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Kate Michaelson: Debut Mystery Author

Kate Michaelson, debut author of Hidden Rooms

Author Guest Post + Book & Author Info + a Giveaway!

Kate Michaelson debuts with Hidden Rooms

When murder hits home.

Long distance runner Riley has been fighting various bewildering symptoms for months, from vertigo to fainting spells. Worse, her doctors can’t tell her what’s wrong, leaving her to wonder if it’s stress or something more threatening. But when her brother’s fiancée is killed—and he becomes the prime suspect—Riley must prove his innocence, despite the toll on her health.

As she reacquaints herself with the familiar houses and wild woods of her childhood, the secrets she uncovers take her on a trail to the real killer that leads right back to the very people she knows best and loves most. For readers who enjoy Deer Season by Erin Flanagan, All Good People Here by Ashley Flowers, and A Flicker in the Dark by Stacy Willingham.

Genre: Mystery Published by: CamCat Books Publication Date: April 30, 2024 Number of Pages: 320 ISBN: 9780744310153 (ISBN10: 0744310156)

To purchase Hidden Rooms, click any of the following links: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | | Goodreads | CamCat Books

Kate Michaelson — Author of Hidden Rooms — Guest Post

Kate MichaelsonThere’s a particular joy in feeling as if the place you’re from matters, and that’s one of many reasons why I chose to set my debut mystery, Hidden Rooms, in small-town Ohio. Don’t get me wrong. Some of my favorite mysteries are set in places I’d love to visit—from national parks to English villages.

But as much as I love traveling the world through the eyes of my favorite protagonists, the intimately familiar setting of the rural Midwest has a special place in my heart. Whenever I return to my hometown of Greenwich, Ohio, the beauty of the landscape takes my breath away. Maybe it’s nostalgia talking, but I don’t know of anything lovelier than a rolling wheat field edged by woods, a pasture of tall grass roiling like the sea, or a fencerow crowded with every wildflower imaginable.

Rural landscapes have an undeniable beauty, but those remote expanses can also be starkly unforgiving. Vast tracts of farmland and dense forests act like characters themselves in a mystery, adding to the sense of isolation and challenge. There’s space to hide, to get lost, and for all manner of nefarious deeds to unfold. Kate Michaelson

Beyond the landscape, small communities offer an intriguing social dynamic for mysteries since residents not only know one another but are often acquainted with generations of each other’s families. But knowing names, faces, and family trees isn’t the same as knowing what’s going on inside a person. Given the power of small-town gossip, many residents in these communities become particularly adept at keeping their secrets to themselves.

In Hidden Rooms, the swirling rumors of affairs, addictions, and shady pasts—mixed in with legitimate secrets—make it especially difficult for my protagonist to separate fact from fiction. More than anything else, I set Hidden Rooms in small-town Ohio because it’s a place I love, full of people I love, and I wanted to show them.

When we don’t see people’s lives, it flattens out their existence. It becomes easy to forget that, no matter what we look like or where we live, we all experience the same intense range of emotions and challenges. There’s a whole rich middle of the United States full of people who experience the same joys, despairs, dreams, and fears as everyone else, and I hope Hidden Rooms takes a step in telling their underexplored stories.

Read an excerpt of Hidden Rooms:

I grew up inside a lightning bolt, in a family of pure momentum. My siblings and I were young, stupid, and fearless in our white gingerbread house, surrounded by dark earth, green shoots, and wild woods—untamed beasts running loose from morning to night. We snarled and bucked, more a pack than a family. 

Born less than a year apart, my brother Ethan and I spent most of our lives scrapping after the same few things, pinching each other where we knew it would hurt the most. But we also protected each other. When Trevor Paltree shoved Ethan off the tall metal slide the first day of preschool, I kicked Trevor’s little ass, and I’d do it again. 

Only, now, I didn’t know what protecting my brother looked like, though I felt fairly certain that kicking his fiancée’s ass was not it. Besides, I couldn’t even say what exactly Beth was up to, which (admittedly) undermined my argument. Putting my head down and going along with the wedding might feel cowardly, but it also seemed like the least destructive path forward. 

So, that’s how I found myself pulling up to Ethan and Beth’s house to pick up my puce monstrosity of a bridesmaid’s dress with Beth’s recent words still replaying in my mind: Riley, you know I’d never do anything to hurt Ethan. The problem was that she also once said with a wink and a smile that what Ethan didn’t know couldn’t hurt him. I parked in the shade of a lowlimbed oak and got out, lifting my hair off my neck to catch the breeze. The autumn sun had built throughout the afternoon into the kind of fleetingly gorgeous day that makes up for Ohio’s multitude of weather sins: one last warm postscript to summer. Rain loomed in the low shelf of clouds to the north. I crossed my fingers that it would hold off until I could get home to walk Bruno. Maybe I could even get a run in if my energy held out. 

