Sunday, December 2, 2007

On Roberta

Make new friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.
**Girl Scout camp song

Now we are five!
Jungle Red gets a fabulous holiday gift. (You've probably noticed our snazzy new look.) (And her snazzy new book!)

Roberta Isleib--sister in crime extraordinaire and beyond--successful mystery writer has slid down our chimney (am I pushing the metaphor here? Plus, is she too lady-like for that?) and agreed to sign on as a Jungle Red Writer. We have issued her a bottle of our special blazingly crimson nail polish, and given her our secret code book. (We have not yet told her about the initiation rites, but that can wait.)

I first met Roberta at Kate's Mystery Books--I think it was at the signing for Hallie's "How to Write and Sell.." How meta can you get. Anyway,I was new new new, and a huge fan, and just agog to meet her. She was charming and gracious and made me feel right at home.

(This wasn't that day. But it's another day at Kate's. Good
enough. That's me, Ro-2, Ruth McCarty (new pres of SINC-NE) behind Hallie, and Cathy Cairns (out-going pres of SINC-NE. But she's not going far away, of course. But. I digress.)

So now, please note, her lovely photo has been added to our row of smiling faces, and you can click right over to her website. And click to buy her books. But wait. Not yet. First..let's get the scoop on the Jungle Red Ro. Or, I guess, she's Jungle Red Ro-2.

HANK: So, Roberta. You're president of National Sisters in Crime. One of the best-known mystery authors in the country. You have a wonderful husband, a beautiful home, many many pals and an extremely cute dog. How much do you think about crime and death?

ROBERTA: Hank, you were agog? You crack me up! I'm so excited to be part of Jungle Red--you girls are the cream of the crop in mystery fiction! Now on to the question...
What a lovely way of asking how come a nice middle-aged lady has killed off so many people! Knock wood, I haven't been the victim of a crime other than the five times my radio was stolen out of the same car. I could have murdered someone around broken window #4. As far as solving crimes, I'm not a brave person. If a burly cop growled at me to butt out of a crime scene, you'd see me sprinting as fast as my short legs could take me.

All that said, when I'm working on a book, of course I spend a lot of my day thinking about crime and death--who was murdered, who did it and why, how's my psychologist going to solve it. I try to consciously remind myself that the characters are dealing with a death that is real to them--an event that would feel scary and upsetting. I don't want to leave a group of cardboard cut-outs on the pages.

HANK: Preaching to the Corpse is coming out December 4--just in time for the holidays! And reveiwers are loving it. One said: "Preaching to the Corpse is a fun holiday mystery with a heroine who will easily win new fans and keep old fans well satisfied."
And some of your "old fans" also loved your Cassie Burdette golf mysteries. Talk a bit about starting with one main character and her world--then switching to another. How did your brain handle that?
ROBERTA: I did what I always do when faced with change: I kicked and screamed and said "no way!" But keeping Cassie going wasn't really an option. The publisher had suggested they'd "like to see something new", a polite way of saying the golf series wasn't selling well enough to support more books. After a couple of weeks of deep depression over losing Cassie, I was able to start thinking about a new adventure. And I love writing this new series. The work of a psychologist is right up my alley. And my new character adores cooking and eating, so I eat right along with her. Actually Hallie is my cooking muse. You haven't lived until you've had her roast chicken and gravy...

(HANK: Oh, we're all going there for roast chicken dinner next week to celebrate your arrival. We just have to tell Hallie. La dee dah.)

JAN: I think the idea of advice columnist as protagonist is terrific. I can just imagine the crazy letters real advice columnists get. How did you come up with this idea and how much of your own experience as a psychologist are were you able to draw on?

ROBERTA: I can't remember the "aha" moment, but I've always loved reading those columns--I'm an advice junkie. The kind of therapy that I did (and that Rebecca does now) involves biting your tongue when the urge to give advice arises. The idea is rather to help the patient explore what's inside and then life decisions evolve from that knowledge. So giving advice without a lot of data and introspection is just good fun! The trick for me as writer is to avoid having the column turn into a gimmick and try to integrate it naturally into the story.

HALLIE: **The idea is rather to help the patient explore what's inside and then life decisions evolve from that knowledge.** This is why you're a psychologist and I'm not -- I want to scream "You did WHAT?!" and shake the person until their head flops back and forth. And I happen to know that you have your own streak of bossiness that quite matches my own. Did you have to watch that in writing Rebecca Butterman?

ROBERTA: Ha, ha, what me, bossy?? I channeled all of that stuff into my home life so Rebecca could be sympathetic. Just ask the family!

HANK: Okay, we'll get right on the phone with them and we'll let you know the bossy verdict. (Rosemary Harris is in Africa right she'll weigh in later. With questions. Not about Ro-2 being bossy. Or not.)

ROBERTA: Oh you'll find out first hand soon enough!! Really, it's an honor to be here and I'm looking forward to all kinds of conversations. Just don't expect me down the chimney--I've already had a few too many holiday treats to make it a comfortable fit...

HANK: We're all thrilled! And happily, Jungle Red readers, Roberta is ready to answer questions from you! Need advice? On anything?? Now you know exactly who to ask.

And she would never do it herself--that's what sisters are for--so remember to look for PREACHING TO THE CORPSE in your favorite bookstore or on line! Having trouble finding it? That shouldn't happen--but just visit us here at JR and we can point you in the right direction.

Now--Roberta is ready for questions!


