Monday, March 10, 2008

Mystery Writer Jess Lourey On Left Coast Crime and The Funniest Movie Ever

an interview with Julia Buckley

Hey, Jess! Thanks for being our reporter on the spot at Left Coast Crime. How did you enjoy Denver?

Best conference I’ve ever been to. There were some glitches getting registration set up at the beginning, but it all came together. I give a hats off to Christine Goff and Suzanne Proulx, the organizers. The panels were well-organized, the attendance was strong, and the food was delicious!

You were nominated for a Lefty for your book KNEE HIGH BY THE FOURTH OF JULY. I was chatting with Bill Cameron last week, and he said being nominated for a Rocky has made him quite egotistical. Are you suffering from that malady, too? :)

I am. My head’s as big as a car. In fact, I ran into Bill at the conference, and we got into a fight like Godzilla and Rodan until we remembered that we were up for different awards. Sadly, neither Tim Maleeny nor Bill won the Rocky, though both wrote page-turners. I was proud to lose the Lefty to Elaine Viets, the charming toastmaster of the conference and an all-round hilarious person.

What was the most surprising thing about LCC?

How friendly the people are. Actually, that’s probably not surprising for anyone who’s attended a mystery conference before because the mystery community is incredibly welcoming. At LCC, I met a married couple from outside of Denver who had read about the con in a paper and registered on a whim. They were going to meet up for drinks with some of their favorite authors later that afternoon. They were thrilled! Where else can you hang out with authors and pick their brains like that?

That's pretty cool. What were some fun panels that you attended at the convention?

I enjoyed my own panel, “Dying is easy: comedy is hard,” because Mario Acevedo was a hilarious moderator who shared his plan for world domination through mystery writing (he’s .000001% of the way there). Deb Baker, Terri Thayer, and Rita Lakin’s panel on cozies was notable for the engaging personalities of the presenters.

On Carl Brookins’ suggestion, there were also “Endless Conversations,” very informal give-and-take sessions between pre-published authors, published authors, and fans that took place all day long. They were a great deal of fun because you got to hear a variety of stories and interact with the audience more.

The all-round most best panel, hands down, was RT Lawton’s Surveillance panel. Those who attended got a 45-minute lesson on trailing spies on foot. Then, in groups of three, we were assigned a “rabbit” to tail for 45 minutes in a 5 x 5 block radius of downtown Denver. Our rabbits went into and out of stores and elevators in an effort to lose us. They didn’t know right away who was assigned to tail them, but they found out pretty quickly because we were so inept. My group’s rabbit lost us in a store and came out the other side wearing entirely different clothes with a wig, sunglasses, and a fake baby strapped to her. It was a blast! The goal was to take a picture of the rabbits making an “exchange.”

Some of the "rabbits" included, at left: Marcus Sakey, Michelle Gagnon, and Jason Starr.

That sounds hilarious!

You’re a mom and a teacher, but you also carve out time to write mysteries and attend conferences. How do you do it? Do you take Geritol every day?

I think I might have overextended myself on this one. I lost my voice on Friday and am down to just a squeak today. I hope my virus doesn’t sweep the mystery community like a, uh, virus. If there are no short stories or new articles in Crimespree this week, you’ll know it’s my fault. Typhoid Jessie.

Your book AUGUST MOON comes out soon; are you writing a fifth Murder by the Month mystery?

My plan is to write September Mourn, the fifth in the series, this summer, and it’s slated for a fall 2009 release. In the meantime, I’m writing a historical fiction novel about a Lakota girl forced into a boarding school in 1903 South Dakota. Most days, I’m pretty sure I’m in over my head on this one, but the research has been rewarding, and the story is important.

Do you ever find time to read for pleasure? If so, what’s been the best book you’ve read recently?

It’s embarrassing, but I don’t have much pleasure-reading time during the school year. I’ve got Sherman Alexie’s Reservation Blues on my TBR pile and need to make time for it. The best book I’ve read recently is William Kent Krueger’s Thunder Bay, which one the IMBA Dilys Award at LCC. That guy can’t write a bad book.

