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. http://tinyurl.com/a8v5nxz
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?
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!
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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