Writing via Interior Design

Essay About Writing by Author Leslie Caine

Fiction - Mystery & Detective - Women Sleuths | Bantam Paperback | October 2004 | $6.99 | 0-440-24175-8

Leslie Caine
Photo credit: Issy Kilbride
"Write what you know." The first time I personally heard that particular missive was during a lecture by a professor at SUNY at Oswego, where I was studying creative writing. During my sophomore year, it occurred to me that the professor was right. I didn't "know" anything; I had nothing whatsoever to write about—I'd spent my entire life going to school in upstate New York. So, I dropped out and moved to Boston with a couple of friends and got a job as a cocktail waitress at a bar in Kenmore Square.

My plan to broaden my horizons was so successful that, within a year, my friends and I had been taken hostage at gunpoint in a robbery of that bar. We intentionally tripped an alarm and, after a twelve-hour ordeal, escaped from the robber, who in turn escaped police capture (which, by the way, wouldn't have happened if the police had taken my suggestion and sealed off the roofs). The following night the robber cut off a man's ear in a barroom brawl across town and collapsed from exhaustion, at which point he was arrested.

Now suitably armed with something to write about, I enrolled at Suffolk University and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a degree in journalism, and I developed the knack for looking a despicable person in the eye and saying to myself: Some day I am going to put you into a book and kill you! Hence, a mystery writer was born.

This month, Bantam Dell is launching the first book in my new "Domestic Bliss" mystery series. DEATH BY INFERIOR DESIGN is the combination of two of my greatest passions: writing and interior design. Even as a child, I had an intense interest in seeing people's homes. I grew up in a 19th century farm house, which my family restored. While friends were playing dress-up, I was refinishing furniture.

"Trading Spaces" is one of my favorite TV shows, and one day my agent sent me an email asking if I knew anything about interior design. I answered "yes," and, instantly of one mind with her, added that a designer-as-sleuth series was a terrific idea that I would absolutely love to write. Six weeks later, I was under contract with Bantam for three books, with DEATH BY INFERIOR DESIGN based on a Trading-Spaces-goes dreadfully-wrong premise.

The main characters in this new series are Erin Gilbert and Steve Sullivan, two talented designers who are fiercely competitive, yet they battle a strong attraction. Erin Gilbert lives with Audrey Munroe, a wealthy, zany woman in her sixties who has a local Martha-Stewart-like TV show. Audrey redecorates her house on ridiculous whims and is forever treating her house as one big science lab for interior design, much to Erin's perpetual consternation. When I add my aforementioned "despicable person" to the mix, the results are a mystery novel that contains suspense, romance, humor, and even some home-design tips. I'm proud to say that, all these years later, I am indeed writing "what I know," along with what my wild and wonderful imagination teaches me. - The Online Mystery Network

Mystery Net: The Online Mystery Network.

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