Interview with Author Lisa Shiroff
My guest today is Lisa Shiroff. Hello, Lisa! Welcome back to Writing in the Modern Age! It’s such a pleasure to have you again.
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
Can you tell us a little bit about your latest book? When did it come out? Where can we get it?
The latest book, SHOW UP DEAD, is available now on Amazon for Kindle owners. It's only $2.99 for a Kindle version right now! As today is the release date, it should be available at all the online book retailers in both softcover and ebook formats. I believe (keyword: believe) you'll be able to get it in your local Barnes and Noble store (you'll probably have to ask them to order it) around December 1st, but don't hold me to that. It might be shortly afterward.
A couple of things did. First, when I learned that there are people with the career of Lifestyle Manager or Personal Concierge, I was intrigued, to say the least. I could only think about all the crazy and funky little private tidbits about their clients personal lives they'd garner on their average, ordinary working day. I starting thinking about how cool it would be to have a character in a book be one and after mulling over it for a little while, Peri's clients kind of came to me when I was just free-writing. And then one day, I stood in the checkout line at Whole Foods behind a drag queen who was only buying a bouquet of flowers. He turned to me and said how it was a shame he could never find flowers in the right shade of red. And poof! I had a fun and borderline goofy story.
Writing has always been a pastime and it's been a job. I've done freelance business writing and editing for years knowing one of these days I'd write my own fiction.
Lots and lots! I read a little bit of everything. I love Virginia Woolf, Salmon Rushdie, James Joyce, Toni Morrison, Janet Evanovich, Alexander McCall Smith, Andre Gide, and on and on and on. Did I mention I read a little bit of everything?
Every time I try to do the scheduled writing thing, it never works. I would love to be like Nora Roberts and sit down and do nothing but write from 9 to 5 everyday. But, you know how some people work the evening shifts and others work on the weekends? I think I'm one of those. So I've given myself to be less disciplined in my approach. I just make sure I write every day for as much as possible. It's a key priority (in part because I still write and edit for a living) so I make sure I write before I do anything else. The big thing for me was to make sure that my family honored my writing time whenever I happened to be doing it.
Being a writer, like most creative endeavors, can be a very freeing job. However, you should always keep in mind if you want other people to read your stuff and like it too, you need to get feedback. A good critique group is imperative (or at least a good critique partner). Not all critique groups are created equal, though, so don't settle for one until you are comfortable. And remember, a good critique partner is someone who will help you make your writing better -- not just tear you down or pat you on the back. I recently opened my own small publishing house and I can't tell you how many people have already approached me with their manuscript telling me everybody who has read it loved it. I always take that as a bad sign. Because that tells me that no one has tried to make this person be the best writer he or she can be. Every writer who is deemed one of our greats from any generation has a good editor and/or good critique partners. We all need someone else to look at our work with a different perspective and help us make it the best we can.
Oh, I agree. It's always good to get a second or third, or even fourth opinion.
Thank you for stopping by, Lisa! :)
Readers, here is the blurb for Shop Up Dead: A Sweet Murder from the City of Brotherly Love.
When people call her a control freak, Peri Milano takes it as a compliment. As the preferred go-to special assistant to Philadelphia's rich and almost famous, having everything under control is part of her job description.
With the organizational skills of a data processing program, the discretion of the CIA, and the creativity of an IKEA research and design engineer, Peri fulfills whatever whim her customers fancy and finds methods for their madness.
Never has she received a request she couldn't complete nor a problem she couldn't solve.
But then one day she finds the dead body of one of her clients and land smack in the middle of a murder investigation. While not something that's typically part of her daily work, it's nothing she can't handle.
But when another client receives a blackmail letter, her son's type-1 diabetes nearly kills him and her mother ends up in jail (again), Peri starts to doubt whether anything is truly ever under control. She can't help but wonder just who will be the next to Show Up Dead.
Here is an excerpt.
Chapter 1: Once Vertical
I’m pretty sure my eyes had been open for several minutes before I realized I could see. I remember darkness. Then light. Then blurred masses of color. Eventually the colors became distinguishable and detailed enough that I knew I was staring at a highly polished, mahogany ball-and-claw foot of a table leg. The points of the claws were painted with red lacquer. The table leg was standing on a Persian rug. The same Persian rug my face appeared to be resting on.
It was Mr. Wooley’s Persian rug, which made sense since I was pretty sure I had gone into Mr. Wooley’s house that morning.
