My guest this week is mystery author, Lesley A. Diehl. So far, I’ve only read one of her novels, Dumpster Dying, but I definitely plan to read more! Let’s get to know Lesley.
Patricia: Lesley, where did you grow up? Did your childhood contribute to your desire to be a writer?
Lesley: I grew up on a dairy farm in Northern Illinois. That experience contributed to my writing in many ways. My settings are always small towns in rural America. Animals are important in my work, not always as pets, but often as characters such as pot-bellied pigs, alligators, cows, horses, and people who may be as ornery as riled- up raccoons. Recently, I have found myself mining my relatives for characters in my short stories. Especially prominent in two of them is my red-headed, six foot tall aunt, a woman with more attitude than my cat (who has more than she deserves, and I put up with it!).
Patricia: Where do you live now? Do you use that locale for settings in your novels?
Lesley: I divide my time between upstate New York and rural Florida. Upstate has been the setting for three of my books, two about a microbrewer, set in the Butternut Valley where I live, the other in the Catskill Mountains. Because in Florida we live in cow country (think Texas with palm trees and alligators), the setting is also country.
Patricia: What inspired you to write your most recent novel?
Lesley: The novel that came out in May is the second in the mircrobrewing series. I knew I wanted to do another because my protagonist’s profession is so unusual and the setting is close to my heart, where I live for six months of the year. Then along came hydraulic fracturing, a controversial gas drilling technique used to extract gas from shale. The Marcellus Shale field covers several states including New York. In Pennsylvania, fracking has caused difficulties with the water supply. It has destroyed the landscape and ruined country roads. There are serious issues with how safe it is, but advocates argue that it will benefit the area economically as well as provide abundant supplies of natural gas. Because of problems elsewhere with fracking, the controversy heated up here in the Butternut Valley. So how could I not insert this issue into my book, Poisoned Pairings, which explores how fracking can impact the region and the small breweries in particular by focusing on the issue of clean and abundant water, necessary for making beer. And of course, there’s a murder.
Patricia: Did you plan to write a series before or after you wrote the first book?
Lesley: I guess I fall in love with my characters, so much so that I don’t want to let them go. That’s probably understandable with a protagonist, but I have a dirty cop in my series set in Florida. He’s so pathetic that I continue to play with his evil side as well as his incompetencies. I had to put him in the second book. I hope my readers find my settings and my protagonists compelling enough that they come back for a second or a third.
Patricia: Name three of your favorite authors in the mystery genre.
Lesley: I adore Elizabeth George, Robert Parker, and Nevada Barr, all quite different in writing style, plot lines, and characters from one another, but there is something about each one that brings me back to them again and again. With George, it’s her characters and their relationships with one another. Parker’s ability to say more in a sentence than many writers do in a page keeps me up reading him late into the night, and then I finish the book and want more. I miss him. Nevada Barr creates action plots in national parks, great places for a murder.
Patricia: What are your favorite things to do when you’re not reading or writing?
Lesley: My husband and I love to cook and eat, of course. We also like to hike, read, and talk about writing. We’re questioning how much we like this activity right now, but we have an 1874 cottage on a trout stream which we are renovating. We’re redoing our old kitchen, and projects that should take a day are taking far longer. We knew this would happen in an old house, but we weren’t fully prepared for how much longer everything would take.
Patricia: Do you like to travel? If so, what are some of your favorite places to go?
Lesley: I guess we must like to travel. We spent two and a half years on the road in a tiny motor home with two cats and a dog. Now we travel between upstate New York and Florida every six months. We went to Tuscany several years ago and loved it. Just last week we spent several days in the Finger Lakes region of New York sipping fine wines and, or course, eating.
Patricia: How would you describe yourself personality wise?
Lesley: I think I’m a bit of an introvert, but, when I’m with people I know, I really enjoy them. In settings with strangers, I find my husband, less of an introvert than I, babbles away happily while I listen. This makes some sense. I was trained as a psychologist, taught to listen, read body language, and facial expressions. People are fascinating. I love to watch them and listen to their conversations. I am guilty of eavesdropping at restaurants.
Patricia: What’s your favorite color? Why?
Lesley: Green because it speaks of water and growing things.
Patricia: How would you finish this sentence? If I won a million dollars, I would . . .
Lesley: Put it in the bank, tell no one, and go back to Tuscany for great gelato!
Thanks for being my guest, Lesley. I’ve enjoyed it and I learned a lot about you.
To read more about Lesley and her novels and/or to order them, go to: