Since books are more like cupcakes than toasters (except they don’t make you fat), we know readers need a constant supply. So we’re happy to introduce you all to yet another budding author, via this Crime Writers’ Interview with Lori Roberts Herbst.
A former educator, Lori spent much of her life writing, editing, and psychoanalyzing. Through thirty years of teaching journalism, advising newspaper and yearbook staffs, instructing budding photographers, and counseling teenagers, she still managed to hang on to a modicum of sanity. Then she retired and assumed her third career: author.
Lori is the author of the Callie Cassidy Mystery series. Her debut novel, Suitable for Framing, placed first in category at the 2020 Chanticleer International Book Awards. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and serves as secretary of the North Dallas chapter. She is also a member of the national Guppy chapter and Mystery Writers of America.
Kass (on behalf of the whole gang): Tell us a little more about yourself. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?
Lori Roberts Herbst: Oh, I feel like I’m at a cocktail party—and since I never go to cocktail parties, this already has me tongue-tied! But here goes: I was a journalism/photography high-school teacher for a quarter of a century, and a high-school counselor for an additional six years. That should tell you all you need to know about my level of masochism.
Seriously, though, I adored working with teenagers. They’re the most likely group to truly appreciate my irreverent sense of humor and my more-than-occasional sarcastic streak.
Also, I’m a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, friend—so many hats to wear.
Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a writer?
Lori: I’m primarily a cozy writer, though I’ve written a couple of (unpublished) horror stories and love that genre as well. But the appeal of cozies is multi-layered. First, of course, is the creation of a puzzle that others try to solve. I enjoy that immensely—the scattering of clues, the development of (often fake) alibis, the unholy allegiances between perpetrators. I’m rubbing my hands together even now.
And aside from that, cozies provide lots of space for strong, independent, self-sufficient protagonists, along with a quirky supporting cast. The characters are SO. MUCH. FUN to create. I get to explore their emotional and mental growth over the span of as many novels as I decide to pen in their honor.
Kass: Where are you in your writing career? Tell us a little about your stories.
Lori: I’m pretty much a rookie. I have two novels published, both in the Callie Cassidy Mystery series. The first, SUITABLE FOR FRAMING, released in January of this year. DOUBLE EXPOSURE came out in June. My first short story was published last month in the Sisters in Crime Guppy anthology THE FISH THAT GOT AWAY.
I’m quite busy navigating all the ancillary aspects of being an author, such as formatting, marketing, etc. The learning curve is steep! But it’s also great fun.
Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process? Why is that?
Lori: Ugh, first-draft writing for sure is the most difficult for me. Forcing myself to sit at the keyboard each morning and start the creative juices flowing is a beating. My brain is so easily distracted with social media, a rumbling stomach, a bird fluttering by the window.
Once I get started, I can typically write 2,000-plus words a day. Assuming I get started…
Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?
Lori: As I’m sure is true for most crime writers, the list of research topics that might get me in trouble with law enforcement is a long one. Most recently, I spent some time researching countries without extradition agreements.
I’ve also looked into how much Ambien I would need to use to kill someone, how long it takes a blood pool to dry, the depth and appearance of ligature marks (as well as petechiae in the whites of the eyes), how to purchase nitrous oxide, and where traveling circus workers bed down for the night. My husband lives in a perpetual state of fear.
Thank goodness for the internet. I don’t know how Agatha Christie found the time!
Kass: In your latest story, what was your favorite (or hardest to write) scene?
Lori: My favorite scene in DOUBLE EXPOSURE had to do with the cultural philosophy of Ubuntu, which espouses, in part, the idea that people are more likely to grow from words of affirmation than from humiliation and punishment. I won’t go into much detail so as not to give away the book’s plot point, but I really loved the scene where it was applied. I teared up when I wrote that scene and still do every time I read it.
Kass: In your latest story, what changed the most from the first draft to the last?
Lori: This is an interesting story, and I think it speaks to how authors can get so involved in the world they’re creating that they don’t fully consider what’s going on outside their computer screens. Originally, the murder in DOUBLE EXPOSURE involved a hanging. The cover even displayed a noose. A dozen people saw the cover and beta read or edited the book, and no one mentioned it as a problem.
But when my brother-in-law took a look at the cover prior to publication, his first reaction was, “This may come across as a little insensitive to the times.” And he was right. I’d been in a bubble with my book, not considering how the image of a noose might be a trigger.
I immediately asked my cover designer to make some alterations, and I went back through the book and edited the method of murder, removing all references to nooses.
I know some authors will say my response was excessive. But I write cozy mysteries, and one of my goals is to provide readers with a brief respite from the tumult of the real world. I don’t want my books to be the cause of discomfort or pain. It might happen inadvertently on occasion, but if I can avoid it, I will. This was an easy fix, and in my opinion, well worth it.
Kass: And last of all, what question do you wish interviewers would ask you that they usually don’t? What is your answer to that question?
Lori: What can I get you for dessert? Answer: French silk pie, please. Heavy on the whipped cream.
Kass: *laughing* That’s my favorite dessert too!
And there you have it folks, our interview with Lori Roberts Herbst. I totally enjoyed both of her stories, and I’m looking forward to more in this great new series.
And here’s her latest book: DOUBLE EXPOSURE, a Callie Cassidy Mystery
Callie Cassidy is finally feeling at home again in the mountainside village where she grew up. She’s bought her own townhouse, made friends, and rebooted a romantic relationship. She even entered her lovable golden retriever and cantankerous tabby cat into the Fireweed Festival pet pageant. Best of all, her new photography business is on the precipice of success.
Then a former coworker turns up dead—in Callie’s darkroom.
The murder thrusts the village’s shop owners into a tizzy. They want the crime solved pronto—before the Chamber of Commerce cancels the festival. Detective Raul Sanchez is on the case, but that doesn’t mean Callie won’t do some snooping of her own. Meanwhile, she can’t shake the feeling that someone is watching her… Will Callie be able to expose the true killer—before time runs out?
Available on AMAZON
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