Today it’s my honor and privilege to have as a guest Toni L. P. Kelner, author of “The Laura Fleming Mysteries”, “the Where Are They Now” Mysteries and a boatload of supernatural short stories published with Charlaine Harris in in anthologies with other members of the Mystery Writers of America [MWA].
She’s been published in Alfred Hitchcock, Ellery Queen, and other anthologies and magazines. A big hit for her has been her “Family Skeleton” novels under her nom de plume, Leigh Perry.
In fact, I first encountered Toni when I read one of the anthologies because it contained a story by one of my favorite authors. I found so many other wonderful writers , including Toni herself. Several months ago, Toni was the guest of another writer/blogger, Toni Lo Tempio, and well, we, of like names, flock together; we have been Facebook friends ever since. I was so pleased when she immediately answered “Yes” to my request for her to guest with us.
So, let’s find out more about her:
You are from North Carolina, but now live in Massachusetts, and your character Laura Fleming is also a Massachusetts transplant from North Carolina, as well, right?
Besides the obvious, (above), can you tell us where you get the inspiration for your characters and stories?
No, it’s all pretty obvious. That first series was the traditional idealization of self series. Laura worked in the computer industry as I did at that time; her husband was an academic as my husband was at that time; she has an eccentric extended family, and I have to cop to that as well. The big part of idealizing was making her tall. She’s five foot two, which is tall in my family.
I started writing the Laura books when in the throes of homesickness after moving to Massachusetts. Moving also gave me a lot of perspective on what was most interesting about growing up in the South.
Are you planning on continuing with Laura and Tilda Harper,(from the Where Are They Now series)?
I would like to do more short stories with those characters, but right now I’m busy with my Family Skeleton series, which are published under my pen name Leigh Perry.
You must have a lot of fun doing the supernatural anthologies with Charlaine Harris, as you have done so many of them. They are great fun to read! In the introduction to the first one Charlaine said that it was hard to get many members of the MWA to get out of their zone and attempt a supernatural short story. It is nice to read the ‘takes’ of some who don’t delve into the genre, like Parnell Hall and it’s always fun to read new stories from those who only do those, like MaryJanice Davidson. Do you find it easier to get the big names now?
We actually got big names from the very beginning. The roster of Many Bloody Returns, our first anthology, included people like Jim Butcher and Kelley Armstrong. After it did well, it was even easier to get people. And as more anthologies came out, noted mystery/thriller writers like Nancy Pickard and James Grady actually approached us. Charlaine and I have no more anthologies in the works, sadly, and I hate that there are so many people who’ve expressed interest that I won’t have a chance to work with. (Though I’m keeping my list, just in case.)
This is considered a ‘romance writer’ blog, (although I am still working on my first romance). I have yet to become familiar with your series of novels, but certainly your short stories often have romance in them: Joyce-the-Werewolf and Dave-the-Vampire, Elspeth-the-Witch and Jack-the-Werewolf and surely Stella and Mark, the Vampires.(I found “Show Stella Got Her Grave Back” to be downright sweet! You made me cry.) Do you see yourself as a romantic?
I don’t know—you’d have to ask my husband. I will say that we bought each other the same gift this past Valentine’s Day. Of course, the gifts in question were Edgar Allan Poe bobble heads, so I guess you’d put me down as a quirky romantic.
As a writer, I love a good romance plot, even if it’s not the main action of the book, but my last book—The Skeleton Takes a Bow—has no romance at all. Maybe in the book I’m working on…
I have found that most writers, truly successful writers, are often very helpful to other writers. Do you find that to be true?
Oh my gosh, yes. My first two manuscripts were critiqued by the wonderful writer Sarah Smith, just as a favor. Margaret Maron and Carolyn G. Hart blurbed my first two books, and Sharyn McCrumb gave me amazing advice. And that’s when I was new! People do me favors all the time. The amount of goodwill in this business is amazing.
A couple of years in a row I got to meet one of your sometime fellow contributors at book signings near me, and we had a great deal of fun. However, there seems to no longer be any real book tours for most authors in the last several years. Although blog tours are nice and reach a great number of people, do you go on personal appearances? Do you like them, or do you consider them a lot of travel and trouble?
