Interview with Author Leslie S. Talley


Leslie Talley received her B.S. in nursing from the University of Kentucky and a B.A. and M.A. in English from the University of Central Florida, Orlando, where she subsequently taught, as an adjunct, Technical Writing and Business Writing for ten years.
Leslie and her husband Luke have two children: Terri Talley Venters, Wild Child Publishing author of Carbon Copy, and Damon Talley, education specialist in aerospace. Forty-four-year residents of Titusville, Florida, Leslie and Luke also have four grandchildren.

Patti:  Tell us something about yourself. A mini-biography of sorts.

Leslie:  Born in NJ, grew up in Kentucky, graduated from nursing school in St. Louis, received B.S. in nursing from University of KY, worked as public health nurse, married, moved to FL, had two children, went back to school at age forty, graduated from University of Central FL with B.A and M.A. in English, worked as an adjunct at UCF for ten years, retired, have four grandchildren.

Patti: Did you always want to be a writer?

Leslie: No. When my children started school, I would sit on the couch in the afternoons and write, using a legal pad and a Bic.  

Patti: What part of writing do you find the most fun? the most difficult?

Leslie: I enjoy researching the setting for my books and discovering, not creating, the basic plot. Re-writing is a chore.  

Patti: How much of your personal life do you incorporate in your writing?

Leslie:  A lot. I read somewhere that you should find a sleuth close to yourself, with some of the same quirks and likes and dislikes. Also, I like to know where my ideas come from.

Patti: Tell us a little about what you’re working on right now.

Leslie: Currently, I’m working on the fourth book in my Bones series. It’s set in a Scottish castle. 

Patti: Is there anything surprising you’ve learned about the publishing industry that you’d like to share with us?

Leslie: I’ve been really pleased with the editing of my book. Also, I’ve been surprised with the quick response I receive when I send an email or have a question. That hasn’t been the case with other publishers I’ve worked with.

Patti: There are lots of rules out there, like “show, don’t tell” and “don’t use adverbs”. Are there any rules that you break and why?

Leslie:  My creative writing professors told us, “When you know the rules, you can break them.” I don’t write in complete sentences; we don’t think in complete sentences, so I go for verisimilitude over grammatical correctness. 

Patti: What’s the most rewarding aspect about writing?

Leslie:  One of my professors told us that when you can create characters and turn them loose, you have arrived. I enjoy watching my characters do their own thing. I like to see a plot twist reveal itself to me and find that the seeds of it were planted by my subconscious early on in the manuscript.

Patti: What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve learned so far?

Leslie:  Persistence. Keep writing, no matter the rejections. And join a writers’ critique group. Ours has been ongoing since 1991! People have come and gone, but the core members are still there.

Patti: Do you feel you chase the market or do you write from the heart, knowing you’re writing the best you can and someone will eventually publish your work?

Leslie: I do my own thing and hope for the best.

Patti: How would you describe your writing style and genre?

Leslie:  I write mysteries because that’s what I enjoy reading. My main character narrates so I’m writing first person, expressing her thoughts.

Patti: I love character-driven novels myself. Can you tell me where you got the ideas for some of your characters and describe a few of them?

Leslie: Close to home. Otis, the laconic, laid-back, pipe-smoking, retired engineer, mirrors my husband, Luke, although he denies it! Clarice, the sardonic, nosy, busybody former nurse evokes me. Also, since Clarice is a former nurse, my books have a medical solution.

Patti: Do you create challenges for your characters to overcome and why?

Leslie: You have to create a conflict to be overcome because that’s the essence of storytelling. In my case, it’s easy: murder.

Patti: What challenges you personally in your writing?

Leslie: Making myself sit down at the computer and just do it! Knowing I have a writers’ meeting coming up spurs me on to have something to workshop.

Patti: Do you work on paper or a computer? At home or in an office? What time of day do you write and why? How much do you write a day?

Leslie: I used to write longhand and then discovered that if I composed at the computer, I could see immediately how my words would look on the page. Are the paragraphs too long? Too short? Are the chapters a consistent length? I don’t write every day, but when I do it’s in the evening. I sit on the couch with my laptop on a pillow. 

