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Monday, April 30, 2012


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.

Welcome Lesley!

Please tell us about your latest novel, "A Deadly Draught", featuring master brewer Hera Knightsbridge.

I have to tell you things are popping around here because Mainly Murder Press just released the second in the microbrewing series.  It’s entitled Poisoned Pairings.  Whereas the first, A Deadly Draught, introduced the reader to the world of craft brewed beers…and murder, the second focuses on paring beer and food and provides some insight into how to put the right beer with the right food …with murder, of course.  Here’s a quick look at what Hera is up to in this second book:

A student helping set up for a beer and food pairings event in Hera Knightsbridge’s microbrewery dies there under suspicious circumstances.  At first the death looks like a suicide, but the medical examiner determines it is murder, and Hera and her lover, Deputy Sheriff Jake Ryan again find themselves partners in searching for the killer.  Not only does murder threaten the community, but something more explosive has come to the valley—hydraulic fracturing or fracking, a controversial gas drilling technique whose proponents say can take the poor families of the region out of debt.  Hera and her fellow brewers are convinced it will contaminate the water supply, as it had in other places, and change forever the pristine beauty of the valley.  Connections among the student, the family of a dead brewer, a religious leader and the gas companies lead Hera and Jake into a maze of confusing and conflicting clues.  Before the two can unravel the case’s tangled threads, Jake is called away to another job, leaving Hera alone to uncover the identity of the killer before she becomes the next victim.

I’m really excited about this second book because I use the controversial gas extraction technique of hydraulic fracturing as a political and economic backdrop to brewing and murder.  Making beer requires a lot of water, clean water.  It is the main ingredient in any brew, so focusing on how fracking may affect microbrewing in the Butternut Valley gives the reader a microcosmic view of the larger issue of what drilling, if not safeguarded,  might do to the most necessary resource in our lives, water, the commodity over which will probably come our next wars and conflicts.

On a lighter note, Untreedreads just released my humorous mystery Angel Sleuth.  So take a leap of faith and believe for a moment that there are guardian angels, and one might be hovering over you right now.

Just the name sounds fun! Tell us about "Angel Sleuth".

Here goes:

Kaitlin Singer needs time off—from a philandering husband, from a writing career stalled on a buzzard as a main character, and from the stash of chocolate in her lingerie drawer.  Her decision to return to her childhood home might seem like the perfect way to get her life back together were it not for her mother foisting two visitors on her, guests who claim to be guardian angels.  Perhaps not all is lost, for the angels might just be the companions she needs to help her solve the murder of a local newspaper columnist.  To uncover clues to the crime, Kaitlin takes over the dead woman’s work, writing the column as well as volunteering in the senior center, moves which put her in the path of the killer.  She and her guests will need assistance from a pot-bellied pig and some pool skills to bring the murderer down.

Because it is true of what I like to read, I think the reading public likes genre variety as well as light and dark tones in their reading.  So with my work, you can get both a serious consideration of an environmental issue and a light-hearted escape from the tedious stresses of relationships and family life.

Beer, glorious beer! Your blog is Another Draught, and your website proclaims Beer, Books, and Brouhaha!  Is beer a specialty hobby like vitnering? (Not sure that’s a word, but it works for me!)

I like the word vintering and, similarly home brewing is a hobby for many, begun thousands of years ago and, in our country, during prohibition because there were no sources outside one’s own home.  The kind of brewing I write about is microbrewed beers or craft brewed beers, brewed in smaller amounts than beers such as Budweiser and Coors.  If you’ve never had a microbrew, you might be surprised how different it is from what we’ve come to know as beer in this country.  The product that comes out of these small breweries, found all over the country, is unique to each brewery but includes some standards such as IPAs, stouts, porters, all types of ales and lagers, each with the brew master from that brewery’s spin.  A stout from one brewery tastes a bit different from that brewed in another brewery.  Why?  That’s complicated and related to the balance of the hops, malt, and yeast used and the brewing process.

I am a scotch and wine drinker, but I’m hooked on some locally brewed beers here in the Butternut Valley such as Butternuts Beer and Ale just three miles down the road from me.  They make the very best stout in the world—great to drink and wonderful for cooking.  And of course there’s Ommegang near Cooperstown, NY.  They brew Belgian style ales, very worth sampling. Look around for a local brewery and pay a visit.  You might like it.

I imagine being a former professor of psychology has its advantages when writing about murder. Did you study criminal psychology at all? And is that what led you to write crime fiction?

 I never studied criminal psychology in depth.  My focus was developmental psychology, and it fits in nicely with how I create my protagonists because I confront them with events that force them to reconsider the choices they’ve made in their lives.  That’s very much the same with everyone because we do not embrace change, do not like it, but to go forward in our lives especially when confronted with any crisis or unusual event,  we must find a new way to deal with the world and the people in it.  Murder is simply the catalyst forcing my protagonists to make that change.

I’m fortunate that my husband is a sociologist who developed a university program in criminal justice.  If I need help with my bad guys I go to him.  He’s also knowledgeable about firearms.

Was it your goal to become a mystery writer when you retired? Or did you “fall into it”?

 I always read mysteries from Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie as a child to Elizabeth George and Robert Parker in adulthood.  And I always wrote—poems, short stories, essays and those awful angst-filled missives of adolescent.  Once I retired, I had time to free my creative side which had been saddled with the rationality necessary to write scientifically and embrace another kind of writing.  I’m so happy I did.  Mystery writing is so liberating.

Braham
 I’ve read your blog and know that you love cows. Do you work them into your books at all? A small touch of your childhood passed on to the reader? (Do they even have cows in Florida?)

 We have the best cows in Florida.  The usual breeds such as Angus or Hereford are crossed with Brahman cattle to produce a rangy looking beast, wattle hanging from the neck, bony body and head, but with the most marvelous huge, floppy ears.  I adore those ears.  They are nothing like the ears on the cows I grew up with on our farm in Illinois.

What’s next for you?
Angus

I’m doing the final edit on the second in my Big Lake mystery series set in rural Florida.  It’s entitled Grilled, Chilled and Killed and features my protagonist Emily Rhodes who—yep, you guessed it—finds another dead body, this one in a beer cooler truck.  Oh, Ms. Emily, will you never learn not to get involved in solving these murders?

After that, I will spend the summer and fall promoting my books and taking a writing break as I consider my next work.  Will it be the third in my already existing series or work on a stand alone, one with a multiple personality?  We’ll have to see what dances off the pages for me.

Thanks so much for having me visit here.  I certainly enjoy talking about my work and about the process of creating it.  I write mysteries, but it’s no mystery how I accomplish this, and I think readers like to get into the mind of the writer as she creates her characters and the plot.

Thank you so much for visiting us today, Lesley!  Don't forget to check out Lesley's great website and blog!

3 comments:

  1. Oh, Lesley, great "meeting" you! I love the microbrewery location/concept! And was born with the name Rhodes, so of course I'm immediately attracted to your work! Just downloaded Poisoned Pairings, can't wait to read. Though, my Kindle list is very long--sigh!

    Much success.

    Madeline

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  2. When I had my book launch for Dumpster Dying, a girl about 11 showed up with her birth certificate to prove that she has the same name as my protagonist. She was so excited that Iwould pick the same name for my sleuth!

    Lesley

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  3. Lesley,
    With your background in psychology, a novel with a main character who suffers from multiple personality disorder sounds fascinating. Please keep me posted!

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