Today Lesley A. Diehl is visiting Ascroft, eh? to tell us about Nearly Departed, the latest novel in the Eve Appel mystery series.
Welcome Lesley. Let’s get started, shall we?
Tell us about your novel. Is it part of a series? If so, please tell us about the series too.
Tired of sitting surveillance on insurance fraud, apprentice PI Eve Apple Egret gets her first big case, one where the outcome is important and personal. Eve’s best friend Madeleine has few relatives, so her Uncle Shamus is special, but someone is determined to kill him and has tried several times. Eve is certain she can identify who is after him, but this time she may have taken on more than even our self-confident Eve can handle. Coping with a growing toddler and a teenager, devoting time to the consignment shop and finding someone who can go undercover in a sexual harassment case all vie for Eve’s attention. Eve knows she cannot fail Madeleine. This is more than her favorite uncle’s life. His death would mean devastating loss for Madeleine and call into question Eve’s commitment as a friend and her ability as a PI.
This is book 7 of the Eve Appel mysteries. The series began with Eve and her best friend Madeleine opening a consignment shop in rural Florida, bringing high end used merchandise to Central Florida. Unfortunately, on opening day, Eve finds one of their customers stabbed to death in a changing room. Eve, being the sassy, snoopy gal she is, decides to find out who is responsible and ends up getting herself into situations that threaten her own life and that of her friends. Throughout the series, Eve’ simply cannot help meddling in murder cases until, supported by family and friends, she decides to divide her life into consignment shop owner and private detective, but what she thought she was capable of accomplishing is further complicated by a growing family. She finds herself pulled in many directions which only add to the complexity of her life and the adventures she and her cadre of supporters fall into.
Where did the idea for the mystery that is central to the story come from?
Eve’s last name is the same as my material grandmother’s which I chose because of Eve’s passion for second-hand items, the same passion my grandmother had and one I have inherited. I love to go to yard sales and explore thrift shops and second-hand stores, so it only seemed logical that my protagonist should enjoy the same pastimes and make them into a career in rural Florida. There is a heavy thread of family secrets that runs through all the books in this series as Eve runs down killers and works to establish her own family.
Is there a theme or subject that underlies the story? If so, what prompted you to write about it?
Families all have secrets, but some are more deadly than others when, after years of being hidden, they are discovered and force family members to revaluate what they always thought to be true.
How do you create your characters? Do you have favourite ones? If so, why are you partial to them?
My characters are ninety percent imagination. In the case of Eve and her best friend, they each have qualities the other does not. Eve is impatient, bold, tall, thin and speaks before she thinks. Madeleine is petite, a true southern lady, polite, cute and physically clumsy. I did this opposites pairing intentionally so that they could provide balance for each other and learn from each other. Eve draws Madeleine into Eve’s impulsive detecting schemes while Madeleine smooths the way for Eve in many delicate social situations.
How do you bring to life the place you are writing about?
Rural Florida is a place few people are familiar with. Even native Floridians know little about the interior of their own state. South central Florida looks like Texas with palm trees. There are herds of cattle with cowboys on horses riding herd on them. And there are lots of alligators. It’s not difficult to bring life to this place using the unfamiliar and often threatening physical setting as part of what Eve must understand to track down killers. Eve, as a transplanted Yankee, comes to love the raw beauty of this land and makes it her adopted home. That development from fear of the unknown in Florida’s swamps to respect for its wildlife and beauty is a significant part of Eve’s journey throughout the series.
What research do you do to provide background information to help you write the novel?
Because Eve marries a member of the Miccosukee tribe, I have spent time researching the history of the Seminole and Miccosukee Indians in Florida as well as their current lives. There is much more to native Americans here than casinos. They have a rich history of ranching and farming. Driving rural Florida and talking to people who live here also inform the events and individuals in the books. I have spent the past twenty years as a snowbird in Florida and I’ve made Eve one also. She and I do not pretend to be native Floridians but rather I use the perspective of a writer and protagonist who are outsiders, but learners about the diversity of Florida with respect to her people and her environment.
Is there anything else you’d like to tell readers about the book?
In Nearly Departed, the stakes for finding who is trying to kill Madeleine’s uncle are high. Madeleine loves her uncle, the only relative still living in her family. Having lost her parents when she was young, Eve understands how much Madeleine’s uncle means to her. This is one case Eve cannot afford to fail at.
Thanks for answering my questions, Lesley, and good luck with Nearly Departed, the latest book in the Eve Appel Mystery series.
The novel is available at the following online retailers:
About Lesley A. Diehl: Cows, Lesley learned as a child growing up on a farm, have a twisted sense of humor. They chased her when she went to the field to herd them in for milking, and one ate the lovely red mitten her grandmother knitted for her. Determining that agriculture wasn’t her career path, she took a job as a stripper, book cover stripper for a publishing company, that is. Now after many years as a college professor and university administrator, she has returned to the world of books and uses her country roots and her training to concoct stories designed to make people laugh in the face of murder. “A good chuckle,” says Lesley,” keeps us emotionally well-oiled long into our old age.”