Lori Robbins is the author of the On Pointe and Master Class mystery series. Her work has garnered multiple awards, including the Indie Award for Best Mystery and the Silver Falchion. Short stories include “Accidents Happen” in Mystery Most Diabolical and “Leading Ladies” in Justice for All. She’s also a contributor to The Secret Ingredient: A Mystery Writers Cookbook. A former dancer, Lori performed with a number of modern and ballet companies, including Ballet Hispanico and the St. Louis Ballet. Her commercial work included featured ads for Pavlova Perfume and Macy’s. After ten very lean years onstage she became an English teacher and now writes full time. As a dancer, teacher, and mother of six, Lori is an expert in the homicidal impulses everyday life inspires. Connect with her online:
----------Interview by Renee Roberson
WOW: You explored the deep and complicated relationship between twin sisters in “Mirror Image.” Are you a twin or are you the parent of twins? We’d love to know the inspiration behind this story.
Lori: Although we’re not twins, my sister and I are very close, in age, appearance, and sensibility. In “Mirror Image” I found myself drawn to the darker side of that very intimate connection. I’ve often felt sorry for women who didn’t have sisters, because no one, other than a sibling, can understand one’s lived experiences as deeply as someone who’s gone through it herself. What would happen if that bond were severed, not by death, but by something more complicated? That was the inspiration behind the story. “Mirror Image” began as flash fiction, but the twins are chafing against the strict requirements of that genre. They both have more to say. I’m interested to see what they’ve been up to and where they’re going in the context of a full-length novel.
WOW: Love this! As an only child, I can share that it can be a very lonely existence. Congratulations on all your accomplishments in the world of dance and writing! How has it been transitioning from being in that world to using it as a setting for your mystery novels?
Lori: Writing about dance takes me back to that world as vividly as if I’d never left it. Waiting in the wings for a musical cue, suffering pain and doubt, and stepping out in front of a faceless crowd unfold like a much-watched movie. With the distance that time provided, those visions are sharper than when I was immersed in the day-to-day realities of that life. The most interesting thing about creating fiction is that the episodes that never happened take on a life of their own and become real—at least to me! Amateur-sleuth mysteries lack the rationale of professional detectives, and they need that level of concrete detail to feel real.
WOW: Writing mysteries requires a great amount of planning and plotting! Could you give us some insight on your writing process, as it related to planting clues, red herrings, and other various scenarios that keep readers on the edge of their seats?
Lori: Despite the centrality of plot to murder mysteries, my books begin, in terms of the writing process, as character-driven stories. I get an idea for a character, whose personality takes shape, and whose story then has to fit her, rather than the other way around. I’ve always got a skeleton outline, but I’ve given up on getting my characters to follow the script. That’s the most enjoyable part of writing.
WOW: Sometimes those characters like to keep us guessing as writers, don't they? I'm sure a lot of us can relate! You also worked as an English teacher following your years as a dancer. What was your favorite part of that job?
Lori: The most rewarding part of teaching English was getting kids excited about books and poems they’d decided in advance they wouldn’t like. Taking a bunch of kids down the Mississippi, to a dance at the Assembly Ball, or into a fistfight on the street of Verona was the best part of teaching. Did everyone buy in? Of course not. But every year, the number of kids, including those deemed least likely to hop on board, did.
WOW: You contributed to “The Secret Ingredient: A Mystery Writers Cookbook,” which looks like a fun read. Can you share a little about the piece you submitted to the anthology?
Lori: Each writer had to contribute a recipe and an interview from the protagonist’s point of view. Those general guidelines posed a significant problem for Leah Siderova, the ballerina of the On Pointe mysteries. She doesn’t cook and she’s on a perpetual diet. In fact, as noted in several books, she uses the oven in her New York City apartment as extra storage for her leotard and tights. I got around this conundrum by having Leah’s sister provide the recipe and interview, which is weirdly apt, given how we began this interview. Sisters. They’re the best. Most of the time.