L.A. Keller used her experience in the restaurant business, and love of the Arizona desert, to create the characters for her cozy mysteries. Menu for Murder, the first book in the series, has received five star reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Cocktails at Sunset continues the story of Jayne Stanford, the less-than-stellar server. The third book in the series, No Reservations, is underway and expected to be completed in early 2018. Leslie has published articles in Writer’s Digest, Desert Sleuths and Sisters in Crime publications.
Her limited free time is spent hiking in the Arizona desert, savoring wine, and as a volunteer for animal rescues. As a breast cancer survivor, she volunteers for EBeauty, a non-profit organization created to support women undergoing treatment for cancer. She lives in Phoenix, with her partner and their two rescue cats.
How did you get started writing and how did you first get published?
When I was eleven years old, I was trying to earn money to spend two weeks of my summer vacation at horseback riding camp. I wrote and sold my first short stories for five dollars each. Honestly, they were awful, but I knew then that writing was something I would always do. My first full length novel, Menu for Murder, was published in 2015.
Tell us about your writing process and how you put together your books.
I might be driving, hiking in the desert or standing in line at the post office and an idea will insert itself into my consciousness. If it works in the plot of what I am currently writing, I will find a place for it. If not it goes into the collection for a future book. I plot out the entire book start to finish and then use that as my guide. In each book, much of what I have plotted changes as I write, but I find it helpful to know the direction I want to take the characters. More often it is the direction they decide to take me.
You state on your website that your first book, Menu for Murder, is based upon your own experiences as a waitress. What specific details does this book draw upon?
I started work as a server to help pay for college and continued as a bartender to earn a living. In later years I worked simply for the fun and interaction. I found that restaurants have more drama behind the scenes than guests know, and oftentimes true life is funnier than fiction.
Your book descriptions use all sorts of food descriptions, such as “Chaos clings to her like caramel on a sticky bun.” What appeals to you about using food to describe things in your books?
I enjoy using the descriptions to help the reader visualize the scene while, at the same time, including a bit of humor and a deeper relationship to the character of Jayne. When I can, I will include a reference that ties into Jayne’s love of food and especially sweets.
You write a regular blog that includes reviews of restaurants. But you do so in a clever manner. What do you do?
In my full-time career, I am a technical writer for a software company. It seemed an appropriate fit for the restaurant reviews to be written by the character of Jayne. As real as she feels to me, I hope that helps my readers connect with her on a different level.
Despite the fact that your books are based upon your own experiences as a server at a restaurant, I’m sure you have to do research on some elements of your books. What have you had to research and what is your research process like?
I research constantly on the Internet. I’m fortunate to have connections in the restaurant business but I also scout out locations and take photos for reference.
I find it ironic that as a writer of mysteries, you have a thief of your own in your home. Tell us about Chance.
Spoiled, sometimes diabolical and always funny. We adopted him as a kitten from a rescue organization so that our other rescue would have a companion. He doesn’t meow but rather makes a strange almost barking noise, and when he wants to be fed he will seat himself in the dining room and wait for someone to serve him. He finds it funny to bite your behind when you clean the litter box – I swear he chuckles when he surprises me. We’ve learned to keep the pantry door closed. Otherwise he will climb the shelves and abscond with the cat treats (which he will only sometimes share with Magic). Every day is an adventure and he has completely stolen my heart.
What authors do you recognize as having helped to shape your own career as a writer?
There are so many but here are a few: Janet Evanovich’s early work with the Stephanie Plum series, the late Sue Grafton, Patricia Cornwell and Sara Paretsky. I don’t read graphic murder anymore, but those women writers guided me to cozy mysteries where I can enjoy a bit of murder without sacrificing the mystery and the humor.
Sign up through Leslie’s website for book news or read her twice weekly blog which includes Arizona restaurant reviews as done by the character Jayne, book reviews and observations about mysteries at: http://www.lesliekellerbooks.com/
Further, to connect with Leslie, you can visit her at the follow websites:
Smashwords book link: