Today I’m welcoming Lesley A. Diehl, author of Failure is Fatal, to the Readsalot Blog. She has graciously agreed to answer a whole bunch of questions for me and my readers.
You went from professor of psychology to author of mysteries. A reader can be forgiven for expecting you to write psychological thrillers. Why cozy mysteries?
I began my love of reading mysteries with Nancy Drew and the Dana sisters when I was a kid and soon graduated to Agatha Christie, so I guess cozy mysteries are in my blood. With my background in psychology, I also love writing them because they are so character focused, and creating interesting, somewhat unique characters allows me go use what I know about how people tick. That, paired with my background growing up on a farm, gives me license to develop my characters in a small town setting, the perfect backdrop for an intricately drawn set of motives for killing. I also like that I can insert serious themes into my work, especially issues surrounding family and the environment.
How does your background in psychology influence your writing?
I began writing mysteries when I retired from academe where my writing life was made up of scientific papers that demanded precision and logic in their execution. While that style of writing does not make a very good mystery novel, it does help in plotting a mystery. I like to plot, and I like the logical tightness demanded to make the twists and turns work in solving the crime. My early work shows this passion most clearly, but Failure Is Fatal reflects not only this adherence to tight plot lines, but also my desire to give the reader characters they can relate to, enjoy and like. I want readers to try to solve the crime along with the protagonist because they like her and find the puzzle of who did it compelling. My background in developmental psychology and my own aging made me want to create a mature protagonist, but one who is fully engaged in an adventurous life.
Describe Failure is Fatal in 140 characters (also known as a tweet).
The murder of a campus co-ed leads Professor Laura Murphy to investigate a fraternity’s not-so-innocent shenanigans which point directly to the killer.
Who would you pick to play the characters of Professor Laura Murphy and Detective Derrick Pasquis in a Hollywood adaptation of Failure is Fatal?
That’s so difficult because I can think of young actresses and older ones, but none in the right age range. I need a plump Angelina Jolie, perhaps Jennifer Anniston? Melissa McCarthy certainly could deliver the lines well, particularly the humor, but she’s a little too plump. As for the detective, how Denzel Washington, if he can manage a Caribbean accent.
What’s the most amusing thing that happened to you while writing Failure is Fatal?
The research referred to in the book was actually a project students and I did collaboratively the year before I retired, and it was the best work of my career, but I left academe before I could publish it—a bittersweet, but kind of funny time for me because I had no idea then that it would find its way into a murder mystery.
Laura Murphy is a common enough name but Pasquis is somewhat unusual. How important are names to you in your books? Do you choose the names based on liking the way it sounds or the meaning?
Pasquis was the last name of a very good friend of mine and my husband’s. he was from Haiti, so he had that soft accent. He and his wife who was Cuban could dance up a storm. He was a lovely man, and I think it’s fitting that I used his name for my kind, bright and sexy detective.
How do I pick names? I pick them out of thin air, sometimes based upon a name popping into my head. In other cases, I simply like the name or the sound of it. Choosing the name of someone I knew for the detective as unusual for me.
What’s your favorite part about the writing process?
I love creating complicated plots and lots of plot twists. That was what first drew me to writing mysteries. In the last year, I’ve become more focused on my characters, making them more complete, by giving them greater depth of emotion and complex backgrounds. I like exploring a character’s past history and bringing it into the present. In Failure Is Fatal, a seemingly unrelated event from Laura’s past leads her to the killer.
Tell us about your next release. And when can we expect it?
In September, Camel Press will release the fourth book in the Eve Appel mysteries, Mud Bog Murder. The protagonist of this series is a woman who runs a high end consignment shop in rural Florida. She is one snoopy gal (she and Laura Murphy would race to see which of them got involved in solving a murder first; maybe they would make a good sleuthing pair).
When Jenny McLeay leases her property to be ravaged by the annual mud bog races, the small rural town of Sabal Bay, Florida, is divided into warring camps: environmental activists versus monster truck fans. Jenny, who frequents the consignment store owned by Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, doesn’t seem to mind when Eve and Madeleine join the protesters the day of the races.
During the race, Eve catches Jenny’s airborne head after it is tossed into the air by the wheels of a truck. Even without the disembodied head, Eve has her hands full. The town resents her role in the protests and is boycotting the consignment shop on wheels. She is torn between two men—GQ-handsome, devoted PI Alex and tall, dark, and exotic Sammy. Will Eve and Madeleine ever be able to move into their new digs? Not unless the town forgives them. And not if whoever decapitated Jenny gets to Eve before she and her sleuthing buddies solve the mystery.
~ About the book ~
Title: Failure is Fatal (Laura Murphy Mysteries)
Author: Lesley A. Diehl
Published: January 21, 2016
Publisher: Creekside Publishing
Genre: Cozy Mystery
~ Synopsis ~
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.
~ About the Author ~
Lesley 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.
~ Giveaway ~