Thursday, March 26, 2015

Cat-ching up with Susan Furlong/Lucy Arlington!

My guest today is author Susan Furlong, who also writes under the pen name of Lucy Arlington!


During her writing career, Susan has worked as an academic writer, freelance writer and novelist. Currently she's busy working on The Georgia Peach Mysteries. (Berkley Prime Crime/July 2015) She also writes under the pen name Lucy Arlington. To learn more about her writing, visit her website at www.susanfurlong.com


Welcome Susan! Tell us a little about your background:

I left the teaching profession when our first child was born and began writing to supplement my income.  I translated instructional pamphlets into Spanish, wrote destination blogs for a travel agency (not that I ever left my house), researched and helped compile medical dictionaries, worked as a ghost writer… finally, twenty years and three more kids later, I tried my hand at writing fiction—mysteries, of course. And I couldn’t be happier! I feel fortunate to have the opportunity to write the Novel Idea Mysteries.

Tell us a little about the Novel Idea series. Where did the idea come from?

The Novel Idea Mysteries were first written by two talented authors: Sylvia May and Ellery Adams. They invented the characters, the quaint town of Inspiration Valley, and the pen name Lucy Arlington. After completing the first three books in the series, their personal workloads grew and they started searching for another author to take over the series. My agent approached me about the prospect of writing the fourth and fifth books in the series. I was hesitant at first. It seemed like such a huge challenge. Once I read the books, however, I just couldn’t refuse. I loved the characters and wanted to see their stories continue.

Tell us about your latest release, PLAYED BY THE BOOK.

Here’s the back cover blurb: The owner of the Novel Idea Literary Agency is thrilled when former local boy and popular television show host Damian York returns to Inspiration Valley, North Carolina, to launch his new gardening book. But Lila is less than excited about the hubbub when she sees her mounting to-do list. Between planning York’s gala and sprucing up her yard for another event, she’s spread too thin—especially after she finds a skull buried in her flowerbeds.

As Lila’s macabre discovery leads to other secrets hidden in Inspiration Valley’s past, a member of the local garden club is found slumped over her prize roses—murdered. Now it’s up to Lila to dig through old mysteries and new clues to unearth a murderer before someone else is found pushing up daisies…

Do you have a “How I Got My Agent” story you’d like to share? 

There’s not really a story involved. I just got really, REALLY lucky. She’s fabulous.

How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write by the seat of your pants?

I used to be a panster. Now I outline each book. Having the entire book plotted beforehand helps keep my story on track.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character? 

Both. Absolutely both.

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

My biggest challenge as a writer is making readers happy. I’m always working to come up with richer characters, surprising plots, and imaginative storylines … anything that will make people glad they chose to read one of my books.


What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans? 

Currently, I’m working on the third Georgia Peach Mystery. The first, PEACHES AND SCREAM, releases in July. I’m also working with my agent on an idea for a new series.

What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

I work around my family’s schedule, so my routine changes daily. Usually, I work early mornings, after supper and on weekends—probably six to eight hours a day. When a deadline looms, I depend on my husband and the older kids in the family to help keep everything going while I focus on work. It’s really a team effort.

If you could take any three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?

A dictionary, a thesaurus and a really nifty book called The Emotion Thesaurus by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. It’s a wonderful resource.

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

Write, write, write and then write some more! And don’t give up. Ever.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

Crazy or stupid? I’ve done enough of both to last several lifetimes.

What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

I’m a third degree black belt and used to be a competitive fighter.

Where can we learn more about you and your books?

My website has links to all my work as well as an option to sign up for my newsletter: www.susanfurlong.com

What questions do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)

That’s tough. You’ve asked so many good questions, I couldn’t possibly come up with anything else. I’ve never been interviewed by a cat before, but it’s been a pleasure to be interviewed by you, Rocco. Thank you so much for having me on your blog.


Just for Fun


Night or Day? Day


Dog or Cat?  Dog (sorry, Rocco)


Beach or Pool? Beach


Steak or salad? Steak


Favorite Drink? Iced-tea


Favorite Book? The Journals of Lewis and Clark


Favorite TV Series? Columbo


Favorite Movie?  Ferris Bueller’s Day Off


Favorite Actor:  Tom Hanks


Favorite Actress:  Angela Lansbury


Dirty Martini or Pina Colada?  Neither – A Margarita, please!


