Each Thursday I ask ten questions to authors of mystery, thriller and suspense about their books, their inspirations and how to get away with the perfect murder. In the hot seat this week is... Lucy English.
Lucy English is very busy. Not only does she work as both a sociologist and as a writer while racing back and forth between speaking engagements and her Saint Louis, Missouri home, she's also the mother of two children. She has published three books in the Penny Wade Mysteries series, is trying to write a middle grades fiction book, and is working on a non-fiction book on holism.
Q1. Hello Lucy! Can You Tell Us A Bit About Yourself And Your Books?
I’m the mother of two boys, seven and fifteen; I may be about to become a puppy mom, but don’t tell my kids. I’m a sociologist who tries to help large organizations understand how to support their employees well; I’m a great sleeper. You don’t want me on your trivia-night team.
I write mysteries with a social worker as the protagonist. Penny lives and works in South Boston. There she manages to get tangled up in her client’s situations and becomes an accidental sleuth. I love showing the heroism of social workers, spending time in Boston with Penny and her friends, and constructing mysteries as the container for dealing with social and emotional issues that are real to many of us.
Q2. What Three Things Should Readers Expect From A Lucy English Novel?
1. Laughter- these are not harrowing books. Human foibles are on display
2. Recognition- see human foibles above
3. Suspense- they are mysteries after all!
Q3. Can You Tell Us About Your Character Penny Wade?
Penny is trying to make a positive contribution to the world through social work. Having lost her baby sister to a heart defect when they were young, there is an aspect of her that’s always trying to “save” and “fix”. That quality, while authentic and endearing, gets her into trouble. She’s trying to sort out her place in the world both professionally and personally.
Q4. If Your Books Were Turned Into Movies, Who Would Play Your Main CharacterS?
I think maybe it would be Amy Adams. She’s got a nice combo of toughness and vulnerability and I like her ability to be real and not overly Hollywood.
Q5. How Do You Come Up With The Ideas For Your Stories – What Is Your Inspiration?
Social workers are my inspiration, as are the kinds of issues that we all struggle with in life. Where do I belong? How can I help? How do I deal with pain? In Girl Ghosted, one of Penny’s clients is dealing with depression. I try to give a window onto the kind of common depression that so many of us endure at one time or another. I think being honest about issues like this in fiction makes us feel less alone.
Q6. What Do You Enjoy Most About Writing Mysteries?
My favorite thing is the way the stories and characters have a life of their own. I’m really not in charge. In my second book, Penny Legend, I was devastated when I found out who the murder was. Not only did I simply not want it to be that person, but it also messed up what I thought was supposed to be the structure of the book. We found out too early! How would the book hold interest and suspense for the rest of the story? While writing that book I had to learn to trust. It paid off. The story knew how, and I just had to listen and write.
Q7. What Are You Working On Right Now?
I’m working on a couple of things. I started a Penny Wade #4 (at least for now titled Single Penny). It’s set on Cape Cod.
I’m also working on a non-fiction book called We’re More Than the Sum of Our Parts: Holistic perspectives for improving personal, family, and community well-being. I’m waiting for word as to whether the National Association of Social Workers Press will publish it. I’ve gotten through a few hurdles in the proposal process and am nervously awaiting a contract or not.
Q8. Who Are Your Favourite Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Authors?
Robert B. Parker- I admire the way he dealt with social issues and I have a big crush on his detective Spenser.
Louise Penny- These are absorbing and thoughtful mysteries.
Q9. You're Being Sent To A Desert Island. You Can Only Take One Book With You. What Is It?
I would take the next one I’m writing! Not because it’s the best book in the world, but because it would keep me entertained much longer than reading one, and I could make it as long as I wanted!
Q10. How Do You Get Away With The Perfect Murder?
You don’t if Penny Wade is on the case!