Friday, May 24, 2013

Featured Author: Joanne Lessner

Cozy Mystery Book Tours brings Joanne Lessner here today to talk about her novel, Bad Publicity. Hopefully, we'll give her some good publicity! And if you're lucky, she might give you something too. Cozy Mystery Book Tours is giving away three Kindle copies of the book to three random readers who leave a comment. So don't forget to comment!

About the book:

In the world of PR, there's only one crime worse than killing a deal--killing a client.

Aspiring actress and office temp Isobel Spice finds a warm welcome at Dove & Flight Public Relations, thanks to her old school friend Katrina Campbell. However, the atmosphere chills considerably when Isobel unwittingly serves an important client a deadly dose of poisoned coffee. Her stalwart temp agent, James Cooke, rushes to her aid, but balks when he learns that the victim was the fraternity brother who got him expelled from college. News that Dove & Flight is being acquired by an international conglomerate quickly supplants the murder as the hot topic of office gossip, but Isobel is convinced the two events are related. When all roads of inquiry lead back to Katrina, Isobel is forced to consider the possibility that her friend's killer instincts go beyond public relations.

Interview with Joanne Lessner:

Joanne, Bad Publicity is your third novel. How long have you been writing, and how did you start?

It started when I had to type a term paper for English my junior year in high school. My dad brought home an electric typewriter (yeah, I’m dating myself), and I was having so much fun typing that I kept going—and a novel came out!

Do you have another job outside of writing?

I work in corporate and financial public relations, which is one reason Bad Publicity was so much fun to write. I also review recordings and performances for Opera News. See? There is something practical you can do with a B.A. in Music!

Good to know--my son plans to major in music! How would you describe your book in a tweet? (140 characters or less.)

Jason Whiteley never should have had that second cup of coffee. Isobel Spice never should have served it.

Did you have any say in your cover art? What do you think of it?

Yes, I worked very closely with my designer, Linda Pierro. She’s one of the publishers at Flint Mine Press, the niche imprint that put out my first (non-mystery) novel, Pandora’s Bottle. I loved that cover so much that when I needed one for The Temporary Detective, I went directly to Linda. She always reads the entire book, which I think many designers don’t take the time to do. For The Temporary Detective, we talked a lot about creating a look we could carry through the series, and because there’s something just the tiniest bit retro about it, she wanted a hint of “girl detective.” My favorite thing is the Isobel icon. At first I wasn’t sure about going monochromatic, but as I add more books, I think it’s really going to pay off. I hope to have a whole rainbow of Isobel Spice novels!

That would be cool. What books have you read more than once or want to read again?

I re-read Elizabeth Jane Howard’s four Cazalet books every five years or so. I just love them. I’ve read the Harry Potter books multiple times, including out loud to my kids. Even after they were old enough to read for themselves, they still preferred the one-woman show. And except for a few that really stick in my mind, I’ve forgotten all the perpetrators in Agatha Christie, so I think I can safely revisit her.

Tell us a book you’re an evangelist for.

I recently discovered Kate Ross. She was a Boston-based trial lawyer who wrote four mysteries before she died of cancer at a forty-one. Her books feature Regency dandy Julian Kestrel. They’re all wonderful, but the best one is the last, The Devil in Music. I think it’s an exceptionally well-crafted mystery and there’s such depth and detail that it really transcends the genre in the best way. I even made my husband read it, and he’s not really into either traditional mysteries or historical fiction. I was very smug when he sat up late several nights in a row, unable to put it down.

What do you do to market your book?

All the usual stuff: Facebook, Twitter. I don’t have my own blog, although I know it’s recommended. But I love contributing guest posts! With Pandora’s Bottle, I sold a lot of books at wine festivals, since it’s about what happens to a man who buys a half-million-dollar bottle of Bordeaux once owned by Thomas Jefferson. I suppose I could hang around the Equity building and try to sell my Isobel books to actors, but they tend not to have as much discretionary cash.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people?

Delphi is based on my friend Kate, who was, indeed, the first actor friend I made after moving to New York. She’s a very gifted actress and director who really shines in Shakespeare. Sunil was inspired by a friend’s ex-boyfriend who was an Indian Jew. I didn’t even know they existed! Physically, James is modeled on the temp agent who took a chance on me when I first moved to New York, but the similarity ends there. And, um, my victims were inspired by certain irritating people I was forced to work with over the years.

I love doing that! Are you like any of your characters?

Isobel is an idealized version of me at twenty-three. She’s a lot quicker on her feet and more resourceful than I was. But I’m letting her make the same rookie mistakes I did. Oh, and neither of us knows when to shut up.

With which of your characters would you most like to be stuck on a deserted island?

Oh, my God, I think they’d all drive me crazy.

What real people would you most like to be stuck on an island with?

My husband and kids. They would also drive me crazy, but somehow it’s different.

Tell us about your favorite scene in the book.

I love the scene where Isobel and Hugh are on their way out to dinner and they run into James. It’s awkward enough, but then this annoying gym rat who’s been stalking James shows up, and suddenly it’s Isobel’s turn to be jealous. It’s wonderfully squirmy all around, especially since the girl from the gym is sort of Isobel times ten. It’s primarily a backstory scene, but I think it’s my favorite.

Which author would you most like to invite to dinner, and what would you fix her?

J.K. Rowling. I am in awe of her. I like to think we have something in common since we share the same name and were born the same year, but she’s really in a class by herself. I’d make my husband cook. He’s the one with the entertaining gene. Besides, I’d probably be so nervous I’d burn everything.

Where’s home for you?

I’ve been proud to call myself a New Yorker for twenty-five years.

If you could only keep one book, what would it be?

The Complete Works of Shakespeare. They say there are only nine plots and Shakespeare invented them all, so I think I’d be pretty well covered.

Would you rather work in a library or a bookstore?

I worked in a bookstore when I was in graduate school, and I was allowed to use it as my own private library. I could borrow books and return them, provided they were still pristine, so that’s the best of both worlds.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?

Elizabeth Bennet.

She's my pick too! What’s one of your favorite quotes?

From James Thurber: “Don’t get it right, get it written.”

Love it. Thank you, Joanna!

About the author:

Joanne Sydney Lessner is the author of BloodWrites Award-Winner The Temporary Detective, which introduces Isobel Spice, aspiring actress and resourceful office temp turned amateur sleuth. Isobel’s adventures continue in Bad Publicity. Joanne’s debut novel Pandora’s Bottle (Flint Mine Press) was named one of the top five books of 2010 by Paperback Dolls, and all three books are Awesome Indies Selections. No stranger to the theatrical world, Joanne enjoys an active performing career, and with her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, has co-authored several musicals, including the cult hit Fermat’s Last Tango and Einstein’s Dreams, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, Critical Mass, received its Off Broadway premiere in October 2010 as the winner of the 2009 Heiress Productions Playwriting Competition.

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Featured Author: Kate Bishop

Breathe is a romantic comedy published by Diversion Books and written by Kate Bishop, who actually isn't one person, but the pen name for three authors who have combined their collective strengths to write as one. See "Kate's" guest post below for a more in-depth explanation of who Kate Bishop is. Thanks to Chick Lit Plus Blog Tours for bringing Kate by today.

About the author:

Kate Bishop is the collective spirit of three friends with a shared passion for writing, yoga and a good, old-fashioned (or New Age) love story. Breathe was inspired by their experiences both on and off the mat and was born of a genuine desire to throw some love, light and laughter into the mix.

Kristin Tone graduated from Bowdoin College with a B.A. in Psychology and received an M.A. in Education from Lesley University. A yoga teacher and an educator, she currently teaches at PS1 Pluralistic School in Santa Monica, California.

Talie Kattwinkel earned a degree in Women’s Studies and Creative Writing from the University of Arizona. She currently specializes in bodywork and healing.

Bridget Evans attended the University of Maryland where she studied education. She taught in the Marin County school system for ten years and co-created OUTWORD, an outdoor writing program for children. She is also a yoga teacher. All three women are mothers to small children.

