It’s my pleasure to welcome author Leah Dobrinska from Wisconsin to Ruff Drafts.
Hi, Leah. Please tell us how long you’ve been published and what titles and/or series you’ve published and with which publisher? Have you self-published any titles? Please give details.
I’ve been a published author for two years. I independently published my debut small town romance novel, Love at On Deck Café, in 2021. I published the second and third books in that series, Good To Be Home and Together With Together With You, earlier in 2022. Readers describe the Mapleton novels as heartwarming, exploding with charm, and full of the best sort of Hallmark love stories. Self-publishing was a humbling and transformative experience, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I learned so much and loved having complete control over the process. I hired professionals to help me along the way, including editors and a top notch cover designer, and I built a small following of devoted readers who are not afraid to shout from the rooftops about my books. I’m so grateful for the experience, and I love being an indie author.
I also love that I found a home with a publishing house for my debut cozy mystery, Death Checked Out. Getting to tap into the expertise and knowledge of the industry professionals at Level Best Books and having them back my cozy mystery series has been wonderful and a huge stepping stone for my career. I have a three book contract for the Larkspur Library Mysteries, so at least two more stories of Greta and the gang are forthcoming!
Congratulations! 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.
Death Checked Out is the first book in the Larkspur Library Mystery series. It’s a library-focused cozy mystery set in a lakeside town in the Wisconsin Northwoods that’s perfect for fans of Jenn McKinlay’s Library Lovers mysteries and Holly Danvers’s Lakeside Library mysteries. In Death Checked Out, we meet Greta, a glass-half-full kind of girl. She’s the library director in Larkspur, and she copes with the hard things in life with consummate cheerfulness. Unfortunately, her positive outlook takes a hit when murder darkens the idyllic streets of Larkspur, and not only does she find the dead body but she becomes a suspect in the murder investigation. With her librarian co-workers, the community, and her lawyer mom, Greta sets to work to clear her name and close the book on the murder before she’s checked out for good.
Death Checked Out is the first book in the Larkspur Library series. At the moment, it’s a three book series, but I’m always open to writing more! The next two books will publish in December 2023 and December 2024.
For fans of my small town romance novels, I hope to return to Mapleton in 2023, as well. I also have another series up my sleeve that I can’t wait to share in the New Year! It’s in a new genre to me, one that I’ve very excited about breaking into…*cough* rom-com *cough*.
Your series sound wonderful. I also write a cozy mystery series featuring a librarian in the small, fictional town of Cobble Cove, New York. My Cobble Cove series has six books and also features a library cat. I also started a new series featuring the co-owner of a pet rescue center. I just released the second book of that series and hope to start the third after the holidays. I’ve also written a rom com, but I prefer cozies and standalone mysteries. My books are published by two Indie publishers, Solstice Publishing and Next Chapter Publishing. I’m still seeking an agent and to publish with a larger publisher one day. I’ll be working toward that goal after I retire in a few days. I wish you luck and happy holidays!
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?
This is such a great question. It’s my greatest hope that with my books I’m putting something good, true, and beautiful into the world. I use that as my compass, but in short, I hope my stories spread a little joy!
In the next few years, I want to establish myself as a cozy mystery author, not only with the release of Death Checked Out this month but also with the two upcoming books in the series. I’d love to keep the Larkspur Library series going as long as readers want to keep checking it out. Pun fully intended!
I have another cozy mystery series that I’m very excited about running with, as well. The first book is written, but my goal will be to take it through several rounds of edits until it hits all the right notes. Once it’s ready, I’d like to take that out on submission to try to find a publishing house for it. That’ll take a lot of work, a lot of synopsis writing (and re-writing!), and a lot of waiting.
Alongside my cozy mystery efforts, I hope to continue to pursue my career as an indie romance author. Breaking into the rom-com genre is a big goal of mine, and to do so—and to juggle the multiple projects I seem to always find myself in the midst of—I have to set reasonable word count goals and deadlines for myself along the way.
Those sound like great goals. I also have many projects in mind for 2023 and beyond and am also planning a move next year, so I have to prioritize all these ideas and, like you, juggle multiple projects.
