Lorraine Bartlett is a prolific writer, writing three major series under three different pen names. Her Booktown series, published under the name Lorna Barrett, saw its 11th book released yesterday. This features Tricia, who owns Haven’t Got a Clue, a mystery bookstore, and solves crimes on the side. In her Jeff Resnick series, published under L.L.
Bartlett, Jeff gets mugged and winds up with brain damage and a concussion, which causes him to develop psychic powers that he uses to investigate murders. Her Victoria Square series focuses on Artisan Alley, owned and managed by Katie, where something is always happening. In addition, she has several other stand-alone books and short story collections.
She also has several honors to her name. Her third Booktown book, Bookplate Special, was nominated for an Agatha, the award recognizing the best traditional mystery of the year. Further, six of her books have made it to the New York Times bestseller list: Murder is Binding, Bookplate Special, Chapter & Hearse, Sentenced to Death, The Walled Flower, and One Hot Murder.
How did you get started writing?
I started writing fan fiction as a teenager. I started with Star Trek and moved onto other genres. After way too many years my (then) new husband told me, “It’s time for you to go pro.” Eleven years later — and after many short story sales — I finally sold a novel to a small press: Murder on the Mind under my L.L. Bartlett name.
Why do you use three different pen names?
My third agent suggested I use initials (L.L. Bartlett) because before ebooks, men did not want to read books written by women. Things have changed in the last decade and a half, and I think a lot of that has to do with the fact that nobody knows what you’re reading if they can’t see the cover. I now have a lot of male readers for not only my hard-boiled books, but my cozies as well.
It wasn’t my idea to take the name Lorna Barrett. But with my name associated with darker mysteries, it seemed prudent, so my publisher required I take a pseudonym. When it came time to sell my Victoria Square series, I wanted my own name associated with those books.
You have a background of a wide variety of jobs. How have they influenced your writing?
LOL–it’s been so long since I had a day job, I barely remember. (I just know that I would STARVE before I ever went back to work in an office situation, and retail no longer thrills me, either.) Because I had a variety of jobs, I got to work in blue- and pink-collar jobs. I think that helps me to write about people on different social-economic and educational levels. As they say, everything is grist for the writing mill.
In Murder on the Mind, you give a very graphic depiction of the experience of the main character’s getting a migraine. As someone who lives with chronic daily migraine and has days like Jeff’s, I was impressed by the accuracy of your depiction in all its details. Since you do not get migraines, what kind of research did you do to get this so realistic?
I did a lot of research on head injuries, reading everything I could get my hands on, and spoke with a number of doctors and nurses. I’m happy to hear my depiction was spot-on, but feel sympathy for anyone who suffers that kind of debilitating pain–especially on a regular basis.
Your Booktown series includes recipes. What foods do you like to cook?
There was a time I didn’t like to cook anything (and not all that long ago). I used to like to bake, but baking packs on the pounds. As I got farther and farther into the Booktown books (and my publisher required the book include recipes), I found that through testing the recipes, I got to like cooking. I like chopping and measuring, and I especially love it when whatever I’m making turns out right. Cooking to me now is very relaxing. I still like to bake, but these days I like to make soup.
My Victoria Square and Lotus Bay mysteries, as well as my Blythe Cove Manor stories, all include recipes. I have a companion book for the Victoria Square mysteries: Recipes To Die For: A Victoria Square Cookbook, that I’m rather proud of. I’ve got two cookbooks in the works now. One for the Lotus Bay mysteries, and for the Jeff Resnick mysteries. (For that, the recipes come from Jeff’s sister-in-law, Brenda. Her specialty is soups, and so that cookbook is heavy with soups, stews, and chowders.) I love to make soup because you can do a lot of experimentation without a lot of failures. Those books come to the front and then to the back burner quite often. I’ve been working on them both for almost a year and am nowhere near ready to release them. One day.
Your Victoria Square book One Hot Murder introduces a gay couple. I have read hundreds of cozy mysteries and can think of only two other cozy authors I’ve come across who have had gay or lesbian characters. Why do you think this is, and what inspired you to include the gay couple?