About the book:

Alex thought she had married the man of her dreams: successful, gorgeous, and delighted by her small-town charm. When he walks out six months later, proclaiming to have 'found himself' (with the help of a stunning yoga teacher), she 'finds herself' alone in an unfamiliar city, vengefully drinking through his prized wine collection, living on takeout, and refusing to answer the door. When this fails to cure her broken heart and bruised ego, she reluctantly allows her new friends to intervene. Slowly, Alex learns to define success on her own terms; she discovers the secret to love in all its forms, and the perfect flying crow pose, one breath at a time.

Interview with Kate Bishop:

I'm guessing the title Breathe has to do with more than just yoga. How did you come up with it?

Our agents actually came up with the title. We knew we wanted something short, simple and fun. It was Yogalicious for a while, then Yogarilla. After trying on many other titles, we all agreed Breathe best captured the essence of the book. Although yoga is a part of Alex’s journey, the book is about personal transformation and love. We were afraid the other titles might alienate those who don’t identify with yoga. Alex certainly wouldn’t have read it.

How did you create the plot for Breathe?

We knew we wanted to write a romantic comedy with yoga as the backdrop. As three writers/friends, we talked often about our aspirations and creative pursuits. At some point, we realized we had a collective story to tell. We began to meet at coffee shops in the early morning and late in the evening, as we had jobs and kids that filled daytime hours. We shared observations of transformation in ourselves and our students. We shared our love stories and our heartbreaks, uncovering common threads. Breathe took shape one chapter a time, one cup of coffee at a time.

Do you all outline, write by the seat of your pants, or let your characters tell you what to write?

A little of each. We began with a rough idea of where we were headed, but our characters dictated much of the journey. We heeded Steph Cocker’s wise words, “If blown off course, simply change your destination.” We were often surprised by where we found ourselves.

Sophie’s choice: Do you have a favorite of your characters?

We love Andy. We created him to love and be loved.

Where do your characters' names come from?

It’s an intuitive process. Names just sort of materialize, and we sit with them for a while. Most often, they’re spot on. Occasionally, we inadvertently chose the name of a person in one of our lives and were forced to grapple with a new one. When this occurred, we did an Internet search, found an extensive list of names and tried them on the character one at a time - until we were all satisfied. It took awhile.

Are any of your characters inspired by real people? Who?

All of our characters have pieces of each of us and people we have met along the way. No character is based on any one person. Tripp was a compilation of all of our dating errors. Andy was the sum of everything we’ve loved in men. Everyone has encountered a Haley at some point. And Nancy is the woman who we all hope to become. She wears life like a loose, designer shirt.

Are any of you like your characters?

We all really identified with our protagonist, Alex: her humanity, her judgment, her earnest attempt to rise above it and her many stumbling blocks along the way.

Who are your favorite authors?

Anne Lamott, Barbara Kingsolver, Suzanne Collins, Emily Bronte, Jeffrey Eugenides, Sena J. Naslund, Stephanie Meyer, Wally Lamb, Brene Brown.

What book are you all currently reading and in what format?

The Language of Flowers, Vanessa Diffenbaugh (e-book)

Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins (paper)

Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg (e-book)

How do you handle criticism of your work?

Of course it stings, but we know we can’t expect everyone to love the book. We have received such positive feedback that the few negative responses are cushioned. We are so grateful for all the support and encouragement and, to be honest, the negative reviews seem to have taken some effort and a very thorough read. Passion over indifference is always favorable, right?

Where and when do you prefer to do your writing?

As a trio with small children and jobs, most writing happens when the world is asleep. We write between the hours of 9pm and 5am. We love those quiet hours.

So I'm guessing you all don't sleep. Yikes. What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“So we show up. Burn brightly in the moment. Live passionately. Hold nothing back. And when the moment is over and the work is done we step back and let go.” -Rolf Gates

What are you working on now?

Alex and Andy, Part 2

Guest post:

As three authors, our writing process can be difficult to distill for people. Much of it is organic and we often attribute our success (the ability to write a book as a composite) to chemistry. We, the Kate Bishop three or KBT, are very close and were friends before writing Breathe. We each have very personal and sometimes divergent relationships with writing and our styles reflect this. One of us is the visionary, bringing idea after idea to the writing table. One of us feverishly stitches the story together. And one of us is a wordsmith, deliberate, attending to details, grammar and flow. We’ve likened our journey to the crafting of a garment or the building of a house. The designer, the seamstress, and the quality control supervisor. 

