Thursday, July 6, 2017

9mm interview: Kristen Lepionka

Welcome to the latest instalment in the 9mm series! I'm very grateful to all the terrific crime writers who've generously given their time over the past few years. You can see the full index of author interviews here. If you've got a favourite author who hasn't yet featured, leave a comment, and I'll make it happen.

Today, I'm very pleased to welcome debut crime writer Kristen Lepionka to Crime Watch. Lepionka is from Columbus, Ohio (in the United States), and her first book, THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK was released by St Martin's Press in the United States in Spring, and by Faber & Faber in the UK today.

It's the first book in Lepionka's Roxane Weary mystery series, and sees the private investigator struggling with the death in the line of duty of her policeman father, while also digging into a past case that put a man on death row. As the days tick down to an execution, Weary realises there might be a link to one of her father's own unsolved cases; a missing teenage girl.

It sounds like a great premise. In an early review, Kirkus Reviews said "Lepionka’s debut confidently portrays complex characters with multiple, sometimes contradictory, motivations and offers an unusually naturalistic perspective on sexual identity."

But for now, Kristen Lepionka becomes the 166th crime writer to stare down the barrel of 9mm.


Who is your favourite recurring crime fiction hero/detective?
I adore Jack Reacher. The books are pure fun to read--suspenseful and thrilling across the series--and Reacher is definitely the type of hero I’d want on my side in a fight. I also really appreciate that the various women who occupy the books (and Reacher’s bed) are smart and tough--no damsels in distress.

What was the very first book you remember reading and really loving, and why?
Sam the Cat Detective by Linda Stewart. It’s a middle-grade book from the 90s that I read when I was probably seven or eight, and even though I had no idea what noir was at the time, I fell in love with this. It’s an adorable story about Sam, a cat/private investigator who lives in a mystery bookshop in Manhattan, as he investigates the theft of a necklace. I’d never read a mystery before, and I just loved the concept of reading a book and solving a puzzle all at once. My younger self was very satisfied by this. I’ve re-read it as an adult and it’s actually a great kidlit adaption of a PI novel--all the classic tropes are there, except cats. I can recite entire passages by heart.

Before your debut crime novel, what else had you written (if anything) unpublished manuscripts, short stories, articles?
I have a handful of short stories (some published, some not) and a few other manuscripts which will never see the light of day.  I think a big part of being a writer is figuring out what kind of writer you are...and I definitely didn’t know when I wrote some of these things. I actually wish I was better at short stories. Some people really have a knack for it but it’s such a tricky format, at least in the crime genre.

Outside of writing, touring and promotional commitments, what do you really like to do, leisure and activity-wise?
Reading as much as possible, of course. I’m also a graphic designer so I do a fair bit of that in my spare time. And I love to travel, too.

What is one thing that visitors to your hometown should do, that isn't in the tourist brochures, or perhaps they wouldn’t initially consider?
Not sure Columbus, Ohio, has any tourist brochures. But we probably should. Most people don’t know it, but we’re actually a big city. If you’re a whiskey drinker, go to Wing’s. They’ve got a whiskey list that’s about a mile long. Then, head down the street to the Drexel Theatre to take in an independent film.

If your life was a movie, which actor could you see playing you?
The movie of my life would be called Woman Carries Laptop to Different Rooms of the House and would consist of thirty-three years of typing sounds. So I don’t think an actor is needed. But I’ve been told that I have a resemblance to 1970s-era Stockard Channing, so sure, why not.

Of your books, which is your favourite, and why?
THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK is my fave, of course, because it’s the one that found me my agent and publisher. I’m pretty excited about book two in the series, too, though.

What was your initial reaction, and how did you celebrate, when you were first accepted for publication? Or when you first saw your debut story in book form on a bookseller’s shelf?
Absolute shock, which has yet to wear off, honestly. The thought of people—strangers!—reading something that existed only in my head for so long is still a bit trippy. In the best possible way, of course. To celebrate, I bought myself a new laptop, and then I went back to work.

What is the strangest or most unusual experience you have had at a book signing, author event, or literary festival?
I’m pretty new to this, so I haven’t been to enough book-related events to have any strange experiences yet. Looking forward to having a great many this summer, though.

Thank you Kristen. We appreciate you chatting to Crime Watch

You can read more about Kristen Lepionka and her tales at her website, and follow her on Twitter

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