Today I welcome author Lesley Diehl back to my pages to share the inspiration behind her new mystery, Old Bones Never Die. What an ominous title. Welcome back, Lesley!
Why do you write cozy mysteries?
I have loved the cozy mystery from the time I first read Agatha Christie and knew if I ever wrote fiction I would use her as my example.
I grew up in a small farming community in the Midwest, so I know how wonderful a small town setting can be: everyone knows everyone (perhaps all too well!), crimes there are usually crimes of passion — personal in nature, so they are events readers can understand and may be familiar with — and a writer can pick almost any individual in the community to kill, to be the killer and to serve as protagonist or amateur sleuth. Important in a cozy mystery is use of brain power on the part of the sleuth to solve the crime, not brawn or weapons. There is no blood, sex or use of profanity so the cozy is something a reader can share with anyone from her grandmother to her twelve-year-old niece. Best of all, the bad guys or gals get what is coming to them.
That doesn’t mean the cozy mystery doesn’t include serious themes in it. It may be humorous and light in tone, but cozies usually address issues of living such as domestic violence, family problems, miscarriage of justice, drugs, any of the problems that can affect our daily lives.
Please tell us about your book. What ideas or images inspired this novel?
Old Bones Never Die is Book 5 in the Eve Apple mysteries. Eve has come to rural Florida to set up a consignment shop business with her best friend. From the day of the grand opening, Eve finds rural Florida anything but tranquil, and she seems to have a peculiar bent for finding dead bodies. Because Eve is both bold and snoopy, she deems it her mission to find the people responsible for the murders.
In Old Bones Never Die, a relative of Eve’s Miccosukee friends is hit and killed by a car. The police believe it is a hit-and-run, but Eve thinks it is murder, and related to the finding of an old watch on a body unearthed by a development company building a classy recreation facility for wealthy sportsmen. Eve and her motley crew of companions take on a case where family secrets may prove to be as deadly as the developer’s need to sidestep the law in the pursuit of a million dollar project.
Living as I do in rural Florida, I am surrounded by Florida the way it used to be before interstates, an influx of tourists and destruction of nature and wildlife changed the landscape. I see an abundance of bird life on the canal in back of my house as well as turtles and alligators. Cowboys still ride horses to round up cattle in the nearby fields, and swamps provide breeding habitat for wildlife. You cannot live here without being aware of a wild world at your doorstep. I’ve introduced Eve from a city in the Northeast to this place, using the hardworking people here and the rural setting to reshape her character into more than a gal who likes to shop. The transformation of Eve is often funny, but always with the goal of letting her find her true self.
Do you have an ideal reader in mind when you write? If so, please describe that reader.
Give me any reader who likes a mystery with humor, a protagonist with sass and loveable, relatable characters. And, oh yes, a bit of romance, too! That could be someone aged twelve to one hundred, female or male. This is for the reader who likes happy endings, as well as action and who also likes being able to work through the puzzle of whodunit with the protagonist. Lovers of Evanovich who are not afraid to take on the swamps of Florida will find Eve Appel their kind of gal.
Please describe your writing routine.
Unlike all those well-disciplined writers whom I admire but cannot emulate, I am not a morning person. I write every day, but in the afternoon. In the morning I do publicity and promotional work for my books. After lunch (and sometimes a nap!) I have the goal of putting out at least 1000 words, and I do revisions of what I wrote yesterday. By the time I have completed what I call a rough draft, it has been rewritten at least twice and sometimes more than that. Sometimes I work from an outline, which I usually violate, but it serves as an emotional safety net for me. I always know the main plot and the plot points associated with it, but I sometimes change the killer several times throughout the work. I do that less now than I did when I first began writing when I was strictly a pantser. Because Eve Appel mysteries is a series, I know my characters well, but I also intend Eve to change within a given book and throughout the series. I know where I want to take her, but sometimes am not clear on how to get her there. I may then try something I’d not planned, and it usually works out, but sometimes I have to rewrite a scene many times to get it just right. Someone said writing is really rewriting, and I think they are correct.
What advice do you give new writers just starting out?
Here is what I wish someone had told me when I began:
– Join a writers’ group. Sisters in Crime is especially good because you can ask questions, exchange query letters, first pages, first chapters or an entire manuscript. Having access to those who know the business can save you a lot of heartache and costly mistakes;
– Write every day to keep your writing muscles in shape;
– Learn your craft by attending conferences, signing up for workshops in person or on line and run your work past professionals as suggested above or use a critique group. This is hard work, and there are no short cuts;
– Own the designation of writer. Tell people you are a writer.
– Do your research so that you don’t make mistakes about crime fiction. Readers now are sophisticated about the area so know what you are talking about. As I said, this is work, so do it!
More about Old Bones Never Die:
Just before Walter Egret is killed in a hit-and-run, he phoned his half-brother Sammy to report that he’d unearthed their missing father’s pocket watch, along with a pile of human bones. The project is put on hold until it can be determined if the site is an Indian burial ground. Then the bones disappear.
Now Sammy and his brother’s three orphaned children want Eve Appel to go pro, applying her innate snoopiness to the trade of private investigator.
Eve already has her hands full with her two consignment stores. What is she going to do? Sammy and Walter are Miccosukee Indians, and Walter was employed as a backhoe operator on a construction site for a sportsmen’s resort. Was Walter’s death murder or an accident? If the bones belong to Sammy’s father, how did they get there? Delving into these mysteries, Eve is aided by her usual crew of friends and family. This adventure will not only up the stakes for Eve as an investigator, but it will also open her eyes to life possibilities she never imagined.
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