In the Handbasket: Roberta Isleib

As promised, mystery writer Roberta Isleib is in the Handbasket today as part of her online tour for her latest novel, ASKING FOR MURDER! Roberta is one of those people you meet and wonder, how in the world does she do it all? She’s a clinical psychologist, is the current president of Sisters in Crime, appears on mystery panels all over the country, takes glamorous trips to foreign lands, keeps a bountiful garden, cooks like a dream, blogs at her own blog as well as at (speaking of glamorous) Jungle Red Writers, golfs, and, oh, yes, writes killer mysteries!

ASKING FOR MURDER is the third in Roberta’s latest series featuring psychologist/advice columnist Rebecca Butterman. Usually I’d treat you to a synopsis here, but Roberta has a terrific book trailer that you just have to see–I’ve posted it below, so be sure to take a look.

As a newbie to the novel business, I’m in awe of the fact that Asking for Murder is Roberta’s eighth mystery. She wrote five books for her acclaimed golf series–the first one, SIX STROKES UNDER was nominated for an Agatha as well as an Anthony Award. Roberta’s success is a great example for aspiring writers: she brought together the things that she loves to create exciting new worlds for her readers.

Well, done, Roberta–and congratulations! Thanks for stopping by the Handbasket.

Now that you’ve turned to writing a series in which golf clubs are few and far between, how’s your golf game?

My golf game is almost non-existent! I played my first 18 holes of the summer this past weekend. I blame that partly on my Sisters in Crime presidency and partly on Rebecca Butterman. Since she’s not at all interested in golf (and you’ll see evidence of that in ASKING FOR MURDER), I’ve lost some of my passion too.

You and your series protagonist Rebecca are both psychologists. How are you Rebecca and Rebecca alike? And how did psychology and your background figure into Asking for Murder?

Rebecca has a therapy practice (and an office) very similar to the one I had in New Haven for thirteen years. Although we both love to eat, I have to admit that she’s a better cook. She does inspire me! My personal life is a lot happier than hers—thank goodness for that!

I use my psychology background a lot in this book—in creating realistic characters, showing the work of therapy, and planting psychological clues to solve the mystery. I try to make the work of therapy accurate, but as you know if you’ve ever been in therapy, the process can be mind-numbingly dull with occasional flashes of insight. So I try to skip the boring parts!

What is “sandplay” therapy?

I stumbled into the sandplay part of the story, but I found a wonderful therapist in New Hampshire who walked me through how she uses the sand trays and what it all means. Based on the work of Carl Jung, the theory holds that using this nonverbal process allows the patient to bypass the conscious mind, allowing the deeper, unconscious issues to be revealed. A patient chooses figurines from an amazing collection stored on shelves and positions them in one of the sand trays, which stand waist-high. Then the therapist and patient look at the arrangement together and puzzle out what it might mean. Perfect for a mystery!

Who first encouraged your writing?

I never imagined I could write fiction, though several teachers over the years told me I was a good writer. I believe that gave me the confidence to try something very new. My older sister is a nature writer, and my husband edited technical material. So the two of them were my first readers and cheerleaders. Since those first days, I’ve joined a writers group, hired an independent editor (Nora Cavin,) and made many wonderful friends in the mystery community.

What writer has had a career you admire or would like to emulate?

I read a ton and admire many different authors including Julia Spencer-Fleming, CJ Box, Michael Connelly, Ann Patchett, Roxanne Robinson, Thomas Cook, Sarah Strohmeyer…I could go on and on. Dream career? How about JK Rowling??

Bengal, my eight-year-old asks: “Have you ever witnessed a crime?” (Actually, he asked if you’ve ever seen anyone get run over, but, uh, that kind of freaked me out–you’re welcome to answer either!)

Bengal, I’m a terrible chicken in real life and glad to say I’ve never witnessed a crime. I have had things stolen from me, including some dishes of my mother’s that wouldn’t have meant much to anyone else. So I have a tiny, tiny idea of what a bigger crime might feel like.

Laura, thanks so much for hosting me on your blog. I look forward to your new book in December!

10 thoughts on “In the Handbasket: Roberta Isleib”

  1. Laura,
    Thank you for having Roberta as a guest. I can’t wait to read the book now.

    Roberta, Is it by chance available as an e-book for the Kindle? I’ve just ordered the Kindle and would love to read Asking for Murder on it.

  2. Hi Lillie, thanks for the comment! I’ve just popped over to Amazon and noticed that the second book in the series is available for Kindle, but not AFM yet. I see there’s a button you can click to request it be made available. Can’t hurt to try!

    you’re brave to buy a kindle–I’m not there yet…

  3. Hey Laura! And so much fun to see Roberta here…and wow, terrific trailer! (Yay Janet Koch!)

    Great golf question. Laura. The golf scene in Asking for Murder is hilarious! There’s also a truly great dinner party…

    I had the honor to read an advance copy of AFM, and was so delighted iwth it–I wrote a review for the always fascinating WritersareReaders site.

    Here’s just part of it:

    As the carefully written and always compelling story unfolds, complete with two, maybe three! love interests, and a few more surprising murders, Rebecca tracks down a host of originally drawn characters. Then, as the mystery deepens, the reader begins to realize that the book is deepening, too. Offering more than just a clever and original puzzle, ASKING FOR MURDER explores the psychology of behavior, and even murder, with a deft touch.

    Hope you both sell piles
    of books!

  4. Helen Ginger says:

    That is a wonderful trailer. It’s simple. It’s scary. It’s a perfect fit for the book.

    I’ve read the book and the trailer gave me chills — again.

  5. Thanks Hank and Helen…I’m blushing… Janet did a great job with the trailer–she read the book and picked out just the right concepts. and she’s a dream to work with!

  6. Margaret says:

    Roberta,
    Was a great fan of your Cassie Burdette books, and am enjoying the Rebecca Butterman series. Looking forward to Asking for Murder. Saw your post on DL regarding mentioning what we were reading. I just finished “Person of Interest” by Theresa Schwegel, one of the best books I have read this year, so far. (Haven’t read AFM, yet). “Person” is the story of an undercover Chicago cop obsessed with his job and how this obession negatively affects his marriage, his wife, and his daughter. Great writing. Highly recommended. (Put my name in the hat for one of the copies you are offering of AFM.) Much success with the new book.
    Margaret Franson

  7. Hey Margaret, thanks for stopping in! I will have to look for Teresa’s book–sounds fascinating!

    and Laura, thanks again for having me as a guest! Roberta

  8. Jen says:

    Hi Roberta,

    I, too, saw your listing on DL. I’ve been a busy reader this summer. Right now I’m in the midst of Ariana Franklin’s “The Serpent’s Tale” and James Lee Burke’s “White Doves at Morning.” After seeing your trailer, I’ve just added to my TBR list! Best of luck with your release.

    Jen
    http://jensbookthoughts.blogspot.com

  9. Laura says:

    Thanks so much everyone for coming by!

  10. lois hirt says:

    hi Roberta= great interview- I read the first two books and really enjoyed the characters. I look forward to reading this one. I am reading an Old Ellery Queen- THE TRAGEDY OF Y-we got a number of these old Queen books at an independent bookstore I frequent-It is fun to read a story without cell phones,computers,etc. I am ready to win- Good luck, Best, Lois

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