The good news was that it didn’t seem like I was alone. A woman’s stilted voice pierced the air, someone was tapping my cheek and I sensed movement around me.
I rolled onto my back and found a man hovering over me, his blond head only about a foot above mine. And even though his face was upside down from my perspective, it was still quite pleasing to look at. His sapphire blue eyes peered at me with such intensity, I wondered if I were asleep and dreaming. Traditionally, I’d never been the kind of girl with charming knights at the ready for her rescue, but I never thought it a detriment to be one.
“Are you okay?” he asked. The unimaginative question disappointed me.
“I don’t know.” I leaned up on one elbow. “What happened?”
“I was hoping you could tell me,” my handsome hero replied. He glanced up as another man, a dark-haired one who wasn’t all that delicious to look at, knelt opposite him and took my free hand.
Looking beyond them, I confirmed I was in Mr. Wooley’s townhouse, as were several of Philadelphia’s finest men in blue. They were keeping company with a few other sundry people whose presence, I learned later, was useful whenever a dead body was found.
“Are you in any pain?” asked the man holding my hand. It turns out he was in an EMT uniform, and was actually taking my pulse.
“I don’t think so,” I said. “I—”
“Peri!” shrieked Mr. Wooley’s daughter. She ran across the room and dropped to the floor, bursting into my personal space before I was ready to deal with her. I fell back against my blue-eyed guardian angel. He righted me.
“What’s going on?” I asked.
“My father!” Jacqueline’s breath shot in and out. She shoved the EMT away and gripped my arms as if she were preparing to throw me over a balcony. “He’s dead!”
“What?” I pulled my face back. She leaned in closer. My blond defender reached from behind me, touched Jacqueline’s shoulder and gently moved her away.
She released her hold on me and flung her long wavy brown hair over her shoulder. “My father.” She placed the back of her hand on her forehead. “He has passed.”
“Is this . . . are you rehearsing?” I asked. I still wasn’t sure if I were awake or not. But if I was, the only thing that could rationally explain the situation was if Jacqueline–pronounced with a soft Zha at the beginning and a long eeeeen at the end–was holding an acting workshop in her father’s home. She did that periodically. She called them impromptu performances and expected thunderous applause whenever you were victimized into a being a happenstance audience.
“What have you done to him?” Jacqueline clasped her hands in prayer position as her eyes pleaded with mine.
“To who?” I asked.
“I need to look at her.” The EMT bent in front of Jacqueline to shine a light in my face. “Your vitals check out okay. Do you think you can stand?”
“It wouldn’t hurt to get evaluated at the hospital,” he added.
“I don’t like hospitals,” I said.
The EMT smirked and stood. “I’m done here,” he called out to someone and walked away.
Jacqueline had disappeared, but my mystery man remained.
“I have a few questions for you, if you’re ready,” he said as he helped me up.
Once vertical, I looked around the room again. From that angle, I was able to see a stretcher, and a large black bag on the floor. I turned around and saw Mr. Wooley in the never-used wingback chair in the corner of his dining room. A team of people inspected him.
“Oh my God.” I pressed my fingertips against my temples almost able to remember why I was in Mr. Wooley’s townhouse.
“Do you need the EMT again?” the man asked.
“No. I’m, I think I’m okay.” My face scrunched as I looked at him. “Did I already ask what happened?”
“You did.” He nodded. “Where did you come from?”
I took a long inhale while I thought about his question.
“The back door,” I said as I pointed to the rear of the townhouse. Mr. Wooley’s home stretched a half block. The front door opened to the street and the back to a narrow alley. “Yes, that’s right,” I continued. “I parked behind the townhouse and . . . I knocked.” I tucked my hair behind my ear. “Mr. Wooley didn’t answer. But he was expecting me. So I waited and then I just came in. I had flowers for him.”
“Are you the one who brought the funeral flowers?” His eyes took on a steely quality, somewhat akin to how my accountant’s look when he challenges my claims for deductible expenses.
“Yes.” My voice cracked. Stark memories from the morning emerged from the fog in my brain. “Is Mr. Wooley really dead?” I asked, although I knew the answer.
“The body of Shelby Wooley was found by his daughter this morning. She notified the police and waited for us at the front of his home. When she brought us to him, you were lying on the floor next to his chair. How did you get there?”
