Meet best-selling author John Lamb. He’ll take you on a great mysterious trip to Virginia and make you discover the strange story of “The Mournful Teddy”.
Hello John, nice to welcome you on “Veronika asks” ! Can you introduce yourself to our readers?
I’m a retired Southern California cop, who served as a CSI, a homicide investigator and detective sergeant. Now I live in farm country in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia with my wife, Joyce, two golden retrievers, and six cats. Oh, and we’re both teddy bear collectors. We have over 600 and our house is decorated with them.
If you could describe yourself with three words…
Determined, intelligent, and funny.
“The Mournful Teddy” is already a bestseller. Can you tell us more about this novel?
After being shot and wounded, San Francisco PD homicide inspector Brad Lyon is medically retired. He and Ashleigh, his teddy bear artist wife move to the Shenandoah Valley, where they must defy the local sheriff and solve a murder connected with the theft of a historical teddy bear worth $168,000. By the way, the teddy bear exists in real life. In 1912, the German toy maker Steiff produced a limited edition of teddy bears to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic. “The Mournful Teddy” is a hybrid between a cozy and police procedural and I had a lot of fun writing it.
You say on your website that “The Mournful Teddy” is the first in a series featuring Brad and Ash Lyon. What’s going to happen in the next book?
The second book in the series is “The False-Hearted Teddy,” which is scheduled for release in June 2007. Set six months after “The Mournful Teddy,” Brad is now making teddy bears with Ash. They go to a teddy bear show in Baltimore, where a beloved bear artist is murdered and it’s up to my sleuth couple to solve the mystery.
I read you were a deputy sheriff and a hostage negotiator (and I’ll stop here, the list is long!) and your wife Joyce is a latent fingerprint expert and crime analyst. Do you write together?
No, I write the books by myself, but Joyce is my proofreader. With her background in pattern analysis, she not only corrects my mechanical errors, but identifies plot holes and inconsistencies. Her other important function is acting as the model for Ash Lyon. Joyce was a superb investigator and it’s a treat to give the rest of the world a peek at the amazing woman I married.
How did you start writing? How did you get published?
I’ve been interested in writing fiction ever since junior high school, but my other great ambition was to become a cop. When I retired from the police force in 1997, Joyce strongly encouraged me to pursue my other dream of becoming an author. My first effort was the nonfiction “San Diego Specters,” a book of investigations into haunted places. It was published in 1999 and is considered one of the better books on ghost phenomena written in the past fifty years. After that, I wrote my first mystery novel, “Echoes of the Lost Order.” It took two years to get an agent and another year for the book to be sold to Five Star Publications. That was in 2003. But to show you how quickly things can change, three weeks after selling “Echoes,” I signed a contract with Berkley Prime Crime to produce “The Mournful Teddy” series.
Why do you write mysteries?
Because they’re fun and allow me to give the reader some insights into what it’s like to actually investigate a murder. One of the things I really like to share with readers is the interrogation process, which can involve so many intriguing facets such as interpreting body language, semantics, and nonverbal cues.
How do you work (when, where, how)?
When I’m writing a book, I treat it as I would regular employment. I start work at 8 a.m., take a break at lunch, and then work from 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. Then I’ll go back to work in the evening. I have a home office and do my writing there. As far as the “how” is concerned, I work from a pretty comprehensive synopsis. I know where the book is going before I start. My usual workday output is about 1000 words, but there are times when I produce over 3000 words a day.
What’s your best memory about novel-writing? And the worst?
My best memory was when I finished the first three chapters of “The Mournful Teddy,” which were part of the proposal package being sent to Berkley Prime Crime. Joyce read the chapters and said, “This is really good and someone is going to buy this book.” She was right. Berkley quickly snatched up the project. I don’t know if I’d call this a worst memory, but I certainly was apprehensive when I learned the identity of my first Berkley editor. Leona Nevler (who, sadly, died in December 2005) was a publishing industry legend. She’d acquired the original rights to “Peyton Place” back in the 1950s and the list of authors she edited over the years reads like a virtual Who’s Who of American popular fiction. Naturally, I was anxious over Leona’s assessment of “Teddy,” but it turned out that she really liked it.
Are they moments when you just can’t complete the puzzle? What do you do in that case?
As I mentioned before, I begin by writing a very detailed synopsis. If the puzzle eludes me, there are a couple of surefire solutions. The first is to go outside and mow my lawn. We have over two acres and I can do a lot of thinking while cutting straight lines in grass for three hours. The other method recalls Sherlock Holmes, who used to measure the complexity of a problem by how many pipes he’d have to smoke. I do something similar. I go out on my back porch, light up a pipe, and admire the Blue Ridge Mountains, which are just two miles away. This is so relaxing that the answer to the puzzle often suddenly comes to me.
I heard mystery authors often work with the police and take their ideas from police cases. Do you work with the police too?
No, I don’t work with the police, nor do I use actual cases as plot models. That said, I do employ my background and experience at murder scenes as a Crime Scene Investigator and homicide detective to create realistic circumstances within my books.
How do you imagine your reader? I mean, when you’re thinking “there is somebody reading my book right now…” Who do you picture?
I envision my reader as intelligent, curious, a puzzle-solver, and interested in seeing justice triumph. Also, you’d think a cozy mystery with a central plot element featuring teddy bears would scare away most male readers, but I’ve received a surprising amount of fan mail from guys.
Can you tell us more about your upcoming projects?
Well, right now I’m finishing work on “The Crafty Teddy,” the third book in the series, which will be released in early 2008. After that, I’ll start on the synopsis for the fourth “Teddy” book and I’m also getting ready to begin another mystery series. The new books will be a police procedural-paranormal hybrid, featuring a skeptical police detective who begins investigating ghost phenomena.
Would you like to add something, John?
I’d just like to suggest to everyone that if you’ve never been to a teddy bear show, you should go at least once. They are good for the soul.
And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: You’ve just found $100 in your pocket, what will you do with it?
Go to a teddy bear show with Joyce and buy a bear. And I’ve got to laugh, because we’ve never gone to a bear show and come home with just one bear.
Mystery author? R.D. Wingfield, author of the “Inspector Frost” mysteries.
Mystery novel? “The Big Sleep” by Raymond Chandler
Private Investigator? Thomas Magnum (a.k.a. Tom Selleck) from the old Magnum P.I. television series. If the day ever comes when “The Mournful Teddy” is made into a movie, I think Selleck would be a wonderful Brad Lyon.
Weapon (in books, of course :)? The same gun I carried for years: a Smith & Wesson .45 caliber “Long Colt” revolver. The protagonist in “Echoes” carries the same gun.
Place to set up a crime in? The Shenandoah Valley. It’s fun to stage homicides in such a beautiful place.
Place to write in? My home office…I don’t write anywhere else.
Sentence or motto? Winston Churchill said, “Never give in, never give in, never, never, never – in nothing great or small, large or petty – never give in except in convictions of honour and good sense.” It’s advice to last a lifetime.
Thank you, John!
Visit John’s website : http://www.johnjlamb.net