When do you do your writing? Are you a morning or an evening person?

I might be an early morning person but I’m always sleeping then so I can’t be sure. I’m most comfortable writing when it’s dark out, I think because then I don’t feel guilty. My mom always said my sister and I needed to be outside doing something when it was sunny, and that has stuck in my psyche. Writing when it’s nice and bright outside seems somehow slothful and decadent.

Here in Chicago it is still under 20 degrees; I’m guessing that in your home state of Minnesota it might be colder than that—how was Colorado, temperature-wise?

Denver, Colorado, had the weather of a full month in Minnesota squished into one day. You’d step out the hotel in the morning with a winter jacket and hat on, and by lunchtime, it’d be so warm you’d have lunch outside. There was no snow on the ground, which surprised me.

Now that you’ve been reunited with home and hearth, how will you spend your down time?

I just got home around 45 minutes ago and knew I had to email you first thing. Probably I should next check my work email to see if there are any student fires to put out. Then, sleep. But remember that you’re always my priority, Julia. :)

Good to know. :)

Now, on to new things: Spring is coming! Do you have plans for spring break?

Alas, last week was my spring break, but I think I used it wisely. I made wonderful new friends, met supportive fans, and all-round enjoyed myself.

What’s your favorite spring flower?

Lilacs, lilacs, lilacs. They’re my favorite flower period. They might be a bush, though. Can something be both a flower and a bush? Hmmm. What’s yours?

I love lilacs too, and peonies. And of course the beautiful crocuses that nose out first, even while there's still snow on the earth.

Now that you’ve published four books, I’m curious to know if you’ve been contacted by anyone from your past who wanted to get reacquainted? If not, what’s the most interesting bit of fan mail you’ve received?

That’s funny you should ask. After May Day came out, I received emails from a handful of people I went to high school with, and that was fun because although I look like a grown-up, I don’t usually feel like one, and it’s fun to connect with your past like that. I still get a sprinkling of those with each new book, but not as many as I first did.

Your writing is very humorous, so I’m guessing you enjoy humor. Who is A) your favorite comedian? B) the funniest movie in the world C) a novel that makes you laugh out loud when you read it?

You are the best interviewer out there, Julia Buckley! You’ve always got fun but pithy questions. OK. My favorite comedian is Steve Martin, who I’ve had a crush on since I was nine but who I hear is cranky in real life. The funniest movie in the world is Spinal Tap. I’m still looking for that novel that makes me laugh out loud. I’m a fan of Hiaasen and Evanovich, but they’ve never gotten audio responses from me. How about the readers of Poe’s Deadly Daughters? What should I be reading to make me snort?

We'll have to wait and see what those readers say!

Meanwhile, how can readers find out more about the fun (and Lefty-nominated) Jess Lourey?

I’d be honored if anyone’s interested. My website is, and I contribute monthly to the fabulously eclectic Midnight Ink blog. Thanks for the interview, Julia!

Thanks, Jess, for chatting with us on Poe’s Deadly Daughters!

ATTENTION TO ALL WHO ENTERED LONNIE CRUSE'S CONTEST: Mary Beth T. won a free signed copy of Lonnie's book! Lonnie would also like to send a free signed copy of Fifty-Seven Heaven to Kattryn Lilley and Marlyn (last name not listed)--if both will contact Lonnie at with a mailing address. Thanks!


Bill Cameron said...

Feel better, Jess! It was cool hanging out and doing epic battle and stuff. Too bad we destroyed the hotel lobby with our fireballs and lightning bolts, but it's okay. I told them my name was Brian Thornton.

Alas on the Lefty, but like you, frankly I felt proud to lose the Rocky to Margeret Coel. I'd have felt proud to lose to anyone on that list.

Julia Buckley said...

Wish I had seen the battle; I could have yelled "We cannot fight the monsters with these weapons."

Felicia Donovan said...

Jess, great interview and sounds like everyone had a blast. Take care of that voice.

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