  11. Kathleen! I love this so much. What a fantastic series concept, and how amazingly cool to have been inspired by your own work/life. (I’m getting some awesome WKRP vibes!)

    I haven’t been to Vermont, but it’s definitely on my list–now even more so!

    Thanks for visiting and congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Kathleen/Nikki, I also loved this post! Thanks so much for visiting Chicks, and my apologies for coming late to the party (long story, sigh). We have a lot in common–I ‘ve lived in a small, non-resort NH town for about 14 yrs, and all the details of your story–and of course your book–brought a huge smile to my face. So true, in every way! I also lived in NY for 20 years and grew up in CT (Fairfield)–so I’m a big fan of 1010 WINS! I read the news and weather as it creaked slowly off the AP wire every day in college (WCFM, Voice of the Berkshires. Woohoo!) Very nice to meet you, and good luck with the new series!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Amazing! Thank you so much! I hope your AP printer was less cranky than ours — every few weeks, the thing would get off track and I’d find myself with no news at 4AM!

    Like

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