5 Questions With Author Kristen Lepionka @KMLwrites

So excited to have one of my favorite authors, Kristen Lepionka, answers some questions for my blog! Thank you so much for agreeing to do this. And for all of you reading, go buy What You Want To See!

Tell me a bit about your new book and how you came up with the idea.

WHAT YOU WANT TO SEE opens with a case that seems ordinary—following around Marin Strasser to prove that she’s cheating on her fiancé. But it turns out that her many secrets are a lot more complicated than infidelity. Without giving away anything, I can say that I came up with the idea in part after watching a true-crime documentary about fraud. It got me thinking that it takes a special kind of criminal to lie to your face to get you to give them what they want of your own free will (as opposed to just taking it by force).

How has your life changed since the publication of The Last Place You Look?

I’ve done more public speaking in the last year than I had in my previous thirty-three years (and probably in a couple past lives as well). Giving presentations is something that I’ve actually always been terrified of, so not only have I done a lot of it, but I’ve gotten a lot better at it. I still get wildly nervous beforehand—thanks, anxiety disorder—but it’s totally different than it was a year ago at this time. I gave a talk to a group of fourth graders about being a writer a few months back (not about my book, specifically, of course; it’s not exactly fourth-grade appropriate) and one of the kids asked me, “Do you live in a mansion?” The answer is no. That is not among the ways my life has changed.

Did you always want to write mystery novels? What made you fall in love with the genre?

Oh, always, always. I grew up reading mysteries and had dreams of writing a private investigator series when I was like twelve or thirteen. Yes, I was a weird kid. I fell in love with mysteries from reading SAM THE CAT DETECTIVE by Linda Stewart, a middle-grade book whose premise you can surmise from the title. But I loved the way the story was told, and how the truth was revealed gradually. From there I graduated to Mary Higgins Clark, Robert B. Parker, Sue Grafton, etc. I also watched way too much television growing up as an only child, back when A & E showed actual entertainment instead of reality shows about parking garages or whatever they’re doing now. In the afternoons I’d watch Law & Order, Mike Hammer, Spenser for Hire, Magnum PI, The Rockford Files. It was basically inevitable that I’d turn out this way.

What do you usually do on publication day? Do you have a tradition?

Last year I went out for breakfast with my girlfriend, and then to every Barnes & Noble in the city so I could take a selfie with my book. I was also prepping for my release party that night, so I was a little frazzled. This year, my party is a few days later, so I’ll have time to chill out and savor it.

What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

I just finished FORCE OF NATURE by Jane Harper, who I appeared on a panel with last year at the Harrogate/Theakstons Old Peculier crime writing festival in England. Her first book was excellent, but her second was absolutely stunning. I want to watch a movie of this book, like, now. I also recently read Jennifer Egan’s MANHATTAN BEACH. Her writing is so good it gives me chills. The book is historical fiction with a noir thriller angle, so, very different from her other, more literary work, and it was essentially the best of both worlds. As for an all-time favorite, I can read THE DRIFTLESS AREA by Tom Drury again and again (I always take it on airplanes for this reason). It’s kind of a noir ghost story. For mystery-specific faves, it doesn’t get much better than Raymond Chandler’s THE LONG GOODBYE.



5 Questions With Author Emily Carpenter @EmilyDCarpenter

I recently finished reading Every Single Secret by Emily Carpenter and didn’t want to miss the chance of interviewing such a great author. Thank you, Emily, for taking the time to answer these questions and do it so quickly!

1. Tell me a bit about your new book and how you came up with the idea.

I fell in love with the movie Ex Machina, which is a sci-fi/horror film that takes place in this creepy, modern house in the middle of nowhere (I think they filmed it in a hotel in Norway). I became enamored with the idea of writing a suspense thriller that unfolds in one house. A bit of a locked-door mystery, although not precisely following all the conventions of that genre. I wanted to explore that claustrophobic feeling of knowing something is wrong but not being able to run away or actively do anything to solve the mystery, other than tiptoe up staircases and around dark corners and being stuck in a house with a group of people, one of whom is definitely up to no good.

2. How has your life changed since the publication of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls?

I have this career that I’d always dreamed of, but always had felt was a bit out of reach. The joy of getting paid – actual real money – to make up stories and characters and settings, whole worlds, never diminishes, I’ve got to be honest. I’m really grateful and having so much fun. I am a lot busier than I’ve ever been, but my family is super supportive and has really stepped up to help fill in the gaps of the things I used to do. I’m kind of a one-thing-at-a-time person, so I find juggling or multi-tasking really difficult. I’ve just had to let some things go. Like the laundry. Bye, bye, laundry.

3. What are you working on at the moment?

My fourth book, UNTIL THE DAY I DIE, is a bit of departure for me, but a fun one. It’s an adventure thriller that centers around two really smart, resourceful women – a mother and her teenage daughter – who find themselves in jeopardy and have to save each other with their smarts and guts and determination. It’s also set on an imaginary tropical island, which is different and involves an aspect of tech – a mobile app – which has been so much fun to incorporate into the story.

4. What are your hobbies?

Writing used to be my hobby, so I need to find a new one, don’t I? I used to dance Argentine tango, but my husband wasn’t into it, so after a few years, I was ready to give it up because it just wasn’t fun to spend all that time apart from him. I would LOVE it if he took it up, but that’s not going to happen. He’s just not the dancing type. I enjoy working out, I need it, but I wouldn’t really consider it a hobby. I do like to binge-watch TV shows. But I don’t think that’s considered a hobby, it’s just being lazy!

5. What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

I just read WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW ABOUT CHARLIE, OUTLAW and I’m 100% in love with it. I’m going to be facilitating a discussion with the author Leah Stewart soon, and I’m so in awe of what she did in the novel, I have to remind myself not to utterly fangirl, so I can pretend to be dignified and ask coherent questions. Before that, the book that knocked me out was EILEEN by Otessa Moshfegh. The main character is so unlikeable that you can’t help but adore her. An all-time favorite is, of course, REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier. And I may have named the main character in EVERY SINGLE SECRET after the author. Or I may have named her after that classic crime-solving sleuth who looks so fetching in purple, Daphne from Scooby-Doo. It’s all open for interpretation.




5 Questions With Author Christi Daugherty @CJ_Daugherty

I recently read The Echo Killing by Christi Daugherty and found yet another great series to look forward to. I loved Christi’s description of Savannah, Georgia, and how she made me feel like I was part of the story. I want to say thank you to the lovely Christi Daugherty for taking the time to answer my questions.

1. Tell me a bit about your new series.

The Echo Killing follows crime reporter Harper McClain as she investigates murders on the streets of Savannah, Georgia. When Harper covers a murder that looks strikingly similar to the unsolved murder of her mother 15 years ago, she begins to believe her mother’s killer has finally struck again. When her mother died, she was just a child. Now, she’s old enough to track the murderer down. To find him, she’d risk it all.

2. Are you a plotter? Do you plot the whole book or do you let the story surprise you along the way?

I plot to a certain extent. I write a solid synopsis, about 8 pages. This will have all the high points of the novel. But how I get to those high points, I leave to fate. And I never hesitate to change my mind when it all hits the fan. I suppose I see my synopsis mostly as a series of suggestions that I can take or leave.

3. Did you always want to write a mystery novel? What made you fall in love with the genre?

Like Harper McClain, I’m a former crime reporter. Crime reporting was my first real job, and something I did for nearly a decade. I also grew up reading Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell, PD James and Liza Cody. Given that, I suppose it was inevitable that I’d eventually write crime novels. You could say crime writing is in my blood.

4. What do you usually do on publication day? Do you have a tradition?

My only tradition is to try to focus on writing my next book during the day. There is always another book to worry about! And I drink a glass of champagne when the sun is over the yardarm.

5. What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

I love the Robert Galbraith/JK Rowling Cormoran Strike novels, The character development in those books is fantastic – I feel as if I know them all personally. I’m also a huge fan of Ruth Ware’s novels – I just read The Death of Mrs Westaway and it was absolutely brilliant. Like reading one of your favorite classic novels for the first time all over again. I’m big into Rachel Caine’s Stillhouse Lake series right now. Each one is more thrilling than the last. And I leap onto each new Linda Castillo book as soon as it comes out. Katy Burkholder – the ex-Amish detective – is such a wonderful character. I just love her.

At the moment, my all-time favourite is The Likeness by Tana French. The book tells the tale of an Irish female detective investigating a murder where the victim could almost be her twin. The detective has to go undercover among the victim’s friends to get to the truth. Somewhere along the way, she falls a little in love with them, which is never a good idea in a murder investigation. Something about that book really gets to me. It’s one I go back to over and over again. I don’t know what I like best – the characters, the setting, the dogged Irish cops – everything about it is the best of crime.


5 Questions With Author Mandy Mikulencak @DurangoWriter

I recently discovered The Last Suppers and fell in love with Mandy Mikulencak’s writing. The story is deeply moving and there’s a mystery as well… In addition, the setting is fantastic: Louisiana in the 50s. Thank you so much to Mandy for answering my questions.

1. Tell me a bit about your most recent novel The Last Suppers. How did you come up with the idea? It’s a very unique concept.

A good friend of mine mentioned she’d seen a website listing real-life requests from death row inmates. One request – for just Frosted Flakes and milk – got me thinking about the psychology behind such requests. Then, I wondered what would happen if a prison cook became obsessed with preparing meaningful last meals. I didn’t have anything else to go on when I first started writing. Everything just flowed from that original premise. I thought it would be interesting to set the book in the 1950s because of the prevalent social issues of the time period like racism, poverty and prisoner rights. The characters are a product of the environment in which they live, which added more depth to the story.