What type of reader are you hoping to attract? Who do you believe would be most interested in reading your books?
I’m hoping to attract readers who appreciate down-to-earth characters and quaint, charming settings. My books are happy and fun, so readers looking to be entertained and escape to beautiful fictional worlds are my target. I market my romance novels as being like Hallmark movies with a little less cringe…and I say that as a devoted Hallmark movie fan. I also love the Hallmark Mystery Channel, and I like to think that my cozies reflect that sort of style, as well. So, fans of the Hallmark Channel, I’ve got you covered!
People tell me that my books would also make great Hallmark Mysteries.
What advice would you give other authors or those still trying to get published?
First of all, keep writing! Writing is like a muscle. It’ll get stronger the more and more you work it out. It’s like anything. The more you write, the more confident you’ll be, and the better you’ll get.
Second of all, be a reader! Read books in and out of the genre you’re writing. I have learned so much from other authors, and I find myself constantly inspired by and in awe of the creative outputs of those around me. I look up to so many authors, and I’ve learned more about the craft of writing from reading actual works of fiction than I have from reading books on the craft of writing.
Finally, never forget that the world needs your story, and no one but you can tell it. It’s easy to get sucked in to the comparison game and constantly be looking around to see what others are doing and how they’re doing it. While in some cases it’s great to learn from and be inspired by others, don’t lose sight of your unique voice and the story you have to share.
I couldn’t have answered that better. I agree completely with everything you said, especially the importance of reading that helps authors learn from others. As a retiring librarian, I’ve had the opportunity to read a variety of genres and both popular and Indie authors.
What particular challenges and struggles did you face before first becoming published?
The greatest struggle for me on the path to publication was self-doubt. There’s a lot of waiting and wondering when you’re querying agents and again when you’re out on submission. It’s easy to let the inner critic get a little too loud and to start questioning whether what I’ve written is any good at all.
So very true.
Do you belong to any writing groups? Which ones?
I’m a member of the International Thriller Writers Association, and I try to participate in my local library writing events and the UntitledTown writing group in the Green Bay area.
Nice. I’m also a member of International Thriller Writers and also Sisters-in-Crime and the Cat Writers’ Association.
What are your hobbies and interests besides writing?
Shocking no one, I’d say that my favorite hobby outside of writing is reading. I’m a member of two book clubs, and I look forward to them all month. I also love running for exercise, and I’m a huge music fan. I have a particular soft spot for Taylor Swift and have been known to spout off her lyrics whenever they apply. When given a blank space, you’d be surprised at how frequently I can work them into a conversation.
Funny. I’m a big reader, too. I like to exercise, but my knees are now preventing me from running. I do low impact aerobics and walking. I also adore my two cats and enjoy playing with them.
What do you like most and least about being an author? What is your toughest challenge?
My favorite thing about being an author is creating something that spreads joy. It follows then, that I love interacting with readers. My author newsletter is one of my favorite things. I love getting responses from subscribers and being able to interact and chat with them about all things books, writing, and life.
Let’s see. Challenges! I’d say the toughest challenge I face as an author is that writing isn’t my full-time gig. I’m a stay-at-home mom to four lovely and precocious little ones. They are my first priority, and getting to be at home with them is a great gift to me. It also sometime provides a unique hurdle to my writing efforts. Because I can’t always be writing. I get asked a lot How do you balance it all? The short answer is, I don’t. Something usually falls through the cracks, and something always has to give. I struggle with the guilt of not being able to be everything to everyone all the time, both on the mom side of things and on the author side of things. I’m always working to strike a balance!
I hear you. That is also a big challenge to me. Even though my daughter is an adult now, my full-time job made writing time difficult to find. Now that I’m retiring, I can devote myself more fully to it and to my family.
What do you like about writing cozy mysteries?
When I was little, I wanted to be Nancy Drew. I find myself feeling that way about all the heroines in the cozy mysteries I read, and in those that I write. I love the idea of crafting an amateur sleuth that readers can relate to, see themselves in, and root for. I also have to say that cozy mystery settings are my favorite thing to develop. Give me all the small town drama, local shops, and gorgeous locales. That, and the puns! I live for the puns!