Hawaii or Alaska? I’d love to see Alaska.


Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be:  My grandfather. He died right after I was born and I’ve always wished I’d known him.


If I had just one wish, it would be:  That someone would find a cure for cancer.


If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be:  Hmmm? I’d pass on that option. I really like being Mom to our kids and having an opportunity to write mysteries. Not that it’s always bright and rosy—actually, it’s mostly chaotic and stressful—but I’m happy.

Where can readers find out more about you?


Twitter: @foulplayauthor



Instagram: SusanFurlong on Instagram



Thanks for a great interview Susan! 

The folks at Berkley Prime Crime have donated a copy of PLAYED BY THE BOOK to give to one lucky commenter!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:



* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/

* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)


Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Contest ends  midnight, April 2! Good luck!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Spring Cleaning Hop...the Best Books you're NOT reading!


The best books you’re NOT reading could be right under your nose!



Some of the best books out there aren’t ones published by the traditional houses. Rather, they’re what are called “Indies”. Books that are independently published.

Years ago, publishers turned their noses up at authors who were “indies”.  Now, with the advent of such sophisticated publishing venues as Amazon Create Space and Barnes and Noble, indies are not only respected, publishing houses troll the sites looking to add these authors to their stables – particularly the ones whose books sell upwards of 1000 copies per month (and yes, that CAN be done – but it entails a lot of hard work!)

One such author who “made it” as an indie is H. P. Mallory.  After her book, Fire Burn Cauldron Bubble, was rejected by the major houses, she took a chance, uploaded it onto Amazon – and the rest is history. The book landed on the Amazon bestseller list and less than six months later Mallory not only had an agent, she had a contract with Random House to publish the next three Jolie Wilkins books in paperback! Today Mallory is an author with her feet in both venues, but she’s primarily an “Indie” author.  Her Lily Harper and Sinjin series are available in Nook and Kindle, and her Peyton Clark series is available in Kindle and trade paperback, having been published by Amazon under their Montlake romance imprint!

Rose Pressey is another indie author who’s made the transition into traditionally published author.  Rose specializes in paranormal mystery/romance, and churns books out faster than Nora Roberts.  After having several successful Kindle/nook series, Rose landed an agent and a contract for a three book deal with Kensington for her Haunted Vintage mysteries!

These authors started out with small readerships, but word of mouth transformed them into powerhouses! Which brings me to a “best book you may NOT be reading” – Kurt and Jessica Hansen’s Computer Love series!  This is one for sci-fi lovers. Sci-fi is a hard sell in the traditional market, but in the indie world there’s a plethora of good books in this genre, and this series is one of them!   Check out this covers:





The Computer Love Inc. trilogy takes place at a time when robotic individuals are nearly as prevalent in society as their human counterparts. These Companions, produced and sold by the famed robotics company Computer Love Inc., are so lifelike that their artificiality is undetectable. Yet, what lies beneath their skin is a complex web of circuitry and groundbreaking technology developed by the most esteemed professionals in the world of robotics.

It’s this awe-inspiring, hidden structure that catches the eye of a young paramedic, John, on the scene of a nasty car wreck. John is quickly captivated by the sight of a mangled Companion, and moving closer, discovers a suspicious object lodged inside the Companion’s head. He consults his best friend, as well as his godfather, Marius, who happened to be involved with the creation of the Companion and works at Computer Love Inc.

The chain of events that unfolds next has the potential to greatly alter the entire future of Computer Love Inc. John, Zak, and Marius find themselves at the center of a complex moral dilemma which forces them to test the boundaries of friendship and ethics. The dirty secrets that they discover must be acted on - but to do so will make them a target for forces that are far greater than anything they’d ever imagined. Marius is forced to reckon with the risks that come with his love for technology. All the while, a looming presence overshadows the company, watching as a silent observer until there is no choice but to act.

