ABOUT THE BOOK
Someone at Professor Laura Murphy’s college appears to be playing a joke on her by planting sexually explicit stories in her research results, but the joke turns deadly when one story details the recent stabbing murder of a coed. Laura’s close friend, Detective Derrick Pasquis from the local police, asks for her help in interviewing the prickly suspects who resist intervention from outside the campus community. Eager to search out clues, Laura ignores warning signs that playing amateur sleuth may jeopardize her newly developing romance with Guy. And of course her usual intrusive manner puts her at odds with everyone on campus—colleagues, the college administration, the head of campus security and fraternity members. Is there no one Laura can’t offend in her eagerness to find the truth? The closer she gets to solving the crime, the more it appears that the past—the coed’s, that of a prominent faculty member and Laura’s own—is the key to the murder. Caught in an early winter blizzard, Laura must choose between wandering the mountains and freezing to death or taking her chances with a killer clever enough to make murder look like the work of an innocent student.
INTERVIEW WITH LESLEY A. DIEHL
Lesley, how did you get started writing?
When I retired from university life as a professor and administrator, my husband and I moved from the East Coast to New Mexico because he wanted to return to where he grew up in the West. He’d always wanted to be a writer, so he closeted himself in his office and began work. I had played around with creative writing over the years, but the need to publish scientific articles for my university position kind of kicked the “creative” out of me. But I thought, “What the heck. If he can write, I can, too," so I began a mystery (I’d always loved them) set on a college campus. Write what you know, correct? Unfortunately, I had no idea how to write a mystery, and my first effort showed that, but I’m a stubborn gal, so I kept at it. After many awful attempts, that manuscript became the first Laura Murphy mystery, Murder Is Academic. Failure Is Fatal is the second in the series. Being mulish paid off.
What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
I love being able to create people and a world, all under my control, and the best thing about mysteries is that the writer makes everything turn out okay. How wonderful and hopeful is that!
I agree. What do you think is more important – characters or plot?
When I first started writing, I thought plot was most important. I was writing a mystery, a puzzle that needed to be solved. I reveled in the twists and turns and subplots I developed. Now that I am down the road a bit, I work harder on creating characters that my readers can admire, root for, get angry at, hate, love, identify with or want to become. For a series writer, that is important. A writer can have a really intricate mystery, but if the characters aren’t compelling, a reader won’t come back for the next one.
What books do you currently have published?
I have two books in the mircrobrewing series, two in the Big Lake murder mystery series, three in the Eve Appel mystery series (number four will be out in September), two in the Laura Murphy series, a standalone mystery and a number of short stories.
What do you know now that you wish you knew then?
Yeah, yeah, I know the big publishing houses don’t promote their writers like they used to, but they do have money and connections, all significant in the issues of discoverability and placement, the bane of the writer with a small publishing house or who is self-published. The road to discoverability with a small publisher can be a lot longer and requires the writer hang in there and write enough books to generate a respectable bookshelf.
Do you have any secret talents?
I think I write a pretty entertaining cozy mystery, and I hope that secret talent will be less of a secret one day! And I’m great at finding secondhand bargains. I furnished my cottage almost entirely from yard sales.
Is writing your dream job?
Yup, it really is. I set my own schedule, create my own characters and plots, never have to get permission from anyone to take a sick day, or go on vacation or have my pay (minimal as it is) docked, dress up for work, suffer sexual harassment from colleagues or bosses, suffer a long commute, attend long, boring meetings, or get out of my jammies if I don’t want to unless I’m doing a reading or library event (for those I do shower and spruce up a bit).
What is the worst job you’ve ever had? What did it teach you?
I had the title of “stripper,” not what you think. I worked summers for the intermediary to a publishing company. We would receive paperback books from retail stores, books that did not sell, and we would strip the covers off the books. These covers were sent back to the publisher who would reimburse the store for the book. The book itself went to the city dump. We were told we were not to take the books, but we all did anyway. I read a lot of cheap, sleazy paperbacks those summers. The work itself wasn’t really difficult, but it was boring. Required standing for eight hours on a concrete floor (no wonder I have back problems!) with fifteen minutes for lunch and two 10 minute breaks. I worked the three to eleven shift. The only job worse than that was in the bindery in a large printing plant. It was too loud on the floor to hear anything so you couldn’t speak to anyone. My job was to jockey stacks of catalogue pages so they were straight on all sides and then insert them into a bin that would feed them onto a conveyer and into an automatic binder. I had paper cuts up my forearms, and my nose was filled with paper dust.
What I learned from these jobs was that, despite the good money they paid, I needed a position in which my mind was engaged and one that didn’t threatened my physical health. I clearly knew why I was getting a college education.
Do you have any marketing tips you could pass on to indie authors?
