Thursday, July 07, 2011

Interview with Esri Allbritten

If you read my review of Esri Allbritten's Chihuahua of the Baskervilles yesterday, you probably understand why I was eager to interview her. The book was a terrific mystery debut, and I loved the team from Tripping Magazine. But, Esri was even more fun to interview than I imagined. I hope you enjoy "meeting" her.

Lesa - Thank you, Esri, for taking time to talk to us about yourself and your books. Would you start by telling my readers a little about yourself?

Esri - I live in Boulder, Colorado, with my husband, Joe, and my cat, Musette La Plume. We have two sweet-cherry trees, and when they're full of ripe fruit, I like to go outside, turn the hose on high, and blast the robins that are busily taking one peck from each cherry. "Get out of here, you red-breasted bastards!" I yell. This both enhances the experience and keeps the neighbors from interrupting my workday with needless social calls.

Like most writers, I love learning about subcultures and imagining myself in other careers, other lives. I also enjoy the marketing aspects of selling myself as a writer (I used to work in advertising). Aside from that, I'm a big computer geek and have a folk-singing alter ego named Jenny Blossom.

Lesa - I've already reviewed Chihuahua of the Baskervilles, so I won't ask you to summarize it. But, I will ask you to tell us about the members of the staff of Tripping Magazine.

Esri - Suki Oota and Angus MacGregor are from previous, unpublished books of mine. Those projects didn't pan out, but I wanted to work with them again. I'll give you some of the back story I work with on all three characters. Most of this stuff is not mentioned in the books or anywhere else, so your readers can feel smug. I reserve the right to change any and all of it.

Suki Oota is Tripping's photographer. She used to work at National Geographic, but got fired for fraternizing with natives. Suki's overt sexuality and "I just want to have fun" attitude are ways in which she rebels against the expectations of her Japanese mother. Suki was born and raised in Los Angeles. Her father works in the film industry, and she has a trust fund. She is prone to coming up with T-shirt slogans.

Angus MacGregor's name is a sly tribute to M.C. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth series. Angus wants to make a name for himself, and he believes that with persistence and luck, he can do it by discovering some new supernatural phenomenon. Angus doesn't have a college degree. He gets by on personality and good salesmanship. He takes whatever jobs he finds and keeps his living expenses low by renting rooms in houses. He grew up in gritty, poor surroundings and is a recovering alcoholic.

Michael Abernathy is a literary writer who feels cheated that his Jewish mother married a gentile engineer and moved from New York to Colorado, thus depriving him of the support and intellectual stimulation of the east-coast Jewish community. He is a skeptic, and works at Tripping for the piddling salary, the resume' credit and because it's such a break from his real work. Michael's novel is called Don Juan Conejo, and it's about a woman in an abusive relationship who develops an intense relationship with her pet rabbit. This is a story I actually considered writing, and bits of it appear in the Tripping series as Michael works on it.

Lesa - Tripping, a magazine devoted to the paranormal, offers a lot of possibilities for the series. Where would you like to take the staff in future books?

Esri - I have strict criteria for a Tripping location. 1) It must be a U.S. city that I would be happy to visit repeatedly. 2) The location must have some kind of fun festival, landmark or activity. Manitou Springs has the Emma Crawford Coffin Race. For book three, I'm looking at Phoenixville, PA, which has Blobfest -- a tribute to the movie, The Blob. People should feel free to contact me through my website and suggest cities. I'm particularly interested in New England and also the South. Lots o' history there. New England in particular is lousy with stories of ghosts and ghouls.

Lesa - I know you answer this question on your blog. Tell us why you used a Chihuahua in this book.

Esri - It started when I was researching dog breeds for one of my characters or myself, I can't remember which. (Musette will be my last cat, as my allergies have worsened.) Chihuahuas (Chis) are smart, funny, cheap to keep, and I love their "canonical dog" shape -- like a tiny Dingo. They're the size of a baby, and when it's cold, the short-haired ones definitely need a little coat or sweater. What's not to love about a baby-sized dog that you can dress up? Some folks like to mime vomiting when I say that, but how long has it been since dogs were a "natural" animal rather than a creature we consciously designed for our own use and pleasure? Then there are people who insist that a dog's dignity suffers when you put clothes on it. To that I say, "Dogs have dignity? Are we still talking about the animal that eats cat poop and rolls on dead squirrels?"

Public Service Announcement: If you're thinking of getting a Chi, please consider adoption before buying a puppy from a breeder. Chihuahuas aren't for everyone. They're unsuitable for homes with small kids (those little bones are very breakable) and can be hard to housebreak. There are a lot of Chihuahuas in shelters.

Lesa - I know dog lovers will appreciate that public service announcement, Esri. That's important. Now, can you tell us anything about the next book in the series? Is the title based on another classic? Where are you taking the team?

Esri - I just finished The Portrait of Doreene Gray. Tripping goes to Port Townsend, Washington, a Victorian-era town on the Puget Sound. Port Townsend built beautiful buildings on the strength of the railroad's plan to go there, then lost most of its population when rail passed it by. It was almost unchanged when artists and retirees rediscovered it in the 1970s. In addition to being the location of the annual Wooden Boat Festival, Port Townsend is a place of mists, shipwrecks, and very strong coffee. My story revolves around fictional painter Maureene Pinter. Maureene painted a portrait of her twin sister, Doreene, about 40 years ago. The woman in the portrait appears to have aged since then, but Doreene hasn't. When Doreene decides to sell the portrait at auction, Maureene seems determined to stop her, but why? There's also a Chihuahua named Gigi.

Lesa - You wrote two other books. What is different about writing a mystery? Have you had much exposure to the mystery community yet? If so, what has been your experience?

Esri - Writing a mystery is about logic, secrets, and logistics. I have three sleuths and about five suspects per book. Every time a character acts, all the other characters react, and I prefer that they not behave stupidly, hide things from the police, or act against their own interests. I put each additional action through this litmus test while still keeping previous actions in mind, so it gets increasingly complex until, by the end of the book, I just want these people to die or go to jail, which is handy.

I learned most of what I know about publishing from the romance-writing community, and I still have great friends and colleagues there. Those are some warm and fuzzy gals. My experience with mystery writers is limited, because I'm farther in my career and haven't had time for much involvement. My impression is that crime-fiction writers are slightly more solitary, way up in their heads, and a little tetchier. (I fit right in.) The exception is thriller writers, who display a level of jocularity that's unprecedented in my experience. It must be the paychecks.

Lesa - Is there anything you'd like to tell us that I might not have covered?

Esri - Nope. These are great questions.

Lesa - And, my final question. Since I'm a public librarian, I always end with this question. Do you have a story you can share about libraries?

Esri - Libraries and I go way back. During the summers, our library had reading challenges for kids, and I always won. I would stagger up to the desk with a stack of books half my own height. The librarian would smile and say, "Back for more?"

My dad drove the library bookmobile for a year or so, while recovering from a soul-sucking engineering job. I thought that was the coolest thing ever. He and my mom wrote puppet musicals and performed them at the library during kid's hour. I still hang out at libraries a lot, and get excited when a town I visit has a good one. I've never met a librarian who wasn't very smart and also very kind. You're a unique breed.

This was fun. Thanks so much, Lesa!

Lesa - That was fun, Esri! Thanks for taking time to do it.

And, I have one more fun thing to offer readers. Esri has offered to give one person who comments here a copy of Chihuahua of the Baskervilles. So, if you're interested in the chance to win a copy, include your email address in the comments. Tomorrow evening, I'll pick the winner, and contact you for your mailing address. You're in for a treat!

Esri Allbritten's website is

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles by Esri Allbritten. St. Martin's Minotaur. ©2011. ISBN 9780312569150 (hardcover), 288p.


Anonymous said...

I would love to win this book. Sounds very good!

connies_sweeps (at) yahoo(dot)com

Pamela Keener said...

What an insightful interview. The book sounds awesome. I can just picture the author yelling at the robins to stop taking bites out of her cherries.
Love & Hugs,

Lesa said...

It is a terrific book, Connie. I'm wishing everyone good luck on this one.

Lesa said...

Can't you just see her yelling at those robins, Pam? Thanks for the compliment on the interview.

Kay said...

I think this book sounds really fun and I'm not even a dog person. I will be telling my daughter and her mother-in-law about it as they are dog people, plus mystery readers of a sort.