Patti: The inevitable: are you a plotter or a pantser?

Leslie: I discovered early on that I knew the beginning and the end of a book. It’s that blasted middle! But recently I found that I don’t have to know what’s coming next or wait for inspiration. I start writing and the computer tells me what comes next! So I’m a pantster!  

Patti: Tell us three quirky facts about yourself that we wouldn’t normally find out.

Leslie: 1)I took up oil painting and drawing classes after I retired; I’m currently painting my Scottish castle, which is a compilation of several. 2)I’m addicted to Google Earth and 3)I love to watch the major golf tournaments, especially Phil and Ernie and Rory and Graeme.

Patti: Do you have any favorite websites and/or blogs that you avidly follow?

Leslie:  Again, Google Earth. I love to place the little man down on the road and see where he leads me. Also, I find it enormously helpful when I’m researching a locale to see what the shops and restaurants look like. Just a few little details paint a picture.

Patti: Who is your favorite author in the whole world and why.

Leslie: That’s tough! Among dead mystery writers I’ll have to go with Mary Roberts Rinehart. Living, Sharyn McCrumb, Catherine Aird, and Elizabeth Peters. As far as other genres, I loved, and still love, Lucy Maud Montgomery: author of Anne of Green Gables And Georgette Heyer, both her mysteries and Regency romances. I know I, as an English major, should mention a literary icon, but, hey, it is what it is!

Patti: And, lastly, who has impacted your writing the most?

Leslie: There’s a poem which ends, “Richer than I you could never be/I had a mother who read to me” My mother.


Make Old Bones
By: Leslie S. Talley
Fifteen-year-old Connie Kittredge disappears in 1953, presumed drowned, in Daytona Beach, Florida. Almost forty years later, her skeleton is discovered in the disused dumbwaiter of historic Belgrath House, situated on an island in the tidal Halifax River. The discovery coincides with the thirty-five year reunion of Connie’s Class of ’57.
Clarice and Otis Campion function as caretakers of Belgrath, newly restored and opened as a B & B. Clarice, along with their permanent guest Miss Letty, ninety-year-old star of the silent screen, decides to investigate the mystery. Could the murderer be one of Connie’s classmates, now respectable citizens? A rejected boy friend? A jealous girl? Connie, a sneaky child, loved the power of finding out secrets; perhaps she found one just too dangerous for her to live.
At a wake for Connie held at Belgrath House, someone collapses from iced tea laced with cherry laurel, proving that the murderer is still around – and dangerous. Complications cloud the picture in the form of suspicious bed and breakfasters, restoration society members, University of Florida freshmen…and a certain pelican. Clarice and Miss Letty re-double their efforts at sleuthing. The death of Connie Kittredge is tied directly to the history of the house, they learn. The house will ultimately reveal its secrets, but not before exposing Clarice to danger.
Inadvertently left behind during a forced evacuation due to Category Four Hurricane Aphrodite, Clarice finds herself confronting a killer – and a rising tidal surge.

Excerpt from Make Old Bones

What would the children think if they saw her? She thought of the others that way: children. Why did she still bother with them? Not much longer, she thought. An idea sprouted in her brain. Why not scare them? Hide. Don’t come out. Let them think some Bogeyman found her. She knew just the spot, too. She found it the previous week, the same trip that secured for her the piece of map. She came to the house by herself – well, actually to meet someone. Someone who didn’t show up. But he would. Oh, yes! And that other she’d seen – Connie hugged herself as she thought of the power.
Stubbing out the cigarette in the stone urn on the post, Connie groped her way to the kitchen at the rear of the house. Gleefully, she opened the door of one of the pantries. She ran her hand along the wall until she found the knob. She remembered that it looked just like one of the other cabinets. She wedged herself inside the tiny space: a miniature elevator. Perfect. They’d never look for her here. Best of all, she needn’t go near the third floor.
The jolt jarred her, tipping her over so that her head rested on the doorframe. A hollow noise reverberated down the shaft. Slowly her crawlspace moved…upward.
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