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Thursday, June 9, 2011

Interview with Leslie Tentler, author of romantic suspense Midnight Caller

Giveaway! Leslie will  both give away a copy of this book - TWO WINNERS! But, you must answer this question in the comments (the same one I asked Leslie, but I want YOUR answer!): What's your favorite New Orleans restaurant or food or festival? Never been?(what?!) Then answer with what you'd love to eat or experience if you ever go.
"Late night radio show psychologist Rain Sommers is used to the crazies who call in to rage from the back alleys of the French Quarter and the shadows of the bayou. But one caller's chilling obsession with her and her long- ago murdered mother - an iconic singer beloved among the city's Goth community - has even the jaded Rain running scared as a sadistic serial killer known as the Vampire prowls New Orleans.
FBI agent Trevor Rivette is convinced her midnight caller and the killer are one and the same. As it becomes disturbingly clear that the Vampire has a sick bloodlust only Rain can satisfy, she allows Trevor to get closer and closer. But he soon discovers his secretive past and troubled present are intertwined - and that he may die trying to keep Rain's fate out of a madman's control."

When I heard about Midnight Caller and its setting in NOLA, I confess....
I was worried....
How does a nice girl from Tennessee write about the ghosts you can feel at high noon in the Vieux Carre just as vividly as if you were at Marie Laveau's tomb at midnight?
How can this lovely person know about the alcoholics who haunt the bars all day? Or about the Goths who congregate in their vampire gathering spots all night? Or about...er, well...um, we'll call that a
No Spoilers!
From her descriptions of FBI crime protocol in the All Saints' hospital morgue, to a sublime Saturday morning riding the streetcar down St.Charles to the Farmer's Market in the French Quarter...
From the ugly memories made in a cottage in the now trendy Faubourg Marigny district, that paint and new flooring can't bury, to the efforts of a madman to recreate the past in an isolated bayou shack....
Leslie Tentler conveys the highlights and the tragedies of the lives of the Rivette and the Sommers families of New Orleans --
the good, the bad, and the oh-so-very ugly.
So let's get to know this charming author and lovely person who wrote this deliciously creepy book, shall we?

NOLA is more than a setting in Midnight Caller – it’s a character, too. Did you live there? Go to school there? Because you got its atmosphere in so many different places and facets totally correct!
 Considering that I’m talking to a New Orleans native, my only response to that is ... WHEW! No, I’m not from New Orleans but I did visit it a couple of times – many years ago when my brother-in-law lived in Kenner, La. It was then that I first developed a fascination for the area.

My past career experience as a business writer also taught me the mechanics of online research, so I really did learn a lot about the area via the Internet. I’ve always been a bit of a history buff, too, especially when it comes to the Southeastern United States, so it was a pleasurable task.

Favorite New Orleans restaurant or food, or festival or location?
 It’s been awhile since I visited, but I do remember going to Commander’s Palace and the Court of Two Sisters, where I had an amazing brunch with my husband and brother-in-law. As far as the food goes, I love gumbos and stews, as well as seafood of all types.

Are you vegetarian or vegan? How long did it take you to adjust to that diet and stop missing certain foods?
 I was vegan for several years, but lapsed, and I’m currently trying a looser version of it again for health reasons. Since I’m not that strict, I prefer to think of it as “veganish” or following a mostly plant-based diet. Which means that I eat plant-based foods ninety percent of the time, but I wouldn’t pass up a good seafood gumbo, for instance!
For me, it isn’t all that hard taste-wise since I’ve never been a big meat eater, but I do miss the cheese. The hardest part is dining out, since it’s difficult enough finding a vegetarian meal, let alone a vegan one. Those are the times when I’m less strict. If I fall off the wagon, it’s almost always for seafood.
Your background is in public relations. What was the moment when you were ready to pursue publication and be a writer full-time? How did you know you were ready to take the plunge?
 I’ve actually always made my living writing – I’ve worked as a writer, editor and editorial director in the PR industry for nearly two decades. Writing fiction was something I had dreamed about pretty much ever since college, but paying mortgages and bills always seemed to get in the way of pursuing that goal.

About five years ago, when I hit my forties, I made the realization that waiting for the “right time” was the wrong strategy. Chances were that unless I won the lottery, there would never be a time when I didn’t need to work or had lots of free time on my hands. I think I’d also matured enough at that point to realize that to make it happen, I had to make sacrifices. I pretty much dedicated every weekend, several weeknights each week, most holidays and vacation time to pursuing my goal.

