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meet the author
New Jersey born clinical psychologist Roberta Isleib took up writing mysteries to justify time spent on the golf links. Her first mystery, SIX STROKES UNDER, featuring a neurotic professional golfer and a sports psychologist, was published in 2002 and nominated for both Agatha and Anthony awards. Roberta is now writing the nationally-bestselling Key West food critic mystery series as Lucy Burdette. She blogs weekly with a group of culinary mystery writers at MysteryLoversKitchen.com and another group of crime fiction writers at JungleRedWriters.com. Her fourteenth novel, FATAL RESERVATIONS, will be published by NAL/Penguin in July 2015.

Roberta says the work of the detective in a mystery has quite a bit in common with long-term psychotherapy: Start with a problem, follow the threads looking for clues, and gradually fill in the big picture. So this career move turned out to be a natural progression. Roberta is passionate about portraying her psychologist characters as competent professionals (with flaws of course!) Like her food critic character in the Key West series, she is also passionate about food.

Roberta is a past-president of the International Sisters in Crime, founded in 1987 to promote the ongoing advancement, recognition, and professional development of women crime writers. She is also a member of Mystery Writers of America and the Authors Guild. She divides her time between Key West, Florida, and Connecticut.
roberta and dog
photo by Ruthanna Terreri
double lines

Questions for the author:
HOW DID YOU FIND AN AGENT?

I don't have a magic formula for this subject.

However, I did find an agent and she did sell my book, though none of this came easily or quickly. I studied Elizabeth Lyon's THE SELL YOUR NOVEL TOOLKIT and Jeff Herman's WRITER'S GUIDE TO BOOK EDITORS, PUBLISHERS, AND LITERARY AGENTS. I contacted agents who had interests like mine (mystery, sports, psychology), or who had some feature in their personal background that made me think we might connect. I hired an independent editor to give me fairly inexpensive but useful feedback on my manuscript, she directed me to several agents. I attended mystery conventions and talked with people there about the process. I attended the International Women's Writers Guild "Meet the Agents" forum in New York City. I groveled in front of everyone I even remotely knew connected with the publishing business. And I suffered through multiple rejections and shouldered forward.

My advice? First, write the best book you can. Take classes, join a critique group, and rewrite, rewrite, rewrite. And second, be persistent and flexible.

HOW DOES YOUR PSYCHOLOGY BACKGROUND PLAY INTO YOUR MYSTERIES?

Believe it or not, the work of the detective in a mystery has quite a bit in common with long-term psychotherapy. You start with a problem, then follow the threads, looking for clues, and gradually fill in the big picture. So this career move turned out to be a natural progression!

Most shrinks are appalled by the way we are portrayed in the popular media, usually these characters are bumbling fools, lacking in scruples, or crazy themselves. But I have the chance to dream up psychologist characters who can help solve mysteries without stumbling too hard over their own personal issues, crossing ethical boundaries, or imploding with self-importance.

The lead characters in both my series are in psychotherapy, I've really enjoyed writing these scenes which showcase the therapy process.