They say to “write what you know,” and with her debut novel, Elise Hart Kipness did just that. A former television news correspondent turned Fox Sports Network reporter, Elise recently launched a second act as an author with Light’s Out. The book tells the story of a sports broadcaster who gets caught in major news: the death of an NBA superstar who lives in her town. Elise weaves a compelling mystery while highlighting the power of true mom friends.
The book also gives an insider glimpse into Fairfield County, CT, and in particular the gilded-edged town of Greenwich. We asked Elise, who splits her time between Stamford, CT, and Key West, FL, to tell us about her transition from news to novels, the central role of female friendship in her literary debut, and her life as a mom to two.
Can you please tell us a bit more about your family life in CT?
My husband and I decided to raise our kids in Fairfield County because we love the suburban feel of the area and its proximity to New York City. Our sons grew up in Stamford, CT, attending the public schools and playing town sports, with my husband often coaching the teams. We also had a hobby farm with chickens, goats, and, at one point, pigs! I wrote about Greenwich because I love the area and have a lot of friends there and thought it would be an interesting setting for the series.
You have such an interesting background in news and sports broadcasting—how closely did your career influence your book?
I definitely drew on my experiences as a reporter to write Lights Out. I tried to bring the reader behind the scenes of the world of broadcasting, especially from a female point of view. As a sports reporter for Fox Sports Network, I was one of a handful of women who went into the locker rooms to interview players, which was definitely interesting.
In general, the media business provides very rich material for a thriller writer—just look at how popular Succession and the Morning Show have become. I’d like to think some of Lights Out as a comparable behind the scenes look into that world but from a female sports reporter’s perspective.
As for the murder…I didn’t base that on an actual case. But I did draw from many of my experiences as a news reporter for both WNBC-TV and News 12 Long Island. During that time, I covered a lot of crime.
How closely do you relate to Kate? She’s such an interesting character—and I’m sure a lot of women will relate to her!
Thank you for saying that! I really appreciate it. I like to think of Kate as a way cooler version of me. We are both sports reporters–but where I’m a soccer mom, she’s a soccer Olympic Gold medalist. I chase my three labradoodles around my yard, while Kate chases bad guys through the hidden tunnels of Madison Square Garden. Her demons are also much more interesting and twisty than mine, which are of the mundane variety.
I was conscious of making one other significant change. I made Kate tall so I could live vicariously through her. As a five-foot-tall person, I always stood on a milk crate to interview NBA players.
Love that you gave your character a boost, ha! It almost feels like Greenwich is a character in the story. Why is Greenwich/Fairfield County the perfect place to set this story?
I love that you noticed Greenwich being a character of a story. That was very important to me. I really enjoy novels that are set in real places. I like getting a peek into the worlds of others. And, let’s face it, Greenwich is super intriguing. I worked really hard not to stereotype the town as a place of only wealth and privilege. My goal was to show the charm and nuance of the town.
As moms, we all enjoyed the thread throughout of women/moms supporting women/moms. What was the process like developing the relationship between Kate & Yvette—and was that idea of mom friends being crucial something that was intentional?
I really wanted to explore the role of female friendship. It provides such an opportunity to delve into themes of trust, loyalty and betrayal. And, what mom, hasn’t been touched by these threads— I also tried to turn some stereotypes on their head and surprise readers with shifts in loyalties.
What was the hardest part of writing this book? And most fun?
I think the answer to your question is the same for both. The hardest part was learning how to write a novel. There are so many aspects to writing a thriller that I had to learn—from character development to plot to setting to dialogue. On and on. At the same time, I’m kind of a geek when it comes to learning. I was one of those people who loved school. So, while learning the process was (and still is) challenging. It also proved to be extremely rewarding.
What’s next for you? Is the next book finished and what can readers expect from that?
Yes! Yes!! The next book is finished. It’s called Dangerous Play (to be released in Fall 2024) and is the second book in the Kate Green series. I’m so excited and grateful that Kate’s adventures continue. Some of the favorite characters continue, like her estranged father, NYPD Detective Liam Murphy and her stalwart cameraman, Bill Salvatore. In the second book, the Olympics come to NYC and a secret from Kate’s past surfaces when a former teammate is found murdered.