Sunday, April 15, 2018

The Advice Column Murders - An Interview

I'm happy to welcome Leslie Nagel to the blog today. Leslie writes the Oakwood Mystery series. THE ADVICE COLUMN MURDERS is the third book in the series and was released earlier this month.

Kathy: THE ADVICE COLUMN MURDERS turns on a fictitious advice column in the local newspaper, and what happens when a mysterious letter leads to murder. Did you grow up reading Dear Abby? Did you ever think to try your hand at writing a column one day?

LN: I loved Abby as well as her sister, Ann Landers. With a few well chosen words, those wise ladies could break your heart or make you laugh. While I have occasionally been accused of doling out LOTS of advice (especially by my children), the idea of maintaining a weekly column is a bit overwhelming. Also, advising strangers is a huge responsibility. We can never truly know what’s going on behind all those closed doors. A wrong word or mistaken motivation could open up a Pandora’s Box of relationship drama—which is exactly what happens in my latest book.

Kathy:  Charley Carpenter could use an infusion of goodies for her shop. Do you seek out estate sales? What are your favorite items to find?

LN: I love “estating”. Yes, it’s a verb. Beautiful colored glass items, especially bottles and vases, always find a place in my shopping bag. As a college student, I haunted the local vintage clothing store, and my love for all those amazing fashions inspired me to create Old Hat Vintage Fashions for Charley.

Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?

LN: I grew up on Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. In an era when truly interesting Young Adult literature was difficult to find, I read all those books so many times. When I discovered Hercule Poirot and Miss Jane Marple, I knew I had found my happy place. So, when I decided to try my hand at writing a full length novel, it just naturally evolved into a mystery.

Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?

LN: I teach college English composition and occasionally write newsletters and ad copy for a local business. Between those vocations and writing the Oakwood Mystery Series, I haven’t found the time to experiment with anything else. Someday, who knows?

Kathy:  Tell us about your series.

LN: In Oakwood, Ohio, a wealthy, insular suburb of Dayton, people aren’t always what they seem. No one knows this better than the natives—especially vintage clothing shop owner Charley Carpenter. She finds herself drawn to dead bodies like a magnet. Luckily, she is both fearless and stubborn, as well as in possession of a flair for crime detection. Going where the police cannot, drawing on her knowledge of the locals and tapping into the gossip grapevine to find the truth behind the sunny sidewalks, casserole rotations and neighborhood committees, Charley works alongside sexy Detective Marcus Trenault to peel away the layers of deception and put away the bad guys.

Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?

LN: I love all my characters. Because we spend so much time together, they feel very real to me. However, I’ve got a super squishy soft spot for Dmitri St. James, one of Charley Carpenter’s best friends and occasional co-sleuths. After he came out in high school and his ultra-conservative father kicked him to the curb, he nearly became one of the thousands of homeless youth that just...disappear. All of this has made him both a champion for the underdog and a fiercely loyal friend to the people he loves and who love him back, especially Charley.
Plus, he is hilariously sassy.

Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?

LN: Oakwood, Ohio is a real suburb of Dayton. I have lived here all my life, sending my children to my alma mater, dodging toxic housewives, traveling the familiar streets—and imagining those well known settings as crime scenes. Once I had the idea to set a murder mystery right here, the ideas tumbled faster than I could write them down. Every time I walk out my door, I am presented with more great ideas and situations that would make crazy fun mysteries.

Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?

LN: I had written a few chapters of THE BOOK CLUB MURDERS, as well as a sketchy outline for the next two books. No one had seen any of it; I suppose I was afraid it was terrible. Finally, after a glass (or two) of wine, I showed it to a friend of mine—who proceeded to hound me relentlessly until I agreed to “Finish the d#*@ed novel!” After I did, she joined forces with my daughter to persuade me to start querying agents. Positive feedback followed, then an offer to represent, and now here we are, talking about my third book.

Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?

LN: The first two are super easy: Agatha Christie and Stephen King. Imagine the plotting, the intrigue! Ernest Hemmingway would probably be the life of the party. And last . . . Julia Child? We could hope she’d be willing to cater!

Kathy: What are you currently reading?

LN: I always have at least three things going: one on CD in the car, one by my bed, and one in the breakfast nook. Right now I’m listening to DAY SHIFT by Charlaine Harris. I just finished HUNGER by Roxane Gay and am enjoying DEAR COMMITTEE MEMBERS by Julie Schumacher. Next on the stack is THE SISTERS OF BLUE MOUNTAIN by Karen Katchur. You may have noticed that I have extremely eclectic tastes.

Kathy:  Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?

LN: I love doubles tennis. My favorite outdoor courts open in two weeks, and I can’t wait! I’m also a fair-weather hiker, as well as an avid reader, of course. And hmmmm—Is coffee a hobby?

Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.

LN: Coffee. Red wine. Avocados. Pasta.

Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?

LN: I am hard at work on Book Four in this series. Tentative title is THE CODE BOOK MURDERS, and it’s as mysterious and fun as it sounds!

Kathy:  What's your favorite thing about being an author?

LN: I love that rush when the words are flowing and story ideas sync together. So far, I’ve never experienced writer’s block, thank goodness! Although writing is my “work”, a long day at the keyboard leaves me feeling both tapped and deeply fulfilled. I’ve worn many hats during my career, but being a writer is absolutely the best job I’ve ever had.

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