Pantster? Plotter? (I think plotter – too much research!)
 Nope, I was a dyed in the wool pantster! To me, writing that way is much more exciting and fun. For Midnight Caller, I came up with a general premise and a possible ending for the story, and then I only roughly outlined a chapter or two ahead at a time.
That’s still my preferred way to write, but one of my big shocks as a newbie writer was that publishers expect outlines! So books two and three in the trilogy required me to develop and submit fully developed story outlines for approval beforehand. I still hate outlining!
 Midnight Caller is scary in a seductive way – like an Alfred Hitchcock movie. So...what kinds of things scare you personally? And how on earth did you research, er...what you researched? (No spoilers!) Did you sleep with the lights on for a while?

 I’m flattered by the Hitchcock comparison...thank you!
I’m actually a timid person, so there’s a lot that scares me out there! People who know me well tend to kid me about how cautious I am. But I think what frightens me the most are things that are grounded in reality. Terrorist attacks, airplane crashes, natural disasters or being stricken by a serious disease, for example. I generally don’t get too worked up about vampires or zombies, although some of the true-life serial killer stories out there will make you sleep with the light on.    
As for research, it’s amazing (and a little frightening) the things you can learn about on the Internet. The whole vampire culture was one of them.

What inspired you to center your books around the FBI? Do you watch all the CSI and SVU shows on TV?
 I’ve always been fascinated by law enforcement shows, especially those that are very character-driven, where the stories are as much about the personal lives of the police officers, detectives or FBI agents themselves as the cases they’re working. The pressures and dangers such people face simply makes for good drama.

I haven’t ever really watched a lot of the more procedural cop shows, like those in the “CSI” and “Law and Order” franchises.

The “X-Files” was a big influence on me, especially the way the heart of the show was based on Mulder’s search for his abducted sister, as well as his complicated relationship with Scully. I think Mulder started my love for FBI agents. Nerd alert: I once attended an “X-Files” convention and had Mulder’s “I Want to Believe” poster over my desk!

 What’s coming up in the next book of the series?
 MIDNIGHT FEAR, book two in the Chasing Evil trilogy, will be out August 1. Its main male character is Reid Novak, another agent working for the FBI’s Violent Crimes Unit, and it’s set in Washington, D.C., and the Northern Virginia horse country. Caitlyn Cahill, the story’s heroine, is a former D.C. socialite who worked with the FBI two years earlier to capture her serial-killer brother. Now living outside of the District’s spotlight, Caitlyn is residing on a rural horse farm where she runs an equine therapy program for children. Reid is forced to once again rend the peace Caitlyn has found when a copycat killer emerges, bent on duplicating her brother’s crimes.

Thanks so much for having me today, Pamela. It’s been fun!

Leslie is giving away a copy of Midnight Caller to a lucky commenter!  And so am I! TWO winners!
Comment with the answer to "What's your favorite New Orleans restaurant, food, or festival?"
Winners will be picked by that random picking site that does all the dirty work for me and keeps things fair.  Continental USA postal addresses only please. 
Thanks for coming by and for commenting.
A bientot!


  1. I have never been to New Orleans, but it's at the top of my list of places to go. I love cajun food. Crawdads, gumbo, etc. Can't say what restaurant, because I don't know!


  2. I've never been to NOLA, but Hubby worked in that area a lot and brought a ton of crawfish home. I love them, especially if they come to me in gumbo or a huge steaming seafood boil. Oh, heck, fried on a po' boy will work too. And King Cake. Yum!

    Don't put me in the drawing. I've got Midnight Caller and very much enjoyed it!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your story and your process, Leslie - very inspiring! I was a strict vegetarian for a couple of years, and the only meat I really missed was seafood. Now I eat fish and the occasion hot wing or strip of bacon. ;-) It's been a long time since I've visited New Orleans, Pamela, but I wouldn't miss an opportunity to go to Cafe du Monde and chow down a plateful of beignets and a cup of their great coffee. Great review!

  5. Hi Pam, sounds like we'd like the same menu. We'll have to hunt out a lunch spot in Decatur after a GRW meeting sometime!

  6. Great Review Pamela - you've sold me on "Midnight Caller." May favorite New Orleans style dish is fish "Pontchartrain" over rice. But, since I've never been to New Orleans for dinner, I have to get my fix at Gumbeaux's in Douglasville, GA! Maybe one day we will get to watch the parade come down St. Charles together and have a blast.