Computer Love Inc. and Computer Love Inc. II: Gestation are available now as eBooks and in paperback form on amazon.com. The first two novels are also available for the nook. The third installment of the Computer Love trilogy is due out this summer. For more information, visit the authors’ website: www.ComputerLoveInc.com

And me? Well, I started out indie (paranormal romantic suspense) but I’ve graduated into the traditionally published world of cozy mysteries – my favorite kind. Along with my cat ROCCO, I pen the Nick and Nora mysteries (think Jessica Fletcher with a cat).  The first volume, Meow if its Murder, was released last December and the second, CLAWS FOR ALARM, debuts November 3. To find out more about them, visit my “Nick and Nora” page at www.catsbooksmorecats.blogspot.com or my website, www.tclotempio.com

In honor of the cozy mystery genre, two lucky commenters will receive a “mystery box” of cozies featuring books by authors such as Casey Daniels, Rose Pressey, JJ Cook, Susannah Hardy, Carole Nelson Douglas and more! Two winners will receive a box containing a minimum of 8 cozy mysteries!  All you have to do is leave a comment and tell us who your favorite cozy author is! Contest ends midnight, March 25. Be sure to leave your email addy so we can contact you!

And if you get a chance try an indie! You just  might find that “best book”…

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Welcome Cleveland and Bambino from GEARED FOR THE GRAVE!


Merow!

Today my guests are Cleveland and Bambino, the furry duo from Duffy Brown’s GEARED FOR THE GRAVE!

 

Synopsis: Mackinac Island is a peaceful summer resort town where everyone coasts through the streets on bicycles. But after someone sends a prominent local on her final ride, it’s up to one resourceful visitor to get things running again…

Hoping to shift her chances of a promotion in her favor, Evie Bloomfield heads to Mackinac Island to assist her boss’s father. Rudy Randolph has broken his leg and operating his bike shop, Rudy’s Rides, is too much to handle by himself. But Evie’s good turn only leads to more trouble…

After Evie’s arrival, wealthy resident Bunny Harrington dies in what looks like a freak bike accident. Upon closer inspection, Bunny’s brakes were tampered with, and now the prime suspect in her murder is also Bunny’s number one enemy: Rudy. So if Evie hopes to stay on her boss’s good side, she’ll need to steer Rudy clear of jail. Now she must quickly solve this mystery so she can put the brakes on the real killer’s plan!

Evie is assisted by two handsome dudes, which I have the pleasure of interviewing now!…

 

R: Welcome fellows! Describe a typical day in your life.

Bambino here and today is not typical. Fact is the world is coming to an end. Cleveland and I are cats,  all best pets are and today something terrible happened, The Servant…that would be Evie…told us…US...to start earning our keep, that we’d better be useful as well as ornamental around this house or it was no more Fancy Feast and she’d start buying that cheap three-for-a-buck tuna crap! Cheap tuna??? US! Where’s our crystal? Our china? Didn’t we train her better than this?

R: You guys have interesting names: is there a story behind them?

Cleveland here. Bambino and I are here on Mackinac Island in a bike shop owned by Rudy. Mackinac is one of those places stuck in time. Fact is it’s like the 1800s with no cars. Everything is horses and bikes. And there are parades for the tourists we call fudgies ‘casue they eat so much fudge.  Oink! The parades have bands and music and famous people like George Washington, Betsy Ross…you get the picture. Well, Rudy takes on the character of Mark Twain and Twain had cats named Cleveland and Bambino.  Of course we are much cuter than the original Cleveland and Bambino.

  R: How did you meet Evie?

Bambino here as Cleveland is off meowing for food so I’m taking over. Evie showed up one night at the bike shop. She’s from Chicago and came here to help Rudy because he broke his leg. She shot a pool ball across the felt, aimed it right at the side pocket…my home! That’s where I live around here. What was that girl thinking. 

R: Tell us about all the cats in your life – what interesting ones you’ve met recently!

Cleveland here. Bambino and I hiss at the cat across the street when he comes over and tries to get Evie outside to pet him. Hey, dude, she’s ours, get lost. Got it. Bambino  and I are very protective. We got it pretty good here until she starts talking that we need a job stuff. Wait till I tell you about that!

