Wednesday, December 14, 2016



There’s one role you don’t want a callback for: Prime Suspect.

Aspiring actress Isobel Spice lands her first regional theater job, playing a supporting role and understudying the lead in Sousacal: The Life and Times of John Philip Sousa. A series of minor backstage accidents culminates in the suspicious death of the leading lady on opening night. When Isobel takes over the role, her mastery of the material makes her more suspect than savior, and she realizes the only way to clear her name is to discover the identity of the murderer—before he or she strikes again.


Joanne, what's your favorite thing about the writing process?
I’ve learned to lay the groundwork and then let my subconscious take over. When I’m really in the zone, my characters will do things I would never have consciously thought of. Sometimes new characters appear and I’m not even sure where they came from, but they prove within a few minutes why they’re important. My subconscious is a better plotter than I am, and when I give it free rein, it’s very liberating, especially since I have a tendency to be a bit of a control freak!

What’s more important – characters or plot?
I'm going to steal the motto from the youth writing group Writopia: “Plot builds character.” So plot it is. Especially when it comes to mystery fiction.

What is your writing style?

One of my friends described it as breezy/intellectual. The latter is more applicable to my music journalism than my fiction, but it’s a pretty accurate description of my sensibility.

What do you love about where you live?
New York City is big, loud, fast, messy, and inclusive. There’s an energy here that’s not like anywhere else. And of course, it’s the theater capital of the world.

Name one thing you’re really good at and one thing you’re really bad at.
I’m really good with foreign accents. I’ve studied Italian, French, and German, and I’m often mistaken for a native speaker—and believe me, it’s not because of my grammar or vocabulary! On the flip side, I have the world’s worst sense of direction. It’s so reliably wrong that if I’m absolutely positive I should turn left, I’ve learned to turn right.

What do you wish you could do?
Protect the people I love from anything bad happening to them.

Would you rather be a movie star, sports star, or rock star?

Until last summer, I would have said movie star. But I just played Rosie in a production of Mamma Mia! and discovered a secret, untapped desire to be a rock star.

Do you give your characters any of your bad traits?
Isobel is a chatterbox who sometimes talks so much about herself that she doesn’t listen to other people. I may or may not resemble that remark.

Do you procrastinate?
Can I answer that one tomorrow?

What’s one thing that drives you crazy?
People who race onto the subway car and stop right in the doorway as if there weren’t five other people behind them trying to do the same. These are the same people who walk in a phalanx on the sidewalk and wield their dog leashes like tripwires.

What is the most daring thing you've done (besides walking behind someone walking their dog)?

My husband and I swam in the Blue Grotto in Capri after hours, which is totally illegal. That didn’t stop there from being a whole line of people waiting to jump in. We did it at the urging of our B&B owner, and it was a harder swim than I anticipated. As a result, I didn’t really get to enjoy the view inside the grotto, and that late in the day the famous blue was only visible in patches. But it was exhilarating and totally outside my comfort zone.

What’s one thing that very few people know about you?
When I go down a long flight of stairs, I have to silently say “left, right” to myself so I don’t trip over my own feet.

How do you like your pizza?

Folded in half, like any self-respecting New Yorker.

What is your favorite movie?
This is a tie, but it will tell you pretty much everything you need to know about me: A Room With a View and Airplane.

Ah, yes, I see. Do you have a favorite book?
Robert Penn Warren’s All the King’s Men. I’ve read it several times, and it may be time to revisit it.

If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
I don’t know if it’s a cliché, but it’s my favorite aphorism, courtesy of Erma Bombeck: “Think of all the women on the Titanic who passed up the dessert tray.” The best illustration of carpe diem I’ve ever heard.


Writer, singer, and actor Joanne Sydney Lessner draws on her own experiences pursuing a performing career in New York City for her acclaimed Isobel Spice Mysteries: The Temporary Detective, Bad Publicity, And Justice for Some, and Offed Stage Left. With humor and a bit of romance, Isobel juggles auditions and temp jobs, solving murders along the way, while Joanne’s inside knowledge provides a window into the realities of breaking into show business (as well as a forum to share every humiliating audition experience she and her friends ever had). Joanne’s debut novel, Pandora’s Bottle, was inspired by the true story of the world's most expensive bottle of wine and was named one of the top five books of 2010 by Paperback Dolls. With her husband, composer/conductor Joshua Rosenblum, she has co-authored several musicals, including the cult hit Fermat’s Last Tango and Einstein’s Dreams, based on the celebrated novel by Alan Lightman. Her play, Critical Mass, received its Off Broadway premiere in October 2010. Joanne is also a regular contributor to Opera News and a graduate of Yale University.

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