Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Guest Author Day with Lesley A. Diehl

Welcome to my Reading Nook, Lesley A. Diehl. Please make yourself at home and let my cabana boys/girls get you a drink.

Comfortable? Wonderful. Now let’s get started.

Tell us about your favorite character from your books.

While I do love all my protagonists because, of course, they represent  the me I’d like to be and am not, some of my minor characters are fun.  Take for example, Toby Sands, my dirty cop who first appeared in Dumpster Dying.  I liked him so much I couldn’t let him rot in jail, so I got him out and made him  a police informant for the sequel Grilled, Chilled and Killed.  Toby is the kind of pathetic character that we all love to hate.  He’s short, fat and chews tobacco.  While he thinks he’s brilliant but misunderstood and the victim of others’ jealousy, we know he’s an idiot.

Tell us about your current/upcoming release. What inspired this story?

Grilled, Chilled and Killed is the second in my Big Lake murder mystery series.  It’s the continuing saga of the retired preschool teacher turned bartender Emily Rhodes who seems to have the misfortune of finding dead bodies.  In the first book Dumpster Dying I gave Emily her first dead body and her taste of being an amateur sleuth.  I think she liked it too much, so now she had a second one.  She’s feeling so good about her snooping skills that she thinks she is better at solving cases than Detective Lewis, just one of her love interests.  They make an unusual bet about who can find the killer and the chase is on.

When in the day/night do you write? How long per day?

I usual write late mornings (like now) and in the afternoon.  I may put in four hours a day, but I vary what I write from short stories to novel length works to poems to blogs.

What is the hardest part of writing your books?

Since I do not know about the many aspects of rural Florida about which I write or about bartending or sleuthing, or although I am terminally nosey, I do research both on site and/or on the internet.  The internet information is not as much fun as doing field research such as taking an airboat ride, attending a rodeo or a barbeque contest, visiting a hunting ranch or spending time in cowboy bars having a cold one and doing a little two-step.  Now that doesn’t sound so hard, does it?

What does your family think of your writing career?

I have only my husband who is also a mystery writer.  We keep a respectful distance from each other’s work.  Everyone is always surprised that we do not read and critique one another. But we’re in love and would like to keep this relationship.  We do have the liveliest discussions about writing and we seem to like the same writers.  The rest of the family his and mine think we’re both out of our minds to take up this career after retirement.  We thought our life together odd or interesting enough that we now do a program together called “Retirement is Murder.”  It’s a humorous look at two writers’ lives together.

What do you think makes a good story?

I think you have to have compelling characters, people that others can like and admire as well as understand their weaknesses and forgive them.  I like complicated plots, but I think a clean plot with no dangling ends is a must when writing a mystery.  A mystery writer must have a logical mind.  Readers may forgive a lot, but I don’t think they tolerate ignorance in an author especially since movies and television provides crime information in abundance.

Plotter or Pantser? Why?

Well, that’s a good question especially now.  I used to be a pantser and just let an idea evolve.  I think I was pretty good at it since one reviewer said I must have taken juggling lessons to keep everything straight.  Recently that changed as I signed a contract for a three book deal with Camel Press.  Now I’m writing to deadline and someone else’s deadline at that.  I’m writing the second book with an outline.  I keep deviating from it, but that’s to be expected I guess.

How do you develop your plots and your characters? Do you use any set formula?

No formula.  I usually begin with a murder.  For example: The uncle of my protagonist is killed on an airboat ride and then…  We find out he was a runner for the mob, my protagonist’s best friend gets kidnapped, the uncle has a family no one knew about, etc.

What book are you reading now? Any favorite authors/books you want to do a shout out for?

I’m beginning on a cache of books I found in our park library, most of them written by Robert Parker who is one of my favorite writers.  We lost the master of deadly dialogue with his passing.  I read Elizabeth George, Nevada Barr, Susan Wittig Albert, Mary Daheim and others.  I like the English mysteries including my model for cozies Agatha Christie.  Not to show any favoritism, I try to read my fellow authors at Oak Tree Press.  We are a big writing family who support and help one another.

What do you do to unwind and relax?

I work out in the gym.  Try not to make too much of that and think of me with a sculpted body.  It’s just that I’m getting older and I find to keep this body so attracted to gravity moving well, I have to work it hard.  I also walk each day several miles.  Once I do all of that, a little nap is in order!  When I’m back up north, my husband and I work on our 1874 cottage, a project never ending.  I garden and cook.  And read a lot.

Morning Person or Night Person? 

I stay up late at night reading, not working.  If I try to write at night I never can wind down enough to sleep.  Not a morning person.  More like an afternoon person.

Coffee, tea or other drink to get you moving in the morning? 

I’m strictly decaf coffee, but we always have a tea in the afternoon, a tradition we learned from some of our German friends.  As we say each day, “There’s nothing like a good cuppa.”

What is coming up from you in 2013? Anything you want to tease us with?

Camel press will release the first in the Consignment Shop series, A Secondhand Murder.  My protagonist in this series is a fashionista from Connecticut transported to rural Florida to open a consignment shop with her best friend.  On their grand opening she finds one of their patrons stabbed to death on the dressing room floor.   It’s then she realizes they’ll never be able to sell the gown the victim was trying on!