R:  Tell us about Evie’s latest adventure, GEARED FOR THE GRAVE

 


Bambino here to give you the 411. To boost her chances for a promotion, Evie Bloomfield helps her boss’ dad with his cycle shop and Cleveland and I, of course. The good idea turns bad when dad winds up prime suspect in a murder. To save her job Evie takes over the failing shop though she’s never ridden a bike, finding a killer though she can’t find her keys in her purse and discovering why someone is out to frame Dad. Can Chicago Evie survive life on Mackinac Island without her Honda, being on an eight-mile chunk of land with horses, carriages, bikes, fudge-eating tourists, the resident sage writing her eulogy and a killer who wants her dead? Well of course she can…she has Cleveland and me around. It doesn’t get better than that.

 

R:  What’s life like for a cat on Mackinac island?

Cleveland here. Bambino’s off playing with Evie. I keep telling him he needs to knock that stuff off. He needs to dole out the fun and only respond when there are treats involved. Life is pretty darn good as long as Evie and Rudy knows who rules the roost…that would be me and Bambino. We have delsih food and a place by the window to watch birds and the boats out in the harbor and we sleep on Evie’s back to keep ourselves warm. 

R:  How do you feel about Evie’s penchant for getting involved with murder?

Bambino here. Evie hunting murders is okay until she gets so involved that she forgets to feed us. I mean she lets the food bowl get half empty. What is that about! Half empty is not acceptable.

R:  R: So tell me how you feel about this woman, Duffy Brown? Did she do a good job portraying you?

Bambino here…I’m back with terrible news so here I am paws poised at the keyboard instead of snuggled on my memory-foam mattress with blue silk pillow. The Servant Duffy has another series, the Consignment Shop mysteries and guess what, there is a D-O-G in it. The mangy mutt is in all the books? A dog!! Bruce Willis! Where’s the loyalty, the love the good sense. Everyone knows the best pet is a cat in and out of a book!

I figured I had The Servant pretty well trained. Open the door, shut the door, scoop the litter, new toys every week, bits of steak and brie and salmon...you get the picture. But suddenly I’m second fiddle to a dog!


 R:If you could change one thing about Evie,  what would it be?

Yo, girl! Bowl half empty, fix that. And there’s the part of her getting chummy with that Nat Sutter guy. That’s not acceptable either. We do not share affections around here…got it.

 
R:  Any chance of your getting a “sidekick” in these stories- like maybe a handsome tuxedo cat – anytime soon?

Bambino here and I got a bad feeling…there is a d-o-g in Geared for the Grave. Meatball. I swear if Duffy writes anything more about that round roll of lard I’m shedding all over the house for a month. Now if she brings in another lost kitty or a handsome dud of feline then I’m all for it. Maybe a Puss In Boots type. Nothing better than a swashbuckling mewoster with a sword and feather in his cap. Now that’s some good catnip! Stay turned to see what happens. 

We absolutely will!

 

Cleveland and Bambino’s pal, Duffy Brown, is giving away a dead man pen and a tote and a cat oven mitt (see photos) to TWO lucky commenters! Y’all know the drill!

To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:

 


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/

* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

 

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, March 19!

 

Sunday, March 8, 2015

ROCCO welcomes...LEA WAIT!


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Meow! This week my guest is author Lea Wait!

 

Maine author Lea Wait writes the Agatha-finalist seven-book Shadows Antique Print mystery series (the most recent of which is Shadows on a Maine Christmas) as well as the new Mainely Needlepoint series, which debuted with Twisted Threads in January, and historical novels for young people.  She lives on the coast of Maine with her artist husband and her black cat, Shadow, both of whom help her plot and plan. Shadow pulls her book outlines down from Lea’s bulletin board if they’re not to his liking. In her free time Lea likes to row, watch ocean waves roll in, and drink champagne. (The champagne only when a book is finished ... or she has a new contract.) With Shadow’s help, she’s also learning to do needlepoint. 

 

R:  Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became interested in writing.

          I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in second grade. I supported myself (and my family) as a corporate writer (executive speeches, films, videos, etc.) for years. When I was in my 40s I realized “if not now, when?” and started writing fiction. My first book was published in 2001, and my 13th and 14th will be published this year.

