By Lonnie Cruse
Luisa Buehler is energetic and fun to meet up with at conferences or book signings. We ran into each other at an antique store in the Sturgis, Ky. area a while back and wound up dancing in the aisle to the 50's music piped throughout the store. If the owner was keeping an eye on us via hidden cameras, I'm sure he was reaching for the phone to dial 911. Not to mention my daughter-in-law and her mother, who were with me.
LC: I love your book covers, particularly the first. How did you come up with the story for ROSARY BRIDE?
LB: That story was easy--I lived it for four at Rosary College (now Dominican) in River Forest, IL. When you attend an all girls school you either talk about boys or ghosts! We had endless conversations about the 'haunted' areas of the college.
LC: You write a series, how are you keeping it fresh, and how many do you plan in the series?
LB: I hope I do keep it fresh. I try to keep the characters growing, developing more depth. Sometimes they exhibit less than charming habits but then no one's perfect and they shouldn't be in fiction either. As to how many in the series, I just turned in number five and I have at least two more ideas and loose, very loose outlines in my head.
LC: You're scheduled to do a program on gardening, potting and plotting, would you tell us a bit about that? And, boy howdy, do I wish I could attend!
LB: The program is a light-hearted look at how to kill characters with garden variety plants: lethal larkspur, murderous monkshood and the every popular, fatal foxglove! I use some plant poison mixed in a facial cream in The Station Master and mistaken identity between parsley and a toxic cousin in The Lion Tamer. I'm a long time gardener and when my son was a toddler I'd plop him down near me and let him browse through the flowers--until I found out some of them were toxic. I researched what was dangerous if ingested by a child or in the case of Jimson weed, inhaled by a small child. I kept a close eye on him in my garden for the next few years, but by the time he was seven I relaxed my guard--we all know kids won't eat anything green from that point on!
LC: How did you find your publisher?
LB: Sheer luck -- or maybe I was in the right place at the right time. I attended a friend's book launch party and she was there. He introduced me to her and said, "You've got to read her book, it's fabulous!" He'd never read my manuscript, he hates cozies! We struck up a conversation, I asked if I could send her three chapters, she asked for the entire manuscript. Three months later she called.
LC: Great story! Most authors would kill for such an introduction, if you'll pardon the cliche'. What authors do you read?
LB: Carolyn Hart, Julia Spencer-Fleming, Margaret Maron, Nevada Barr, Margaret Coel, Barb D'Amato, M.C. Beaton, Kent Kruger and for my darker taste, Jeffery Deaver and Stephen King.
LC: Some of my faves as well. What is your typical writing day like, or do you have a "typical" day?
LB: Since I have a 'day job' I have to structure my time. I usually get up at 5am and write for 2 1/2 hours before I get ready for work. I have an old school desk (center drawer and hutch) set up on the landing outside the bedrooms. Out there I don't bother my sleeping family. If I have an early meeting I still try to write something every day. I am not a night person so I use my evenings to answer emails and do research.
LC: What sends you running to the computer or reaching for a notebook to jot thoughts or ideas?
LB: Any time I hear or read something with a twist or odd sense to it, I'm either writing it down or recording it. I carry a small tape recorder in my car and I have one next to my bed for all those 'great' two a.m. ideas. The idea for The Station Master came from a two inch article in the local chamber flyer on how Lisle moved the old depot to the historic park. From that I leaped to a dead body in an abandoned train station trunk. Go figure!
LC: Knowing you, I have no problem believing that! We discussed this at Love Is Murder. Would you tell us how you promote your books?
LB: Promotion is always the stumbling block for writers--it's counter intuitive to what we do. I start a postcard campaign to everyone I've every known (almost) two months before the new book comes out. I try to garner names and addresses at speaking events by having a free drawing at the end of the talk. I start calling the bookstores three months before pub date to set up signings on the weekends. At about the same time I send postcards or booklets (first chapter) to librarians (about 500) and at five months before the book is out my publisher and I send out about 50 advanced reading copies to reviewers. After the book comes out you have about three months to promote the heck out of it. After that it's back to general promoting of the series by any methods, internet or print, of keeping your series in front of readers. The goal is that eventually readers are storming the book stores asking for the books. Ah, would that it were so!
LC: Yes, indeedy! You often do signings with other authors. How does that work for you?
LB: In a book fair venue it works well. Everyone is more or less standing or sitting (after 6 hours) smiling and chatting with readers walking up and down the aisles. Sort of like 'quick pitch' selling. You need to have your 30 second promo platform in top form and your 5 second 'grabber' polished to perfection. "My amateur sleuth, Grace Marsden, is obsessive compulsive-so think Monk in a skirt solving cold cases."
At a smaller event like a bookstore it is a little more difficult. Set up space is at a premium and authors can be jammed into an area that may not be in a well traveled aisle. At events like that I usually take my bookmarks and a few books in hand and wander over to the mystery section to look for unsuspecting readers!
LC: Hehe, good plan. Anything else you'd like our readers to know about you?
LB: I want to thank readers, especially any of you who have read my books but every reader who thrills at the opening pages of a new book and savors the journey.
The new Grace Marsden, The Lighthouse Keeper: A Beckoning Death, will be out October 2007. I invite you to visit my website at http://www.luisabuehler.com/ or email direct at email@example.com if you have any questions or just want to chat.
Thank you Lonnie for the opportunity to visit with you and your friends.
Thanks for stopping by, Luisa! See you at the Schaumburg Library Author Fest on June 23. Meet me in the mystery aisle and we'll dance to Chubby Checker.