Lisa Lutz is an author I’ve been hoping to have at our store for some time, so I’m excited to have her here tonight at 7pm with her latest Spellman novel, The Last Word. Lisa was kind enough to answer my questions in advance.
MYSTERYPEOPLE: You have an interesting set up where Izzy and The Spellman Agency are being framed for embezzlement. It always seems financial crimes can be complicated to plot. Did you find this one a challenge?
LISA LUTZ: Honestly, everything about this book was a challenge. But, yes, I had to be more diligent than usual in figuring out how to deal with the financial crime. I ended up keeping it simple in some ways and trying to focus more on the motivation for the crime than on an elaborate construct. That’s what interests me most, anyway.
MP: One of the things that makes The Last Word relatable is that while Izzy has the case to deal with, she also has to manage the rest of her life, which includes her insane family, the business, and dating. How do you deal with the challenge of having so many balls in the air for a story?
LL: This is the sixth Spellman book and all them have several plots going at once. I think this is one of those things I just figure out organically. Hey, we haven’t heard about plot #3 in a while, I should probably write something. In retrospect it seems so simple. I’m not sure how I’d answer this question if I were still in the thick of it.
MP: One thing that is striking about The Last Word in comparison to so many other comic mysteries is that while it delivers all the laughs, it also takes a straightforward look at having roles switch as parents and children become older. What did you want to get across about Izzy’s relationship with her folks?
LL: With all of the books I want to accurately reflect the passage of time and the responsibilities that often go along with that. As much as I want the books to be entertaining and funny, it’s equally important that they’re about something real.
MP: Her employer, Edward Slater, is a wonderful creation. Even though you don’t ever go into much explanation, he has several shades and believable contradictions. Besides a plot device, what else does he provide for Izzy?
LL: Isabel (and this is a trait I think I might share with her) invites mentorship. Many people manage to wear a cloak of respectability, even if it’s a disguise. Isabel has no cloak. She’s overtly flailing and Edward genuinely wants to help fix her.
MP: Which Spellman do you enjoy writing the most?
LL: It varies book to book. I very much enjoyed writing for Princess Banana in The Last Word. It was challenging making someone with a vocabulary of under 300 words menacing.
MP: When praising The Last Word, Megan Abbott wrote, “The sly trick of Lisa Lutz’s Spellman novels is that they’re so funny and so smart that you’re taken by surprise by all the insights they offer – about loneliness, about the tumult of love and of most of all about the tender chaos of families.” Did you know you were writing something so heavy?
LL: I think there’s a common misconception that comedic novels aren’t novels with substance. I’m a firm believer in using comedy as a front, a subtle and palatable way of exploring more serious issues, like how to deprogram a toddler with a princess obsession.