I was recently offered the opportunity to interview Laina Turner, the author of the Presley Thurman mystery series. Laina recently released a re-edited version of the first book in the series, Stilettos and Scoundrels. Not only was the interview a ton of fun, but I can’t wait to dive into the book this weekend. Be sure to keep reading for an excerpt and a very special offer through Amazon.
Stilettos and Scoundrels
Presley tells her boss what he can do with her job in HR and embarks on a new career as a freelance journalist. What seems like a simple interview with a Senator turns to murder when the day after her interview the Senator turns up dead. Does the fact that Presley was one of the last people to see him alive make her a suspect? Her ex-boyfriend Cooper, who was in charge of the Senators security, might think so. Presley is determined to clear her name but can she do it and resist Cooper’s charms?
M&M: Can you give me a little insight into your main character? Why is Presley so special?
Laina: The main reason she is so special to me as a character is she’s my very first main character, so she’s near and dear to my heart. I also named her after Elvis Presley, who was my mother’s favorite singer and Thurman is my mother’s maiden name, and that also lends a special bond I have with her. My mother had always wanted to be a writer and wasn’t able to see that vision to fruition, and it’s my homage to her.
M&M: Where do you see Presley going? Is Stilettos & Scoundrels part of a
Laina: Presley is the main character in the Presley Thurman mystery series which spans 10 books, soon to be 11. I’ve written about her in every one of those 10 books and over 7 years and through all of them she’s grown and evolved as a person character. I can’t imagine retiring the character although it’s bound to happen at some point.
M&M: What draws you to writing mysteries?
Laina: I started out planning on writing straight Chick Lit/Romance and in my first book someone was murdered. I’m still not sure how that happened. Since then I’ve even tried to start other books that are not mysteries and every time they end up being that way. I still dream of writing a non-mystery book but time will tell. I think I enjoy the suspense element and trying to solve puzzles and problems. As a writer, it entertains me to try and figure out how it will all happen and be revealed.
M&M: Where do you find the ideas for your plots?
Laina: If you’ve even seen an episode of Law & Order where in the opening it might say “ripped from the headlines” my plot ideas are often like that. I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that life is stranger than fiction. Well, it is and without people in real life doing crazy things I’d have a much harder time making up stories. My friends all know the are prime pickings for ideas as well.
M&M: Who is your icon in the mystery genre? Favorite character?
Laina: Sue Grafton and Harlan Coben are my top two favs in the mystery genre. They write from different perspectives but both are so creative, knowledgeable, able to pull off the plot twists that keep you guessing until the last page that I can’t get enough of their books. My favorite character of all time doesn’t come from a mystery book but more of the thriller/suspense category. My dad read Tom Clancy so as a teen I read those too and while I didn’t understand a lot of the military jargon the main character Dirk Pitt was the most amazing man ever. He could outsmart people, kill them, and show up for a hot date. He is the all around perfect hero.
Excerpt from Stilettos and Scoundrels
“I heard Helen was having an affair,” I blurted out.
“What?” Ruth exclaimed. Her eyes narrowed, and crossing her arms in front of her chest, she gave me a dirty look. “What right do you think you have, asking these questions?”
“Well, if she were that would be a motive for someone to kill Tom, wouldn’t it?” I continued. Ruth was clearly unhappy to hear me talking about this, so I added quickly, “Not that anyone would blame Helen or anything—”
Ruth interrupted. “First of all,” she said coldly, “Helen is not having an affair, and if she were, that’s not anyone’s business but hers. And they’re not having money problems. Or any other problems for that matter.”
“Ruth, I’m just saying…”
“Second, you should be ashamed of yourself, spreading these kinds of lies about Helen and Tom.” She continued with her rant. “Have you no shame? Helen just lost her husband, and you are accusing her of cheating. And murder.”
“Ruth, I’m not accusing Helen of anything,” I said, hands on hips, trying to act indignant, which wasn’t that difficult as Ruth was making me feel defensive. I wasn’t trying to say anything bad about Helen. Each to his own and all that. “From all I’ve heard, she was entitled to have an affair with the way Tom acted.”
Ruth walked out from behind the counter and pointed to the door. “I think you should leave, Presley. I will not continue to listen to you slander poor Helen. She’s been through enough.”
I started walking toward the door when I turned back to Ruth and said, “I am not trying to start rumors about Helen. I just want to find the truth. It’s going to come out eventually. If something is going on, the cops will find out.”
“Presley, this is none of your concern.” As the door started to shut behind me, I heard Ruth call out, “Don’t think I won’t be telling your mother about this!”
I cringed at the thought, but I got the sense Ruth might be hiding something. Not that I expected her to spill all the beans, but what Ruth didn’t say, and the way she looked when I mentioned Helen having an affair, were the real clues. I hadn’t realized my HR skills would come in so handy. When interviewing job applicants, body language and what they didn’t say, usually, spoke volumes.
I tapped my fingers on the steering wheel to help me think, trying to decide my next course of action.
I decided my next stop would be Betty’s Baked Goods. Not only did Betty have the best peach cream cheese muffins in the world (I had eaten enough to know over the years and always made my parents bring me some when they came to visit), but Betty also knew everything that went on in Alkon. If there were something going on inside or outside of Helen Daniels’s marriage, Betty would know it, and Betty was not shy about spreading gossip. She always said, if you didn’t want someone to talk about it you shouldn’t be doing it. I agreed with that motto, at least when it was about other people. There were some things I would much prefer no one ever found out about—like the time I had too many cosmos and danced on the table at Muldoon’s in a skirt. Though in my defense Jared dared me, and I couldn’t turn down a dare.
I smelled the sweet treats as I walked up to the building, and deeply inhaled the heady aroma of cinnamon buns and freshly made donuts. Yum. My senses drank in the flavor. It was enough to make one drool, and I quickly swiped my chin to make sure I hadn’t.
Deep into the daydream of fresh, hot muffins, I ran into something hard. “Excuse me,” I said, looking up and finding myself face–to–face with that obnoxious security guy named Simon, who worked for Cooper. He had a coffee in one hand and a bakery bag in the other. He obviously had the same mid–afternoon snack idea I had.
“Watch where you’re going, lady.” Simon looked me up and down.
“Maybe you should watch where you’re going,” I retorted as he just stared at me.
Taste buds in overdrive, I put all thoughts of Simon out of my head. Time for a snack. Betty’s was slow at this time of day. The only people in the bakery were a couple of old farmers talking over late morning coffee, the cook in back, and of course, Betty. I never knew of a time when Betty wasn’t there overseeing the place, making sure everyone was enjoying their food and giving them a hard time. That kind of special attention was one of the nicer things about a small-town. Back in Chicago, people barely looked you in the eye while you were eating, much less cared if you enjoyed yourself, or engaged you freely in conversation.
Betty’s back was to me when I walked in, so I snuck up behind her and said, “Any fresh peach cream cheese muffins today?”
Betty turned around, startled, and then smiled when she saw it was me. She looked pretty much the same, as if time had stood still for her. Her silver hair was pulled back in a tight bun, wisps going in many directions, and she wore her uniform of blue jeans and T–shirt with a flour–dusted apron
tied around her waist. However, unlike most women her age, which was somewhere north of sixty, her blue jeans were fashionable, distressed–looking wide–legs. And she had a sassy T–shirt saying *I’m too good for you* on it.