Finding the Right Protagonist by Lesley Diehl

3578I was given a lot of advice when I started writing mysteries, and some of it was good.  Here’s a piece of wisdom I’ll bet all writers have heard: write what you know.  So here’s what I knew.  I was a retired professor of psychology and a college administrator.  I couldn’t imagine anyone would find a dean or a vice president in academe at all exciting, so I chose to write about a professor at a college similar to the one I taught at for over 25 years.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t very enticing either.  No one, not an agent or an editor bit on those manuscripts.  Ah, yes.  I wrote two of them.  What was I thinking?


I decided what I knew was not the stuff of mystery novels, but I could learn, couldn’t I?  I wanted a cozy protagonist different from the ones I usually read.  I had tried crocheting once and my next door neighbor told me I looked as if I was in extreme pain when I did it.  The end product was not so great either.  I think anything involving manipulating needles to create something wearable or beautiful or even useful (think toilet paper roll cover) was not my thing. How about a taxidermist?  I envisioned myself up to my arms in chipmunk entrails trying to learn the trade so I could create a realistic protagonist.  Nope.  Instead my first protagonist was a woman who owned a microbrewery and brewed beer.  The research was great fun.  My husband served as the taster, and I drove around to numerous microbreweries to discover the art of making beer.  I already had the art of drinking it down pat.


Next came a series I set in rural Florida featuring a retired preschool teacher turned bartender.  There’s a booze theme going on here, isn’t there?  She was great fun because I made her a tiny woman and with her background in dealing with young children everyone expected her to be ladylike and genteel.  While she began that way in the first book, I developed her into a tougher gal, able to take on the crooks she pursued.


I think the protagonist in my most recent series, also set in rural Florida, is the perfect blend of what I know and what I’ve learned in writing over the years.  What I didn’t remember I knew was what my paternal grandmother had taught me.  Reuse everything until it falls apart.  Hence my love of yard sales and anything secondhand.  Hence the creation of Eve Appel, consignment shop owner.  The shop offers high end merchandise in rural Florida.  She is an in-your-face gal who loves designer fashions.  Originally from Connecticut, she’s convinced that buying used fashions from wealthy West Palm matrons and selling them to the same as well as to the women who live in rural Florida will be a hit.  She’s right.  Too bad the grand opening of her shop begins with the discovery by her business partner of a customer stabbed to death in one of the dressing rooms.  Or is it?  That’s the beginning of Eve the amateur sleuth and her snooping into murder.


Book #3 in the series due out July 15 from Camel Press is A Sporting Murder.  Eve’s partner Madeleine has found true love in a man owning a game reserve for hunting only to have him arrested for killing one of his own clients.  With her grandmother, several Miccosukee Indians, her PI boyfriend and a friendly mob boss, Eve thinks she has enough ammunition to find the real killer.  Will that be before she becomes a target and the bait?


Eve is almost the perfect protagonist for me.  Anytime I need inspiration for my writing, I simply run off to a yard sale or to a consignment shop.  The thrill of the hunt for that perfect bargain is almost like solving a mystery.  It’s a high that keeps me writing about Eve Appel, her love of used merchandise and her passion for solving murders in the swamps of Florida.


Author bio:

Lesley retired from her life as a professor of psychology and reclaimed her country roots by moving to a small cottage in the Butternut River Valley in upstate New York.  In the winter she migrates to old Florida—cowboys, scrub palmetto, and open fields of grazing cattle, a place where spurs still jingle in the post office, and gators make golf a contact sport.  Back north, the shy ghost inhabiting the cottage serves as her literary muse.  When not writing, she gardens, cooks and renovates the 1874 cottage with the help of her husband, two cats and, of course, Fred the ghost, who gives artistic direction to their work.


She is the author of a number of mystery series and mysteries as well as short stories.  A Sporting Murder follows the first two books in the Eve Appel mystery series, A Secondhand Murder and Dead in the Water


Visit her on her website:



sporting_murderBook summary:

It’s smooth sailing for Eve Appel and her friend Madeleine, owners of Second to None Consignment Shop in rural Florida’s Sabal Bay, land of swamps, cowboys, and lots and lots of ‘gators. Eve and her detective boyfriend Alex have joined Madeleine and her new beau David Wilson for a pleasure cruise on his boat. But cloudy, dangerous waters lie ahead. A near fatal encounter with Blake Reed, David’s supremely nasty neighbor, is soon followed by a shooting death on the dividing line between David and Blake’s land. Both men run sport-hunting reserves, but Blake imports “exotics” from Africa and promotes gator killing, while David stays within the law, pointing clients toward the abundant quail and turkey as well as the wild pigs that ravage the landscape. Nevertheless, when a mutual client is killed, it is David who is arrested and charged with murder.

Blake’s nastiness is only exceeded by that of his wife, Elvira, who forces Eve and Madeleine out of their shop, intending to replace it with a consignment shop of her own. It seems that bad luck looms over them all, even Eve’s brawny and hard-to-resist Miccosukee Indian friend Sammy, whose nephew has disappeared. As the case against David grows stronger and his friends’ misfortunes multiply, Eve and her strange and diverse group of friends, including her ex, a mobster, her grandma, and Sammy’s extended family, band together to take on the bad guys. But the waters are getting muddier and more troubled, and Eve and Madeleine may end up inundated in every sense of the word.

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Author links:

Webpage and blog: and


Twitter: @lesleydiehl


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