Pens, Paws, and Claws would like to welcome Lesley Diehl to the blog!
Tell our readers a little about yourself and your writing.
I write cozy mystery series. Two of the series are set in rural Florida and two in Upstate New York. I also write short stories, the most notable of which have appeared in several anthologies such as The Killer Wore Cranberry and Happy Homicides: Fall into Crime. My short stories are often based upon events in my childhood.
Tell us about your pets. Are any of them models for pets in your writing?
I grew up on a farm in Northern Illinois, so I was always surrounded by animals and had several cats growing up. Now I have two cats, both rescues from Key Largo, Florida where we used to spend the winter and were part of a cat rescue group there. The cats are now 17 (Squeak, female) and 14 (Marley, male) years old. I have never adopted feral cats before, and I find these cats different from my other cats. I think there is much in a feral cat from a restricted group that is hard-wired in the cat’s behavior. They are lovable animals, funny, smart, but a bit shy around strangers and suspicious of anything unusual. That’s true of any cat, but the wariness is more pronounced in these. We got the male cat when he was tiny, tiny, and he almost seems to be imprinted on me. He does not like me out of his sight. He’s affectionate but can get angry at me if he feels he’s not getting enough attention. I’ve not yet written any of my cats in a story, but it could happen soon!
I’ve also had several dogs. One I inherited from the man I bought my house from. He simply left his cat and dog when he moved out! I vowed to keep the dog outside or in the garage, but when I saw her sitting outside my window when it rained, it broke my heart. She became my best friend, sleeping on the floor by my bed and traveling with me when I went cross-country to visit family. I used her sweet, playful personality for the dog (Samantha) in my Laura Murphy mysteries.
Tell us about any pets you have in your books/stories. Are any of them recurring characters? What are they and their names?
In my stand-alone cozy mystery Angel Sleuth, a pot-bellied pig named Desdemona is one of the characters. She has been adopted by Jeremy, a young boy in the story. While the protagonist is not certain she wants a pig as one of her house guests, she comes to love Dessie. I found Dessie such a compelling character that I made her a sleuth in a short story (“Dessie’s Jaded Past”) published by Untreed Reads in one of their detective anthologies. I liked the idea of having a pot-bellied pig as a sleuth so much that I wrote another story featuring yet another pot-belly, this one named Willa Mae. The story entitled “When Pigs Fly” will be one of Kings River Life’s podcasts later this year.
What are you reading now?
Since I am a lover of British mysteries, I am now reading the third of the Royal books by Rhys Bowen. I just finished several of Puleston’s Inspector Drake mysteries, the last two Lee Child’s Reacher books and am halfway through Tim Dorsey’s Cadillac Beach. I just downloaded Elizabeth George’s newest Lynley and Havers mystery.
What writing projects are you currently working on?
Book 7 of the Eve Apple mysteries is due to my publisher June 1, so I’m working on that now. I will also release the third book in the Big Lake Murder mysteries, Scream Muddy Murder.
Who is your favorite author and why?
I have two favorites: Elizabeth George and Robert Parker. I like them for different reasons. George writes deep character psychology and uses class issues to make her characters as important as the mystery. Parker is a genius at terse dialogue and packing more in a short sentence than most writers put in a paragraph.
How do you use animals in your writing? Are they a character in their own right or just mentioned in passing?
I never use them just in passing. All the animals in my books have unique, sometimes helpful personalities, personalities that sometimes reflect aspects of a human character’s such as my pot-bellied pigs who are amateur sleuths themselves. Even the dog I mentioned in my Laura Murphy mysteries (her name is Samantha) is like her owner, fun-loving, playful, loyal to those she sees as friends, and as nosey as her owner. I think she will help solve a murder in a book to come.
Why do you include animals in your writing?
Animals have always been an important part of my life and, since my protagonists hold values similar to my own, why wouldn’t they have pets in their lives? While the Eve Apple series doesn’t feature a pet in Eve’s family, the series does include wildlife in the rural Florida area.
What’s your real-life funniest pet story?
My dog Princess loved food, any food, all food. She would wander out of the yard around dinnertime in the summers, and I’d know she went down the road to one of the neighbor’s to see if she could beg when they were cooking on the grill. She was chubbier than she should have been, so I asked the neighbors not to feed her, but she did her “cute” act, and they gave in with apologies to me.
She really loved chocolate, which I never gave her, but one Easter a friend brought me a foil-wrapped chocolate bunny, which I left on my coffee table, untouched, and went to bed. The next morning the foil wrapping was still on the coffee table, but the bunny inside was gone. Princess had chocolate on her breath. She didn’t get sick, but I still can’t figure out how she managed to eat the inside without eating the foil.
When did you know you were a writer? And how did you know?
When I won the MWA Florida Chapter’s short story contest in 2009, I began to feel like a writer, but when my first book came out the following year, I was a believer. Isn’t it funny how I had to have external confirmation to make it so? Now I understand being a writer is simply all about writing.
Wat do your pets do when you are writing?
The two cats I have now have become less and less interested in my time at the keyboard. Several years ago, the female sat in my desk chair, reached up and typed 5589, then yawned and got down, acting as if she had written her singular most important work and was done with it. The other cat sits on the printer next to my computer and waits quietly until I close the laptop. He then jumps into my chair and is ready for “twirly,” where I spin the chair around with him on the seat. I spin one way, then reverse the spin. He loves it! Like a carnival ride for cats. And this from a cat who gets car sick.
What are two things you know now that you wish you knew when you started writing?
Two? Let me give you a list.
No, I won’t be able to afford that house on the Bay in Key Largo.
Everyone expects a free book.
Writing is fun; promotion is work.
Your publisher will not pay for a book tour.
Getting your book published is only the beginning: you have to sell it.
Your publisher expects you to do most of the promotion and publicity.
Sometimes no one shows up for the book event you spent hours preparing for.
Sometimes lots of folks turn up at the book event, but no one buys a book. (this happened with an audience of 125 people who were supposed to be book lovers.)
Often few people show for a book event, so you just chat with them and have fun.
Discoverability: no one knows how to do it, but everyone has ideas, so try some out.
Writing is fun, but so is talking to people about writing, so don’t limit yourself to an internet presence only.
Most important. Don’t write in a vacuum; there are writers’ organizations and writing conferences where you can learn your craft and improve on it.
Let’s Be Social:
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