What a delight to interview Lori Roberts Herbst, an award-winning mystery writer who also spent decades working with and learning from teenagers. We also share tremendous appreciation for Sisters in Crime and its Guppy chapter. I’m so happy to welcome her to my blog today. Below are her responses to my interview questions, followed by her bio and purchase links.
First off, congratulations on the release this year of Double Exposure, the second book in your Callie Cassidy Mystery series. Can you tell us about the book and what inspired you to write the series?
Thank you so much! Double Exposure was a fun book to write. My editor told me book two would be more challenging psychologically (sophomore jitters, she called it), and she was right. But creating a series is downright fun. Roaming through Callie’s world, navigating her relationships—oh, and setting up a few mysteries along the way—it’s been an exciting ride. I can’t really say what inspired me to write the series. I’d just wake up every morning thinking about characters I’d love to create and stories I wanted to tell. All that thinking eventually led me to get out of bed and head to the computer. It’s been a long journey with a lot of errant steps along the way, but I’m finding my way. The series follows a former investigative photojournalist as she resigns from her newspaper gig and begins a new/old life as a photo gallery owner in the mountainside village of her youth. In Double Exposure, Callie is adjusting to her career changes: from a fast-paced career at a big-city newspaper to a more laid-back lifestyle running a village photo gallery. She’s begun rebuilding relationships with the people she left behind twenty-five years ago, and she’s learning how to fit in. So when her former boss brings his team to the village for a retreat, her past and present collide—with some deadly consequences. She finds a previous rival murdered in her darkroom, and the suspect list includes her former colleagues. How can she not get involved in the investigation?
You spent many years as a high school journalism teacher and counselor. How has your extensive work with students and journalism influenced your writing?
I spent a quarter of a century as a journalism adviser, constantly immersed in writing, photography, design—all the elements of producing publications. Then I became a school counselor and learned even more about people’s motivations and behaviors. Working with teenagers for thirty years provided me with insights into why people act the way they do, make the choices they make, sometimes sabotage themselves, but more often rise above their circumstances. Those kids imbued in me a sense of promise and optimism, and I hope that shows up in my writing.
Did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Any books/authors who inspired you as a child? As an adult?
As a child, I had no inkling I’d eventually evolve into a writer. In junior high, I was pretty sure I’d become a famous actress and snag a recurring role as David Cassidy’s girlfriend on The Partridge Family. By the time I got to high school, I’d figured out that wasn’t in the cards, so I found my way into journalism and discovered a love for writing and telling people’s stories. From the time I can remember, I’ve always been an avid reader. I read my Beverly Cleary books until they were torn and dogeared. Later, my love of fiction ran the gamut from Louisa May Alcott to Stephen King (who is a particular favorite of mine).
When did you decide to pursue writing seriously?
I scribbled a few stories and chapters here and there throughout my life, but the demands of family and career kept me from pursuing it seriously. A couple of years into retirement, I decided I could combine my passions and live vicariously through my characters. I began writing the first book in the series, Suitable for Framing, when I was fifty-five. After dozens of iterations, it was finally published in January of this year, when I was fifty-eight. Double Exposure came next in June, and book 3, Frozen in Motion, will be released this coming January. It’s proof that, as they saying goes, “You are never too old, and it’s never too late.”
The setting of your series in Rock Creek Village, Colorado is so picturesque. What inspired you to set the series there?
I am fanatically in love with the mountains! As a Dallasite, I can’t look out my window and see them, so I have to transport myself in my mind. We travel to Colorado often—in fact, Callie’s fictional town is loosely patterned after Estes Park, though Rock Creek Village is smaller (and apparently deadlier…) I dream of the day I can own a cabin in the Rockies…Someday…
Tell us about your writing process: Are you a pantser, plotter, or somewhere in-between?
I’m definitely a plotter, in every aspect of my life. Mornings find me huddled over a legal pad creating my to-do list. I organize vacations years in advance. You should see me packing for a trip. My obsessiveness is epic. When I’m planning a new book, I typically have a bare-bones outline from start to finish, then I create a detailed outline of a quarter of the book at a time. That allows for changes I didn’t see coming. Sometimes, a secondary character takes on a life of her own and demands more space.
What are you currently working on writing-wise?
As I said, I’ve just completed book 3, Frozen in Motion, scheduled for release January 25. Currently, I’m writing short story number two in a prequel trilogy centering on Callie and her friends during their high school days. These stories are free to my subscribers, and story number one is already available through my website. Then it’s on to outlining book four in the series, which I’m hoping to have ready by summer of 2022.
What advice would you give aspiring cozy mystery writers?
Advice? I’m the one seeking advice! But I will say this: the best decision I made in my journey as a writer was joining Sister in Crime, particularly the Guppy chapter. The people I’ve met there have been tremendously supportive and helpful, always quick with resources and guidance. They are an amazing group, and I’m lucky to have stumbled onto them.
When you’re not writing, what do you enjoy doing?
My husband and I enjoy traveling and take several trips a year. When we’re home, we attend lots of sporting events and movies. My grown daughters are now wonderful friends, and I love spending time with them and their families. Nothing beats grandparenting, and my four grandchildren are the light of my life. I like to cross stitch, too, and always have a project going. And of course, there’s the obvious—reading, reading, reading.
Anything else you’d like I add—or wish I’d asked that I didn’t?
Just one thing: no one told me when I started this new career how much I’d enjoy getting to know my readers. It’s been so much fun to have people email and message me about my books and characters. What a joy to connect with others in this way!
Thanks so much for visiting today, Lori!
Lori Roberts Herbst is the author of the Callie Cassidy Mystery series. Her debut novel, Suitable for Framing, won first place in category at the 2020 Chanticleer International Book Awards. She is a member of Sisters in Crime and serves as secretary of the North Dallas chapter. She is also a member of the national Guppy chapter and Mystery Writers of America. A former educator, Lori spent much of her life writing, editing, and psychoanalyzing. Through thirty years of teaching journalism, advising newspaper and yearbook staffs, instructing budding photographers, and counseling teenagers, she still managed to hang on to a modicum of sanity. Then she retired and assumed her third career: author. Visit her website at www.lorirobertsherbst.com and follow her on Facebook, Instagram, Goodreads, and Bookbub.
Suitable for Framing: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B08R7XR3LG
Double Exposure: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B094DRMSR9