Title: Death by Diploma
Series: Chalkboard Outlines
Publisher: Red Adept Publishing Published On: 23 February 2016
Genres: Fiction, Humor, Mystery & Detective
Emma Lovett leaves her philandering husband and crosses the country to begin her teaching career at a high school in Pinewood, Colorado.There, she meets Leslie Parker, a fellow teacher given to quoting Shakespeare to fit all situations, and the two become fast friends. Arriving at work early one morning, Emma discovers the body of the school custodian, a man who reminds her of her late father. When the police struggle to find the killer, the ladies decide to help solve the murder. Their efforts lead them to a myriad of suspects: the schizophrenic librarian, the crude football coach, the mysterious social studies teacher, and even Emma’s new love interest. As Emma Lovett discovers the perils of teaching high school, she and Leslie learn more than they ever wanted to know about the reasons people kill.
I received this book for free from The Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
This was an enjoyable book. I like that it has mystery, twists and humor. Fun book to read.
Why did you decide to become a writer?
This question always makes me giggle. Like it was my decision. If I don’t write, my head will explode.
Who/what are your writing inspirations?
My father was a voracious reader and a lifetime learner, who by the age of 32 hadn’t figured out what to do with his hundreds of college credits that had never turned into any kind of degree. He asked my mother, who was his girlfriend at the time, what he oughta do with his life. She said, ‘Well, how many books do you have?’ He said, ‘I dunno…five thousand?’ ‘Why don’t you open a store?’ was her response.
So he did—in 1966 he opened one of the first used bookstores (I call him the ‘inventor’ of the used bookstore.) He ran the bookstore for 40 years and always forwent some of his sales to bring his favorite books home to my mother, my sister and me. No question about it, the mysteries, thrillers and spy games were his favorites, and consequently became mine.
One time he brought me a book from his new favorite series—Harlan Coben’s Myron Bolitar books. I think it was Drop Shot. I resisted this series for a while because Myron is a failed professional basketball player and sports agent, and I don’t like sports and considered myself too artsy to care. I’m now married to a baseball coach and have two sports-obsessed sons, so you can take that irony all the way to the corner and have a big laugh over it. I certainly did.
Anyway, I finally read the book, and I was hooked. I couldn’t figure out the ending right away, I loved Myron and Win, it was suspenseful and fun and I laughed all the way through it. I loved it! And I wanted to do it! I immediately wanted to tell a story that did all those things. So I emailed Harlan. I emailed Harlan, told him how much I loved his book and how much I wanted to write one. Believe it or not, he wrote me right back! His advice was to “just do it” and he gave me the title of Anne Lamott’s fantastic book on writing Bird by Bird.
So I did. I mean, it’s not like I sat down the next day and then three months later I had a book, but I didn’t have an outline or a story board, or anything like that. I had the main characters vis-à-vis my life and the failed screenplay, and I knew who got killed and basically why he was killed and who killed him, but the rest happened in the story as it appeared.
I guess to put it all together, I got the idea for Death by Diploma from my job, a failed screenplay, Myron Bolitar, and my dad. Whew. Maybe I should take Stephen King’s standard answer, and just say, “I bought it at a little idea shop in Utica.”
What are your favorite genres to read?
Murder mystery and thriller of any kind, horror (scary not gory makes me happiest, but…) Lately I am working my way through every book written by Liane Moriarty, and I don’t know what genre she is. Really fun stuff genre? I also have a book club that tries to read all genres so we can expand our horizons, and I’m glad so I don’t get stuck in my favorites and miss out on some amazing books.
Favorite writing food / snack?
Anything made of chocolate or anything I consider to be in the same family, i.e. caramel, vanilla, cheesecake. Yum yum yum sugar sugar sugar. Just what we all need, right?
What do you hope readers take away most from your writing?
Hm. What an interesting question. I hope they leave my writing feeling entertained and satisfied of course. But also I just want them to have a feeling about it. An emotion that comes to the forefront when you finish a story of mine. I’d love it if they left with a new idea or answer to a question.
