The immensely popular Booktown Mystery Series is what put Lorraine Bartlett’s pen name Lorna Barrett on the New York Times Bestseller list, but it’s her talent – whether writing as Lorna, or L.L. Bartlett, or Lorraine Bartlett – that keeps her there. This multi-published, Agatha-nominated author pens the exciting Jeff Resnick Mysteries as well as the acclaimed Victoria Square and Lotus Bay Mystery series, and the Tales of Telenia adventure-fantasy saga, and has many short stories and novellas to her name(s).
Q: Who is the real Lorraine Bartlett?
A: That’s a good question; and I’m not sure I’m qualified to answer it.
Q: I hear that you love antiques and going junking. Is this true and does your house reflect your passion?
A: Definitely. Just today I went to three different thrift shops to find certain treasures on my to-find-list. Unfortunately, I didn’t find any of them. I like vintage china, vintage Christmas ornaments, and (naturally) books.
Q: Tell us how you include your other two passions; gardening and baking into your stories.
A: I really haven’t done much to include the gardening, but I will try to include more of it in the next Lotus Bay Mystery, which is going to be set in April. Kathy has a compost heap—and she’s going to keep adding to it. And she transplanted some rhubarb before she took possession of the house she intends to become a bed-and-breakfast. As for me, I make a really GREAT rhubarb chutney and my husband (Mr. L) absolutely loves rhubarb crisp.
Q: Does your fear of flying hamper your dreams to travel to far-flung places or are you happy to stay put?
A: Definitely. I would have been back to England at least five or six times if I wasn’t so terrified of flying. I was always a nervous flyer, but being stranded in the UK after 9/11 really cemented it for me. If I had months to kill, I could do what author Susan Branch does – stay for 2-3 months—after a trans-Atlantic crossing. But Mr. L doesn’t want to leave the cats that long. And our one time with boarding them didn’t go well. So … I’m not sure I’ll ever get back to the jewel set in a silver sea. I love to travel by train. I just wish the Amtrak cars were cleaner (and they had dedicated tracks—getting shunted off to the side for hours while freight goes by is really annoying).
Q: Who has been the most influential figure in what and how you write?
A: Probably author Barbara Michaels. I loved her romantic suspense novels with a paranormal thread.
Q: You write under 3 names; L.L. Bartlett, Lorraine Bartlett and Lorna Bartlett. What was the premise behind choosing 3 different names to write under and how has this helped or hindered your book marketing? Would you choose this route again?
A: I would NEVER choose to have three different names. I was stuck with them due to extenuating circumstances. One name would have been fine with me. My 3rd agent suggested I write the Jeff Resnick Series under the name L.L. Bartlett because men (at that time) weren’t likely to buy books written by a woman. Penguin asked me to take a pseudonym with the Booktown Mysteries. I was determined to write under my own name for the Victoria Square (and subsequent) Mysteries.
Q: As a mystery, fantasy and romance author you have written many novels and short stories. Has the magic number of 50 been reached yet? Take us through your writing career how long it takes you to write a book.
A: As of now, I currently have 54 independent titles available for sale on all online distributors. Of course, quite a number (maybe half) are short stories (and some under a 4th name I don’t disclose). I’ve published 16 books with traditional publishers.
How long does it take me write a book? It depends on the book. The Jeff Resnick books seem to spill out of me. The Booktown Mysteries take the longest to write—and I have no idea why. I’m currently working on Tales of Telenia #3: Treachery. Next up: another Lotus Bay Mystery. I’m hanging on by a thread to see if Penguin/Random House will order new Booktown and Victoria Square Mysteries. They’ve cut so many titles in the past year or so that it’s a real possibility.
Q: Your Booktown Mystery Series put you on the New York Bestseller List and helped launch your writing career. What was it about this particular series that had the secret ingredient to make the bestseller list?
A: I have no idea. But what killed my chances of hitting the list again was being moved to hardcover. My editor told me it wouldn’t happen again and he was sure right. If I had my way, I’d have stayed in paperback.
Q: You have been quoted as saying that you don’t consider yourself to be a good writer but you are a good storyteller despite being an Agatha-nominated writer and making the bestseller list several times. What is the essential difference for you?
A: I’m no Charles Dickens, but I like to think that what I write touches a certain audience who is looking for a connection with family and friends. I write character-driven work—be it cozy mystery, hard-boiled suspense, sweet romance, or adventure fantasy.
Q: All your stories are character-driven. What do you enjoy the most about creating your characters and what is the most important element of character development for you?
A: I hate to admit it, but too often certain of my friends and family have let me down. Therefore, I write about people who, even when they disagree, will never fail to support their friends/family in the best and worst of times. It’s in the worst of times that you can depend on friends and family. And if they don’t – then you know they never really were on your side to begin with.
Q: You are published under Penguin Random House for some of your titles but you have also had a love-hate relationship with several literary agents who let you down in the past. Was this one of the main reasons for entering the realm of self-publishing and how does it compare to being published by one of the big five?
A: I left my small press after the 2nd book in the Jeff Resnick Series because I knew I could do better with the series than what they were doing. They only focused on the hardcover library market. I was lucky to hit the indie publishing market with the rest of the series just as things were taking off. Going indie had nothing to do with my past or present agents. It makes sense to stay with an agent if she can sell foreign or dramatic rights. It hasn’t happened yet, but I remain hopeful.
Q: What lies ahead for you in 2017? What are your aims and goals and do you have a new book on the horizon?
A: I have far more ideas than I will ever be able to write. I’m currently working on Tales of Telenia (#3) Treachery, which will probably sell 20-30 copies, but this is something I’m writing for myself. I will then start another Lotus Bay Mystery – while I wait for Penguin/Random House to decide if they want more Booktown or Victoria Square Mysteries. If they don’t want more—I’m okay with that. As I said, I have far more ideas than I can ever have time to write.
Lorraine’s current book (with Laurie Cass) is Dead, Bath and Beyond, a Victoria Square Mystery. Her next book, as Lorna Barrett, is A Just Clause, Booktown Mystery #11, will debut June 13th.