Kristen Lepionka is the author of the Roxane Weary mystery series. Her debut, The Last Place You Look, won the Shamus Award for Best First P.I. novel and was also nominated for Anthony and Macavity Awards. She grew up mostly in a public library and could often be found in the adult mystery section well before she was out of middle school. Her writing has been selected for Shotgun Honey, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Grift, and Black Elephant. She lives in Columbus, Ohio, with her partner and two cats. She is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency.
The Stories You Tell, the third book in Kristen’s amazing Roxane Weary mystery series, comes out next Tuesday, July 9th. Keep reading to find out how you can win a copy of the first book in the series, The Last Place You Look.
What’s the strangest job you’ve ever had?
I’ve had a bunch of strange jobs. The weirdest was probably the hour or so I spent selling massage chairs at a state fair. (I was 19 and needed money; however, the chairs were really crappy and I was bad at selling things so I abandoned ship.) I have also worked as an office manager for a house painting company and as a fashion photo retoucher for a mall brand that sells poorly-made workwear blouses.
Were you an avid reader as a child? What kinds of things did you read?
Lord, yes. I spent my fair share of recesses in the school library. I loved the Babysitters Club books early on, and the faux-horror Christopher Pike books. I discovered crime fiction when I was in middle school though and never looked back. My mother read Mary Higgins Clark, so I devoured all of those and then moved on to series like Robert B. Parker’s Spenser books, Raymond Chandler, Robert Crais, Fay Kellerman, Ed McBain, etc. Really, most of my early reading loves were series—so I guess it’s not much of a mystery why I went on to write one.
Tell us about one of your proudest writing moments.
The road to publication has a lot of amazing moments, of course. One of the highlights was seeing my book in the library database for the first time. Another came well before I had an agent or a book deal though: I entered Pitch Wars in 2015 on a lark, and I was absolutely stunned to get a request from Kellye Garrett (who went on to be my mentor in the contest…and who is an amazing writer you should definitely be reading if you aren’t already). My confidence in my writing ability was pretty low at the time, having tried and failed to find an agent with 2 other manuscripts—and getting a lot of feedback along the lines of “great voice but no plot” (oops). However, Kellye saw something in my manuscript and it meant the world. That manuscript went on to become my Shamus Award-winning debut, THE LAST PLACE YOU LOOK.
Tell us about a book that made you cry.
Mindy McGinnis’s THE FEMALE OF THE SPECIES—oh, wow. I don’t often cry when I read. But this book destroyed me. I literally flung it across the room and ugly-cried for ten minutes after I finished it (but in a good way?) The whole point of being a writer is trying to make someone feel something, and I would say she succeeded and then some. It’s a young adult thriller about a teenage vigilante with a stunningly affecting conclusion.
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
On a whim I got some pens printed up with ROXANE WEARY INVESTIGATIONS • Columbus, OH • roxaneweary.com. These have turned out to be incredibly popular! I’ve gone through about a thousand of them at this point and I get a kick out of the fact that these are just floating around out there—plus they are a great conversation piece. Also—and this isn’t strictly writing-related, but bear with me—I got myself an Away suitcase and it’s the best thing ever. Treat yourself.
Retweet this post (make sure you follow @DebutanteBall too!) or share it on Facebook for a chance to win a copy of Kristen’s first novel, The Last Place You Look! We will contact the lucky winners on Friday, July 12th (US Only).
Nobody knows what happened to Sarah Cook. The beautiful blonde teenager disappeared fifteen years ago, the same night her parents were brutally murdered in their suburban Ohio home. Her boyfriend Brad Stockton―black and from the wrong side of the tracks―was convicted of the murders and is now on death row. Though he’s maintained his innocence all along, the clock is running out. His execution is only weeks away when his devoted sister insists she spied Sarah at an area gas station. Willing to try anything, she hires PI Roxane Weary to look at the case and see if she can locate Sarah.
Brad might be in a bad way, but private investigator Roxane Weary isn’t doing so hot herself. Still reeling from the recent death of her cop father in the line of duty, her main way of dealing with her grief has been working as little and drinking as much as possible. But Roxane finds herself drawn in to the story of Sarah’s vanishing act, especially when she links the disappearance to one of her father’s unsolved murder cases involving another teen girl.
The stakes get higher as Roxane discovers that the two girls may not be the only beautiful blonde teenagers who’ve turned up missing or dead. As her investigation gets darker and darker, Roxane will have to risk everything to find the truth. Lives depend on her cracking this case―hers included.