Who’s the favorite character of yours that you’ve written and why?
Oh jeez—I’m overzealously in love with all my characters—even the douchey ones. I think because they are all parts of me and everyone I know, and it’s so fun to watch them react to whatever situation they are dealing with, and to work on figuring each one out as I go.
What is your writing style? Outliner/Planner or Seat of the Pantser?
My writing style has most definitely been Pantser, but I’m in the middle of a book which is neither—instead it’s about tapping in to the brain’s evolutionary REQUIREMENT for story. It’s called Story Genius by Lisa Cron and so far it’s super interesting—I’m excited about implementing elements of this ‘blueprint’ which is neither outlining nor pantsing, and I hope it helps me get better and better, which is always what I’m trying to do…
If someone wanted to become a writer, what tips would you give to them?
I would just tell them never to give up, and never stop learning and trying new things. Also, and I cannot emphasize this enough: YOU HAVE TO READ. A LOT. People who tell me they want to write but don’t want to read are delusional and will never succeed. This is true, I believe, in any profession: the more you study and practice, the better you will get. The best musicians listen to all kinds of music and learn about the history of music, the best politicians study all types of governments and policies, and etceters etcetera. Hmph. I could rant about this for days. You also have to write, a lot, although I don’t ascribe to all of the people who say you have to write every day or this many words a day or X number of hours or whatever. You should figure out your own schedule and make sure it includes study and practice. Oh, and you absolutely have to work on a thick skin. Like, tortoise shell thick. There are always people who have nothing better to do than knock you down, and it takes a long time and many rejections to find your success, but if you take the ones who offer constructive ideas and help and use them, and throw the non-helpful douchebag ideas away, it’ll all help you get better.
Have you ever purchased something from a late-night infomercial?
If so, what? Ugh. I have a schedule that starts at either 4:40 a.m., 6 a.m. or 6:45 a.m., depending on the day of the week. So I don’t really do anything late at night J but of course I’ve gotten sucked into the infomercial world at other times of day, usually for beauty products that I hope will make me look younger. Ha.
If you could collaborate with any other author(living, dead, or undead) who would that be and why?
Of course it would be William Shakespeare, first off—in my opinion he knew more about people and what makes them tick than just about anyone else. I’d love to know how he knew. But I love so many other authors, and so I’ll make a list: Stephen King, Harlan Coben, John Steinbeck, Ray Bradbury, Harper Lee, Barbara Kingsolver, Madeline L’Engle, A.A. Milne, and finally, of course, Dean Koontz (he lives like 75 miles away from me and I am always scheming to find a way to meet with him.)
If you weren’t a writer, what would you do?
I taught high school English and Drama for almost 20 years, and I loved that. I wouldn’t mind doing that again, tho I think I’d more likely go back to the directing/drama stuff than the assigning papers stuff, which is really hard.
Coke, Pepsi, or? I like Coke, but if Dr. Pepper is an option, I’ll take that every time. I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper—wouldn’t ya like to be a Pepper too? No? Well, that’s okay—more for me!
What’s one thing people should know and/or don’t know about you?
I rehearse what I’m going to say in my head before I say it. A lot.
Is there a character that has the most “You” in them? Or the opposite of you?
Emma and Leslie combined are most like me, I think. And I am for sure as big of nerd as Edward, although I don’t know if everybody knows (those of you who’ve read the answer to the above question.
If we lived in a Fahrenheit 451 culture, which book would you want to memorize?
OMG that is such a great question. I think a Shakespeare play would be the easiest to memorize because I taught it for so many years, and like I said, he’s a genius who knows people. But maybe To Kill a Mockingbird, or A Wrinkle in Time.
Has anyone written a fan fiction based on your work?
Not that I know of. Would they tell me if they did?
Right now the book is only available as an eBook on Amazon. You can get the trade paperback from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Or you can pick it up in either format straight from my publisher’s website. I have links plastered all over my website.
And the book will soon be available as an AUDIOBOOK! Here’s a preview: < https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7iZio4PsI4>