 

R: What drew you to the cozy mystery genre?

           I enjoyed reading cozies, and, as a new writer of fiction, liked the idea of following a pattern when writing. (Murder, certain number of suspects, confrontation, and the bad guy – or gal – gets caught.) After I’d written a couple of books I realized there were a lot of sub-genres of cozies, and had fun experimenting with some.

 

R: Tell us about your Mainely Needlepoint series. What gave you the idea for that? Do you do needlepoint yourself?

          The idea of centering a series on needlepoint actually came from my agent and editor. I had never done needlepoint (I’ve just started to learn) but the idea of learning a whole new craft … and new subject matter .. intrigued me. I do know something about antique needlework since I’m a 4th generation antique dealer, so I decided historical as well as contemporary needlework would be a part of my series.

 

R: Tell us about Twisted Threads, the first release in that series.

           Twisted Threads introduces the Mainely Needlepoint series. Angie Curtis’ mother was a single parent with a shaky reputation. She disappeared when Angie was ten. Angie was then brought up by her grandmother, but it wasn’t easy growing up with her family history. When she was eighteen she took off and headed west, ending up in Arizona, where she worked for a private investigator. She’s now 28, and her grandmother calls to say, “It’s time to come home. They’ve found your mother.” Angie goes back to Haven Harbor, determined to find out what really happened to her mother.  When she gets there she finds her grandmother has started a custom needlepoint business and is being cheated by the agent she works with.  So Angie decides to help solve her grandmother’s problem, too.    

 

R: You also write the Shadows Antique series. Who inspired the character of Maggie

           Maggie’s very different from Angie. Angie’s street smart, but not school-educated. Maggie has a doctorate and teaches at a community college as well as being an antique print dealer. She’s almost forty, a widow, and is seriously thinking about adopting one or two children. Many people have said Maggie is me – but I’ve never taught, she’s younger than I am and definitely braver. We do have in common being antique print dealers and being interested in adoption – I adopted my four daughters as a single parent.  So – Maggie’s a lot more like me than I like to admit.

 

R: You write YA historicals, which genre do you prefer, those or cozies?

           I love them both. I especially love doing the research for both genres. I’ve always loved historical fiction, and I hope my books will make the past real to kids today. I also like the break of writing different types of fiction … I never get bored!

 

 R:  Do you have an “how I got my agent” story you’d like to share?  How did you feel when you got the call your first novel had sold?

           I was lucky to sell my first book without an agent, by connecting with an editor at a writers’ conference. How did I feel? About twelve stories high! I knew no one at the conference, so I called my best friend and talked for about an hour straight, and then treated myself to a nice dinner – with champagne. It was one of the best days of my life.

 

R: What’s a must have for you when you are writing? What aids the creative process?

          Quiet. (I can write nonfiction under any conditions … but fiction requires more focus.) When I’m in the middle of a book I’m surrounded by notes on plots and characters and weather and lists of evocative words. And cups of tea!

 

R: If you had access to a time machine, which historical moment would you travel to and why?

           I would have loved to have been in Boston when the Declaration of Independence was read in the churches there.

 

R: What is one thing your readers would be most surprised to know about you?

           I once smuggled drugs into Calcutta, India.
 
R:  We need to hear more about that!
          They were medications legal here in the US, but at that time they couldn’t be imported into India. I was taking them, along with a lot of other supplies, to several orphanages in India. At the end of the trip I brought my new daughter, who was about ten, and a twelve year old boy being adopted by another single parent, home to the United States. A wonderful experience!

 
R: What is the craziest thing you've ever done? 

          Probably people would think it’s crazy that I’ve tasted all the poisons I’ve written about in my books. (I wanted to know what the taste was, to see my characters’ reactions. Research!)

 
R: What do you hope readers will most take away from your writing?

           I hope they’ll enjoy a good read that takes them out of their every day worlds … and maybe they’ll learn a little along the way.

