Leslie Nagel, author of The Book Club Murders joins us today for Q&A. Published by Random House Penguin's Alibi imprint, The Book Club Murders is available in ebook and this is Leslie's debut novel.
Where did you get the idea for this book?
The Book Club Murders, first book in the Oakwood Mystery Series, is set in my quite real hometown of Oakwood, a small suburb of Dayton, Ohio. It’s the story of desperate housewives, a dysfunctional book club, and a stubborn redheaded club member named Charley Carpenter. She’s desperate to find out who’s killing women she knows and arranging their bodies in imitation of books from the club’s mystery reading list.
I was power walking down on the train tracks-turned-hiking trail one day when I realized how remote and isolated it was, despite being just a few hundred yards behind a row of quite normal backyards. If I scream, I thought, would anyone be able to hear me? What a super place for a murder this would be. A crime scene from a book I’d recently read popped into my head as being a good fit for that desolate setting. The literary connection prompted the book club idea, and then it was only a matter of finding more books with suitable scenes for my killer to copy.
|Train Tracks Turned Hiking Trail|
Those train tracks became the first crime scene in my novel. Each of the crime scenes are actual places in Oakwood. Once I began writing, I started with that creepy trail and began tracing backward. Who would have the nerve to commit a murder down here? And why would they do it? Would the reason be sufficient to provoke a second murder? A third?
|Oakwood High School - the third murder is set here. It really is like Hogwarts|
How did you know this was the book you wanted to write?
I kept my dream of becoming a writer locked away for many years. As a busy career woman, then a busy newlywed, then a busy mom, then a busy working mom—well, the years have a way of flashing by, don’t they? Once my kids were mostly grown and I’d switched careers to something less insane than corporate management, I finally had the time to write. And when I took that power walk that day, I decided the idea and the opportunity were both finally within my reach. I knew that this story was THE ONE, because it’s exactly the kind of book I love best: fast-paced and twisty plot, vivid characters, red herrings, danger, and a dash of romance.
Do you ever base characters on people you know?
Most of the characters in this novel are based on people I know. Small towns are full of secrets, but I think this is true of everywhere and everyone. Whether they live on a farm, in a New York high rise, or in a cozy home on a tidy street in a suburb like Oakwood, I think my readers will find both the people in The Book Club Murders and the challenges they face feel pretty close to home. Writing what I know is just such a natural process for me.
Do you ever get writer’s block? How do you get past it?
I do a great deal of prewriting. For this reason, I've never faced an honest-to-goodness BLOCK. I have this blank wall that I love covering with sticky notes and index cards. I build my stories fact by fact, filling in character traits, interesting words, scene ideas, and so on. When I'm not sure where to take my characters next, and when they're also stubbornly silent on this question, I go to my wall and work my outline for awhile. I constantly add to, change, throw away, and move around my notes--anything to keep the story ideas flowing. Even 15 minutes of "wall work" is enough to get me unstuck and moving forward.
How long did it take you to get your first draft done of this book?
That’s a misleading question! The FIRST draft only took a few months to write. It was the dozen or so rewrites and revisions that really took the time. From the time the first word hit my laptop screen in November, 2011 until The Book Club Murders release date of September 27, 2016, was four years, eleven months.
What’s next for amateur sleuth Charley Carpenter?
The second book in the series, tentatively titled The Antique House Murders, has been scheduled for release in April, 2017. When the controversial estate sale of a crumbling local landmark filled with valuable antiques ends in murder, Charley follows the trail of clues connecting greedy heirs, delusional preservationists, angry neighbors, a teenage gang and frustrated local government to the fate of Mulbridge House. She is determined to use her unique position in the Oakwood community to avenge her friend and uncover the deadly truth—no matter how close to home it may lie.