Please welcome Lesley A. Diehl, a fellow member of the Guppy Chapter of Sisters in Crime. She says of herself: I began writing when I was a kid ironing clothes, imaginative short stories I created in my head. Over time, I got better at writing and lousier at ironing. [Editor’s Comment: Good choice. Between quality wash and wear and the occasional who needs drycleaning? We all know everyone needs more good books!]
What is the background noise when you write and why is it there?
In the summer at my cottage on the trout stream, the sound that accompanies my best writing time is that of the stream, the birds in our maples and butternuts and sometimes that of my husband’s voice yelling some obscenity as he attempts yet another repair on our 1874 house.
In Florida my desk overlooks the canal that borders our house. I wish I could say it is as tranquil as it sounds, but the neighbors in our community are so close that I can hear their conversations as they speed by in their golf carts. And then there is the neighbor across the street who feels it imperative he use the leaf blower in his driveway daily. Oh goodie, I just found he sold his house to neighbors who are not so fastidious about dirt on their concrete. Since it is often hot, the sound of our air conditioner drowns out many of these noises and becomes the white noise I can tolerate. I much prefer the sounds of summer at the cottage.
What is your most recent excellent read (book, short story or essay) and why?
Having been trained as a psychologist, I love stories in which the psychological make-up of the characters is strong and complex. I have fallen in love with both Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers from Elizabeth George’s series set in England. Although I worried about Lynley’s lack of taste in bedding his boss, I think it was in keeping with his character’s grief over losing his wife. Havers skirts the edge of being fired from her position, but that too is a part of her character. Even with all the characters’ flaws, or perhaps because of them, they remain the most provocative people in the mystery genre for me. I am enticed by their lives, drawn in and never bored.
Are you a plotter, pantser or something in between and why?
I was a pantser until I signed a three book contract and knew I needed something concrete to rely on. I began outlining for the psychological comfort it gave me. As I worked through the books in the series for my publisher, I became more relaxed and now feel free to violate the outlines, but they are a safety net for me. For other work, such as novellas and short stories and several book length mysteries, I have a general idea of who, why and how, but I still prefer being surprised as to what my unruly characters will do to and for me. I guess I’m something in between now.
When you start reading a book do you always finish it? If not, what causes you to permanently put a book down?
Before I became a published mystery author, if I began a book, I always finished it. Now knowing the publishing industry better, I don’t always accept that if it’s published, it must be good. That has given me permission to put down a book, even one by an author I admire if the plotting isn’t tight or if the character doesn’t hold together. If I start skimming too many places where the plot doesn’t move, I may decide to discontinue reading. Since I’m a fast reader, I usually try to give any book I begin a chance to prove itself, so although I may be more critical now, I still am loathe to drop a read. And I certainly would never review a book I haven’t finished as I’ve seen some reviewers do.
Do you read reviews of your books? Why or why not?
I sometimes do, and I always regret reading them even if they are good. I try to remind myself that I am reading what only a few people, those who are willing to write reviews, think of my work. And, if I read a good review, I’m always pleased. Reviews can send me on a roller coaster, but I don’t know many authors who don’t take a look at their reviews.
Do I change my work because of what someone says? Is that what I’m trying to do by reading the reviews? No. The feedback I take most seriously is that I receive from my editor. Sometimes I disagree with her, but I recognize she has a good idea of what works and sells and what does not. What she provides that reviews do not is a way to make the plot better and my characters stronger, better advice than any good feeling I get from five stars.
What do you do that you suspect causes your copyeditor to pull her/his hair out?
I know what I do and why I do it. I always spell “gray” “grey”. It comes from my work in animal ecology early in my career where I wrote primarily for English journals and took on their spelling, e.g. grey, colour, behaviour. I know she also writhes with pain under the length of my sentences, also from my many years of writing for professional journals in my field. I’m trying to break these habits. The poor woman.
When you compare your first draft to your final draft, do you net add words or subtract words? In general, what is it that you add or subtract between first and final draft?
I add words. Now isn’t that funny, given I just said my sentences are so long? I reduce the length of my sentences in the final draft, but add detail, especially information about what my character is feeling, thinking or why she does something. I also always find some plot holes that must be filled or add explanations to clarify for my reader some aspect of the crime or the motivation of a character.
How did you develop the idea for your most recent work?
The idea for my Eve Appel mysteries published by Camel Press was based upon my expertise as a bargain shopper at consignment shops, used clothing shops, rummage sales and yard sales. I came by these skills through my grandmother who never bought anything new, but always reused or repurposed items. Genetic or learned? Who knows, but I get a rush when I find just the right used item at a bargain price. Eve Appel owns a high end consignment shop in rural Florida, but she has her eye on becoming a private detective to put her snooping skills to good use.
What language error, when you hear or see it, grates on you like the screech of fingernails on a chalkboard?
I hate seeing the attempt to make nouns plural by adding an apostrophe. It seems to be a common mistake.
What is a piece of writing advice you think is worth sharing?
Never, never follow trends because they will not reward you with fame, only a final frustration that you didn’t write what your inner voice told you to write.
To find more information about Lesley A. Diehl and their writing visit her at her blog www.lesleyadiehl.com my blog at www.lesleyadiehl.com/blog, on twitter at firstname.lastname@example.org and on facebook at email@example.com
Here’s the blurb for A Sporting Murder
Eve Appel is at it again involved in a favorite pastime of rural Floridians—hunting. Her business partner and best friend, Madeleine has found herself a beau, but happiness for her is short-lived when a client on the game reserve he runs is killed and he is arrested for the murder. Their consignment shop business folds as they lose their shop space.
It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve’s Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against Madeleine’s beau grows stronger and her friends’ misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of pals, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy’s family, band together to take on the bad guys. Eve’s pursuit of the killer leads her onto a game reserve only to find the hunted there may be other than the usual prey, and she will need all her cleverness to avoid becoming a wall trophy.