R: What are you working on at the moment / next?\

          I just finished the third book in the Mainely Needlepoint series, THREAD AND GONE which will be published in January of 2016.  (The second in the series, THREADS OF EVIDENCE, will be published August 25 this year.) Now I’m working on the eighth in the Shadows Antique Print Mystery series, SHADOWS ON A MAINE MORNING, which will be published in the fall of 2016.

R: Are you a plotter or a pantser?

          Plotter, definitely! I need to know where I’m going, even if I change the direction slightly as I write.

R: What do you do when you’re not writing? Any hobbies or party tricks? :)

          I’m lucky to live on the coast of Maine, where I can escape to watch the ocean. I love rowing my thirteen-foot skiff.

Of course, I do a lot of reading. And time with my grandchildren (I have eight) is special – as is the time I spend with my husband, who’s an artist. A lot of my non-writing time is spent at museums and art galleries.  

R: Do you have any advice for beginning writers?

           Read. Read everything – not just in the genre you want to write in. And think about what you’re reading – what works, and what doesn’t. Being a good critic will help you be a better writer.

 
Thank you , Lea and now... 

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  night

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) cat! Last year I adopted a crazy black cat who enjoys sitting on my keyboard and tearing papers from my bulletin board. I think she believes she’s helping my creative process.    (R: Yes, black cats can be VERY inspiring....)

Beach or Pool?   Beach! (except in winter, when an inside pool is wonderful)

Steak or salad?  Steak, grilled rare by my husband.

Favorite Drink?  Champagne!

Favorite Book?  Impossible to answer!

Favorite TV Series?  Good Wife, or Scandal.

Favorite Movie?  1776

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Martini.

Hawaii or Alaska? Alaska! Love that state.

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Thomas Jefferson. He was a brilliant man, full of contradictions. He fascinates me.

If I had just one wish, it would be for peace in the world. A classic answer, but a critical one._____________________________

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be ? So many possibiitities … but, bottom line, I like who I am and where I am.  I think I’ll stay put. ____

 
Folks, you can find Lea at:
Good reads. Facebook. My website, www.leawait.com

Where I blog with other Maine mystery writers:  www.mainecrimewriters.com

 

Lea will send a signed copy of TWISTED THREADS to one reader of this blog!

 



 
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
 

* Follow my blog (+ 1 point) * Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger) * Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point) * Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point) * Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)
 
Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, March 13.
 





 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In the hotseat....author Leslie Budewitz!


Meow! My guest today is author Leslie Budewitz!

 

 



 

Leslie Budewitz is the only author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction—the 2013 Agatha Award for Best First Novel, for Death al Dente (Berkley Prime Crime), first in the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries, and the 2011 Agatha Award for Best Nonfiction, for Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law & Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books). She lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

 

 
RUFF-Leslie's supervisor!


  • Welcome to the blog, Leslie! Tell us a little about your background

Thanks ROCCO!  Well, I started writing at age 4, on my father’s desk. Literally---I didn’t yet grasp the concept of paper. Happily, my parents were amused and my mother, who is 89, still gives me notebooks and pens for Christmas.

After college in Seattle and law school at Notre Dame, I practiced in Seattle for several years, then came back to my native Montana. I still practice law part-time for a small firm, primarily in personal injury and business litigation, with some criminal, insurance, and employment work. My husband, a singer-songwriter and a doctor of natural medicine, is also a Montana native, and we live in the woods in the NW corner of the state, on the road to Glacier National Park. Although we had dogs for many years---Border Collies and a Remoyed (a Samoyed and Retriever mix)---we are currently supervised by a ten year old Burmese cat.

  • Tell us a bit about your Food Lovers Village series. Where did the idea come from?

After that early experience on my dad’s desk, it took me another three decades to decide I really did want to write seriously, and more than fifteen years before I held my first book in my hands. In the interim, I wrote several unpublished manuscripts, although a few were agented and came close, and published half a dozen short stories. After my nonfiction guide for writers, Books, Crooks & Counselors: How to Write Accurately About Criminal Law and Courtroom Procedure (Quill Driver Books, 2011) was published, I decided that as much as I love helping other writers get the facts about the law write—er, right—I wasn’t through telling my own stories. I love the light-hearted subset of traditional mystery sometimes called the cozy, and decided to try that genre. Foodie fiction is popular, and I love to eat and cook, so I created a village obsessed with food—in Montana, of all the unlikely places. Erin Murphy manages Murphy’s Mercantile aka the Merc, a specialty regional foods market in her family’s hundred-year-old building in the village of Jewel Bay. The village is inspired in part by the town I live in, and while there are even more great places to eat on the page than on our streets, it’s actually not too far from the mark! Happily, the locals have embraced the books.