I don’t think I gave it much thought. I don’t have a lot of gay friends, but I do have a couple of dear friends who are gay. Nick and Don just appeared. A lot of cozies don’t have a lot of people of color in them, either. I’ve tried to include people of many races. Indian doctors, a black real estate agent, an Asian grandma. Just people you meet in everyday life. Our country is a melting pot. I figured why not let my writing reflect that.
Your characters are so realistic and lively that I feel as if I’ve met them already. How much are they inspired from real life vs. your imagination?
It depends on the book. Sometimes 60-40, sometimes 10-90 — one way or the other. Angelica, from the Booktown Mysteries, is the big sister I always wanted. Katie, from the Victoria Square Mysteries, is so much more competent than me. Kathy Grant, from the Lotus Bay Mysteries, knows what she wants and works hard to get it. Amanda Shelton, from my Tales of Telenia adventure-fantasy series, is much smarter and braver than me. It’s fun to act out all those parts.
You have Kindle books labeled as companion stories to your different series. What exactly are those?
Sometimes I get an idea for a story that can’t be incorporated into a longer book, so I’ll write a short story. During the time I wrote the first four Jeff Resnick books, I’d do little character sketches trying to figure out why he and his brother behaved the way they did. My first real story was Bah! Humbug, the first Christmas they spent together as adults. But that got me wondering — what happened during the first Christmas they were together when Jeff first came to live with Richard, so I started a story that took me about five years to finish. I wrote a number of those sketches but did nothing with them. Then, I went on a trip several years back and took all the shorts with me. I got more writing done than sightseeing, and when I came home I had a book, which was Evolution: Jeff Resnick’s Backstory. But I also kept writing the contemporary shorts, stories that fit between the novels. Earlier this year, I decided to rebrand them as companion stories. (I’ve got an idea for another companion series that will go with the next set of Resnick novels.)
In the case of Victoria Square, I decided I wanted to explore the lives of the merchants who interact with Katie and have minor roles in the novels. I’ve already written two of them and am juggling a third while I work on Booktown #12 and Lotus Bay #2 (and don’t forget those two cookbooks)!
Your latest book, A Just Clause, the 11th Booktown book, came out yesterday. Do you want to conclude our interview with a plug for that book?
Yes, thank you. PLEASE GO BUY IT! I’m very fond of this book and hope that others will enjoy it, too. All the secondary characters get a chance to shine, but Tricia and Angelica are always at the forefront. Like with my Jeff Resnick books, it’s Tricia’s and Angelica’s relationship and how they interact with each other that is at the heart of the stories. TRIVIA: The beer sign in the window of the local pub on the cover is my editor’s name. I suggested it and I think he was tickled pink about it. I was so happy to see the cover and see the artist had incorporated it.
A Just Clause: Tricia Miles, mystery bookstore owner and amateur sleuth, is in for a surprise when her ne’er-do-well father, John, comes to town—and promptly becomes a prime suspect in the murder of a woman with her own scandalous past. Even Tricia’s faith in the old man is shaken when the Stoneham police break the news that her father is a known con man who has done jail time. From merlot to murder, Tricia is determined to clear the family name before another body shows up and ruins Stoneham’s first—and highly anticipated—wine and jazz festival.
One Author — Three Names
writing as Lorraine Bartlett, L.L. Bartlett, and Lorna Barrett
www.LorraineBartlett.com – Victoria Square & Lotus Bay Mysteries & Tales of Telenia (Facebook)
www.LLBartlett.com – Jeff Resnick Mysteries (Facebook)
www.LornaBarrett.com – Booktown Mysteries (Facebook)
Read My Blog: Dazed and Confused
Click here to read my review of Murder Is Binding
Click here to read my review of Bookmarked for Death
Click here to read my review of Murder on the Mind
Click here to read my review of A Crafty Killing
Click here to read my review of The Walled Flower
Click here to read my review of One Hot Murder