2. How has your life changed since the publication of your first book?

It hasn’t changed dramatically. However, I do spend more time on social media and on promoting my books rather than the actual writing process. Expectations are also different. When I wrote my first book, I didn’t have a timetable or deadline. Once I got an agent and a couple of book deals, I had to treat writing as a job and not a hobby.

3. While reading your novel, I thought it would make a great movie. Would you like that? What director/actors would be your dream choices?

I think every author hopes his/her book is developed into a movie. While it’s extremely rare, it’s always fun to envision! When I wrote The Last Suppers, I pictured Josh Brolin as Roscoe Simms, the warden. A secondary character – Dot, who works in the kitchen with the main character, Ginny – is absolutely Octavia Spencer. I have a harder time envisioning who would play Ginny, so I’m open to suggestions from readers! My picks for director would be Martin McDonagh (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri), Taylor Sheridan (Wind River) or David Mackenzie (Hell or High Water).

4. What are your hobbies?

I live in Colorado so I love to hike. I’ve also been an avid baker since I was a little girl. Both my grandmothers were Czech and they instilled in me that love of baking. My research into the foods and recipes featured in The Last Suppers was a fascinating process. It’s the reason I decided to include a recipe index in the back of the book.

5. What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

I recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult and Last Night in Twisted River by John Irving. Picoult had a very accessible writing style even if she tackles tough subjects. John Irving is my favorite writer so I tend to read anything he writes. My ALL-TIME favorite book is A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. What I love about Irving is that he can find humor in the perverse and tragic. His work shaped how I started to think about the duality of the human condition; that we can experience joy and hope in the face of great pain and tragedy. There doesn’t always have to be a happy ending.


5 Questions With Author Joseph Knox @josephknox__

Last year, I read a fantastic book called  Sirens. It was a great detective noir and Aidan Waits instantly became a favorite character of mine. The Smiling Man is the new installment in this amazing series, and I’m glad to say it was even better than the first one. I want to thank Joseph Knox for taking the time to answer my questions. Good luck with everything!

1. Tell us about your new book The Smiling Man. Will there be more books featuring Aidan?

The Smiling Man is based around a real-life unsolved murder. I’ve changed the location and some of the details but essentially the body is found of a well-dressed man who has no identification on his person. Things get stranger when it’s discovered that the labels have been removed from his clothes, that his teeth have been filed down, that his fingerprints have been removed, etc. The questions hanging over the book are: who is this man? Why has he gone to such great lengths to hide his identity? And, of course, who killed him?

There are also a couple of subplots, one involving revenge porn and one involving a series of home invasions. There is also a spate of unexplained dustbin fires that eagle-eyed readers might want to keep an eye on.

There will be one more Aidan Waits novel.

2. How has your life changed since the publication of Sirens?

In almost every way. I think I’d been overdrawn for ten years before I signed a book deal, and I’d certainly never done anything of note with my life. My first book took eight years to write, and for most of that time I thought I’d never finish it, so the relief of now having two novels to my name is great!

The most wonderful thing is to see the work get translated, though, and to visit new readers, cities and countries. It’s a great privilege which I try not take for granted.

3. What do you usually do on publication day? Do you have a tradition?

A great deal of alcohol is involved, although that’s less by tradition and more by instinct. For the launch of Sirens I went back to the Manchester bookshop I used to work in, and this year I’ll be returning with The Smiling Man. I’ll see family, old friends and colleagues, do a boozy talk about the book and then sign. I try to say yes to every opportunity the publisher gives me, so I’m also undertaking a short tour of some bookshops and libraries, as well as doing press and interviews. Last year I visited 70 bookshops in ten days! It’s exhausting but, once again, a great privilege.

4. What are your hobbies?

Reading is my main one. Without it, I’d be a mad man. After that, they’re movies and music. I just saw The Phantom Thread, which I loved, and went to see the US rapper Kendrick Lamar a couple of weeks ago which was BEYOND inspiring. I run four or five days a week as I find it helps me keep things in perspective and not get stressed about writing and the world in general.

5. What are some of your favorite recent reads? And an all-time favorite?

Fire and Fury, the tell-all about the Trump white house is ridiculously compulsive. I also really enjoyed Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer, a science fiction novel about a strange, unexplained zone somewhere in America and the search teams who’ve disappeared there. It’s just been adapted into a film, so that should be interesting. I also loved Midwinter Break by Bernard Maclaverty, a literary novel about an older couple on a short holiday to Amsterdam. It’s sad and romantic and wonderful.

An all-time favourite? The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley. From the 70s, it feels like a new and dangerous kind of noir, and was a big inspiration for me in writing crime.