Wednesday, September 24, 2008


By Roberta Isleib

When I did my GCC tour for THE SMART ONE a few weeks ago, one of my favorite questions came from author Roberta Isleib, who put my character on the analyst's couch. I loved that!

It was a natural for Roberta, who's a clinical psychologist herself. I'm happy to say that the protagonist in her new mystery, ASKING FOR MURDER, is also a therapist, which gives this book the kind of delicious layers I love.

Check out what Roberta has to say about it ...

Hi, Roberta. Please tell us about the genesis of the idea for ASKING OR MURDER.

When I wrote the first book in the advice column mysteries, I gave Dr. Rebecca Butterman, my protagonist, a friend who conducts sandplay therapy. I can't remember why--I knew virtually nothing about interpreting sand trays! So when Rebecca's friend, Annabelle Hart, became a main focus of ASKING FOR MURDER, I had to do some research. I found a wonderful therapist in New Hampshire who walked me through the theory and practice of sandplay--it's fascinating! And so much fun to try to figure out how clues to the mystery might have been placed in the sand...

Do you have a favorite character in this book? If so, why?

I love my main character Dr.Butterman. Because I was a therapist for many years, I really understand her work and the way she thinks about the people she tries to help. And I enjoy thinking about her history and personal life and how that will wind through the story. By focusing on Dr. Butterman, I can highlight my background in psychology and write about folks in that field who are competent and caring, rather than the idiotic and downright hurtful professionals you often see in movies and on TV. And it’s so much fun to write the scenes where she’s cooking some fabulous meal—my husband’s very pleased about the recipe testing I’ve had to do, too!

Is there a story behind the title of this book?

Ow, ow, you've hit a sore point! My working title for this book was LINE IN THE SAND. It related to my sandplay therapy theme and resonated like crazy with a couple of the characters and their issues.

But the editorial and marketing folks at Berkley thought it didn't sound enough like a mystery. I bet we brainstormed 40 more titles (some of them true duds) before agreeing on ASKING FOR MURDER. We all liked that one--it had a connection to my character's second career as an advice columnist and sounds mysterious.

Did you have any input on the cover, and are you happy with the finished product?

No input, but I think it’s gorgeous. The purple makes it “pop” and people love the little Zen sand tray on the cover. And the cat next door, my muse, is pleased that he made the cut again. My agent thinks I have a cover fairy—they just keep getting better, thanks to good folks at Berkley.

Can you share some particularly memorable fan mail you received about this or previous books?

One of the best parts of being an author has to be hearing from fans. How can you beat this: “WOW! Preaching to the Corpse was absolutely Wonderful! Dr. Rebecca Butterman was at her finest. I loved your writing, from the beginning to the end of the book and I really got a kick at the end when Mrs. Dunbarton got her Secret Santa Gift . What an ending! Congratulations on yet, another Great Book!”

Do you pay attention to book reviews? If so, has there been any particular review that made your heart do a little dance?

I KNOW I’m not supposed to worry about book reviews—but that’s just too hard! After I’ve spent a year, more or less, puzzling out the story, building the characters, and writing the book, I want to know what people think. I was particularly pleased that Marilyn Dahl posted a review of ASKING FOR MURDER on Shelf Awareness, an e-newsletter that goes out to a big list of bookstores. Here’s her shelf talker: “Asking for Murder is good escapist reading, a charming and sometimes gritty mystery with an appealing protagonist who sleuths, cooks and psychoanalyzes.”

What are you reading now?

I love to read, and read every night to my hub's dismay as he'd like me to watch movies with him:). I read for story and character, not the puzzle or the "how did she do that?" I just finished Dennis Lehane’s new book, ANY GIVEN DAY, which is an intense historical saga set in 1920’s Boston—not crime fiction like his other books. He is a fabulous writer. And now I’m plugging through THE TEA ROSE, by Jennifer Donnelly—another whopper of a historical saga. This was chosen by my book club and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I expected! And then I’ll go to the upcoming thriller by my favorite crime fiction writers, C.J. Box—THREE WEEKS TO SAY GOODBYE. Can’t wait for that one!

Thanks so much for answering my questions, Roberta!

To buy ASKING FOR MURDER, visit your local chain or independent bookstore. Or, to buy online, visit,, or any cyber bookseller. For more information, visit Roberta's website at


Roberta Isleib said...

Thanks for having me over to your place Ellen!

John said...

Roberta-Just wanted to let you know that I "got" (and loved!) your working title since hearing about it way back when the book was still being actualized. But ASKING FOR MURDER is great, too, and ties in nicely with the advice column aspect. And you're right-each cover is better than the last!