By Elaine Viets
Readers always ask, "Which of your books is your favorite?"
My answer is: "Which of your children do you love best?"
My tenth mystery, HIGH HEELS ARE MURDER, came out yesterday, and I still can’t decide which one I love best.
My first Dead-End Job mystery, SHOP TILL YOU DROP, should be my favorite. The book is now in its eighth printing. It got me out of debt. I certainly loved that part. I came to love SHOP’s bimbo characters. I had to spend time with real bimbos to write that book, and I learned that these women are smart. Maybe not in any way you would admire, but I’d never call them stupid.
What about MURDER BETWEEN THE COVERS? I worked at a bookstore for a full year to write that novel. Bookselling was the one job I’d do for real. I feel better surrounded by books. I enjoyed matching readers with just the right book. I liked working with book lovers.
DYING TO CALL YOU was the job I hated most. I worked as a telemarketer. Telemarketing "boiler rooms" are modern sweatshops. We worked split shifts – 9 A.M. to 1 P.M. and 5 P.M. to 9 P.M., with a five-minute break every hour. The office was filthy. We shared broken desks sticky with spilled soda. It was a horrible job, but I loved that book, because I learned so much.
Nobody ever says, "I want to be a telemarketer when I grow up." People are forced into that job by debt, divorce, disease and dire circumstances. One woman was trying to pay medical bills for a grandchild who had a catastrophic illness and not enough insurance.
I learned most Americans have two sets of manners: one for people in their own class, and another for the downtrodden. I was surprised how many "nice" people enjoy being mean to those who don’t count in their world.
JUST MURDERED was set at a wedding dress shop, where people spent a quarter of a million dollars on weddings. Sex, major money and high emotion are a volatile combination. I wondered why there weren’t more murders during the nuptials.
I should love MURDER UNLEASHED the most. That was my first hardcover mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the dog boutique. Dog lovers are a delight compared with telemarketing clients. But I didn’t love this one more than my other books.
My Josie Marcus mystery shopper series should have been my stepchild. I didn’t ask to write this series. My publisher came up with the idea. I jumped at the opportunity. My mother was a mystery shopper and I grew up in the business. She shopped with her best friend, just like Josie shops with her friend, Alyce.
But this series was more difficult to write. Josie is a single mom with a nine-year-old daughter. I had no children, so I had to borrow a friend’s kid to find out about girls that age. The result was DYING IN STYLE.
Now my new book, HIGH HEELS ARE MURDER, is out. In this mystery, Josie encounters suburban scandal, housewife gambling – and toe cleavage. I liked the offbeat information I discovered.
Do you know women with gambling problems may be discriminated against? Because they often prefer slots and similar games, they are dismissed as "granny gamblers" and their problems are not taken as seriously as poker-playing men.
Do I love this book the best? I love that it’s done.
But I love all my books. Not equally, but differently. I hope you will, too.
Join me here at the Lipstick Chronicles next Wednesday, Nov. 16, for the Heart of Tartness Book Blub discussion of HIGH HEELS ARE MURDER.