Thursday, October 10, 2013

Please Welcome Mystery Author Lesley A. Diehl

Omnimystery News: Guest Post by Lesley A. Diehl
with Lesley A. Diehl

We are delighted to welcome mystery author Lesley A. Diehl to Omnimystery News today, courtesy of Partners in Crime Tours, which is coordinating her current book tour. We encourage you to visit all of the participating host sites; you can find her schedule here.

Lesley begins a new cozy series with A Secondhand Murder (Camel Press; September 2013 trade paperback and ebook formats), which introduces consignment store owner Eve Appel.

We asked Lesley to tell us more about sleuth sidekicks, and her post today is titled "Gal Pals".

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Lesley A. Diehl
Photo provided courtesy of
Lesley A. Diehl

In all my humorous cozy mysteries my protagonists have a best friend or a "gal pal" who often helps or sometimes hinders them as they snoop their way to finding the killer. I like to have a sidekick for my heroines because it is one of the ways I can develop the character of the protagonist. It's through the give and take, the intimate conversations, the disagreements, and the sharing of danger that the reader comes to know my protagonist.

How does having a gal pal work in a mystery? Here are some of my thoughts.

• Two heads are better than one.

My protagonists aren't kids, but they do not have the experience behind them of a Miss Marple or the training and wisdom of Hercule Poirot, so I rely on a close friend as another source of input and logic. In A Secondhand Murder Eve Appel, a sassy, irreverent, opinionated, in your face kind of gal uses her business partner and best friend Madeleine Boudreau as a sounding board for her ideas about who did it. They often disagree, and Eve usually ignores her friend's good advice and cautious approach, but in that relationship the reader sees a more complete picture of the mystery than if I only presented the protagonist's point of view.

• Contrast between the protagonist and a gal pal makes for humor.

Not only does the reader see more aspects of the murder in the two characters' approaches, but developing characters that are unlike one another or opposites of each other is fertile ground for interactions where characters talk past each other or where they may work against one another. Evanovich's Lulu and Stephanie are funniest when Stephanie plans how to capture a bond jumper and Lulu's impulsive nature calls for a gun. It's a formula that makes for a laugh every time.

• The companion makes for a more complete development of the protagonist.

How do we get to know the protagonist? We see her in action, we are privy to her thoughts, we observe her choices and her conversations with people, but we learn more about her through her relationship with her best friend. Eve almost believes Madeleine can read her mind and Madeleine seems to be able to pick up on thoughts Eve would rather keep to herself. The pal carries the protagonist's history which a writer can convey through their relationship. Without a past, a character may read as two-dimensional. We want to know what they have learned from past mistakes to see if they are prepared to handle future difficulties. Friends allow us to see that happening.

• Gal pals can be teachers.

Love interest may come and go, but the love of a best friend is enduring for my protagonists. And because these gal pals are loved, admired and respected, my protagonists can learn from them. Hera Knightsbridge in A Deadly Draught and her best friend from childhood, Sally, fall in love with the same man. Hera is blind to his faults until her friend opens her eyes to what a rat he is. And isn't that what friends are for? To tell us the brutal truths we will not listen to from others?

• If the gal pal likes the protagonist, why wouldn't the reader?

This assumes the writer has developed a friend who is likeable. Madeleine Boudreau certainly is, but is Eve? I like her sass, but not everybody would unless I can convince them through Madeleine that she is worthy of our admiration and attention. So create a great gal pal and you can smooth out the edges of your less than perfect heroine. I like that.

• First person point of view demands a close confidant.

I don't want my protagonist to only be talking to herself for my readers to get into her head. I use the gal pal as another vehicle for getting close to the protagonist so that when the gal pal reflects on something the protagonist is doing we can truth her stance almost as much as we would if the protag herself were thinking. With the use of a gal pal, I see this as the yin and yang of first person.

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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.

For more information about Lesley and her work, please visit her website at LesleyDiehl.com or find her on Facebook and Twitter.

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A Secondhand Murder by Lesley A. Diehl

A Secondhand Murder
Lesley A. Diehl
An Eve Appel Mystery (1st in series)

At Eve's Florida consignment shop, the bargains are to die for …

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.

Amazon.com Print/Kindle Format(s)  BN.com Print/Nook Format(s)  iTunes iBook Format  Kobo eBook Format

6 comments:

  1. Thanks for having me visit. I'd love to hear frm others about how they view sidekicks.

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  2. Great post, Lesley. You brought up some excellent points. I'll be sharing it!

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  3. I agree--a sidekick, whether female or male, provides a more adequate view of your character and gives the reader a broader look at the story. Would Sherlock be better without Watson? I think not.

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  4. Very well put, Lesley! I personally enjoy the sidekick set ups...especially in first person tellings.

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  5. We've seen buddy films and "bro-mances," but mystery writers are dislodging the myth that women are always competing with each other (usually for a man) and don't trust each other. I think female relationships are often the most important relationships in a woman's world. My views come through with my protag Christy Bristol and sidekick Lennie Watkins. They are a mismatched pair that just works.

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  6. I agree, Sunny. I'd like to see more of these gal pals. For me, the relationship is a constant. Maybe my protagonist will stay with her PI, but maybe not. She'll always have Madeleine by hr side, however.

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Lance Wright owns and manages Omnimystery, a Family of Mystery Websites, which had its origin as Hidden Staircase Mystery Books in 1986. As the scope of the business expanded, first into book reviews — Mysterious Reviews — and later into information for and reviews of mystery and suspense television and film, all sites were consolidated under the Omnimystery brand in 2006.

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