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Monday, September 5, 2011

Children's Book and Murder Mystery Author Marilyn Levinson Reveals New Book, A Murder Among Us

I’m a former Spanish teacher, and the author of several books for children and young adults. A Murder Among Us is my first published adult mystery. My novel, Murder A La Christie, was a finalist in the 2010 Malice Domestic contest. I’m a member of The Authors Guild, RWA, The Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and the Guppies.  I am president, and co-founder of the Long Island chapter of Sisters in Crime. I live on Long Island with my husband, Bernie, and our cat, Sammy.
Tell us about the genre of your work. 

A Murder Among Us is a traditional mystery with cozy elements.  The novel debuted in June it was published by Wings ePress, and soon will be available in paperback.  Ebook ISBN: 978-1-61309-014-5; POD ISBN: 978-1-61309-981-0
Why did you choose this genre?
I chose to write in the mystery genre because I love puzzles.  I also love delving into personalities:  who, among all the characters in the story, is evil or amoral enough to have murdered one, two, or three characters?  In cozies and traditional mysteries, the murderer and victim often know each other, which makes it more interesting.  Also, each character has his or her secret.  I love unraveling secrets.
What are some of your books, stories that have been published? 
My first published novel for children was And Don’t Bring Jeremy (Holt).  It’s about two brothers, Jeremy and Adam Krasner.  Adam, the younger brother, is often embarrassed by Jeremy, who is neurologically impaired.  In the course of the book, Adam learns that while Jeremy can’t play baseball, he has certain strengths that merit his admiration.  And Don’t Bring Jeremy was a nominee for six state awards.  It’s out of print, but I intend to bring it out as an ebook. 
No Boys Allowed  has been in print since 1993, and has sold over 200,000 copies.  When Cassie Landauer’s dad leaves the family to marry a young lawyer in his firm, she declares war on all males, including her best friend, Bobby.  Then Great-Uncle Harry moves into the house and discovers Cassie’s working on her dad’s old stamp album.  Eventually, Cassie must allow boys and men back into her life, and that includes her father. No Boys Allowed! ISBN 0-439-71965-8 It is available through Scholastic and
Rufus And Magic Run Amok is about fourth-grader, Rufus Breckenridge, who discovers he’s a witch.  While he’s happy to now have the power to  deal with Big Douggie, his tormentor, Rufus won’t tell his parents he’s a witch.  If he does, he’ll have to take boring lessons to control his powers.  And so his magical powers run amok. Rufus And Magic Run Amok was selected by the International Reading Association, and the Children’s Book Council for “Children’s Choices for 2002.”   Currently, it’s out of print, though I intend to make it available as an ebook 
How do you come up with the names of places and characters in your books?

I set my books on Long Island, where I live, though the towns and villages in my books don’t really exist.  I create my characters, as well.  They aren’t based on real people.

How did you develop the character of your protagonist in this book?

Lydia Krause is the sleuth in A Murder Among Us.  She’s 58, attractive and vibrant, and was the CEO of her own company.  She is also a widow and the mother of two adult daughters.  I created a bright and savvy sleuth who has start a new life, which Lydia does when she moves to Twin Lakes, an upscale retirement community.

What about an antagonist…is there a unique “bad guy” or a recurring nemesis of any kind?

My nemesis butts heads with Lydia. She exposes his past in a very public and emotional scene in the clubhouse.  Marshall Weill’s a slick conman who has been to prison for embezzlement.  He’s also a womanizer, and Lydia holds him responsible for her youngest sister’s suicide.  But when Weill is accused of having committed two murders, Lydia offers to find proof that he’s innocent of homicide.

What’s your favorite thing about your book?
I love Lydia’s relationship with Detective Sol Molina.   At first she’s his Suspect Number One, but they’re attracted to one another.  I also love Lydia’s relationship with her daughters and how she handles the extra-marital affair of one and the wedding plans of the other.
How is writing in the genre you write, different than other genre?
Once I’m in the head of my main character, be it a ten-year-old boy or a forty-eight year old college professor, the voice comes alive and the elements of that particular story fall into place.  One big difference: in my mysteries, I always have a romance going.  And my adult characters have emotional baggage and several secrets they try to keep hidden.  My child protagonists have to deal with a particular problem, which they eventually solve without their parents’ intervening.
Why and when did you begin writing?
Would you believe, I started writing in the second grade?  I still have my notebook of little stories.  Being a Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Judy Bolton fan, I started my own mystery, but never got past chapter one.  No doubt, because I hadn’t worked out the plot.
What is your writing schedule?
I write best in the afternoon.  I find I start producing pages at a quarter to three.  Don’t ask me why.  Perhaps that’s when--in the past--I’d arrive home from teaching.  But I do my best writing when it’s time to prepare dinner.<g>
What projects are you working on now, or plan for the future?

I’m finishing up a mystery now, a sequel to Murder A La Christie called Murder The Tey Way.  After that, I’d like to write another Lydia Krause/Twin Lakes book, or one with my ghost, Cameron Leeds.  The first mystery with Cam will be coming out in the spring of 2012 with Uncial Press.
What kind of advice or tips to you have for someone who wants to write and get published?

Long Island Sisters in Crime meeting in Dec. 2010
Join writing organizations that are geared toward the kind of book you write.  Take writing classes, at least to begin with.  Form a critique group.  Read what you write; read what you don’t write.  Above all, WRITE!!
Are there any other comments, advice or tips that you would give to beginning writers?
Learn to listen to criticism, but develop a sense of what’s right for the book you’re writing.
What do you do when you are not writing? 
I read, knit, email friends, go out for dinner with my husband, see friends, exercise, walk, and think about my work in progress.
What “Made It” moments have you experienced in life?
Reading a great review of And Don’t Bring Jeremy, and seeing one of the book’s illustrations in Publishers Weekly.
Attending my son, Michael’s, wedding last May.
Co-founding the Long Island Sisters in Crime chapter
Being recognized by children’s librarians as “that” Marilyn Levinson
Avery Aames and me
--at Malice, 2011.
Avery won
Best First Novel Agatha award
Visit her website and find out where you can purchase A Murder Among Us and other books.
This is photo of me (in the center) with fellow Guppies
 Jeri Westerson, Liz Zelvin, Gloria Alden, and Kaye George
 at this year's 2011 Malice Domestic convention's banquet.


Daryl Wood Gerber a.k.a. Avery Aames said...

Marilyn, I love the picture of your cat with the books! Great article. So lovely to learn even more about you.


Marilyn Levinson said...

Well, thank you Avery. Our secret pasts come out in interviews.:)

DVBerkom said...

Great interview, Marilyn! I second loving the cat photo with your book- so cute!

Jana Richards said...

Hi Marilyn,
I enjoyed reading your interview and learning more about your writing. I'm intrigued with your adult mystery, and your children's books sound very thoughtful and interesting as well.

I thought it was funny that your writing just gets going when it's time to cook dinner. Sounds like the best excuse for not cooking to me!