Friday, September 26, 2008

GCC Presents: Roberta Isleib and Asking for Murder

When I was a kid, I was obsessed with reading mysteries (often murder mysteries, which, hmmm, I have to check in with my parents about why they allowed that!), and from the sound of Roberta Isleib's new book, Asking for Murder, I think I'm going to take them back up. This one, the third in her Dr. Rebecca Butterman series, sounds soooo juicy. I'm posting the scoop below, and then be sure to read on as she answers my usual five questions. I really, really liked her story on how she found an agent because it shows that determination and grit can definitely pay off in our industry.

Here's the scoop:

Psychologist/advice columnist/sleuth Dr. Rebecca Butterman plunges into her third mystery in ASKING FOR MURDER by Dr. Roberta Isleib (Berkley Prime Crime, September 2008.) When Rebecca’s close friend and fellow therapist Annabelle Hart is found beaten and left for dead, Rebecca is determined to help search for answers. But this time, no one wants her help. Not Detective Meigs, who thinks the crime was either a botched robbery or the result of a relationship gone sour. And not Annabelle’s sister, who makes it clear that Rebecca isn’t welcome in family affairs.

The only place where her opinion matters is the therapist’s couch. Rebecca's agreed to see Annabelle’s patients while her friend is hospitalized, but it won’t be easy. Annabelle’s area of expertise is sandplay therapy, which Rebecca knows little about. While she studies the images in the patients’ sand trays and puzzles through Annabelle’s family secrets, another victim is murdered. With a killer on the loose, she can only hope the clues in the sand are buried within easy reach.

1) What's the backstory behind your book?
When I wrote the first book in the advice column mysteries, I gave Dr. Rebecca Butterman, my protagonist, a friend who conducts sandplay therapy. I can't remember why--I knew virtually nothing about interpreting sand trays! So when Rebecca's friend, Annabelle Hart, became a main focus of ASKING FOR MURDER, I had to do some research. I found a wonderful therapist in New Hampshire who walked me through the theory and practice of sandplay--it's fascinating!

2) It seems that a lot of readers confuse fiction with real life, assuming that a novel must be an autobiography of the author as well. How many elements of your real life are reflected in your book?

I am a clinical psychologist and I had a therapy practice in New Haven, very similar to that of my character. After that, our lives diverge! I'm married to a lovely man who isn't in the mental health business (thank goodness!) and we live near Rebecca Butterman's town. I would never investigate a murder--I'm a very big chicken. I love to eat, but Rebecca is a better cook than I am!

3) A lot of my blog readers are aspiring or new authors. How did you land your first book deal?
I studied Elizabeth Lyon's The Sell Your Novel Toolkit and Jeff Herman's Writer's Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents. I contacted agents who had interests like mine (mystery, sports, psychology), or who had some feature in their personal background that made me think we might connect. I hired an independent editor to give me fairly inexpensive but useful feedback on my manuscript-she directed me to several agents. I attended mystery conventions and talked with people there about the process. I attended the International Women's Writers Guild "Meet the Agents" forum in New York City. I groveled in front of everyone I even remotely knew connected with the publishing business. And I suffered through multiple rejections and shouldered gamely forward, my skin toughening by the hour. Finally an agent I'd met at IWWG called: Another agent had visited her office, seen my manuscript, and fallen in love with it. We're still working together!

4) I have a serious procrastination problem when it comes to tackling my fiction. What's your routine? How do you dive it? Do you have any rituals or necessary to-dos before or while you write?
I have a serious email addiction. If I'm on a deadline, the best thing I can do is to work offline. I set mini-goals about how many words have to get done before I can check for mail. It works!

5) Clearly, your book will be optioned for a multi-million dollar film deal!
Who would you cast as the leads, if you were given creative control?
I'd consider Sandra Bullock, Reese Witherspoon, and Meg Ryan as the three women friends. Probably Tom Hanks as the ex-husband...I'll take suggestions for Detective Meigs.

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