I'm happy to welcome Lesley A. Diehl to the blog today. Lesley writes the Eve Appel mystery series. Mud Bog Murder, the fourth book in the series, was released September 1.
Kathy: In Mud Bog Murder Sabal Bay, Florida is overrun with Monster Truck fans for its Mud Bog races. Are you a fan of Monster Trucks?
LAD: I am not a fan. If you’ve never seen these trucks, you can’t imagine how their gigantic wheels make them so high you can’t possibly see around them if you are parked next to them in a parking area or drive behind them on a road. I’ve never seen one of them clean, although I’m certain they must be clean at some point, but I’ve always encountered them covered with mud fresh from their bogging events. However, I also understand for such an economically depressed county as I live in, a mud bog event brings fans into the area and is temporarily a boon for the towns nearby. The tearing up of what is considered wasted land destroys natural habitat and interrupts breeding places for Florida’s wildlife. Although there is nothing I consider particularly pretty about alligators, they are part of the landscape and need wet areas in which to breed and live. Fill in the swamps and use boggy areas for bogging events and you disrupt the natural balance. But then, that’s what has been happening ever since Florida became the land of runaway development.
Kathy: Environmental activists have also come to town. What do you think are some of the biggest threats to our environment?
LAD: There are three big ones: air pollution, water pollution and destruction of wildlife habitat. In all cases, Florida is one of the states that ranks high in these areas. The three areas are also inextricably intertwined. Greater numbers of people mean the use of more cars and the development of more housing. That means land is cleared and wildlife habitat is destroyed. Building of roads in rural Florida impedes water flow from the North. Sugarcane fields and ranching/farming creates run off into Lake Okeechobee which in turn releases this run off into the canals that carry water to the East coast and pollutes the estuaries there. Polluted estuaries destroys the coral reefs offshore. And we go on and on in a vicious cycle. The answer is cooperation among the various water, environmental protection, development and other agencies, something that has yet to happen, not just in Florida, but in many areas.
Kathy: If you were to protest something, what would it be?
LAD: I wonder if there is a group who might like to get together and protest mendacity which seems to be at the heart of a lot of issues?
I did my share of protesting when I was younger, for peace, civil rights and women’s rights. Now my role is informing people about injustices, so I do it in the best way I can—by writing mysteries with a message.
Kathy: Partly because I live in WNY and partly because I'm interested in the paranormal your 1874 cottage in the Butternut River Valley intrigues me. Have you considered setting a story here?
LAD: I have set a stand alone mystery and two mystery series in Upstate New York, but never used my house as a specific setting. I’ve written on my blog and on other blogs about my ghost Fred who, by the way, has been very quiet this summer. We assume he’s visiting relatives across the stream from us in the cemetery because we have upset everything in the house by renovating our bedroom. I don’t blame him for leaving. I wanted to pack my bags and follow him. I don’t think I can stand another construction project, but when you own a house as old as ours, you renovate endlessly.
I don’t write paranormal fiction but I’d be glad to have you use my house as a setting if you do. I have read some of Heather Graham’s work and met her on several occasions at conferences. What a nice lady.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
LAD: Like many my age, I read Nancy Drew as a girl, then graduated to Agatha Christie and went on to read other mysteries, but I loved the cozy mysteries. I always felt they came closest to the kind of lives we lead daily and are the perfect vehicle for inserting the issues we encounter in our lives. I also love to laugh and consider it the most inexpensive, but effective therapy for our woes. So my cozy mysteries are humorous.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
LAD: I write short stories, but most of them are cozy mysteries. My brewing mystery series is a cozy mystery but not a humorous one. I have two uncompleted mysteries on my computer. One is a kind of noir cozy, the other a more traditional mystery. I used to write bad poetry.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
LAD: In Eve Appel mysteries transplant Connecticut native Eve Appel sets up a consignment shop in rural Florida to bring high end fashion to the area and finds there’s more to selling designer clothes than a good eye. There are also cowboys, cattle, horses, alligators, swamps and …murder. When you’re as snoopy as Eve, you get involved in solving these crimes, and you drag everyone you know into the case while making new friends along the way.
My other series include:
The Big Lake Murder Mysteries, soon to be rereleased (Dumpster Dying and Grilled, Chilled and Killed: Emily Rhodes is a retired preschool teacher and a winter visitor to rural Florida. She’s also prone to stumbling over dead bodies. A local police detective and a cantankerous bass fisherman vie for her attention romantically while Emily inserts herself in the murder investigations and runs afoul of killers intent upon keeping long standing family secrets.
Laura Murphy Mysteries: (Murder Is Academic and Failure Is Fatal) Psychology Professor Laura Murphy has her position at the college and a new man in her life, but her friend who is a detective on the local police force needs her help when college colleagues and students pile up as suspects in local murders.
Microbrewing Mysteries: (A Deadly Draught and Poisoned Pairings) Money is always an issue for Hera Knightsbridge, owner of a microbrewery in Upstate New York, but drought, hydraulic fracturing and murder invade the valley and force Hera to join forces with an old rival to find the killers and restore tranquility to her community..
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
LAD: I’m kind of crazy about Eve Appel. She is everything I am not: courageous, tall, skinny, impulsive, unafraid to take chances, and she drives the same kind of car I do.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
LAD: Living in rural Florida among the cowboys—yes, real cowboys with hats, spurs, chaps and boots—is almost inspiration enough, but reading articles about young men diving into an alligator infested slough and losing an arm to a gator or someone discovering a seventeen foot constrictor is almost too much inspiration. It’s hard to top the real stories with ones an author can make up, but there’s certainly a lot of raw material everywhere you look. I’m a winter visitor, one of those snowbirds who come to Florida for the warm weather during the frigid months in the North, so I liked the idea of creating a character who had the same status, an Yankee outsider finding her way in business in a rural Florida community. Eve’s appearance shouts “I’m not one of you!” and her resistance to playing by their set of rules makes her transition into the community less than smooth. Perhaps her best friend, Madeleine, petite and ladylike can help Eve adjust.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
LAD: I think every writer writes for two audiences, herself and others. How else to get my work out to others if not through publication? I’ve had other mystery series published before the Eve Appel mysteries, so I understood the process and was a member of several mystery writing organizations such as Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
LAD: I’ll assume I can mix up the living and the dead. I’d invite Robert Parker because I admire his lean but effective approach to dialogue, Mark Twain for his irreverent take on human nature, Elizabeth George for her ability to write the psychology of human relationships, and Alexander McCall Smith because he seems to find the good in every character he creates.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
LAD: I read something every night. Right now I’m finishing Alexander McCall Smith’s A Right Attitude to Rain.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
LAD: I garden, hike, cook, and love to shop for secondhand items at yard sales or consignment shops. Today I purchased a wrought iron plant stand at a yard sale. It’s always a mystery what you’ll find when digging through items for sale in a garage or secondhand store. I like the challenge of getting a bargain.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
LAD: Greek yogurt, lettuce, eggs and multigrain bread.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
LAD: The fifth book in the Eve Appel mysteries is entitled Old Bones Never Die. Camel Press will release it sometime next year.
Here’s a blurb for it: Sammy Egret, Eve’s Miccosukee Indian friend, thinks he has discovered in bones uncovered at a construction site the story behind his father’s disappearance over 30 years ago. While Eve and Sammy fight to uncover the facts behind the burial, another Miccosukee family is equally determined to make sure the secrets buried with the bones stay hidden.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
LAD: I get to create a world in which good always triumphs over bad.
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