Posted in Author Spotlight, Blog Tour, Cozy Mystery

Interview with Lori Robbins, Author of Murder in the First Position, the first On Pointe Mystery

Please welcome Author Lori Robbins from New Jersey to Ruff Draft

Hi, Lori. It’s great to have you here. How long have you been published? What titles and/or series have you published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.

I published my first book, Lesson Plan for Murder, a little over three years ago, in November 2017. In 2018 it won the Silver Falchion for Best Cozy Mystery and was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice and Indie Book Awards. Lesson Plan for Murder was published by Barking Rain Press, which has since gone out of business.

My most recent work, Murder in First Position, was released November 2020, by Level Best Books. It’s the first novel in the On Pointe Mystery Series. My short story, “Accidents Happen” will be in the May 2021 Malice Domestic anthology, Murder Most Diabolical, and another short story, “Leading Ladies” will be in the New York Sisters in Crime anthology Justice for All in September 2021. I have not as yet self-published any books.

Very nice. Congratulations on your new series. Tell us a little bit about your books — if you write a series, any upcoming releases or your current work-in-progress. If you have an upcoming release, please specify the release date.

Murder in First Position is the opening work in the On Pointe Mystery Series, which is set in the world of professional ballet. I’m nearly finished writing Murder in Second Position, which will be released November 2021. I now have the rights back to Lesson Plan for Murder, which is part of a planned Master Class Mystery series. I’m nearly finished with the second book, titled Linked to Murder.

Describe your goals as a writer. What do you hope to achieve in the next few years? What are you planning to do to reach these goals?

I plan to continue writing both mystery series, and I also have plotted the first work in a third series. I also hope to publish more short stories. My plan is to keep writing!

Great plan. I’m also hoping to start a new cozy series in addition to my Cobble Cove books. I have the first written and ideas for the next three. I currently have 5 full-length books and 4 short eBooks in my Cobble Cove series. My Easter mystery, KittyKai’s Easter Mystery, is on blog tour with Great Escapes Virtual Book Tours, too, until March 28.

What type of reader are you hoping to attract?  Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?

Although I’m not at all funny in real life, I’m very funny on the page. Readers who like some humor in their mysteries will enjoy my work. Although my new series is set in a professional ballet company, readers don’t have to know a single thing about dance to enjoy it. People who are drawn to a flawed narrator with a quirky, and occasionally dark sense of humor, will enjoy reading about Leah Siderova.

I think most readers enjoy a bit of humor in their books, especially in cozies.

What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?

Everyone has an important story to tell. Listen to the voices in your head. If you write as you think, your writer’s voice will sound, and be, authentic. And I think that’s what appeals to readers, irrespective of genre. The most important thing, of course, is to keep writing. You’ll find your audience.

I agree completely.

What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?

I received forty-nine rejections before getting an offer from two publishers. I thought I was prepared for rejection, but honestly, it never got easier.

I hear you. I’ve been lucky finding my two publishers quickly, but it’s been a different story with agents. I’m still trying.

Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?

I’m a vice president of the New York chapter of Sisters in Crime.  I’m also a member of the Damsels of Distress, a group I formed with three other NY SinC writers. We give book talks and writing workshops. Other groups include the Mystery Writers of America and International Thriller Writers.

I’m also a member of Sisters in Crime and International Thriller Writers. They are both great groups. I’m hoping to join Mystery Writers of America, as well. I’ve never heard of Damsels in Distress, but I will check them out.

What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?

Unsurprisingly, I’m an avid reader! After all these years, I still take ballet classes, although for now these take place via zoom. I look forward to once again attending dance performances, and I recently took up swing dancing. I love traveling to foreign cities. I also enjoy baking, because then I get to eat the results. I have several knitting projects that are in the works but are unlikely to get finished. My guilty pleasure is crossword puzzles.

A nice variety of interests. I never had much interest in crossword puzzles, but I did love to solve Logic Puzzles at one time.

What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?

My books are character-driven, and I love it when those characters begin to take on a life of their own. My toughest challenge is time: I wish I had more of it. On the other hand, I also don’t have time for writers’ block.

lol. Excuse me, but you summed up my feelings about writing exactly. There aren’t enough hours in a day for me to write and promote my work. I also love creating characters and enjoy where they take me in their stories.

What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?

Cozy mysteries put ordinary people into extraordinary circumstances. They invite the reader to take part in the investigation, because the plots unfold in places that feel real, even though they’re often imaginary. These books are challenging to write for those same reasons: why would an ordinary person track a killer? Motivation has a special role in this genre. Also, I love puzzles, and mysteries have those in abundance.

