Lori Robbins is the author of the On Pointe and Master Class mystery series. She won the Indie Award for Best Mystery, the Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery, and is currently a finalist for a Mystery & Mayhem Book Award. Short stories include “Accidents Happen” in Murder Most Diabolical and “Leading Ladies” in Justice for All. She is also a contributor to The Secret Ingredient: A Mystery Writers Cookbook. Lori’s experiences as a professional dancer, English teacher, writer, and mother of six have made her an expert in the homicidal impulses everyday life inspires.
Latest Projects: Lesson Plan for Murder, the first book in my Master Class mystery series, will be re-released in September. The third work in my On Pointe mystery series, Murder in Third Position, will release on November 22nd. All are published by Level Best Books.
A killer in the shadows. A ballerina in the spotlight. One missed cue, and the curtain will fall on Leah Siderova’s career. And her life.
Despite my devotion to crime fiction, I’m not in the market for a Glock. Nor do I plan to engage upon a high-speed chase anytime soon since I still get nervous merging onto the Garden State Parkway. As for courage under fire, I would never follow a suspect down a dark alley if there was the slightest chance of running into a rodent of any size. And don’t get me started on the topic of creatures with more than four legs. Staring down a threat like that is simply not happening unless I was armed with an industrial-sized can of bug spray and could aim it from a remote location.
Perhaps this is why I prefer to write and read stories with amateur sleuths. One of the great pleasures of this genre of crime fiction is it enables a vicarious experience that allows us to be a better and braver version of ourselves. We’re given the opportunity to investigate with a detective who possesses the deficiencies most of us share. And when a flawed hero or heroine overcomes weakness and delivers justice, this feels like a win for ordinary people everywhere.
As a writer, my heroines pose a creative challenge of no small proportion. They won’t leap into danger unless forced to do so, and even then, they constantly threaten to pack up and go home. The only way to credibly place these risk-averse characters at the heart of a murder investigation is to make the impossible seem inevitable, and narrowing my protagonists’ options is how their transformation from hesitant to heroic happens. Actions that would have been unthinkable on page two become the only means of survival on page two hundred. In order to make their journey believable, I imagine myself in my character’s place. That’s why both my mystery series are inspired by lived experiences.
My first career was as a dancer. It’s a world I know intimately, and because it’s filled with inherent conflict, it works well as a dramatic framework for a murder mystery. A ballerina’s professional life is brutally short, even without a fictional crime thrown into the mix, and this vulnerability makes dancers extremely susceptible to all kinds of pressure. An added element of tension is the fact that dancers aren’t simply in competition with each other. They’re also in competition with themselves: their own bodies and their own frailties. The stresses dancers face didn’t need much in the way of exaggeration to provide plenty of motivation for murder. The emotions are real, even if the situation is fiction.
Much of what makes the amateur-sleuth genre of crime fiction so satisfying is that an unexceptional person is challenged with the opportunity to do extraordinary things. But the quests aren’t one-dimensional. In Murder in First Position, for example. Leah’s journey takes place externally, in the context of a murder investigation, but it also takes place internally as well. She learns there’s more to life and to her than being onstage. You don’t have to know the difference between a plié and a pirouette to understand the heartbreak of losing a much-loved job or the triumph of achieving a hard-fought victory.
Ideally, the mundane elements of an amateur sleuth’s life become her superpower, and tapping into those resources is how armchair detectives connect with their fictional alter egos. The English teacher in Lesson Plan for Murder uncovers the identity of the killer using clues from the literature she teaches. The ballerina in the On Pointe Mysteries draws upon her knowledge of stagecraft to hide in plain sight.
Amateur sleuths bring order out of chaos armed only with their wit, their intelligence, and their determination to see justice done. There’s nothing ordinary about that.
I’m a member of the NY/Tristate Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America [NY], and the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
I’m most active on Instagram, but I also post on Facebook, with the occasional tweet thrown in. Honestly, I’ve tried and failed multiple times on Twitter.
Ann Claire earned a degree in geography, which took her across the world. Now Claire lives with her geographer husband in Colorado, where the mountains beckon from their kitchen windows. When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking, gardening, herding housecats, and enjoying a good mystery, especially one by Agatha Christie.