This was a great interview and I'm so glad I read it, Lesa. Esri lives in a wonderful place and I can't help but imagine that the mountains must inspire her. Love the premise of book #2. Sounds like a great new series!

Anonymous said...

This book sounds very good. Thanks for the great interview! Helen


Margie B. said...

I am always on the lookout for new mystery authors and series, and this one sounds like a hoot! And now that we've heard from Esri, I see why.

Lesa said...

It's a fun new series, Kay, with lots of possibilities. Thanks for passing on the information to your family.

Lesa said...

You're welcome, Helen. Good luck!

Lesa said...

You're right, Margie. I think her personality comes through in the book as well as the interview.

Lynn said...

I live in New England, email me if you want some suggestions!

I am always looking for new books and SinC is a great way to find them!


kestrel_cod (at) yahoo (dot) com

Esri Rose said...

Lynn: I might do that!

Anonymous said...

I love dog books... especially mystery ones.


Esri Rose said...

Kay: I should have said thank you before, for telling your family. :) The mountains are great, but I'm more inspired by all the eccentric characters where I live. Not me, of course. I'm perfectly normal.

Kari Wainwright said...

I am so envious of you for the time when your dad drove a bookmobile. That is just so cool. I, too, love libraries and being surrounded by books.

Love the title and the cover of The Chihuahua of the Baskervilles and would love to win a copy.

gkw9000 at

LSUReader said...

Thanks for a great interview. Love the Irony shirt, Esri. (Email in profile.)

Kay said...

I've already commented but wanted to get my name in the hat for the drawing. I'd dearly love to read this book! kay [dot] kaym57 {at}gmail [dot] com. Thanks! My chi, Emma also says she'd like for me to win a copy ;-)

Sheila Beaumont said...

I love the title, and I'm glad to hear the book lives up to it! I'm a big fan of dog mysteries.

Lesa said...

Good luck, everyone! I'll let you know tomorrow night who won. That gives people a chance to continue to comment and enter the contest.

Anonymous said...

Everything from the title - which caused me to snort with laughter when I first saw it - to the charming interview - makes me want to read this book.

I also have sympathy with Esri. Try moving into a formerly rural area that is now built up, and you, too will find yourself yelling out the window "Bambi! You and your 10 friends stop eating all the flowers RIGHT NOW!". You might also add a muted "Mwahhaha" when they hightail it out of there.

Mickie T
mdturett at juno dot com

Theresa de Valence said...


This article was fascinating and I like the window it gives onto your world (and Esri's too, of course). Thank you for many past books.

Best wishes for a great summer.

Theresa de Valence
TdeV at bstw dot com

Lesa said...


Loved it that you snorted with laughter. You're going to love the book. If you don't win, you need to get a copy of this - buy it or get it at the library.

Lesa said...

Thank you, Theresa. I hope my summer gets better. Google has not been kind to me this week.

But, I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Keep your fingers crossed that Google works for me, and I have a post on Monday. Saturday's and Sunday's are ready to go, although it took a while to get Sunday to cooperate with the changes they made to Blogger.

Michelle said...

I just looked at the excerpt on Amazon and it sounds like a good book. I'd love to win a copy. I heard about this book because the Mystery Guild has it. Esri must be a funny person. I like it when she said that by the end of the book she just wants the characters to die or go to jail, which is handy (if it's the murderer).

I love libraries, too, and I'm at one right now using the computer. I think I've had a library card since I was seven years old.

Lesa said...

It is a good book, Michelle. Please leave me your email address before 5:30 tonight. It's the only way I can reach you to ask for your address if you win. Thanks.

Thanks for being a library supporter!

Esri Rose said...

Michelle: You've had a library card since you were seven?! That's impressive. No clue when I got my first, but I doubt it was that early.

Nancy said...

This is a very good interview with a new author. The book sounds different from the books that I normally read but also one that I should enjoy.

Nancy Bradford

Lesa said...

Thanks, Nancy. I'm glad you enjoyed the interview. I hope you try the book.

Lesa said...

Thanks for the comments, everyone. I hope you try to find the book - buy it, borrow it from your local library. Kari won, and I'm contacting her tonight to get her address so Esri can send her book.

And, I hope you continue to comment on future blogs, and enter the contests that I run weekly on Thursday nights. Thanks!