Great points. You’re so right about that.

Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?

The following is an excerpt from Murder in First Position

I was the girl all the other kids wanted to kill. Skinny, pretty, and confident, I was the target of much envy and very little affection. I realized later that people resented my extreme disinterest in their lives. But it was never personal, because all I ever cared about was ballet.

These days, I wasn’t quite so dismissive. I wouldn’t reveal the exact number of years that had passed since high school, but I would admit that while my former classmates were still young, I was old. Not too old to get pregnant, and not too old to make partner in a law firm, but definitely old for a ballerina trying to make a comeback. And for me, nothing else counted.

I wasn’t bitter. One minute you were the newest baby ballerina and the darling of every critic. The next thing you knew, you were having knee surgery and The New York Times’ dance czar was faintly praising you for your “mature artistry,” which was ballet-speak for “time to retire.” But I wasn’t ready to hang up my pointe shoes. And Bryan Leister was my ticket to the future.

I didn’t have much time. American Ballet Company had commissioned a new ballet from Bryan, and I wanted the lead role. If my performing career were to end soon, and persistent pain from my recently reconstructed knee indicated just that, then I wanted to go out with a bang. On my terms, not anyone else’s.

I called Bryan the night before we were due to return from our summer break. I wanted to grab him before anyone else called in her chips.

“Bryan! It’s me. How are you? How was Montauk?”

This seemed like a good opening. People loved to talk about their vacations. At least over the phone you didn’t have to look at any pictures. You could pretend you salivated over them on Facebook or Instagram.

Bryan’s enthusiasm didn’t match mine. “Uh, Leah. The summer was great. Yeah, it was great. Seriously, I’ve been meaning to call you, but I was, you know, about to leave for a really important appointment. Talk to you tomorrow?”

As Call Ended floated across the screen, I pondered his lack of interest. When we first met, he answered my calls as excitedly as a freshman girl who’d been asked to the prom by the captain of the soccer team. But Bryan sounded more like a college kid whose mother has phoned during his fraternity’s beer pong competition.

I worried all night about whether or not I’d be cast in Bryan’s ballet. Or any ballet. The next morning, I got up early and anxiously checked my email. If Grayson Averin, the Times chief dance critic, had finally written his long-promised feature article about my collaboration with Bryan, I’d automatically become a hot commodity. Powerful men would be calling me, instead of the other way around…

As I entered the lobby of the ballet studio, a different kind of nightmare emerged when a barrage of texts pinged in rapid-fire succession. By the time I disengaged the phone from the depths of my dance bag, the alerts had grown to epic proportions, more suited to a state of emergency than the ordinary resumption of the dance season. I figured family and friends were messaging their support upon my return to ballet.

No hearts greeted me. No smiley faces either. And no bursts of confetti-filled congratulations. Instead, a horrifying series of condolences filled the screen…

The links to each message were the same. Ballet’s Newest Power Couple:  Bryan Leister and Arianna Bonneville Remake the Future of American Ballet Company. When I clicked on the title, a dramatic photograph filled the screen. Bryan Leister, looking feverish and passionate, had his hands wrapped around a young dancer’s waist. She was bent backward, in an understandably ecstatic pose. The shock of seeing another dancer in my place was so disorienting, I forgot to push the elevator button. I stared at the picture, unable to look away.

Brian’s voice from behind jolted me out of my funk. “Totally amazing, huh?” Bryan, his arm draped over the shoulders of the girl in the photograph, had an annoying grin on his face.

I swallowed my gloom and congratulated him. “Hitting the big time, I see.”

“Yeah, the article was pretty great. Have you, uh…well, you probably already know Arianna? Arianna Bonneville?”

I bared my teeth—the closest I could get to a smile—and greeted her politely.

Taller than me by a good five inches, she looked down her flawless little nose. “Of course I know you. I used to watch you dance when I was still a little girl.” She flipped her long blonde ponytail over her shoulder and softly laughed.

Bryan wasn’t stupid. He probably knew what I was thinking, and he sounded sincere. “Leah, you know I appreciate all you’ve done for me.” He patted me on the back. “I’ll make sure Friedrich keeps you on the rehearsal schedule. If you’re up to it, of course.”

I unlocked my jaw. “Thanks, Bryan. But I’m fine now. Better than ever. And I can’t wait to get back into the rehearsal studio. I’m sure your ballet is going to be great.”