DEAD AND GONDOLA – In this series debut, a mysterious bookshop visitor dies under murderous circumstances, compelling the Christie sisters and their cat, Agatha, to call on all they’ve learned about solving mysteries from their favorite novelist.
Hi, George and readers! I’m thrilled to be posting today. It’s launch day for the first book in my new cozy mystery series, Dead and Gondola, a Christie Bookshop Mystery. I’m also launching a new pen name, Ann Claire. I previously wrote the Bookmobile Mysteries as Nora Page and the Santa Fe Café Mysteries as Ann Myers.
I adore writing and reading cozy mysteries because everyday characters get to be the heroes and use their special skills to solve crimes. In Dead and Gondola, Ellie and Meg Christie are bookseller sisters with a love of mysteries. Although the only Agatha in their family tree is their cat, in Dead and Gondola, they summon all they’ve learned from their favorite author to catch a killer in their tiny Colorado hometown.
George asks some wonderful questions about writing and books, so I’ll turn to them now.
Where do you write? What, if any, distractions do you allow? I write at home, which is great, but there are many distractions. I’m way too easily enticed by my garden, cats, baking, and—the worst distractor—the Internet. To combat web-surfing distraction, I got a popup screen tent so I can write out in the backyard, beyond the reach of Wi-Fi. Wonderful, but then I’ll see a weed to pull or flowers to admire… I wish I were distracted by useful household chores, like cleaning or doing the laundry. Alas!
What are you currently working on? I’m working on the second book in the Christie Bookshop Mystery series. The series is set in Last Word, a fictional Colorado mountain town, and features two bookseller sisters named Christie (sadly, no relation to their favorite author). When a matchmaking service based on bookish interests turns deadly, the Christie sisters must summon their inner Miss Marples to catch a killer.
Has an association membership helped you with your writing? Yes! Sisters in Crime has helped me immensely with its wonderful support, encouragement, training, and especially friendships.
How do you come up with character names? I spend a LOT of time on random-name generators, baby-naming websites, and occasionally online graveyard records. Google must wonder about me…
Do your protagonists ever disappoint you? Mmmm… I can’t think of a disappointment. Just the opposite, usually. I love writing cozy protagonists because they’re relatable but can also do things I’d never do—like track down killers while maintaining a bookshop and still taking time for tea and cookies. They have skills and bravery I can only wish I had.
What authors did you dislike at first but grew to enjoy? For me, it’s more discovering writers I should have read before but somehow missed. You mention Joyce Carol Oates. I recently read some of her short stories and loved them. How had I not read them before? So many books, so little time, right?
Given that I have such a towering to-be-read stack, I rarely reread books. When I do, sometimes I’ll see them in a different light. For instance, Rebecca. I first read it when I was much younger and considered it a romance. I reread it a few years ago and had a totally different impression of Maxim de Winter!
Do you base any of your characters on real people? I’ll use aspects of real people. My grandmother is an inspiration for intrepid senior characters in all three of my series. However, the characters take on lives and features of their own.
What kind of research do you do? I’ll do a lot of research about places and occupations. I’m a geographer by training and love sifting in regional details when I can. My current setting is fictional but loosely based on some real Colorado towns, Ouray, and Telluride, which I love to visit. I did some fun gondola-riding “research” in Telluride before starting Dead and Gondola.
Anything else you’d care to add? Most of all, thanks again for inviting me to post, George, and thanks so much to readers! I really appreciate your time and support!
My website: https://novelmystery.wixsite.com/books
You can hopefully find my series at your library: The Santa Fe Café Mysteries by Ann Myers, Bookmobile Mysteries by Nora Page, and Christie Bookshop Mysteries by Ann Claire.
Dead and Gondola, To order: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/690689/dead-and-gondola-by-ann-claire/
George, I don’t belong to many groups except Sisters in Crime (Colorado Chapter and Guppies) and the Facebook group Save Our Cozies, https://www.facebook.com/groups/726103940858234.
Thanks again! I appreciate this opportunity to post!