Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Interview with mystery author Joanne Lessner

Today's guest is mystery author Joanne Lessner. She's here to talk to us about a couple of her novels that she's currently touring: The Temporary Detective and Bad Publicity.

Joanne will be giving away one e-book copy of her novel Pandora's Bottle, inspired by the world's most expensive bottle of wine at each stop to a lucky commentor. And there's also a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card to be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So, to be entered for a chance to win either or both of these prizes, make sure to leave an e-mail with your comment below so Joanne can get in touch with you. And for more chances to win, visit other tour stops and leave comments there.

Joanne Sydney Lessner is the author of BloodWrites award-winner and Awesome Indies Mystery Pick The Temporary Detective, which introduces Isobel Spice, aspiring actress and resourceful office temp turned amateur sleuth. Isobel’s adventures continue in Bad Publicity

Joanne’s debut novel, Pandora's Bottle (Flint Mine Press), which was inspired by the true story of the world’s most expensive bottle of wine, was named one of the top five books of 2010 by Paperback Dolls. 

No stranger to the theatrical world, Joanne enjoys an active performing career, and with her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, has co-authored several musicals, including the cult hit Fermat's Last Tango and Einstein's Dreams, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, Critical Mass, received its Off Broadway premiere in October 2010 as the winner of the 2009 Heiress Productions Playwriting Competition.

Welcome, Joanne. Please tell us about your current release.
The Temporary Detective is the first installment in a series featuring Isobel Spice, aspiring actress/office temp turned amateur sleuth. Isobel’s adventures continue in Bad Publicity, which just came out in April. The series follows Isobel from job to job, solving murders along the way, but it will also trace her attempts to break into show business. Isobel is aided in her various quests by her temp agent, James Cooke, who is struggling with his own career as he tries to stay sober; two new actor friends, Delphi and Sunil; and her precocious younger brother, Percival, who is about to matriculate at Columbia at the ripe young age of sixteen.

What inspired you to write this book?
Like Isobel, I arrived in New York fresh out of college and prepared to take Broadway by storm. I did get there, but it took six years! In the meantime, I built my resume, and, of course, I temped. I got fired from my first assignment by an obnoxious secretary who complained that I yakked on the phone too much. (Guilty as charged!) So I decided then and there to kill my nemesis on the page. But I didn’t do it right away—I waited almost twenty years. I think the experiences I’ve had and the stories I’ve collected in that time give me a perspective I lacked when I was still in the middle of that part of my life. Plus, I’m a better writer now.

“I wouldn’t go back if I thought there were an insane murderer on the loose,” Isobel said. “On the contrary, whoever did this was very sane. Let me tell you, I wanted to kill that woman after three hours.”

Delphi looked askance at Isobel. “You…didn’t, right?”

For some reason, Delphi asking her point-blank bothered her less than James’s confused hinting. “Of course I didn’t. But I don’t blame you for asking. You hardly know me.”

“It sounds like whoever did it also wanted to humiliate her,” Sunil mused. “I mean, think about it. Captured for all eternity on the pot!”

“Could it have been somebody from outside who came in, waylaid her in the bathroom, pulled the emergency bell and left?” Delphi asked.

Isobel shook her head. “She was such an unpleasant person that it just doesn’t seem random.”

“Then you definitely should not go back there, paycheck or no paycheck,” Delphi said.

Sunil nodded. “Delphi’s right.”

“You’re sweet to be so concerned, but I’ll be fine.” Isobel smiled. “It was really nice meeting you both. Good luck with everything.”

“I think you need it more than we do,” Sunil said.

As Isobel rode south on the subway, sardined between a bike messenger in need of deodorant and a young mother juggling twin toddlers, she wondered whether to take her new friends’ advice. No job was worth risking her life. But what about the other people at the bank? They were all continuing to show up for work, weren’t they? They had no choice. They all had jobs to do.

Well, so did she. She needed the money. James didn’t have anything else for her, and even if he did, he might not send her out again. She still hadn’t proven herself, not really.

And that was what she had come to New York to do. Prove herself.

What exciting story are you working on next?
Now that Bad Publicity is out (whew!), I’m hot on the third Isobel book, And Justice For Some. This one will be a little different in that the murder doesn’t happen at Isobel’s place of employment. However, her current assignment, working for a lawyer in solo practice, enables her to research the case. She and Delphi witness the murder of a prominent judge and are implicated in his death at first. But, Isobel being Isobel, she can’t let it drop even after they’ve been cleared.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve always written. When I was in fourth grade, I wrote a murder mystery play. I recently found it when my parents were cleaning out their basement, and my eleven year-old daughter and I read it aloud in British accents. It was pretty awful! I think I started calling myself a writer during my junior year in high school. My dad brought his electric typewriter home from the office so I could type a term paper. I was having so much fun hitting the keys (clearly, I didn’t get out enough) that I rolled in another sheet and kept writing. Out came my first novel. That turned up in my parents’ basement too, but I’m too chicken to read it.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I don’t write full-time, and the truth is I don’t think I’d want to. I have a short attention span and multiple interests. It’s taken a while, but I’ve finally come to terms with the fact that doing a bit of everything is what makes me happy. So I jump in and out of writing, performing (I just gave a solo voice recital and recorded two one-act operas), being a mom (that’s the full-time job!) and my day job, which is in public relations. So it’s all a big juggling act, and I steal writing time whenever I can, like now! But I’m fairly efficient, so somehow it all gets done.

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
My husband and I have written five musicals together, two of which have had full productions in the U.S. and in Portugal (we’re very big in Lisbon). I write the book, he writes the music, and we collaborate on the lyrics. This is what we do for fun in my house.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An actress! Can’t you tell?

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Although I’ve never solved a mystery (I always wanted to) or found a dead body (I never wanted to), I have drawn on many of my own experiences from my early days in New York. I hope readers will embrace the hybrid nature of the books, because opening a window into the day-to-day life of a working actor is as important to me as crafting a satisfying puzzle. As one friend said, “At last someone will tell it like it is.” Any audition anecdote you read is pretty much certain to have happened either to me or to someone I know. I have a never-ending supply of hilarious and humiliating stories. That well isn’t going to run dry anytime soon!


Bad Publicity Buy Links:
Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo

The Temporary Detective Buy Links:
Paperback | Kindle | Nook | Kobo

Thanks, Joanne. And Readers, don't forget: Joanne will be giving away one e-book copy of her novel Pandora's Bottle, inspired by the world's most expensive bottle of wine at each stop to a lucky commentor. And there's also a grand prize of a $25 Amazon gift card to be awarded to one randomly drawn commenter during the tour. So, to be entered for a chance to win either or both of these prizes, make sure to leave an e-mail with your comment below so Joanne can get in touch with you. And for more chances to win, visit other tour stops and leave comments there.


Mary Preston said...

I am looking forward to following Isobel Spice, great name, around as she does her thing. It's a clever idea for a series.


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thank you for hosting

Joanne Lessner said...

Thanks for hosting me today! I enjoyed the questions. And, for the record, if anyone questions Percival starting Columbia at 16, my son, who was the inspiration for Percival, started taking Computer Science classes at Columbia at 16 :)

Ingeborg said...

Sounds like the beginning of a fun series.


MomJane said...

This person sounds like such a fun person to read about. I love series like this.

Andra Lyn said...

I love that you do a bit of everything. SOunds like a life I'd like to lead even if it's a bit out of the norm!

andralynn7 AT gmail DOT com