Today our blog puts the Spotlight on Author Joanne Sydney Lessner. She writes Mystery & Thrillers including the Isobel Spice Series. Also, she is a singer, actress, writer and mom.
Mystery & Thrillers, Playwriter
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Joanne Sydney Lessner is the author of BloodWrites Award-Winner and Awesome Indies Mystery Pick THE TEMPORARY DETECTIVE, which introduces Isobel Spice, aspiring actress and resourceful office temp turned amateur sleuth. Isobel's adventures continue in the newly released BAD PUBLICITY. Inspired by the true story of the world's most expensive bottle of wine, Joanne's debut novel PANDORA'S BOTTLE (Flint Mine Press) was named one of the top five books of 2010 by Paperback Dolls. No stranger to the theatrical world, Joanne enjoys an active performing career, and with her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, has co-authored several musicals, including the cult hit FERMAT'S LAST TANGO and EINSTEIN'S DREAMS, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, CRITICAL MASS, received its Off Broadway premiere in October 2010 as the winner of the 2009 Heiress Productions Playwriting Competition.
SPOTLIGHT Questions and Answers with the Author
Congratulations on your book: BAD PUBLICITY. What do you have on the drawing board next? Are we going to get another Isobel Spice Novel? Can you tell us the timeline for its release and give us a little tease?
Thank you! I'm delighted at the great response to BAD PUBLICITY and yes, I am slaving away over the third Isobel Spice novel. It's called AND JUSTICE FOR SOME, and I expect it to be out in September 2014. It's a bit of a departure from the first two in that the murder doesn't happen at Isobel's temp job. She and her friend Delphi are hired to do murder mystery dinner theater, and, of course, somebody gets killed for real. But Isobel is temping for a solo practitioner lawyer, so she has access to information she might not have otherwise, and that's how her day job fits in. But Isobel being Isobel, she manages to jeopardize all of it in her search for the killer. Since the book isn't coming out until the later part of next year, I'll be releasing an Isobel short story in February as a free download. It's called THE GHOSTS' HIGH NOON, and it takes place in a haunted theater—just a little tide-me-over until the third book comes out! I'm also working on another non-mystery novel that I hope to get back to soon. It's social satire, which is different from anything else I've published so far.
You have a good following on twitter. How important have your social media relationships been? Do you see a carry over to your writing success?
I have to say, I really love Twitter. Facebook is great for keeping up with friends, but Twitter has connected to me to like-minded people I would never have met otherwise. I feel like I've made genuine friends on there. In addition, I found my agent through a Twitter friend, and I've learned about several high profile blogs and contests that way. But mostly I love exchanging ideas and insights with other readers and authors. Writing can be very solitary, and Twitter is a great connection tool. I think anything that expands your world can only contribute to your success.
Do you do book signings, interviews, speaking and personal appearances? If so, when and where is the next place where your readers can see you? Where can they keep up with your personal contacts online?
I did quite a number of book signings for PANDORA'S BOTTLE, mostly at wine festivals, since that was such a natural fit and my publishers are very connected in that world. I've also done a few radio interviews. I haven't had any personal appearances with the Isobel Spice books, but I've done a bunch of blog interviews. I'd love to connect with a mystery bookstore for a reading. As an actor, I love doing readings. I usually pick dialogue-heavy passages that feature multiple accents. When I do have an appearance or interview scheduled, I tweet it and post on my Facebook author page. I'm not very diligent about updating my website, I'm afraid, and I don't like bombarding folks with emails. So Twitter and Facebook are the best ways to keep up with me.
You have great covers. How does your book cover creation process work? Do you hand over the basic theme or do you have more of a hands-on approach? Do you get your readers involved in its development?
I feel extremely lucky in my designer, Linda Pierro. Linda is one of the partners at Flint Mine Press, the publishers of PANDORA'S BOTTLE, and she designed the book's cover. I loved it so much that I hired her to design the covers for the Isobel Spice series, which is published by my own imprint, Dulcet Press. Unlike many designers, Linda reads the entire manuscript fairly early on, which is great, because she often hits on an element that translates really well visually. I'm not a particularly visual person, so if it were up to me to just give her the highlights, I'd probably leave out exactly the tidbit that sparks her imagination. With THE TEMPORARY DETECTIVE, she knew she was establishing a look for the series, and she took care to create design elements that could be carried through with slight alterations for each successive book. I love that she captured the slightly retro feel of the series without stranding me there.
What writer support groups do you belong to? Do they help with the writing, marketing and the publishing process
I'm not a member of any groups in real life, but I do subscribe to several Facebook groups. In particular, BloodWrites and Awesome Indies have been very helpful, but more in terms of marketing and moral support than process.
Between your book writing, marketing, acting, musicals, family and all the other things that can get in your way, how do you manage your time? Do you have a set schedule or do your sort of play it by ear?
Ha! I don't know that I do manage my time all that well. It's all a big juggling act, and every once in a while I drop something. When anyone asks me how I get it all done, I always say my house is a mess and I don't watch TV. But my day has certain parameters, dictated mainly by my kids' schedules and regular daily tasks for my day job in public relations. But on any given day, I play it by ear. I try to work on whatever is inspiring me in the moment. I have so much going on that there's usually some project that's screaming louder than the others for my attention.
Has the advent of ebooks changed anything in your writing, getting the book to your readers and the relationship with your readers and fans?