My phone buzzed, and I knew without looking it would be Audra. She called most days and knew that just the previous night, I’d finally worked up the nerve to have a conversation with Ethan about Beth. She would want the details. I was amazed she had waited this long. 

“How’d it go with Ethan?” Her melodious voice skipped along briskly. People usually went with what she said simply because they were so swept up with how she said it. As her sister, I was an exception. 

“Hello to you too.” I continued toward the house but slowed my pace. “I’ll give you one guess how it went.” 

“Hello, dearest Riley. I guess he got mad.” 

“Not just mad. He guilt-tripped me. I asked him if he’d noticed anything wrong with Beth, and he acted all injured about it. He told me, ‘She thinks you’re her friend.’” I mimicked Ethan’s self-righteous tone. The jab still stung. “I told him I think of her as a friend too, which is how I know she’s hiding something.” Granted, I couldn’t untangle what it was. It was something I sensed more than saw—a shift in posture or flicker behind an expression. The past few weeks she’d become more self-contained than ever, which was saying something for her. 

“Yeah, but can you really be friends with someone who has no personality? It’s like being friends with a mannequin. I don’t know how you can tell if she’s hiding something when she never shares anything—”

“Look, I can’t talk about it now.” I lowered my voice as I neared the house. “I’m at their place getting my dress. I’ll call you later.”

I climbed the porch steps, the front of their house looking so Instagram-perfect that I wondered whether I’d been seeing problems that weren’t there. The afternoon light slanted across the pumpkins and yellow chrysanthemums that Beth had arranged just so. Dried bundles of corn rattled in the breeze. Beneath the pale-blue porch swing, Beth had set out a matching ceramic bowl full of kibble for Bibbs, the half-feral cat that had adopted her and Ethan. 

The only thing amiss was the open door of the old-fashioned cast-iron mailbox nestled amid the pumpkins and flowers. Beth would kill the mail carrier for ruining the ambiance. I grabbed the few pieces of mail in the box and shut the little door obligingly, like a good future sister-in-law. 

Careful not to disturb a precarious wreath of orange berries, I knocked on the screen door and tapped my foot, ready to grab my puffy dress and go. I had been a whirl of motion all day, zipping through work and crossing items off my to-do list. I worked for Wicks, an oversized candle company that sold overpriced candles. Today was my last day in the office before a trip to England to set up the IT network at our new British headquarters. 

For months, I’d been fighting some kind of long-term bug my doctors couldn’t figure out, but today I felt a glimmer of my former self, twitchy with energy and moving at a clip to get everything done.



*** Excerpt from Hidden Rooms by Kate Michaelson. Copyright 2024 by Kate Michaelson. Reproduced with permission from CamCat Books. All rights reserved.  

Kate Michaelson

Growing up in rural Ohio, Kate Michaelson simultaneously developed a love of nature and a strong desire to live closer to a mall. Pursuing the latter, she attended Ohio State, where she studied English and Psychology. After earning her MFA in Creative Writing, Kate worked as a technical writer and taught English at St. Petersburg College in Florida and, later, at the University of Toledo in Ohio. Over the years, she has published academic articles, creative nonfiction, poetry, and short stories.

Her debut novel, Hidden Rooms, follows a distance runner who returns to her rural Ohio hometown and must clear her brother of murdering his fiancée while also seeking answers to her own medical mystery. As someone with Lyme disease and dysautonomia, Kate’s writing uses humor and suspense to explore the experience of coping with chronic illness. Ultimately, she wants to portray the reality of the challenges that invisible disabilities pose while also demonstrating that “ability” is not a binary concept—that illness does not equal a loss of self or agency.

Kate enjoys traveling, hiking, and trying (fruitlessly) to tire out her Labrador mix. She works in curriculum design and holds a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. She lives with her husband and pets in Toledo, Ohio, only ten minutes from a mall she now avoids whenever possible.

Catch Up With Kate Michaelson:, Goodreads, Threads – @katemichaelsonwriter, Instagram – @katemichaelsonwriter, Twitter/X – @KateMichaelson3Facebook


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Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Wendy Barrows

    Great guest post! I am very much looking forward to reading this book!

  2. Elena Hartwell

    And don’t miss our great interview posting on the 30th!

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