A Secondhand Murder
by Lesley Diehl
on Tour October 1 - November 30, 2013
Book Details:Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Camel Press
Publication Date: 9/15/2013
Number of Pages: 260
Synopsis:Spunky and outspoken Eve Appel moves from Connecticut to rural Florida intent on starting a new life, free of drama, and more importantly, her soon-to-be ex-husband. The rural Florida town of Sabal Bay, situated only an hour from West Palm, proves to be the perfect spot for her consignment store. Thanks to the recent economic downturn, Florida’s society matrons need a place to discreetly sell their stuff and pick up expensive-looking bargains. But Eve’s life, and her business with it, is turned upside down when a wealthy customer is found stabbed to death in a fitting room. As accusations fly and business slows, Eve decides to take things into her own hands. With the help of an unlikely bunch of friends—including her estranged ex, her best friend, a handsome private eye, and a charming mafia don—she struggles to find answers and save lives. Through a maze of distorted half-truths, dramatic cover-ups, and unrequited passions, Eve learns just how far the wealthy will go to regain what they have lost. A Secondhand Murder is Book 1 of the Eve Appel Mysteries Series.
Tell us about your current release.
I am very excited about A Secondhand Murder. Not only does it feature a protagonist that I love, Eve Appel, but she first appeared as the main character in a short story entitled “Gator Aid” that won the Sleuthfest Short Story Award sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. I knew then that I couldn’t let Eve disappear. She was named after my paternal grandmother whose maiden name was Appel and whose passion was recycling, reusing, repurposing. Eve has the same love of secondhand items, and that’s why she runs a consignment shop with a unique twist. It is located in rural Florida, but it specializes in high end clothing consigned by the society matrons of West Palm. When Eve finds one of them stabbed to death in a dressing room, she has no idea what secrets the murder will reveal about her own family and that of the victim. It’s a riotous romp through the swamps and pastures of rural Florida.
Where do you research for your books?
I was a professor of psychology before I learned how much I loved writing mysteries, so I know the value of research and I know how it can work to make settings and characters real for the reader. I was told when I began writing to “write what you know”, so my first mystery featured a dead college president and a nosy professor of psychology. It was long, long, too long and deadly dull. I was forced to try a different protagonist, so I researched microbreweries and created Hera Knightsbridge (A Deadly Draught; Poisoned Pairings), the owner of a microbrewery in the Butternut Valley in Upstate New York. Talking with brewers and visiting microbreweries throughout the United States was fun and I learned to like and respect hand-crafted beers.
Another protagonist (Dumpster Dying; Grilled, Chilled and Killed) required little research. Emily Rhodes is a retired preschool teacher turned bartender. My aunt was a bartender and, without my mother’s knowledge, took me with her when she tended bar. I guess I began my research at the tender age of three. Gimme another Shirley Temple.
With Eve Appel, I simply continued what I always do, browse consignment shops and go to yard sales, but now I call it research. For the second book in the Eve Appel Mysteries series, I put Eve on an airboat for a ride that ended in murder. Since I’d never taken an airboat tour, I did one with my husband. It was quite exciting especially when the pilot did a one eighty wheelie on the water.
Plotter or Pantser? Why?
I was always a pantser and, according to many of my readers, managed to put together twisty plots and subplots. When I signed the three book contract for the Eve Appel series, my agent said to me, “I guess you’d better get right on the outline for the second book.” Outline? What outline? But I could see what she was saying. I wrote to my own schedule, not a publisher’s. So I developed an outline. Here’s my dirty little secret. I violated it at every turn. The outcome is a book that looks nothing like my outline. I’m writing the third book and using an outline. I’ve only written three chapters and, again, they could be from another book. I used to say I never knew who the killer was until I was more than half way through the writing. What this third outline has done for me is to let me know who the killer is. Unless I change that…
The outline has given me a general direction for the story, but mostly it is a psychological crutch. It comforts me.
Tell us about your family.
I write about families which some people find odd since I really have no family. Most of my relatives have died except for some distant cousins. But I was trained as a developmental psychologist, so I know the importance of family both in supporting a child’s growth and retarding it. I had a wonderful father, kind and intelligent, and a mother who was quite crazy. It was a painful childhood because I didn’t want to be like her but I also felt sorry for her and tried to protect her. That’s a tough job for one little kid. So, you see, it’s true. Psychologists become psychologists because of their own issues. But I always ask this: did mathematicians become mathematicians because they were lousy at math?
All of my other relatives were complex and interesting people and I decided to put them into my writing. My favorite aunt, my father’s sister appears as Aunt Nozzie, the red-haired Amazon in my Thanksgiving stories published by Untreed Reads. Since I prefer writing with humor, these sketches of Thanksgiving at my flamboyant aunt’s house were fun to write and some say they’re entertaining.
I now have one husband who’s also a writer and two spoiled cats. I count them as family.
What are the most important attributes for remaining sane as a writer?
No doubt in my mind that it’s a sense of humor. It’s clear to me that I use writing humorous cozies as a way of remaining sane in general. And I entertain myself too. Underling funny stuff is always something painful. It’s therapeutic to be able to take that pain and turn it on its ear by making it funny.
Entice us, what future projects are you considering?
Several years ago I began a serious mystery after doing some research in coyotes. These animals are making a comeback in various parts of the country. Because they are misunderstood, people hunt them. I wanted to make controversy over coyote hunting in the Northeast part of a story.
I also began writing a mystery about a multiple personality, something I’ve wanted to do for years. This time the humor is edgy, my protagonist torn between needing her alters and wanting to live life without them.
That manuscript about the college professor and the dead president? Well, I reworked it and I think I’m bringing it out as a self pub next year.
Now all of these projects are dependent upon where I take Eve Appel. Book 4 or 5, more?
Tell us about the absolute BEST fan letter you have received.
This isn’t really a fan letter, but it’s one of the most important moments in my writing life. I was debuting my first book featuring my preschool teacher turned bartender (Dumpster Dying). A girl about twelve turned up with her mother, so excited to meet me because her name was the same as that of my protagonist. She brought her birth certificate with her to prove it. She was so thrilled that I used her name, and I was so moved by her excitement. Now that’s the kind of fan I want to keep for life.
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. Back north, she devotes her afternoons to writing and, when the sun sets, relaxing on the bank of her trout stream, sipping tea or a local microbrew.