  1. Hi again, Roberta!

    We met at CrimeBake 2006 (I was the one with the search-and-rescue dog). I'm so glad to see you here and very much look forward to Preaching to the Corpse, which I hope to grab this week.

    Though I don't write in this genre, I read it often and often, and I do enjoy this blog. Glad you are now a part of it!

    Snazzy is the order of the day, all 'round.

  2. You are a fabulous author. Mystery and crime are the kind of books for me! The cover of your book is beautiful. It really caught my eye! Enjoy your virtual tour! Cindi

  3. Hey Roberta,

    Sounds like an awesome book. The cover art is beautiful--almost too beautiful for a mystery novel.

    Did you find it a challenge to set a mystery during the holiday season?

    Best of luck!

    Cheryl M.

  4. Welcome, Roberta. You've picked a great group of gals to hook up with!

    I'll be checking for the "special blazingly crimson nail polish" when I see you soon. Don't let me down! Now about that secret code book... care to divulge and declassify?

    Felicia Donovan

  5. Susannah--so wonderful to hear from you! I was at the seminar, and it was fascinating. Your dog--a gorgeous golden retirever? Was completely amazing. (And talk about snazzy.) Tell us more!

    Welcome windycindy and Cheryl--come visit again, okay? How did you find us?

    And as for you, Felicia: if anyone could pry out our secrets, it would certainly be you.

  6. Puzzle sends wags and kisses to those she met in 2006 and those whom she has not yet ...met.

    We've (well, I've) been reading Jungle Red since last spring -- posting when possible. (I was the one who posted the piece about infatuation with the AOL You've Got Mail guy and the automated voice on the banking system. Posted in last week's thread, too, and a handful of others.) So I've been around, keeping up with the group's publishings and general doings and virtually celebrating your successes.

    Roberta, by the way, got a very nice kudo on the Miss Snark, the Literary Agent blog earlier this year. Kudos in that context are rare so ...cheers to that!

  7. Hi, Roberta,

    You're a terrific author, and I'm glad to find that you've joined this great group of ladies. I'm looking forward to Preaching to the Corpse.

    June Shaw

  8. Hi, Roberta: Good luck on the tour! I, too, am touring the Web today. In fact, my tour for “The Ultimate Passage” just started today. I can’t wait to read your book! We have to support each other, right!

  9. Congratulations Roberta,
    I've added your tour information to my blog; the RSS feed sent it to my Amazon blog, so it will also be added to the general blog feed. Good luck on your tour. Mine also started today for Awakening the Dragon-Book One of the Dragon Clan Trilogy.

  10. Thank you all for the lovely notes and welcome! I'm so pleased to be a part of JRW! I'm going to have to grow some nails again before applying the red red red...As for the secret handshake, etc, the girls haven't told me about that yet. I think I might be on probation--let's wait and see if she's a dud!

    As for writing about the holidays, that was pure fun! People get so stressed out by the season--perfect grist for the murder mystery mill.

    Tonka the wonder dog says hi to Puzzle too!

  11. Hi to Roberta, the new jungle woman!

    I have three sisters who majored in psychology, one who got her PhD and is in clinical practice. Let me tell you: Sit around the dinner table with three sisters who've all read "Dibs in Search of Self" and who repeat everything you've just said with the preface, "You feel you..." That's a scenario for murder. How do you suggest I handle that?

    Good luck with "Preaching to the Corpse." I'll be looking for it.

    - Mo

  12. Mo, I suggest you try Hallie's technique. I think it was something like scream "what are you talking about?" and shake their shoulders until their heads flop. Do i have that right Hallie:)

  13. LOL, this was soooooooo cool! Sorry for just now getting over here, but today's been horendous with it being first day of was a killer. I want to thank all of you for hosting Roberta...sounds like all of you had lots of fun! Love your blog, btw...I'll definitely be back!

  14. Hi Roberta! Now you'll have nail polish to match those snazzy sneakers. Congratulations on the book (which I'm thoroughly enjoying) and for joining with Hallie, Hank, Ro and Jan - what an amazing group of women!

    Hi to Susannah and Puzzle! Great to see your posts. Happy holidays from Cathy (Cairns)

  15. How exciting! The Jungle Red Writers are now that much more impressive, Roberta. I look forward to reading Preaching to the Corpse.

    Amy MacKinnon

  16. Hi Roberta-

    Totally fun to have you here--except now I'm even more jealous. I swear, all the fun happens in Boston (or thereabouts). The Jungle Red group, the Writers' Group, the World Series. I'm just stuck out here in the Heartland. We didn't even get snow in St. Louis this weekend, just cold rain. Oh well, I better finish my MS so I can head out your way to promote it.

  17. But Judy, you did just have Forensics U, sponsored by Sisters in Crime--hope you didn't miss that! I was sorry I had to.

    Meanwhile, the most wonderful thing just happened: the doorbell rang and then my adorable husband came upstairs carrying a beautiful arrangement of flowers and singing "Happy birthday dear Preaching to the Corpse, happy birthday to you!"

    and the flowers were from Hank, Hallie, Jan, and Ro. thanks so very much to my blog sisters for the welcome and to all the rest of you too!

    boy am I glad I came!

  18. Hi, Roberta -- Great to see that you joined JRW! This is a fun blog. You've joined some mighty good company.

    Susannah -- Pats and hugs to Puzzle, who I met at Crime Bake, too.

  19. Love the interview! Am looking forward to how the column *is* integrated into the story, and of course, yet another great read. Have snooped JR before, but had to say how much I enjoyed that post in particular, and the addition of Roberta!