Anything else you want to add? 

I also write a series featuring a woman microbrewer.  Two books are available: A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings.  These are set in upstate New York as is my stand alone ebook, Angel Sleuth.  All my books are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Untreedreads.

Buy link for all my books on Amazon

Grilled, Chilled and Killed by Lesley A. Diehl

This is the second in the Big Lake Mysteries (the first was Dumpster Dying) featuring Emily Rhodes, retired preschool teacher and bartender turned amateur snoop.

It seems as if Emily is destined to discover dead bodies.  This time she finds one of the contestants at the local barbeque cook-off dead and covered in barbeque sauce in a beer cooler.  She should be used to stumbling onto corpses by now and the question of who killed the guy should pique her curiosity, but Emily decides to let Detective Lewis handle this one, at least until she figures his theory of who did the deed is wrong, wrong, wrong.  Lewis’ denigration of Emily’s speculations is condescending enough to stimulate her dormant snooping skills.  As the two of them go on their separate paths to find the killer, Lewis’ old partner, Toby the dirty, tobacco-spitting cop interferes in the investigation leaving Lewis with the wrong man in jail. Killers, bootleggers, barbeque and feral pigs—it’s a lethal game of hide and seek in the Florida swamp.

Tag line:  Emily Rhodes, bartender at the Big Lake Country Club, seems to have a knack for stumbling over dead bodies but this time she’s joined in her quest for the killer by a feral pig, a dirty cop, some moonshiners and a shady character with a need to hurt someone, the usual fare at a country barbeque and murder scene in rural Florida.

Excerpt from Grilled, Chilled and Killed

She checked her watch as she walked toward the cooler truck. It was only eight in the evening. This is going to be a long night.

Several men wearing badges indicating they were festival officials stood near the truck. Emily pointed to her worker badge. “Gotta get a new keg.” They nodded and ignored her. I could have flashed my AARP card. They wouldn’t have noticed. She wondered who would get the blame if some of the kegs came up missing.

She flipped the heavy plastic curtains aside and entered the cold of the truck. The weather for the barbeque festival held in Florida’s Big Lake country in early April was signaling the heat of the summer; today it was in the mid eighties. The air inside felt good to her. 

Maybe she should spend the rest of the time in here and forget about pulling beer. She sat on one of the kegs to consider how she would handle her fellow workers when she got back. Was the crushed foot message enough?

She got up and checked the kegs for one that held the light beer she was seeking. When she moved it from between two others, something flopped into the space she’d created by dislodging it. An arm! Scared the hell out of her. She leaned in to get a better look. It was attached to a man who seemed to have fallen between the kegs and was wedged in there.

“Hey, buddy,” she said. It had to be a drunk looking for a place to get cool and sleep it off. She tugged at the man’s sleeve. “This isn’t a hotel. Get up.” She grabbed the man’s arm and tugged harder.

Something cold and slippery came off on her hand. She held up her fingers in the dim light. It looked brown. She took a sniff. It smelled like barbeque sauce. What a slob, she thought.

A few more tugs and some jockeying of the kegs allowed her to free him from between them. Now she could see the man was covered with sauce from top to bottom. And with all her efforts at extracting him, so was she. She looked into his saucy face and noticed something truly odd. A red apple was stuck in his mouth. And something even odder. Another substance on the side of his face, red not brown, mixed with the barbeque sauce. Good God. He’s got ketchup all over him too. Maybe I should look for other
condiments. This gave a whole new meaning to beer and brats.

The giggle about to erupt from her throat lost its way, headed off by a sickening smell, an odor not associated with barbeque. Not ketchup. It was blood on the side of his face.

She backed out of the cooler and then hiccupped, her usual response to finding dead bodies.
This was her second body. Please, God, let it be my last.


Susan M. Boyer said...

Great interview! *sigh* I wish I had a cabana boy! And a refreshing beverage...

Best of luck with Grilled, Chilled and Killed, Lesley! Love the title--looking forward to the read! :)

Terry Ambrose said...

Something cold with a tiny umbrella in it sounds great! Nice interview, Leslie. Oddly enough, my wife has turned into my in-house editor. As long as I can remember to keep my mouth shut when she tells me she doesn't like something (other than asking a few questions to clarify) it works great! However, she only sees a manuscript twice...I don't hit her with each chapter, but only when it's done and then only when we're doing one last proof.

Patricia Gligor said...

I enjoyed getting to know more about you. I was surprised to learn that you're more of a night owl than an early bird. I'm just the opposite.
I love your books and I'm looking forward to reading your consignment shop series.

Lesley Diehl said...

I admire people who are early birds. It seems like the way to get things done, but my body won't get me out of bed much before eight in the morning unless it's for something important like yard sales

Gloria Alden said...

Lesley, I also write a variety of things - blogs, short stories, books and poetry. Because I do barn chores and walk in the mornings with my collie, I also write best mid to late mornings and afternoons and my evenings are spent reading. I'm still planning to go to Amazon and order your books. I'm sure I'd like them.

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