Ebooks have been a tremendous boon to writers of genre fiction. Mysteries, romance, fantasy—those are not typically the kinds of books readers make big investments in. They like to rip through as many books as possible, getting hooked on series after series. I think ebooks are replacing mass market paperbacks in that regard. Traditional publishers aren't taking chances on new authors, because the sheer number of paperbacks they'd have to sell to make a profit is impossible for any writer without a following. Enter ebooks, right in the nick of time! Indie authors—and smart publishing houses—can sell ebooks inexpensively with almost no overhead. So they fill a very important niche, and I, for one, find my readership is more heavily invested in ebooks than print, especially with the Isobel Spice series.
What has been your experience in giving your books away free? Have you been involved in any other type of giveaways and how did that work out? What was your main goal in doing this? Did you run into any obstacles?
I used my KDP Select free promo days twice last year for THE TEMPORARY DETECTIVE with tremendous success. I hit the top of the free store and, as a result, had a huge increase in sales the following month or two, as well as a big uptick in reviews. Unfortunately, Amazon has monkeyed with their algorithms yet again, and my last two promos, one for PANDORA'S BOTTLE and one for BAD PUBLICITY, had very different results. Although I hit number 1 in the free store with the latter, I didn't get much of a sales bump. That said, I did sell a number of copies of the first Isobel book during the promo. I would say my goal was three-fold: visibility, reader reviews and sales. With my most recent promo, I only achieved the first two, so I think next time I do any kind of promo I'll do a price drop instead. The gravy train that was KDP Select has derailed, in my opinion
You write novels and musicals. Does changing hats create any problems? Any tricks you can share with us? Which do you enjoy writing the most? Does moving from one to the other give you some breathing room?
I thrive on changing hats and having multiple projects on tap. I get bored easily, so if I'm not inspired by one project, I can switch—as long as I don't have an immediate deadline. Also, I like the contrast between working alone and collaborating. (My husband writes the music for our shows, and we co-write the lyrics.) I've always felt that my greatest strengths as a writer are structure and dialogue, and I think I've absorbed those from years in the theater, as both performer and writer. Those two elements carry over into my novels, and I think that's why so many people keep suggesting that my books be made into movies. (Hollywood, are you listening?)
What is your method of getting reviews for your novels? Do you seek professional reviews, use social media or do you rely on your reading audience to supply them?
It's very hard for indie authors to get reviews in the mainstream press, especially if you're not publishing in hardcover. So we really depend on consumer reviews, and readers do too. I had success with a recent blog tour through Goddess Fish promotions that netted me some very nice blog reviews, and I think saturating the online reading community is the most attainable path for indie writers. That said, I always send out a press release to the mainstream press as well, just to see if anyone might bite.
Author's Book List
What happens when you pin all your hopes on a single event and it all goes terribly wrong? When that event is the uncorking of a fabled bottle of 1787 Chateau Lafite once owned by Thomas Jefferson, the repercussions are emotional, financial, theatrical and, in every way, unexpected. In this tale of hubris and redemption, aspiration and perseverance, Joanne Sydney Lessner provides a provocative glimpse into the world of fine wine, from the whirl of New York City haute cuisine to the historic vineyards of the Hudson Valley. When Sy Hampton purchases this legendary bottle which, through a quirk of preservation, may yet be drinkable he shocks the wine community by choosing to uncork it privately with a female companion, rather than at a special public event. Sy intends the evening to be a quiet reassertion of his virility in the throes of middle age, but for ambitious restaurateur Annette Lecocq, the event offers an irresistible opportunity for much-needed publicity. Their competing agendas are not the only things to collide on the fateful night. Caught in the crossfire are Tripp Macgregor, a waiter on the verge of his long-awaited Broadway debut, and Valentina D Ambrosio, the beautiful but unworldly working girl from Brooklyn Sy hopes to impress.
Order the Book From: Amazon
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- An Isobel Spice Novel
In the world of PR, there's only one crime worse than killing a deal--killing a client.
Aspiring actress and office temp Isobel Spice finds a warm welcome at Dove & Flight Public Relations, thanks to her old school friend Katrina Campbell. However, the atmosphere chills considerably when Isobel unwittingly serves an important client a deadly dose of poisoned coffee. Her stalwart temp agent, James Cooke, rushes to her aid, but balks when he learns that the victim was the fraternity brother who got him expelled from college. News that Dove & Flight is being acquired by an international conglomerate quickly supplants the murder as the hot topic of office gossip, but Isobel is convinced the two events are related. When all roads of inquiry lead back to Katrina, Isobel is forced to consider the possibility that her friend's killer instincts go beyond public relations.
Please note: this is a cozy mystery with an edge; contains some adult language.
Order the Book From: Amazon
The Temporary Detective
- An Isobel Spice Novel
Phones, light typing...and murder.
Think breaking into show business is hard? Try landing a temp job without office skills. That's the challenge facing aspiring actress Isobel Spice when she arrives in New York City, fresh out of college and deficient in PowerPoint. After being rejected by seven temp agencies for her lack of experience, Isobel sweet-talks recruiter James Cooke into letting her cover a last-minute vacancy at a bank. New to his own job, and recently sober, James takes a chance on Isobel, despite his suspicion that she's a trouble-magnet. His misgivings are borne out by lunchtime, when she stumbles across a dead secretary in a bathroom stall. With her fingerprints on the murder weapon, Isobel sets out to prove her innocence by investigating the crime herself. While learning to juggle phone lines and auditions, she discovers an untapped talent for detective work--a qualification few other office temps, let alone actresses, can claim.
Please note: this is a cozy mystery with an edge; contains some adult language and situations.
Order the Book From: Amazon
- Barnes and Noble
Author Recommended by:
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HBS eBook Author’s Corner
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