  7. Hi Rebecca, my husband ate at Gumbeaux's and raved about it. I need to get over there...

  8. My favorite New Orleans Food is Jambalaya.

  9. Okay, yet another book for the HUGE list, but I love NOLA and want to read this one. I went down for a World Science Fiction Convention in the late '80s ('88?) and while the convention went to hell from staff problems, we'd just go to the French Quarter and drink. No one looked twice at people running around in weird costumes!
    Like Pam, I remember eating beignets at Cafe Du Monde, but it was 3am and I don't do coffee. This was after we wandered through a used bookstore that was crammed pack of old volumes. My most memorable meal was a shrimp po boy at Acme Oyster & Seafood, then walking down to hear Preservation Hall Jazz Band play. Thanks for the good memories and I can't wait to read your book! (PS I have a picture of Anne Rice's house at the time)

  10. Allison, I'll second the jambalaya! Yum. And Julee, Ann Rice's house is mentioned in the book. ;-)

  11. New Orleans is on my list of places to visit! I do love jambalaya and gumbo, and I want to experience Mardi Gras at least once.
    I applaud your dedication to your "veganish" ways--I can't even think about giving up meat at this point. :x

  12. Julie, hope you can get to NO sometime! I've never been to Mardi Gras either - hard to imagine, since things were pretty crazy in the French Quarter just on regular nights!

  13. So glad you all stopped by and commented! This post will be up through Saturday, so tell your friends and reading groups/sites to put their names in for a book (please).

    Kara...Any restaurant you walk into in NOLA will have crawfish, and I recommend the etoufee-shrimp or crawfish- at DookieChase's. Really any where.

    Carol-> Crawfish Boil! Beer, crawfish, homemade ice cream. What time can you be here?

    Pam, Allons y nous a la Cafe! Pas portez le noir mademoiselle... tu le regrette!

    Julee... Acme is one of my fav places to eat off Bourbon & Royal. Have you had the smoked oysters?

    Becky, Gumbeaux's Fish Pontchartrain is delicious. Ever been to Papadeaux's? Best Oysters Rockefeller in GA!

    Allison-> Jambalaya is a staple at my house. How do you make yours?

    Julie...if you get to Mardi Gras, be sure to catch Bacchus the Sunday night before FatTuesday. Favorite!

  14. Leslie, Thanks so much for being here today! I'm honored you answered all my crazy questions, and excited about the Chasing Evil trilogy. You are an author to watch!
    This has been fun... and now I am so hungry for some gumbo with garlic bread, Dahlin'!

  15. Beignets.

    Was I supposed to say something else? Oh, yes. Congrats, Leslie. And thank you for this great interview Pamela.

  16. Damn, did I miss a crawfish dinner? Sheesh. You snooze, you lose out.

  17. Great interview. Leslie, I can't wait to read to book. I've been to New Orleans many times for both business and pleasure over the past 25+ years, and I must say that Mother's on Poydras is my favorite restaurant (the absolute best jambalya and po' boys in the city), but my favorite dish is the muffuletta at Central Grocery. You just can't beat tradition.

  18. Central Grocery!! Phil, I forgot about them... they reopened last year after Katrina, right?

    Ever had muffulettas from Rocky&Carlo's? off St.Bernard Hwy, where I grew up. Ask for the busschaloni... only on Wednesdays. YUM!

  19. Love NOLA and the food! Favorite restaurant we visited was the Commander's Palace too! And of course have a soft spot for those Cafe Du Monde beignets :) Great Interview, and the book looks thrilling!

  20. Muffalettas from Central Grocery, hurricanes from Pat O's, then finish up at CDM.

    Sounds like a plan ladies.

    Thanks for dropping by Nicki!

    V & K, one of these days I'll get to eat at Commander's Palace! We always hit the holes in the wall places. Not that I'm complaining.

  21. I have got to say that Mulatte's is my favorite...I love the atmosphere and the food..Plus my sis n law owns it...LOL Anyway, I love New Orleans since I live in Baton Rouge..Love it love it...Love Louisiana!

  22. Thanks for visiting & for the recommending Mulatte's mrsworldwidewebb.
    I went to LSU & lived in the Garden District for a few years before moving here. Still have family there. Miss it.

  23. I love hearing about NOLA and also from fellow vegans!

    Let me see there are so many favorite food choices that comes to my mind. And people wonder why I don't post a big picture of myself lol. My favorite New Orleans food of all times is the Po-Boy sandwich. I have only had the chicken version of it though, but it was the best sandwich I have ever tasted in my life. I can't do the Jambalya because everyone cooks it different. LOL

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