Leslie Langtry is the USA Today Bestselling author of the Merry Wrath Mysteries, Bombay’s Greatest Hits series, Sex, Lies, & Family Vacations, The Hanging Tree Tales as Max Deimos and several books she hasn’t finished yet, because she’s very lazy.
Leslie loves puppies and cake (but she will not share her cake with puppies) and thinks praying mantids make everything better. She lives with her family and assorted animals in the Midwest, where she is currently working on her next book and trying to learn to play the ukulele.
Leslie’s favorite color is orange and her favorite flavor is sugar.
First off – thank you, Vicki – for hosting me today! I’m thrilled to be here!
How did you get started writing?
I started writing in 2nd grade – funny stories to make my classmates laugh. Back then it wasn’t so much crackling wit as daddy-splits-his-pants jokes. I’d like to think I’ve improved since then. I wrote just for myself until I graduated college, when I did other things, for reasons I don’t quite understand. It wasn’t until I was 38, with a full-time job and two little kids, that I decided to try to write a book. I sold my first novel to a New York publisher one week after my 40th birthday. That was 10 years ago…so you can guess which milestone I just passed.
You write the Merry Wrath Mysteries about an ex-CIA agent who lives in suburbia in Iowa. What research into the CIA did you have to do? Did you interview any spies?
I do a LOT of research. It helps that my husband reads non-fiction stuff on spies for fun. Interestingly – the CIA tried to recruit me in college. My major was Russian (which I later changed to Political Science with a minor in Soviet Studies – which tells you I’m very old) and I guess they thought they could mold me into. . . something. I turned them down and got my masters in Arts Administration. Go figure. I’m starting to see a pattern here. . . .
Merry, the main character has a bunch of creative gadgets she once used in the field. My favorite is a hidden camera in a box of tampons because men are squeamish about searching feminine hygiene products. Are the items real products you learned about, or did you make these up? What inspired these gadgets?
One of my very favorite places is the Spy Museum in Washington DC. I set a scene there in Marshmallow S’More Murder. Anyhoo. . . they have an amazing collection of weird little gadgets. And like I mentioned earlier – I do a lot of research. So, I figured Merry would have them too. I made the tampon box up – but like you said – perfect camouflage, right? I don’t know a single man who’d go anywhere near that box.
In your Merry Wrath series and your Greatest Hits Mysteries series, you feature the Girl Scouts significantly. What is your connection to the Girl Scouts?
I was a Leader for my daughter’s troop from Kindergarten to their sophomore year in High School when they disbanded. I still volunteer out at the local camp – facilitating ropes course, zip line, canoeing and archery. My troop was made up of the most amazing, precocious little girls. They gave me tons of material – which has ended up in the books (you might be surprised which scenes those are). And I’ve still got more for future books. I really miss it. Being a leader is one of the most fun things I’ve ever done.
Your Merry Wrath Mysteries are on audio. Do you have any plans to get your other books recorded on audio?
I would love to see the Bombay books on audio. My fans ask for them all the time. I don’t know if or when that will happen, but it would be tricky since each book is about a different member of the family – so you couldn’t use the same narrator for each book. Which seems a bit schizophrenic of me, doesn’t it? Most people write a series from the POV of only one character. There might be something wrong with me. . . a suspicion I think my husband has had for 29 years.
You offer a tote bag prize to the first 10 people each month to complete six tasks related to your books. Where do you get your jobs for your tasks?
That’s right! On http://www.merrywrath.com you can ‘earn’ badges and win the tote. The goal was originally for the first 40 people – I still have some leftover to give away. In fact, I just mailed one to Australia today. The tasks are basically simple; ‘Like’ my FB page, follow me on Bookbub – stuff like that. One example of the badges is Weaponizing Everyday Objects – learn to use everything from knitting needles to carrots as weapons. I didn’t want to make it too difficult because it’s supposed to be fun. I’m working on another set of badges and a new prize soon. I’m not sure what any of those will be, but I guarantee that it’ll be unique.
I see on your webpage that you and several other authors with the first name of Leslie/ Lesley have a blog of “Lesleyisms” at https://www.theleslies.org How did this blog develop?
The Leslies – A First Name in Mystery, came about when I noticed that there are quite a few mystery writers named Leslie/Lesley (which, anyone named Leslie will tell you is pretty amazeballs). I contacted all of the authors I could fine and all but 2 said yes and off we went! The site underwent a hiatus for a while as everyone had a very busy year last year (cuz Leslies are super busy and awesome), and we are getting ready to get back to work this fall. I didn’t know any of these incredible women when we started, I just cold called (actually, cold emailed but there’s no alliteration there), and a new site was born. Leslie/Lesley isn’t the most common name. I was the only one in my hometown growing up. And because of the spelling, most of my life, people have believed I’m a man (which, for the record, I’m not). Sigh.
Your Aloha Lagoon books feature a ukulele in the title. Plus, your website says you are trying to learn the ukelele. How is that going?
I took a class five years ago and loved it. Everyone in my family plays an instrument but me. My daughter is majoring in trumpet performance at a college conservatory, my son plays piano and saxophone and my husband played drums. I sang in high school but that’s about it. So, I decided I needed to play an instrument and the ukulele was a natural fit for me.
Last year, I decided I needed to take my playing to the next level – so in January I signed up for lessons at our local music store and my performance sort of exploded (in a good way). I love the instrument. It’s simple and fun. A few years ago, my cousin, Wendy, surprised me with my grandfather’s ukulele – I had no idea he played.
You offer a free coloring book for anyone who signs up for your newsletter. Where did the idea for this come from and did you draw all the images?
My daughter has coloring books – I’d love to do that but my free time is reserved for my hobbies – knitting and playing uke. So, I thought since my covers are so interesting (my publisher has awesome designers), they might translate well into coloring pages. My fabulous Project Manager (who has mad skills) turned them into a coloring book and voila! If you go to leslielangtry.com and sign up for my newsletter, you get the coloring book – which includes images of my covers, a cat who looks like Hitler and a king vulture named Mr. Fancy Pants (both are in the Merry Wrath series).
What did you like to read as a child, and what do you enjoy reading now?
I started reading pretty early. We didn’t have cell phones, or even more than 4 channels, so I think more kids read books back then (I could be wrong about this as I’m not very smart). By 2nd grade, I was devouring Nancy Drew and Encyclopedia Brown mysteries. Mom took me to the local library and got me a card (in an attempt to avoid financial ruin to keep me in my book habit) and that summer, I would check out 3 books, read them in 2 days, and return to the library for more. My mom used to tell me I needed to stop reading all the time and go outside and play. So, I’d just take my books with me, sit under a tree and read.
I still read every night for about an hour and a half before bed. I still read mysteries, in addition to almost all genres. After Nancy Drew I graduated to Agatha Christie. Now I read quite a few series: Flavia de Luce by Alan Bradley, Her Royal Spyness by Rhys Bowen, Miss Fortune by Jana DeLeon, Thursday Next by Jasper Fforde. . . and many, many others. I devour series mysteries and I have to read them in order. Just one of my many quirks, I guess.