Libby Klein graduated Lower Cape May Regional High School sometime in the ’80s. Her classes revolved mostly around the culinary sciences and theater, with the occasional nap in Chemistry. She dabbles in the position of Vice President of a technology company which mostly involves bossing other people around, making spreadsheets and taking out the trash. She writes from her Northern Virginia office while trying to keep her cat Figaro off her keyboard. Most of her hobbies revolve around eating, and travel, and eating while traveling.
How did you get started writing fiction and then get published?
I started writing Class Reunions Are Murder because I found myself daydreaming the same story all the time. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep at night because of the stories playing out in my head. Eventually I figured that maybe I should try to write them down, so they’ll leave me alone. I found out right away that I didn’t know what I was doing. So, I found a flyer for a class on creative writing offered locally by a well-known author and writing coach. He taught me how to structure a novel and what goes into every scene. I worked with him for a year and a half learning the tools that every writer needs. When we were finished, I had a complete manuscript. I was lucky enough to get an agent on my second pass of sending query letters, and she sold the manuscript to Kensington Publishing with lightning speed.
In high school you focused on culinary classes and theater. Do you still pursue those interests?
They are both passions of mine. Baking has very much been a part of my life. I’ve catered many events, parties, rehearsal dinners, weddings. I think my largest event was for 300 people. I’ve even catered a dinner at a military academy for teen boys. A lot of people have tried to convince me to open a restaurant. They have no idea how much work and energy that takes. I can barely get dinner on the table for my family 7 nights a week. As far as theater, I was very blessed to be able to write and act in several plays for my church before becoming a novelist. There is something surreal about hearing other people perform lines that you’ve written while the audience laugh at your jokes.
Your book Class Reunions Are Murder is so clever and relatable! In it, Poppy goes to her 25th high school reunion and gets stuck reliving high school, especially being bullied by the same group of people. She gets accused of murder when the worst bully gets killed. And the detective in charge of the case is the second worst bully, only beaten by the one who was killed. This topic fits so many people’s nightmares. What inspired you to write this book? Have you had a bad experience at a reunion?
I didn’t attend my reunion until after I had finished the first two books in the series. My inspiration for Class Reunions comes from my childhood and adolescence. Growing up chunky was very hard. I’ve been mocked, and bullied, and called so many names. When I was in elementary school I had stopped eating lunch. I told the teacher we were too poor to buy food because I didn’t want to eat in front of anyone else. And of course, the high school clique of mean girls was alive and well in the 80s. Obviously, I was not part of the popular crowd. My closest friends were other geeks and weirdos like me. Our parties were not keggers with jocks, they were chips and dip with Trivial Pursuit, or B-Movie marathons. We all bore the scars of being ridiculed and harassed. Class Reunions Are Murder is as much for them as it is for me.
One of my favorite parts of the book is when Poppy is feeling sorry for herself after getting arrested and sitting in jail. It takes a transvestite hooker and a gal busted for possession to inspire her to stand up for herself. What made you choose these two to be the secondary heroes of the book?
I love that you picked up on the fact that Bebe and Tawnika are the heroes of their scene. They give Poppy the wakeup call that she’s been so busy feeling sorry for herself she can’t see how good she’s really got it. Yes, bad things have happened to her and she needs to make better choices, but she has a home and a family and friends. So many little things in life can irritate us that we fail to notice that our neighbor lost their job and their house is in foreclosure. The kids down the street have an alcoholic father and they don’t have any food. I’ve known people like Bebe and Tawnika. They’ve had some rotten hands dealt to them and they still don’t give up. They’re a success story in the prequel stages.
Poppy visits a doctor, only to discover that she has a disorder that can’t tolerate gluten, so she is forced to go on the Paleo diet. You based that part upon your own experiences with a similar disorder. How did writing this book help you with that?
I’m very susceptible to the power of suggestion. And since I love to read cozies, and especially culinary cozies, I find myself wanting to eat everything in the book. I’m a coffee girl – but if the protagonist owns a tea shop – I find myself drinking tea like Queen Victoria is coming to town. I wanted to write something for people who can’t have dairy and gluten so we can try the recipes in the back of the book for a change.
Your second novel, Midnight Snacks Are Murder, comes out July 31. What can we expect for Poppy in this book?
Midnight Snacks is ridiculously funny. Someone is terrorizing the neighborhood and committing Grand Snackery. They’re breaking into houses and stealing knickknacks, leaving a trail of crumbs in their wake. When one of the neighbors is murdered during a break-in, only Poppy believes the police have the wrong suspect and the killer is a copycat. Things will heat up for Poppy in the romance department, and a new nemesis comes to town.
Tell us about your writing process. How do you put together your books?
My writing process is more of an example of what not to do. There is a lot of coffee, followed by some video games. Then anything that can be a distraction will be a distraction. I’ll clean the closet, reorganize my shoes, bake cookies. . . When I finally force myself to sit down and write, I start with what I wrote yesterday. I read through my last chapter and make edits and it gets me right back into the story. The novel is fully outlined before I begin, so I always know where I’m going next. When I have trouble getting into a scene or a character’s head, I use a lot of music for motivation. While writing the Salsa class at the Senior Center in Class Reunions I must have listened to “Hey Mambo” at least a dozen times.
Your website shows us a picture of your secretary at work. Tell us about this secretary and how he helps you.
This was my secretary, Miles Davis.
He was also my baby. Miles crossed the rainbow bridge shortly after I took this picture. I still miss him every day. But now I have a new secretary in my life.
This is Eliza Doolittle.
She’s a lot naughtier than Miles, and she’s not especially good at taking notes.
I catch her sleeping on the job a lot.
Plus, she can be quite a distraction when I have a deadline.
But they both have given me a lot of material. Just about everything Figaro does has actually happened. I can’t imagine my life without a fluffy secretary to keep me company. Even if she steals my pens.
What books or authors have influenced your own career as a writer?
I have always loved to read, and of course being a mystery writer, Nancy Drew is a huge inspiration. But there is another series that has also been a big influence on my writing. Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next series is about a parallel reality where people have the ability to travel into books. Thursday Next, a detective on the fiction police force, is on assignment within the books. She interviews the characters when they aren’t on the page. Imagine Miss Havisham taking a smoke break while she waits for her cue to be back in the scene for the reader. It’s a lot like being backstage during a theater production and hearing the actors discussing their day outside of the show. When I write, I often think about what my characters are doing when they aren’t “on stage.”
You can learn more about Libby on the following sites: