Monday, February 04, 2008

The First Reader - Leah Hultenschmidt

Join me in welcoming my lovely and talented editor from Dorchester Publishing, Leah Hultenschmidt! Not only is she one of my favorite people, but she always (always!!) knows exactly what to do to make my books better. So, take it away, Leah…

I probably have just about the best job in the world. The only one I can think of that I might like better is to be a reviewer who gets to go around the world and test spas. I imagine that would be pretty cool, too. But for an avid reader, it’s hard to beat being an editor.

Now don’t get me wrong – it’s not like I sit at my desk and read all day. There’s cover copy to write, deals to make, the ever-dreaded rejection letters (yeah, we’re not all that fond of them either), e-mail correspondence, phone calls, and all kinds of other day-to-day projects that really make the time I get to sit down with a manuscript even more pleasurable.

When I start on that first page, I want to forget I’m supposed to be editing. I want to be drawn in just like any other reader. Because that’s really my job – to be a first reader, to be fresh eyes on the story. When the reader sees a problem, the editor kicks in. But I have to admit that with mystery romances I’ve always been a little conflicted: Do I try to figure out the culprit as I go (as an editor), or do I ride along the suspense and wait for the surprise at the end (as a reader)?

My usual tendency is the latter because, quite honestly, I’m terrible at figuring things out, and if I do, then I know we definitely have to do some work to disguise whodunit. Of course there should be clues along the way that make it possible to do that forehead smack at the end where you think “How didn’t I see it before?” And sometimes I do enjoy taking a few guesses as I go along. After all, I think even as a reader that’s half the fun.

So I ask you, mystery readers and writers, do you like trying to figure out the killer as you go? Or do you guess a little here and there but ultimately enjoy being completely surprised at the end? How often are you right when guessing the culprit?

Commenters who don’t actually belong to the blog (ahem) can win advance copies of Bullet Hole Bacus’ FIANCE AT HER FINGERTIPS and THESE BOOTS WERE MADE FOR STRUTTING, which has the novella “So I Dated an Axe Murderer” by Trigger Happy Halliday. These books won’t be in stores till May, but leave a note below and two winners will get both early!

~“Lethal” Leah Hultenschmidt

53 comments:

Kendra said...

Everyone always has nice things to say about you, Leah. Many times I've heard you're the editor that writers love to work with.

Maybe someday...

Gemma Halliday said...

It's true. We do!
And she has some killer shoes, too. ;)

~Gemma

Rhonda Stapleton said...

Awesome--I totally love to try to guess the killer. I'm usually dead-wrong (no pun intended, though if I'd been in the book, I'd likely be! LOL). I'm the worst amateur sleuth in the world, which is why I stick to rom com. LOLOL

Gwen Hayes said...

Oh I LOVE trying to figure it out, but I'm always disappointed if I solve it too quickly. It has to be exactly the right amount of suspense or I'm not satisfied. I'm so glad there are authors and editors that care enough to make sure I'm a happy reader, lol.

Great post, Leah. Great choice of guest, Gemma.

Wendy Roberts said...

Thanks for the great post, Leah!

I love a book that blows me away with an unexpected twist in the whodunit :)

Crystal Jordan said...

I'm a horrible guesser! I like to just be surprised at the end...or I read the end first. I'm also a horrible mystery reader. ;-)

Jill James said...

I never guess right in a mystery or crime thriller. I usually pick the obvious, captured, but released due to no evidence, person. Then, at the end I'm doing the forehead slap, "Duh".

Shelli Stevens said...

Hi, Leah!

I don't usually try and guess the killer in a suspense. My mind just doesn't work that way *grin*. I'll have the occasional, 'Well maybe it's him/her...' moment, but I don't get attached to it. Otherwise I'll just be disappointed when I learn that the manic poodle really wasn't the killer. :)

Besides, I like to finish the book and say, "Oh really... that was a fun ride."

Antonia Pearce said...

Hi, Gemma! Hi, Leah--wonderful post!

I love to guess and I'm right about 50% of the time, but I really adore that twist at the end that makes me go back and reread the crucial clues that I missed. To me, that's what makes a book a winner. I love that. Perhaps because I wanted to be Nancy Drew when I grew up and I like the challenge. LOL

R.G. ALEXANDER said...

I try to guess, but I am rarely right lol.
Great post Leah! I have often wondered about the first reader/editor issue. When you are reading an author who is so amazing at what she does...lets say, for example, Gemma Halliday...it must be hard to stop turning the pages long enough to edit. ;)

Kathy Bacus said...

Great post, 'Lethal Leah'! Much like you, I enjoy riding the roller coaster of suspense when I'm enjoying a mystery. And how cool that someone here will win advance copies of BOOTS and FIANCE!

Oh, and Crime Scene Christie and I are working on 'Colleague Chris' to do a blog stint here, as well, so twist his arm, will ya?

We so have to get him a killer Killer Fiction name. Any suggestions, anyone?

~Bullet Hole~

rgraham666 said...

I love trying to guess whodunnit. I started on Sherlock Holmes at nine. Went from their to Hercule Poirot and Solar Pons.

I'm fair to middling at figuring out who did the killing. And more importantly, why. I'll never be a detective though. ;)

'Ripper' Graham ;)

Jenna Bayley-Burke said...

Please, let me be shocked at the end! When a book ends that way, I can think about it for days.

Tori Lennox said...

I love trying to figure out the killer myself. Sometimes I'm right, but usually I'm quite surprised. *g*

Shelley Munro said...

I enjoy trying to figure out who the killer is, too. I'm not very good at it, and always feel really smug when I work it out before the characters. I love mysteries with lots of false clues so I change my mind about the identity of the murderer several times.

C. Gwynn said...

I love trying to guess who the killer is. I enoy it when there is a twist at the end and I had no clue was coming.

Jenyfer Matthews said...

I guess I'm like Gwen - I can't NOT try to figure it out, but I don't like it if I figure it out too quickly. Or if the character I picked turns out to be too big a red herring. (But maybe that's just me being a spoil sport!)

Shari said...

I like to guess, but love suprise endings, too. What bugs me most is when the reader figures out who did it from the beginning.

cas2ajs said...

I don't consciously try to guess. I do figure it out probably half of the time. I really enjoy reading a book with all the twists and subtle clues and getting to the end and being totally wrong. That's when I know I've just read an incredible book.

Gemma Halliday said...

Love ya, R.G.!

I am the world's worst guesser. I read every Agatha Christie as a kid and guessed the killer wrong every time. I swear sometimes I'm even surprised to find out who done it in my books!

How about "Kingpin Keesler", "Killer Keelser", or we could keep it simple and just go with "The Godfather". ;)

~Gemma

Estella said...

I guess a little here and there. I am right about whodunit about 75% of the time. I love it when I am completely fooled!

JOYE said...

I love the cover for Strutting. Both books sound great.

Grace Draven said...

I like to guess who the killer, and since I'm ALWAYS dead wrong (no pun intended), I get to be surpised at the end. It's the best of both worlds. :D

Grace Draven

Amanda Brice said...

I totally try to guess the bad guy. Usually, I'm wrong, though. LOL! There should definitely be some clues sprinkled in as you go along, and sometimes it's even best if the readers guesses correctly early on, but then decides "no, I'm wrong, it's totally ______, instead" and changes her mind. I like being surprised.

Don't get me wrong, I also like figuring it out, but I don't want to figure it out too soon.

Beth said...

I can't stand it when I figure out 'who done it' 1/2 way through! I almsost don't want to finish the book. I love a real shocker. Other wise what's the point?

Gemma-Boo hoo on the High Heels series ending. What made you decide to end it? I was hoping they would be like the Stephanie Plum novels and you would keep them coming. It's hard to find books that are so funny they make you LOL. I just love being the crazy lady in the waiting room at my son't orthodontist that everyone stares at because I am laughing for no apparent reason!!!

MsHellion said...

I never figure out who did it. The only books where I have a half-chance of doing that is the Stephanie Plum series, but frankly no one reads those for the mystery anyway.

You read them for Ranger.

I prefer my mysteries campy. *LOL*

Christie Craig said...

Great post, Leah!! And such a great picture of you and Gemma.

I love to be surprised. I love it when a book is a puzzle.

Oh, and you're so right. Testing/reviewing spas and their treatments would be a dream job. Let me know if you hear about an opening. I might even considering giving up writing for that one. (smile)

Thanks so much for posting Leah.
Crime Scene Christie...who is really upset that she can't win those prizes.

anne said...

I don't guess but I become so engrossed within the pages and just keep reading. I love the suspense, the twists and turns and never tire of reading mysteries and love them all.

ruth said...

Mysteries are my favorite genre. I enjoyed all of Nancy Drew, Agatha Christie and Daphne Du Maurier. I never could figure out who did it but I became enthralled with the story.

deseng said...

Hi Leah and Gemma,

I am one of those who try to guess the killer. :-) Sometimes I am right and then sometimes I am not. I love a good mystery! I used to read many of them while growing up. Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot, Ellery Queen, Erle Stanley Gardner, and many others.

I have all the Harry Potter stories and tried to figure out as I went along about Voldermort and his intentions. Rowling did a good job throwing us all off the trail along the way. I tried to figure out from different facts stated in the story what the outcome would be. I just knew a certain main character would survive, (won't spoil it if someone hasn't read the story already)because of the prophecy that was foretold. This was a very interesting series that had a lot of intricate subplots to it.

Ooo...you have killer shoes? Do they have hidden knives and swords in them? Just kidding! Made me think of a superhero's shoes.

Have a great week!
All the best,
Michele L.

Virginia said...

I love to try to figure who the killer is, but I am not always right. So I still get the surprise in the end.

Keri Ford said...

Before I started writing I just enjoyed the story and waited for the author to tell me whodunit.

Since I began writing I can't read a book, watch a movie or tv show with looking at every little detail and trying to figure out who the killer is!

diane said...

Mysteries always captivated me and no matter what I could never guess but it didn't bother me. I got so caught up with the plot that was all that mattered. Thrills, suspense, and multi-layered plots all keep me up half the night.

jenna said...

When I read the novels I choose it is for pure enjoyment, escapism and I sometimes can guess but that is rare. Reading the mystery is all consuming and gives me the best time ever.

Lyric James said...

I love lurve mysteries! I read them all the time and always try to figure out who did it in the end. Sometimes I'm right... sometimes I'm wrong. But the fun is always the "reading." LOL

Anonymous said...

Hi Leah,
Thank you for taking the time to post to Killer Fiction.

I come when Christie calls. LOL

Please add me in the drawing, too.

All my best,
Tambra Kendall
www.tambrakendall.com

Michelle (MG) Braden said...

I love trying to figure out "whodunnit" and if I figure it out too soon I am disappointed. The best books are those that keep me changing my mind througout.

Anonymous said...

I usually figure out who"did it".If i don't it does throw me & I keep thinking about the book again & again!Which is good!
Good Luck everyone WOW free books in the mail,too bad everyone can't win

sabrina said...

Guessing is fun but difficult for me. When I am reading I try to think about it but have never been too successful. Mysteries add spice and thrills each day which are my best ever reads.

Gemma Halliday said...

Thanks, Beth! Ha! I can totally picture the ortho giving you funny looks! :)

I decided to end the Heels series while things were still on a high note. It's hard to keep characters and plot lines fresh after 5 books (just as Kathy - she's a wiz at it!), so I wanted to leave things with a bang while the characters still have their shininess to them. Don’t worry, I’m not throwing Maddie to the wolves! Just figure it’s about time she gets a happily ever after. With whom? Well, I’ll leave you guessing for awhile…

~Gemma

Jeanette J said...

I always like to guess along the way and sometimes I'm right but more often than not I get surprised at the end

Lucy said...

I like to guess along the way and then be totally surprised at the end. I figure if I can actually figure out the whodunit, everyone else could've figured it out from the back cover.

Good post, thanks. :-)

Toni Sue said...

Well, I have to admit that I couldn't EVER do your job. I bow humbly before you ;) I would want to change everything to how I would write it, instead of letting the author tell the story :D Yeah, I'm like that in every day life too! No, I'm not going to let you talk to my husband, either ;)

catslady said...

I love to guess along but I'm not as happy if I can guess it all - I really want to be surprised - but of course it can't be a trick ending. I read one recently that it was like they didn't know how to end it so they just added something at the end. The best stories are when I keep changing my mind lol.

Erin Richards said...

Thanks for posting, Leah! I love trying to figure it out and I look for foreshadowing, red herrings, etc. The best ending is one where it's a totally unexpected twist! Even if I did figure it out before the end, I'm still happy and satisfied as long as it's a great read. I'm usually right about 25% of the time!

danetteb said...

Hi Leah,

You're job still sounds awesome, to be able to help give us readers great reads. Awe :D

I try to guess the killer, its fun to keep wondering if my guess was right.

Hugs, Danette

Colleen Thompson said...

Waving hi to Leah and all the Killer Fiction ladies!

I love trying to figure out the mystery as I go. I've gotten pretty good at it but, if the culprit's well disguised and there are other surprises along the way, I'm not disappointed if I figure out the baddie. I'm too busy congratulating myself. :) Of course, I love it when I'm *really* surprised, especially when the author's played fair with her clues.

Anonymous said...

I like to be completey surprised about the identity of the killer although I make many guesses and usually peek at the last pages.

Jane Myers Perrine
jane@janemyersperrine.com

Faye Hughes said...

Hi, Leah,

Great post! Honestly, if I'm enjoying the book, it doesn't matter if I figure out who the killer is ahead of time; it's the process I enjoy.

Faye

~Leah said...

Wow - these are all fantastic responses. And it's great to know I'm not the only one who doesn't mind being proven wrong at the end.

Donna M said...

I'll be showing my age, but I thought I'd bring up the old Ellery Queen novels. Two-thirds of the way through would be a page that said: "You now have all the clues you need to figure out the solution. You don't need anything else." But of course, what you always needed was the devious mind of Ellery Queen who could fool you even when you had the clues.

Angie Fox said...

I'm a complete mystery nut, but that doesn't mean I'm great at figuring out the killer. In fact, that's part of the fun - not knowing. My husband laughs when I re-read the same mysteries, because "You know what's going to happen."

Exactly. And I need to know what I should have known that I didn't know when I read it the first time. Men. They just don't get it sometimes. :)

Angie

Estella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.