As a college student, I fell in love with Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Later as a young lawyer working downtown, I tried to eat my way through the Market at least once or twice a week. I’d start at the front entrance with a slice of pizza from DeLaurenti’s walk-up window, browsing the covers of the magazines at the First & Pike Newsstand— eyes only until my hands were clean! I’d sip a sample cup of tea at Market Spice while watching the fishmongers throw salmon and amuse the crowd with their comedy routine, pick my produce and cheese for the week, and end with dessert—a hazelnut sablĂ© from Le Panier, the French bakery, or a Nanaimo bar from a now-departed shop in the warren off Post Alley.

So naturally, when I thought about setting a mystery series in Seattle, the Market beckoned. I created my own spice shop, influenced by the ones that exist there and shops I’ve visited in other regions, but with a flavor all its own. Pepper Reece is the poster child for the adage “life begins at 40.” After thirteen years of marriage, she discovered her police officer husband and a meter maid—she still can’t say “parking enforcement officer”—in a back booth in a posh new restaurant practically plugging each other’s meters when he was supposed to be working an extra shift. She moved out and bought an unfinished loft in a century-old downtown warehouse. Then the law firm where she’d worked in HR, managing staff, imploded in scandal and took her job with it. She tossed her office wardrobe, cut her hair, and bought the Spice Shop, a forty-year-old institution that had lost its verve.

In ASSAULT AND PEPPER, first in the series, she finds a homeless man dead at her shop’s front door---and a trusted employee is charged with murder. The investigation forces Pepper to confront the limits of her own judgment and her ability to work with other people. In the process, she learns new skills and draws on internal resources she didn’t know she had. Ultimately, we read to explore human experience, and I hope reading about Pepper as she meets those challenges—something we all face—is satisfying as well as entertaining.

  • How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
  • How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
  • Which do you consider more important, plot or character?

These questions all blend together for me. The heart of every story is the characters. Even in a mystery or a thriller, where plot is critical, the characters are the key. When someone raves to you about a book, they don’t say “it’s about a bomb ....” They say “it’s about a woman who ....” When readers fall for a series, they remember the characters as much as the individual plots—sometimes even more.

It is the characters’ choices and decisions that create the plot. Plot unfolds when one character acts and another responds. So, for me, it’s crucial to get to know my characters before I start writing their story. I ask my story people to tell me what they most want out of life. To show me their struggles, internal and external. To reveal how they respond when someone stands in their way. I do that by delving into the characters, asking how they would behave in a particular situation. When Pepper does something that threatens to expose the killer---whether she realizes it or not---the killer will respond. Another suspect may also respond, and they’ll all keep on acting and responding, driven by their desires, their fears, their behavior in the face of obstacles.

Generally, I write an outline---a paragraph or two for each chapter, sometimes with snippets of dialogue I think will occur. But it doesn’t always work out that way. I’ve just started the third book in the series, and while I know who the killer is and I think I know the final confrontation, I don’t know much about what happens in the second half of the book. That’s okay---a running outline is good enough to get me going, and I’m making notes for those later chapters as more becomes clear.

In the planning phase, I sometimes struggle until I identify the core conflicts between the victim and the killer—but also between the victim and other characters who fall under suspicion, and between the sleuth and those who would stop her. It’s a messy, ever-moving process. It’s also a lot of fun. I hope that it flows on the printed page, that it keeps you reading and asking questions. I hope my stories introduce you to a cast of folks you want to know, who show you a little something about life—and character.

  • What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?

Motivation is---or was---the biggest challenge for years. Not because writing is hard, though it is, but because I was going through a period in my life where nothing seemed to come to fruition. Ultimately, in my writing life, I broke through that barrier with the short stories and my nonfiction book.

