Lisa Lutz has done it again! Get your smiles and smirks ready as Lutz once again writes a book that is at times hilarious and at times fascinating and often both.
Her first book, the Spellman Files, was a delight. I named it one of of my nine favorite books I read last year. She has been called many things but the best description of her is "Nancy Drew after a bottle of Jack Daniels."
Lutz takes the genre of private eyes and turns it on its head. Her protagonist, Isabel Spellman, is the elder daughter in a family of private investigators. In the first book things get wacky when her parents began surveillance on her to learn more about her dating habits. I can't explain what ends up happening without ruining it.
Her first book just came out in paperback and her second book came out this month.
I interviewed her for the first book and have been urging others to read her stuff ever since.
As her new book starts Isabel Spellman is in trouble with the law for violating a restraining order against her neighbor whom she is convinced is up to no good. I began laughing on the first page and, well, you'll see with one of my questions that got me some odd looks on an airplane. Trust me – it's a great read. Ask Vacelts – she'll tell you.
When Lutz sent me an advanced copy of this book she included a postcard from Bookcrossing, a cool web site that coordinates the sharing of books. I thanked her for it and asked if she wanted to hear my Bookcrossing nightmare story. She did and that prompted this story.
I proceeded to do this email interview with her after reading the book.
Scott: What was the reaction to your first book? Did it affect how you went about doing your second book?
Lisa: I think people who read my book without expecting or needing a traditional mystery are usually fine with it or they never would have liked it anyway. I'm unlikely to change my story or my purpose based on a review either from a reputable newspaper or Amazon.com. Don't get me wrong, I read them all, but I think it's important to know what you want to say and say it.
In fact, I might be more likely to do the opposite. I remember reading some complaint about all my footnotes. My response was, "Now there must be more footnotes!"
I'm not writing in a bubble. There's a massive reworking once my editor
gets her hands on it, but ultimately the only person I answer to is her. Fortunately, I have a great editor who I trust completely.
Scott: What were your goals and plans for this second book? Did you meet them?
Lisa: For Curse of the Spellmans I wanted the characters to evolve and I wanted to write a book that had a different feel to the first book, but still worked appropriately as a sequel.
Scott: I love the idea of meeting a guy and deciding he had
potential to become an ex-boyfriend. Where did that idea come from? I hope that didn't come from your own personal life.
Lisa: Not exactly. I think once I reduced a very brief relationship to an exit line, but it's certainly not a habit and I don't have Isabel's massive dating life.
Scott: Did you commit any of the crimes listed in either book? One sub-plot involves creative vandalism. Did you think of the home "improvements" on your own or were you, um, inspired in some way?
Lisa: I don't think I committed any of the crimes in my books. In the first book, there's something I call a "drive-by", which is when Isabel knocks over trash cans with her car. I had a friend who told me about doing that in her teenage years. As for the "crimes" in Curse-I consulted my cousin on them. But I probably shouldn't say any more.
Scott: I think a warning should be added to the book: "Do not
read pages 218-220 while on an airplane because when you start laughing uncontrollably people will think - ok, know - that you're insane."
I'll see what I can do.
Scott: What does your family think of your depiction of the
Lisa: I remember describing The Spellman Files to my mother before she read it and I referred to them as a dysfunctional family of private investigators.
After my mom read the book she said she didn't think they were dysfunctional.
The fact is the Spellmans don't resemble my family, so I'm not sure if
their opinion would be any more informed than anyone else's.
Scott: What's the deal with the stuff at the end of the book
about Mark Twain?
Lisa: This was an end note about the quote attributed to Mark Twain. "The coldest winter I ever spent was my summer in San Francisco." I originally mention it in the book because I was tired of hearing the quote. One of my copyeditors caught the error. Twain never actually said it. And so now in the appendix Isabel references the fact that Twain is mistakenly attributed with this quote.