No one knows what really works. I’m not being negative, just stating the truth. There is no magic bullet. Do what you feel comfortable doing, but be consistent. Probably the best thing you can do to sell your books is to write more books.
If you could only watch one television station for a year, what would it be?
PBS if only to watch the British mysteries. Or I could trash all of television for Netflix (and the British mysteries and comedies).
What five things would you never want to live without?
Netflix, PBS, books, a comfortable pair of shoes and jeans that fit.
What do you love about where you live?
Up north, I live in a 1874 cottage on a trout stream. I get to listen to that stream when I write. I hear the wind through the great leafy maple trees and revel in the chartreuses of spring.
The rest of the year I live in rural Florida. I love the handsome cowboys I see in the country bars, I adore all the herds of cows (I’m a cow lover) and am fascinated by the Brahman cattle there. Their floppy ears are so cute. We live on a small canal with abundant birdlife. As you can tell, I am truly a country gal.
What's your favorite treat for movie night?
A big, ol’ bag of theater popcorn. I can watch any film if I have that.
What’s your favorite fast food?
I love French fries, but almost never eat them because they are deep-fried and I try to stay away from the fat.
What’s your favorite beverage?
I love a good Sauvignon Blanc, one from New Zealand.
What drives you crazy?
People who talk on their cellphones in public, especially in a restaurant. Do they really think I’m interested in their conversation, and how can you not listen when they’re right in your face?
What is your superpower?
I think I’m pretty great at multitasking.
What is one of your happiest moments?
The day I married my husband. It took me over a half century to find him.
What do you like to do when there’s nothing to do?
Read, of course.
Where is your favorite place to visit?
I love the Florida Keys. We use to spend our winters there, but it got far too expensive. Now we pop down for a long weekend to visit friends in Key Largo. That place has the best yard sales and our favorite restaurant for fired whole yellow snapper. Our two cats were rescues from the campground there. The color of the waters as you drive to Key West is spectacular.
What’s your least favorite chore?
I hate dusting, and it’s my own fault for buying all those items at yard sales. Those little gems decorate all the horizontal surfaces in my house up north. Not only must I dust the surfaces, but the knick knacks have to be cleaned too. My house is pretty clean, but I have too much “stuff” and yet I’m addicted to used items, much like my protagonist, Eve Appel. In my family it’s a trait carried down from generation to generation—never buy new!
What’s in your refrigerator right now?
Always a bottle of wine, then vegetables usually green beans and broccoli, lettuce, cuke, kale, low fat mayo, assorted salad dressings, eggs, egg beaters, assorted cheeses, a jar of jam (that belongs to hubby), butter, margarine, Sicilian lemonade, half n’ half, melon and yogurt. The freezer usually contains fish of some kind, chicken, a little beef, and (guilty pleasure) gelato.
What’s one of your favorite quotes?
From Mark Twain: “Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.”
What would your main character say about you?
From Eve Appel, “She’s smart and funny, but she dresses too conservatively especially her shoes. She never wears a heel higher than two inches. Where is the fun in that?”
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever had to write?
Letters of recommendation to graduate schools for my students. When I wrote for someone, I knew I was holding a piece of their future in my hands, so I obsessed over getting it right, making it speak about their strengths, but not be dishonest about their abilities.
Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?
I love the library in Okeechobee. It’s a lovely open space with windows to the outdoors. It may not hold everything that larger ones do, but the librarians and staff there have been supportive of local authors, featuring them in programs throughout the year. They always act as if we are doing them a favor by being there while I know they are paying me a compliment by featuring me each year. The reading group there is active and loves having an author appear. The library also provided a space for the writers’ group which another woman and I started years ago.
You have a personal chef for the night. What would you ask him to prepare?
Sea bass, crispy, with asparagus. For dessert, anything dark chocolate.
How do you like your pizza?
Just plain. My protagonist, Eve Appel is right. I’m boring.
What is the wallpaper on your computer’s desktop?
It is a view of a waterfall with vegetation all around including a blooming rhododendron.
Describe yourself in 5 words.
Short, blonde, shy, smart mouth.
What would you do for a Klondike bar?
Dark chocolate? I’d write you a short story about murder, yours if you didn’t give me the bar.
Yikes! What are you working on now?
I’m beginning the sixth book in the Eve Appel mystery series. I’m also working on a novella featuring the characters I’ve written about in short stories, Aunt Nozzie, the grandmamas and their granddaughter. This one is all about apple picking, Halloween, and of course, murder.
ABOUT THE AUTHORLesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York. In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport. Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse. When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.
She is the author of a number of mystery series (Microbrewing Series, Big Lake Mystery Series, Eve Appel Mystery Series and the Laura Murphy Mysteries), a standalone mystery (Angel Sleuth) and numerous short stories.
Connect with Lesley:
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