What was interesting was that we began rigid in our roles, but as the book materialized, we each found ourselves assuming new positions. Flowing from one to the next. We resisted any tendency to be territorial, as we knew, in order to succeed, we needed to trust each other and the process. We respect one another deeply as people and as writers, and we returned to this again and again.

Our over-arching goal was to create a book that was fun and light, yet addressed the deeper conflicts we encounter in love and life. Beginning with a rough map of where we were headed, we each wrote a chapter in sequence, never writing two in a row in order avoid the dominance of one voice. We then rewrote each other’s chapters- many times- allowing the voice of three to become one. On conference calls from Concord, Bend, and LA, we read aloud night after night until each sentence felt right to us all. It took patience.

A successful novelist once explained that writing novels can be a lonely road to travel. This was not our experience. We are so grateful to have had each other to laugh, scream, and forgive along the way.

So the process was, in essence, a culmination of what we have learned through yoga thus far. Trust, be open, quiet the ego, love, and believe in abundance.

Excerpt from Breathe:

“Alex, I’m leaving.”

I gagged on a wisp of highlighted hair that had sprung from the towel and stuck to my lip balm. Tripp liked my hair blonde. I’d had it done that day.

“What?” I sputtered.

“I’ll let you take a minute.” He turned and walked into the bathroom.

I followed him, stumbling over a pile by the door: boots, corset, thigh highs . . .
“What do you mean ‘you’re leaving’?”

Tripp turned from the mirror where he was preparing to shave as if nothing had happened.

As he stared at me, I felt like one-eared Billy at a dog show. Flawed. Judged.

“Stop looking at me like that! You can’t tell me it’s over and then look at me like that!” I yelled. He smiled mildly.

“Alex, you need to connect to your Truth. I can’t tell you how. That’s your journey. I can only tell you that I can’t follow this path with you anymore. My truth isn’t here. I found my Authentic Self.”

I was beyond insulted. It was one thing to hear this stuff from my mother who, if nothing else, lived her mundane ‘truth’ day after day, but not from a man who has eight sets of identical platinum cufflinks.

“You found what, where?”

“My Truth is in Atlanta, Alex. I found a place where my spirit can truly soar.” He started shaving.

The light bulb went on, and with the flip of a switch, I went from pissed to full on enraged.

“Wait a minute—your piece of ass is in Atlanta! Let’s not get confused here. Would your ‘Truth’ happen to be a contortionist with perfect boobs? Holy shit, Tripp, are you sleeping with—with Lauren—Lauren—” I spun around, looking for the magazine.

“This isn’t about sex, Alex. Lauren and I are united at a soul level, which I don’t expect you to understand. We’ve traveled through many lifetimes together.” He put the razor down and rubbed his smooth jaw line.

“What? Are you talking past lives with me, Tripp? Six months ago, you believed ‘God’ was a nickname for Microsoft. Can you please speak the actual truth here?”

“Like I said, I don’t expect you to understand. I found my path. Yoga has taken me to my true self, my higher self. None of this stuff really matters.” He was looking at himself in the mirror. “Lauren has been my guide.”

I looked at him in cross-eyed disbelief, then ran to grab the Yoga Journal. Panting, I returned to the bathroom, opened to the dog-eared page, and shoved it in his face.

“This woman opened your soul with some . . . ” I pulled the magazine back, furiously scanning the article. “Lavender and eucalyptus?” I was seething. “Seriously?”

I threw the magazine at his face and missed. It hit his chest pathetically and flopped to the floor. He stepped over it and went back to the bedroom, slid into his jeans commando-style, and picked up his suitcase, still packed.

“Alex, I’m sorry it has to be this way, but there is no talking to you about this.”

No talking to me?

“How are we supposed to talk when you are never here?” I cried.

“This was a mistake, and I haven’t known how to tell you. I’m leaving, Alex.”

I ran down the hall after him, caught my robe on a drawer pull, and lost the entire thing. Who makes robes out of cashmere anyway? When I finally wrestled it back on and reached the door, Tripp’s black Range Rover was sailing down the street, a large sticker on the rear window proclaiming, “Namaste.”

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