Which contributor? Was gossip exchanged?
Sorry. I got distracted.
Anyway, I quite enjoy travel but it is a lot of trouble to arrange. I still have a daughter at home, and a husband who travels, so we have to juggle all those schedules for me to go out of town.
I’ve never been toured, meaning at the publisher expense, and I’ve curtailed my book signing expeditions in the past few years because people just don’t seem to turn out the way they used to unless it’s for a Big Name Author. I have had several book events at local store like Bestsellers Cafe in Medford, MA and New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton, MA. I also attend conferences like Bouchercon, Malice Domestic, Boskone, and Readercon.
The exception is going to be December 3, when Ace is sending me to Murder By the Book in Houston to sign copies of Dead But Not Forgotten, the latest anthology from Charlaine and me.
Have you dabbled in any other sort of writing?(Plays, poetry, songs, etc?)
I started out as a technical writer, producing fascinating tomes like SAI Report Generator User’s Manual and the Maxim Reference Guide. Thrilling stuff.
My first non-tech-writing credits were limericks for Dragon magazine.
But mostly I’m a fiction gal. (As opposed to a fictional gal.)
What can we look forward from you in the near, or far/future?
I’m pretty much morphing into Leigh Perry full-time now. The second Family Skeleton book came out in September, and I’ll have the third one — The Skeleton Haunts a House — next October. My first horror story will be in Christopher Golden’s anthology Seize the Night, which will be out sometime next year.
Is there anything else you’d like us to know?
Hmmm… I have an ever-increasing number of skeleton items: toys, pictures, jewelry, and scarves. And I carry a tiny skeleton in my purse at all times for photo ops.
And a lot of fun they are to see on Facebook, with “Sid” on planes, in hotels, at malls, etc.
Thank you so much for being with us today, Toni. Congratulations on all of your success and may it continue to shine as bright!
Here is some contact information for Toni and her alias, Leigh Perry:
Toni L.P. Kelner / Leigh Perry
I certainly enjoyed reading this. She is a new author to me and I think I will check out one of her books. Tonette do you have a suggestion to which book I may want to read?
Angie, I have to admit that I have had Toni’s novels on my TBR list , but I have received so very many books and have been writing and proofreading that I have had to move her up on MY list just recently. I DO know and totally enjoy her short stories in the MWA series that she also edits , that I can’t imagine any of the books not being thoroughly enjoyable! I am, however, particularly fond of the one I mentioned, “How Stella Got Her Grave Back”, it is a mystery, it is funny and it is touching. You might want to start with that book, (although be forewarned:they are addictive!).
You’ll find that on in the anthropology: Many Bloody Returns”.
I’d go with A SKELETON IN THE FAMILY, first in the Family Skeleton series. But I may be biased!
I am terribly curious about ALL of them!
Terrific interview. And Toni sounds fascinating.
in her family, anyone over 5’2″ is tall,
she carries a skeleton in her purse
her and her husband’s idea of a romantic gift is a Poe bobble-head
Would love to meet her!
She IS a lot of fun, Jeff! I see her and Sid the Skeleton,(or a reasonable facsimile), on Facebook every day. Always a day brightener!
If she’s on FB, I’ll send Toni a FB request. Ask her not to delete it automatically.
She’ll see your name,Jeff and that we are mutual friends.
Actually I have three skeletons in my purse. Just in case.
always be prepared…
I did notice that Sid seemed taller in some shots…and thinner! LOL!
Wonderful interview! I love reading mysteries. I have to agree with you about the helpfulness of veteran writers. I never would have succeeded without the support and helpful advice of other authors, from my own writing groups as well as complete strangers! Thanks for sharing your books with us. Your Family Skeleton series sounds fascinating.
I’m grabbing one as soon as I finish the couple I’ve just been handed and I get through the last Artemis Fowl for my grandson.
Thanks for letting us get to know Leigh, Tonette! 🙂
Check her out…both of her,(Toni as well.) Is my grammar correct???LOL!