Edith here, scribbling away north of Boston.
Lesa Holstine, we are so pleased to welcome you to the Wicked Cozy Authors blog. For those who don’t know, Lesa Holstine is one of the premier mystery blogger/reviewers and a librarian who enjoys cozies among other crime fiction sub-genres. I had the honor of being her guest at the Evansville Library in southwestern Indiana last fall, and my sister and I enjoyed dinner and a spirited conversation with her afterwards. I was delighted that she agreed to let me interview her here. So let’s get to know her even better.
E: First, tell us how you came to love mysteries.
L: Thanks for giving me the chance to talk about mysteries and books, Edith. I came to love mysteries because I loved our town’s public library. I was one of those kids who thought they’d be able to read every book in the library, not realizing there were new books published and purchased all the time. While I read my way through the juvenile collection, I came across Helen Fuller Orton’s mysteries, such as Mystery in the Pirate Oak, Mystery of the Rosewood Box. Her books featured families, and, some were historical mysteries. It was the start of my love for traditional mysteries. I read Phyllis A. Whitney’s juvenile mysteries, so it was an easy step to her Gothics. My sister and I shared a love for The Happy Hollister books featuring mysteries involving travel and a family of five kids. Those books were published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate, so I moved from one series to Nancy Drew. And, it was easy to leap form the Ellery Queen, Jr. books for kids to the adult books. My reading as a child led to my love of mysteries.
E: How long have you been reviewing books on your blog? Did the blog come first or the reviews?
L: I’ve been reviewing books for over eleven years on my blog, and there are about 4300 posts. Hard to believe! The reviews came first, though. When I was in Florida, I wrote a weekly column for the newspaper that served the Captiva Island community. I also reviewed mysteries and fantasy for VOYA, Voice of Youth Advocates magazine.
E: What is your favorite mystery sub-genre, and how do you decide which books to review?
L: I guess I’d have to say police procedurals are my favorite sub-genre, but I’m like many of my library patrons. It depends on my mood. I like cozies, historical mysteries, police procedurals, detective stories. I don’t read a lot of thrillers. I prefer the puzzle of a traditional mystery rather than the adrenaline rush of thrillers. I don’t like edge-of-my-seat or books that keep me up at night. I will pick up a thriller if I’m drawn to the character, because I read for the characters.
I review a mixed group of books on my blog because I am a librarian, and I feel as if I need to know about a variety of books. How do I decide which books? Sometimes I’ve agreed to participate in a blog tour. I don’t do that much anymore because I’ve often been disappointed. Most of the time, I review the books I want to read, whatever has caught my attention. And, it’s terrible to have to choose when I have four books at once that are calling to me!
E: Which author has surprised you lately?
L: I’m picking more than one author. Brad Parks surprised me by writing a thriller after he’s written an award-winning series featuring a reporter. P.J. Tracy surprised me by coming out with a new Monkeewrench novel, The Sixth Idea, after a four year absence. And, I love to discover authors who are new to me. This year, I discovered two whose works I love. Anne Cleeland writes the Acton & Doyle series featuring detectives at New Scotland Yard. These are not your typical police procedurals. They’re sexy books with unusual characters. Glen Erik Hamilton writes a grittier series featuring an Army Ranger who was raised to be a thief.
E: What is your position in the Evansville Library system, and does it dovetail with your love of crime fiction?
L: I’m the Collection Development Manager/Manager of Technical Services, which means I supervise the staff that orders, processes and catalogs all the material for the library system. It dovetails only in that I’m part of the team that orders materials, but we order materials of all types, not just crime fiction. And, I’ve always seen myself as a generalist. I read, and am interested in, a wide range of subjects, with an emphasis on crime fiction.
E: What are your top pieces of advice for authors? Do you get bugged for reviews?
L: My top piece of advice for authors is to be kind – to your readers, to each other, to reviewers. The crime fiction community is a wonderful community, and people really do care about each other. And, in my library capacity, I was just asked about participating in a conference call about authors – which ones are easy to work with, and which ones are demanding. Be careful. Those who are not kind do get a reputation.
I get more requests for reviews than you would imagine. I used to reply to every request. Now I reply if I’m interested. As a fellow blogger, Kristopher Zgorski of BOLO Books said recently, “Read our blogs. Pick the ones that seem interested in your type of book. If you don’t pay attention to what it says on my blog, or know what I typically review, I definitely won’t answer.”
E: That’s great advice, both yours and Kristopher’s. Do you have an idea for new cozy series you wish one of us would write? Anything readers often ask for?
L: No ideas. But, I can give you a couple pointers. These are points my sister and I talk about because we’re both avid cozy readers. We get tired of the protagonist who is torn between two men forever. We’ve both stopped reading series when the dilemma as to which man to pick went on and on. And, if you pick an actual location as a setting, you should also use a few local details. My sister won’t read one author who sets a variety of series throughout one state, but uses the locations as just background, without mentioning anything authentic. Either make up a location, or use details. I could go on. She and I take these series personally, and email and talk to each other as if the characters are real. Isn’t that what authors want?
E: Of course! You are now in Evansville and your previous position was in Arizona. Are you originally from the Midwestern or are you a native Westerner like me?
L: I’m originally from Ohio. I was born in Youngstown, but I consider Huron, Ohio, my hometown. We moved there when I was five. It’s a town of about 7,000 right on Lake Erie.
E: Finally, the three questions everyone always wants answered: Pizza or chocolate? Coffee or wine? Eat out or cook at home? Chocolate, although I love pizza. I don’t drink coffee, so it’s wine, I guess. I prefer cocktails. Eat out, definitely! I don’t cook often.
Lesa Holstine has been a library manager/administrator for over 30 years, in Ohio, Florida, Arizona, and, now,
Indiana. Winner of the 2011 Arizona Library Association Outstanding Library Service Award. She is a contributing Book Reviewer for Library Journal and Mystery Readers Journal. She blogs at her own blog, Lesa’s Book Critiques, and is the blogger for Poisoned Pen Bookstore as well. She’s the author of the “Mystery Fiction” chapter in Genreflecting: A Guide to Popular Reading Interests (7th ed.) Winner of the 2009 and 2010 Spinetingler Awards for Best Reviewer.
Readers: Questions for Lesa? Accolades? Admiring comments? All are welcome!