Lol. I feel the same way about cozies. I love developing quirky characters and fun mysteries.
Can you share a short excerpt from your latest title or upcoming release?
Death Checked Out
Four months ago, when Greta first met Franklin, he hadn’t given her the time of day. He had opened the door on her first visit only to shut it in her face before she could so much as say, “Hi, my name is…” But Greta was not to be deterred. She’d kept at him, and slowly, he warmed to her presence, especially when she offered to courier library books directly to him.
What could she say, she was not above bribing her way into someone’s good graces with the promise of books.
After a few seconds, the rough sound of wheels rolling across wood floor reached Greta’s ears, and she turned as the door swung inward. Franklin sat in his wheelchair a couple feet inside the entryway, but the smile she had ready for him died on her lips.
Franklin’s eyes blazed with disgust and his voice was as frosty as a Wisconsin winter. “I understand what you’re asking, but you don’t seem to understand what I’m telling you!”
Great excerpt. Thanks for sharing it.
Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know about you or your books?
I’d just like to say thank you! Of all the books you could read, I’m so grateful you’ve chosen to give mine some of your time. I hope my books make you smile. If you do enjoy them, please be generous with your stars and leave an online review. Nothing helps an author keep writing more than positive momentum in the form of hearing their books resonate with a reader.
I love interacting with fellow book lovers, so please don’t be shy. Sign up to receive my newsletter so we can email each month. Find me on Instagram or Facebook. I like to have fun with social media, and I hope you’ll join in!
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/3zB9eeg
Barnes & Noble Author Page: https://bit.ly/leahdbnhome
Thanks for the great interview, Leah, and I wish you the best on your new series and forthcoming cozies and Rom coms.
Death Checked Out: A Larkspur Library Mystery
by Leah Dobrinska
About Death Checked Out
Death Checked Out: A Larkspur Library Mystery
1st in Series
Setting – Wisconsin
Level Best Books (December 6, 2022)
Number of Pages ~300
Digital ASIN : B0BHJJ1QRT
She’s used to checking out books. A death? Not so much.
Greta Plank, resident librarian in the small, lakeside town of Larkspur, Wisconsin, prefers her rose-tinted glasses extra rosy, thank you very much. Ever since a family tragedy landed her in Larkspur, she’s kept a happy-or-bust outlook. But Greta’s cheery resolve takes a hit when she finds the town recluse dead at the base of the stairs leading from his deck to the lake. What she assumes is a terrible accident Greta soon learns is something more sinister, and to make matters worse, new-to-town Detective Mark McHenry cites her as not only his primary source for the case, but his top suspect.
To clear her name and return to life as she knew it before the murder, Greta decides to do some clue cataloging of her own. After all, she’s got her master’s degree in library science with an emphasis in research methodology…how hard could a criminal investigation be? With the help of her fellow librarians and her lawyer mom, Greta begins checking out the pages of the murder, uncovering details about the recluse’s rare book collection and Larkspur’s real estate market as she tries to understand why anyone would have authored his death.
But with friends and neighbors stacking up as both victims and suspects, Greta must cross-reference the facts and put a hold on her idyllic worldview if she wants to get the full story without paying the fine of her life.
About Leah Dobrinska
Leah Dobrinska is the author of the Larkspur Library Mysteries, a cozy mystery series set in the Wisconsin Northwoods, and the Mapleton novels, a series of standalone small town romances. She earned her degree in English Literature from UW-Madison and has since worked as a freelance writer, editor, and content marketer. As a kid, she hoped to grow up to be either Nancy Drew or Elizabeth Bennet. Now, she fulfills that dream by writing mysteries and love stories. Death Checked Out is her debut cozy mystery.
A sucker for a good sentence, a happy ending, and the smell of books—both old and new—Leah lives out her very own happily ever after in a small Wisconsin town with her husband and their gaggle of kids. When she’s not writing, handing out snacks, or visiting local parks, Leah enjoys reading and running. Find out more about Leah, join her newsletter community, and connect with her through her website, leahdobrinska.com.
Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/3zB9eeg
Purchase Links – Amazon – B&N
Death Checked Out Purchase link (Barnes & Noble): Coming soon!
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