“Like I said, I knocked—”
“I got that. But how did you get in? Do you have a key?”
“I do. But the door was unlocked.”
“I see. So you came in. Then what happened?”
“I put the flowers on the counter and called out for Mr. Wooley. He didn’t answer. So I went to look for him. That’s when I saw the wax figure. I mean, I thought it was the wax figure. But, then I, I . . . touched . . . his cheek and it . . .” My ears rang. “I think I need to. . .” was all I got out.
I awoke in the man’s arms as he dragged me to a sofa at the front of the house. Mr. Wooley was out of sight.
“Do you need water?” he asked.
He left me for a few minutes and returned with a glass of water and the EMT.
“Thank you.” I accepted the glass. “I feel silly. I haven’t fainted in years.”
The EMT took my pulse again. “Do you think it’s possible someone hit you over the head earlier?” he asked.
I pulled out of his grip and reached around to feel the back of my skull. “I’m not tender anywhere. I’m sure I fainted.”
“Do you have a history of fainting?”
“Yeah. I used to do it a lot as a kid.”
He looked into my eyes again. “I think you’re okay. But it would still be a good idea to get checked over by someone at the hospital.”
“It’s not necessary,” I insisted. “Really. I’m allergic to hospitals.” I sipped the water. “Actually, I’m allergic to their bills. They give me hives. Make me hyperventilate."
“I hear that’s a common side effect,” he said as he left.
“Sure you feel better?” Mystery man asked.
“No, but I’m conscious.”
“Good. I have to ask you a couple more questions. I am Detective Collin Beatty. This is,” he tilted his head toward a tall African American man who had just joined us, “my partner, Detective Micah Jameson.”
“Hello,” I said.
Detective Jameson nodded.
“And you are?” Beatty asked.
“I’m Peri Milano,” I said.
“Why are you here, Peri?” Jameson asked.
“I was bringing flowers for Mr. Wooley.”
“The ones in the kitchen with the ribbon that says In Sympathy,” Jameson said, or maybe asked.
“Yes,” I offered in case it was a question.
The men exchanged a glance.
“How did you know Shelby Wooley was dead?” Beatty asked.
“I didn’t.” I set the glass on a coffee table, suddenly aware of how bad the situation looked for me. “I’m organizing a funeral-themed party for him. He is very particular about the details. I brought the flowers to get his approval on the red tips of the callas. The florist has been having a tough time getting the right shade of red dye and—”
“Who is the florist?” Beatty asked.
“Pearl Slack at Custom Floral Designs.” I gave them poor Pearl’s number. She’d found this event to be more of an artistic challenge than she was prepared for. I had a feeling her stress level would see a cliff-dive once she realized the pseudo-funeral was off.
“Why did you come through the back door?” Jameson asked.
“I always do when I’m bringing props. Mr. Wooley wants everything to be a surprise. No one is supposed to know all the details. Not even Jacqueline.” I glanced toward the back of the house, to where Jacqueline stood with her head tilted and a hand over her heart as she spoke to someone.
Together, the men grilled me over the events of the day, about my relationship with Mr. Wooley, and then took my full contact information. I answered their questions all the while straining my ears to hear what the others in the house were saying. It seemed to me they were under the impression Mr. Wooley was put in the chair after he had passed away.
Eventually they sent me on my not-so-merry way, advising me it would be in my best interest to stay in town.
Lisa Shiroff is a comedic fiction writer celebrating the often unnoticed but beautifully bizarre in life. For years, she worked professionally as a corporate freelance writer and graphic designer. Not only can she Photoshop her way into a royal wedding, but she can write a PR piece that will make a cat in a tattered wolf costume sound like a Westminster Dog Show champion. But the struggle to keep her tongue out of her cheek was giving her TMJ symptoms and she decided she'd had enough. It was time she joined the ranks of those intent on using humor to balance out the negatives in the universe. Now she is unleashing her comedic perspective on anyone willing to take the risk to read whatever she writes.
Having spent her formative years in small-town America, Lisa mastered the ability to amuse herself and others with tales about people we all wished lived next door (and some who really did). Now she’s bringing those stories to light in novels with funny characters experiencing sometimes inane circumstances and always finding happy endings (yes, she’s a sucker for them).
Almost living the American Dream, Lisa lives in south Jersey with her husband, two kids, and a dog. Alas, she has no picket fence.
Amazon Author Page: amazon.com/author/lisashiroff