A Secondhand Murder
by Lesley Diehl
on Tour October 1 – November 30, 2013
Spunky and outspoken Eve Appel moves from Connecticut to rural Florida intent on starting a new life, free of drama, and more importantly, her soon-to-be ex-husband. The rural Florida town of Sabal Bay, situated only an hour from West Palm, proves to be the perfect spot for her consignment store. Thanks to the recent economic downturn, Florida’s society matrons need a place to discreetly sell their stuff and pick up expensive-looking bargains. But Eve’s life, and her business with it, is turned upside down when a wealthy customer is found stabbed to death in a fitting room. As accusations fly and business slows, Eve decides to take things into her own hands. With the help of an unlikely bunch of friends—including her estranged ex, her best friend, a handsome private eye, and a charming mafia don—she struggles to find answers and save lives. Through a maze of distorted half-truths, dramatic cover-ups, and unrequited passions, Eve learns just how far the wealthy will go to regain what they have lost. A Secondhand Murder is Book 1 of the Eve Appel Mysteries Series.
Read an excerpt:
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.
- Where are you from? Tell us a little about yourself!
I was born in northern Illinois and grew up on a farm there. It probably accounts for why I love the country and am deliriously in love with cows. We had a milking herd of Holsteins until I was in high school when my dad sold them and was able to take a vacation for the first time in his life. A dairy farm runs the farmer’s life unless it’s one of the commercial enterprises we see today where the milking is accomplished by hired hands who use machines on an assembly line. The small family farm like the one I grew up on has all but disappeared today, and that’s a real shame because it gave me such freedom to explore in the fields, pastures and timber as well as the barns. I consider it the nursery for developing my writing interests. It is the place that grounds me.
I went to college in Iowa, I like to say in the middle of a corn field. It was a small, private college at which I obtained a scholarship. From there I went on to graduate studies and eventually obtained a PH. D. in psychology. I had a very full career as a college professor and university administrator and retired early to write mysteries.
- Tell us about your book? How did it get started?
A Secondhand Murder came about as the result of winning the 2009 Sleuthfest Short Story contest sponsored by the Florida Chapter of Mystery Writers of America. The protagonist of the story was Eve Appel, a sassy gal from Connecticut who came to rural Florida to set up a business with her best friend. I loved Eve so much that I thought she deserved a whole book to herself, maybe even a series. This first book in the series begins with Eve discovering one of her customers dead on the dressing room floor.
I decided Eve and her friend Madeleine should own a consignment shop called “Second to None” because I love to buy secondhand and have over the years become addicted to them as well as to yard/garage sales. I love to buy used items. In fact, when my husband and I purchased a small cottage on a trout stream in upstate New York, we bought most of the furnishings and decorations for it at yard sales. Not much is new and why should it be? The cottage is old, built in 1874 by a Civil War veteran.
I always write about family so Eve is, or course, joined in her search for the killer by her grandmother who raised her from the age of nine when her parents drowned in a boating accident. The grandmother or Grandy as Eve calls her has some secrets to reveal which may help in tracking down the killer. Eve soon discovers that the family of the dead woman has its share of secrets also.
- How do you create your characters?
I sometimes think my characters simply spring out of my unconscious as if they have been living there forever. I always try for protagonists that have spunk. They may be smaller than Eve who is near six feet tall, like my real aunt who had red, not blonde hair, but they never can be pushed too far before they fight back. Eve is probably the most in-your-face of my characters. She is sometimes insensitive and socially inappropriate, but she is lucky to have her best friend Madeleine who is quite the opposite and helps Eve navigate turbulent interpersonal waters. I often pair my protagonists with a buddy who is the opposite of them. It helps me define my protagonist in more complex ways than if her friends were like her.
Aside from liking to write about family, how it can support as well as betray, my characters are often so determined to reach some career goal that they ignore love relationships. Eve does, until she meets her hunky detective, Alex Montgomery. It’s not an easy relationship, but it is one filled with laughter as well as a bit of lust and love.
- What inspires and what got your started in writing?
My favorite reading has always been mysteries. As a kid it was Nancy Drew and the Dana girls, then soon I graduated to Agatha Christie and read through our small town’s tiny library’s offerings of mystery novels by the time I was in my second year of high school.
When I retired, my husband and I moved to New Mexico and he, always a writer of fiction, began to write in earnest. There he was in his office plunking away on his laptop. What could I do? I decided to follow, so I began my first mystery, a story of a college psychology professor who was too nosy for her own good. I was told to write what I knew, but now that I go back over that first work I find it deadly dull, not because the plot was bad or the characters weren’t interesting, but because I didn’t know how to write mysteries. I joined some online groups, bought how to books and learned the craft and art of writing this genre.
Where do you write? Is there something you need in order to write (music, drinks?)
I write in my own downstairs office when I’m at my cottage in New York and when in Florida I write at a desk in the corner of the living room. My husband and I need to write in separate spaces. We love and respect one another, but we are very different people with respect to our writing lives.
No drinks or music other than the sounds of the birds outside my window when I write. Sometimes the neighbor’s cat comes by and stares at me. Drinks come later!
- How do you get your ideas for writing?
I find them in everyday experiences. On a walk in Florida we spied a small alligator under a neighbor’s car, the ending for a short story. Or I found the description for one of the bad guys in a local gym where I work out. A man selling blueberries in Maine became a villain in my Big Lake Murder Mystery series set in Florida also. I toured a microbrewery and thought it would make a great setting for a murder so I created a woman protagonist who owned a microbrewery.
- What do you like to read?
Mysteries, of course although some of my friends try to get me to read mainstream fiction. I’ll do that if it grabs my attention. My favorite authors are Elizabeth George, P. D. James, Martha Grimes, Janet Evanovich, Robert Parker, Lee Child, kind of an eclectic group, would you say?
- What would your advice to be for authors or aspiring in regard to writing?
Learn your craft. Learn the rules, adhere to them until you understand what you’re doing if you break them. Join writing organizations such as Sisters in Crime, Guppies and Mystery Writers of America to get you in touch with others who share your passion and can give you the support you need for this long and lonely journey to publication.
- Anything else you’d like to share?
Always write what you love, not what is trendy. Passion is what will sustain you through what is required in marketing and publicizing your work after you have written and published it.
312 total views, 4 views today