Staying motivated day to day isn’t hard at all. Writing is the thing I most love doing. To paraphrase Gloria Steinem , it’s the one thing I do where, when I’m doing it, I don’t think I should be doing something else. Joseph Campbell said “Never underestimate the value to the Universe of a fully realized life.” This is mine, and that’s motivation aplenty.

I’ll confess though, that right now, I’m starting a new book, waiting for edits on another, and launching a new series, and staying focused is a challenge!

  • You are also a lawyer, which career is the bigger challenge?

They’re so different---they both have their own challenges. I do appreciate that in mystery writing, I can kill people without going to prison.

  • What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?

 I’m looking forward to the publication of the third Food Lovers’ Village Mystery, BUTTER OFF DEAD, in July, and the second Spice Shop Mystery, GUILTY AS CINNAMON, in December. And I’ve just started writing the third Spice Shop Mystery, tentatively titled A THYME TO KILL. Pepper’s mother Lena returns from her home in Costa Rica for a visit, and the past comes roaring back. I hope to keep writing both series, as well as another project that at the moment is progressing mainly in my mind.

I’m also serving as vice president of Sisters in Crime, and will become president this fall. Eventually, unless I fall totally flat, I’ll be named a Goddess, and who doesn’t aspire to that?

  • What is a typical workday for you and how many hours a day (or week) do you devote to writing?

Alas, at the moment, there is no such thing as typical---not with three books at different stages and several law firm projects in progress. Generally, though, I write ten pages a day, five or six days a week, and fit in promotion when I can. During the run-up to launching a new series, though, that sort of flips for a few weeks! But I don’t want to let the new story get too far away from me, so I try to get in some writing time every day. Even half an hour will give me a few paragraphs or a page, and keep the story moving in my head.

  • If you could take only three books with you for a year-long writing retreat in a gorgeous setting with no library, which three would you take?

I have no idea!

  • What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?

 Read, study, write, repeat. Join a writers’ group and learn from other writers. Focus on the craft first---might not be a bad idea, if you’re working on a novel, to finish your first draft before you start delving into the publishing business. Only then can you understand the options and the many paths to publications, decide on your goals, and begin making choices.

  • What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?

  Carrying a 60 pound backpack 60 miles over the Continental Divide, on an eight-day trip with my husband and brother through the fabulous Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana’s Northern Rockies. Also the most amazing trip I’ve ever taken and the greatest physical challenge.

  • What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?

 Probably that I don’t view any of my characters as based on me, even though I try to give them some of my own experiences----what they do with them is up to them!

  • Where can we learn more about you and your books?

I’ve got a lovely new website, www.LeslieBudewitz.com,  a seasonal email newsletter, and a blog called Law and Fiction that blends fun stuff for readers and info for writers who want to get the law right in their fiction.

Just for Fun:

Night or Day?  Day

Dog or Cat? (answer carefully)  Yes.

Beach or Pool?   Mountain lake or stream

Steak or salad?  Medium rare, balsamic vinaigrette

Favorite Drink?  A wine to go with the food---or stream

Favorite Book?  One look at our bookshelves and you’d know I can’t possibly pick just one!

Favorite TV Series?  We just started watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on Netflix and we’re having a blast.

Favorite Movie?  Casablanca. Or Bladerunner. Depends on my mood.

Favorite Actor: Hmmm…

Favorite Actress: Meryl Streep

Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? You drink mine and pour me another glass of wine. But if we’re on a deck by that mountain lake and we’ll be here a while, mix me up a Negroni.

Hawaii or Alaska?  Montana J

Finish this sentence:  If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be ___________________ I’d say Emily Dickinson but I’’d probably scare her half to death, poor soul.

If I had just one wish, it would be_________________________________________ An end to the divisiveness that is tearing us and our planet apart.

If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be _______ I wouldn’t---I love my own life too much!

 

Thanks for a great interview, Leslie! Folks,  here are all the places you can find out more about her:


 


 

Thanks to Berkley Prime Crime, we have a copy of ASSAULT AND PEPPER to give away to one lucky commenter! 

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