Bryan avoided further eye contact by addressing his next words to the scuffed door. “I think you’ll like our new ballet master. Friedrich Holstein is brilliant, and he has a lot of exciting plans.”

I’d met Friedrich briefly, during our Paris season. In the two weeks we worked together, the only talent he showed was his genius for biting criticism. Of course, I didn’t say what I was thinking. I already distrusted and disliked Arianna, and in the incestuous and competitive world of professional ballet, dancers could be quite ruthless in their quest for stardom.

When we got to the fifth floor, Bryan rushed into the men’s dressing room. I called after him, “Hey! Before you go, I wanted to ask you—”

He held up his index finger, indicating I should wait. Seven long minutes later, I realized he wasn’t coming back…

Excellent excerpt. Thanks for sharing.

Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?

You don’t have to know anything at all about dance to enjoy Murder in First Position! But if you are familiar ballet, you’ll recognize the best—and the worst—of life in this beautiful world.

I’m sure readers will enjoy that. I’m sharing your blog tour and contact information below. Thanks so much for the interview and best wishes on your series.

Murder in First Position: An On Pointe Mystery
by Lori Robbins

About Murder in First Position

Murder in First Position: An On Pointe Mystery
Traditional Mystery
1st in Series
Publisher: Level Best Books (November 24, 2020)
Paperback: 260 pages
ISBN-10: 1947915746
ISBN-13: 978-1947915749
Digital ASIN: B08GQBDLN9

Ballerina Leah Siderova knows the career of a professional dancer is short. But rarely is it as brief as that of her rival, Arianna Bonneville, whose rise to stardom ends when she is stabbed in the back.

New York City police detective Jonah Sobol fixes upon Leah as the prime suspect. After all, she was the one who found the body, she had the most to gain from Arianna’s death, and it was her name Arianna whispered, just before she died.

Leah is desperate to clear her name, and she begins her own investigation, collaborating with her best friend and her ballet coach. As the three dancers sort through backstage intrigues, attempted blackmail, and a tangle of romantic liaisons, the noose around Leah’s neck grows tighter.

Ballet, with its merciless discipline, is all Leah has ever known. Is that enough to keep her one step ahead of the police—and the killer?

About Lori Robbins

Brooklyn-born Lori Robbins began dancing at age 16 and launched her professional career three years later. She studied modern dance at the Martha Graham School and ballet at the New York Conservatory of Dance. Robbins performed with a number of regional modern and ballet companies, including Ballet Hispanico, the Des Moines Ballet, and the St. Louis Concert Ballet. After ten very lean years as a dancer she attended Hunter College, graduating summa cum laude with a major in British Literature and a minor in Classics. Her first mystery, Lesson Plan for Murder, won the Silver Falchion Award for Best Cozy Mystery and was a finalist in the Readers’ Choice and Indie Book Awards. Murder in First Position is the first in her new mystery series, published on November 23, 2020, by Level Best Books.

She is currently working on the second book in both series. She is also the author of “Accidents Happen” a short story that will appear in the 2021 Malice Domestic anthology: Murder Most Diabolical. Robbins is a vice president of the NYC chapter of Sisters in Crime. She is also a founding member of the Damsels of Distress, a group that offers writing workshops and book readings. She is an expert in the homicidal impulses everyday life inspires.

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I'm a retired librarian and the author of the Cobble Cove and Buttercup Bend cozy mystery series and other novels, short stories, poems, articles, and a novella. My books include CLOUDY RAINBOW, REASON TO DIE, SEA SCOPE, MEMORY MAKERS, TIME'S RELATIVE, MEOWS AND PURRS, and MEMORIES AND MEOWS. My Cobble Cove cozy mystery series published by Solstice Publishing consists of 6 books: A STONE'S THROW, BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE, WRITTEN IN STONE, LOVE ON THE ROCKS, NO GRAVESTONE UNTURNED, and SNEAKY'S SUPERNATURAL MYSTERY AND OTHER COBBLE COVE STORIES. My new Buttercup Bend series published by Next Chapter Publishing includes THE CASE OF THE CAT CRAZY LADY and THE CASE OF THE PARROT LOVING PROFESSOR. I've also written a romantic comedy novella, WHEN JACK TRUMPS ACE, and short stories of various genres published as eBooks and in anthologies published by the Red Penguin Collection. My poetry appears in the Nassau County Voices in Verse and the Bard's Annual. I'm a member of Sisters-in-Crime, International Thriller Writers, and the Cat Writers' Association. I live on Long Island with my husband, daughter, and 2 cats.

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