Friday, November 11, 2011

Lesley Diehl


Lesley Diehl, author of  Dumpster Dying and  A Deadly Draught, is here today. Welcome, Lesley. Please give us a short bio.

Thanks, Susan.
I retired from my life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed my country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter I migrate to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office.  Back north, I devote my afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of my trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.

Wow! You're a lucky gal to have so much inspiration.

I really am.

Tell us something about yourself that readers might be surprised to learn.

I can’t read music, but, when I was a kid, I thought I could write operas.  I didn’t realize when I heard them on the radio that they were written in another language, so I just made one up, and sang the meaningless words to a made-up tune also.  It’s no surprise that a kid as naive as me or one with as much chutzpa would decide to become a mystery writer after retirement.  It takes me a while to get the word!

How many books have you written?

Oh, well, many, many books, but not all have been published.  I recently took another look at my earliest manuscript, and it’s probably just as well some have never seen the light of day.  So far my books include A Deadly Draught from Mainly Murder Press and Dumpster Dying from Oak Tree Press.  Angel Sleuth will be released by UntreedReads later his year and MMP will release Poisoned Pairings, the second in my microbrewer series in May, 2012.

What books or authors have influenced you? 

I write cozies, so I must give credit to Agatha Christie, the second mystery author I read after Carolyn Keene.  Janet Evanovich helped me find my funny bone and my intricate plots come from reading Elizabeth George and P. D. James.

Tell us about your latest release, Dumpster Dying.

Dumpster Dying is my latest.  It is set in rural Florida around the area of the Big Lake (Lake Okeechobee) a county in which there are more cattle than people.  Think Texas with palm trees.  I always write about family and like to explore the secrets families often keep.  In this work my protagonist Emily Rhodes makes the mistake many women in love make.  She trusts her life partner to take care of her, but he dies suddenly, the only will found leaving everything to his ex-wife.  Emily, as his partner of over fifteen years, must fight his ex in court for her rightful share of his estate, but her attention is diverted by finding the body of a wealthy rancher in the dumpster of the country club where she is employed as a bartender.  The authorities initially try to pin the murder on her, but they finally settle on her boss and good friend.  In the process of tracking down the killer Emily’s past catches up with her as do the family secrets her good friend has kept hidden for many years.
It is available as a trade paperback, on Kindle and Nook.

Were any of your books more challenging to write than the others?

Dumpster Dying is, as you would guess, a humorous cozy.  The other book A Deadly Draught is not.  While humor is fun for me to write, it’s tricky because not everyone has the same sense of humor.  What’s funny to me may offend someone else.  So while I seem to gravitate toward humor (Angel Sleuth is also funny, and a manuscript in the hands of my agent now is, too), a writer must do all the character development and intricate plotting of a traditional mystery but also throw in humor, which may bomb.  A humorous mystery is a real high for me to write, but more challenging than if I’m not inserting funny situations, lines, or personalities.

How do you choose your setting?

My settings have chosen me.  I write about the places I live.  A Deadly Draught and its sequel Poisoned Pairings are set in the Butternut Valley in upstate New York.  It’s a real place and where I live for half the year alongside a usually well-behaved trout stream (Lee recently turned it into a raging river that overflowed its banks).  During the winter I live in rural Florida, the setting for Dumpster Dying.  I am at home in the country and don’t think I would feel comfortable writing about another setting.  Besides, as you can see, natural disasters present themselves, and I use them in my work.  The people I meet feel familiar to me, like those I grew up around on the farm, and I create characters with that same connection to the land.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?

My microbrewer, Hera Knightsbridge, has only an inkling she is hiding from life and from her past by embracing her chosen career, crafting beer.  It takes murder and the reappearance of a former lover to convince her she’s not as invincible as she would like to think.  She is strong mentally and physically and she likes a challenge.  She will face up to anything.

In contrast, Emily Rhodes, from Dumpster Dying is tiny and a bit timid.  She’s a retired preschool teacher, and everyone expects her to be nonassertive.  But Emily knows dealing with fighting preschoolers has developed some backbone which she will have to use to get herself out of her financial mess and help find a murderer so that she can clear her friend’s name.  Although two men find her enticing, she’s no longer so trusting of men and will stand up to both of them when they come acourtin’.  Don’t underestimate the untapped courage of this little woman.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?

I was raised on a dairy farm in the Midwest.  I was an only child and spent my childhood entertaining myself by reading and hanging out with cows.  Then I moved away, went to college and graduate school to become a psychologist.  I was a professor and college administrator before I retired and came to understand my true vocation was writing mysteries, so, you see, my degree in psychology helped not at all in finding myself!  I think my background in psychology finds its way into my writing in helping me craft my characters and the villain’s motives for killing.  The cows keep me humble.

We all know how important promoting our work has become. How do you get the word out both off and online?

I think I’m becoming, as does every writer, the queen of social networking, but just when I think I’ve got a handle on it, another plum opportunity like this one comes my way, and I  embrace it.  I also do a lot of library programs, and those are great fun whether two or twenty-two people show up.  The in-person experience of interacting with readers and other writers is almost as good as chocolate.

Can you tell us about current or future projects?

I’m working on the second Emily Rhodes book, tentatively titled Grilled, Chilled, and Killed.  This time Emily stumbles upon a dead body sauced like a brisket of beef and hidden in a beer cooler truck.

My agent has another Florida based manuscript about a Connecticut fashionista come to the wilds of Florida to set up a consignment shop.  You guessed it.  A patron is killed while trying on a cocktail dress.

I’ve put another manuscript on the back burner.  It represents a departure for me from cozies and is a traditional mystery set in upstate New York.  The protagonist is a woman who runs an auction house and is the mayor of a small village.  Folks in the village believe coyotes are killing their livestock.  She engages an expert on coyotes, someone she knew when she was in college, to look at the situation.  The most vociferous proponent of an open season on killing coyotes is himself killed, and the authorities suspect the protagonist’s friend.  Helping him to clear his name forces the protagonist to reveal a family secret, one that will drive her daughter away from her.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Go to my website or visit my blog

Continued success, Lesley!                                       

Thanks so much, Susan.


Aubrie said...

Great interview! I loved reading about how you made up your own operas.

Patricia Gligor said...

Another great interview!
I learned a lot about Lesley. For example, I didn't know about her background in Psychology. I'm sure that gives her a lot of insight into her characters' motivations, which adds another dimension to a writer's work.

Melodie Campbell said...

Really enjoyed this and have to comment on your point about writing humorous novels. I write comic novels, and you are right on the mark, Lesley. Not only do you have to give the reader a great plot and good characterization like everyone else, but they also expect you to be just as funny (or funnier) next time around. It's an extra expectation.
My voice teacher used to say I made up my own operas too, but that was only in disgust.

Marja McGraw said...

Lesley, The cows keep you humble? For me it's cleaning the bathroom, but I won't go into detail. And you love chocolate. We may have been sisters in another life. :)Yes, even your interview is funny. Love your books, too.

Terrific interview!

Lesley Diehl said...

Of course I love chocolate! What woman past menopause doesn't?


Susan Whitfield said...

Thanks, Aubrie and Patricia. I'm sure Lesley's background comes in handy. I'm in the process of writing a humorous (I hope) novel, and it's not that easy. And yes, we ALL love chocolate around here.

Susan Whitfield said...

Lesley, I just ordered the Kindle version of Dumpster Dying. Looking forward to reading it.

Theresa Varela said...

I shared the love of singing "opera" as a child. Now we share the love of writing. The characters are so different and all sound quite interesting. Thanks for the interview, Susan, and sharing about yourself, Lesley.