Lily Gardner, author of Betting Blind—the 2nd Lennox Cooper Mystery—was kind enough to answer some of Criminal Element's questions about her beginnings as a writer, her inspirations, and living in Portland, OR.
How did you get your start as a writer?
In my early twenties, I moved to the country with the intention of writing a novel. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to write a hard-boiled mystery or a stream-of-consciousness novel. I didn’t have a story in mind, or the first clue how to write, I just had the desire to make what I loved. A book. That summer was an agony, as I trudged up the stairs to my little room and stared at the typewriter. I gave up the dream, but it still niggled at me.
I filled notebooks full of story starts and notes for characters for another 15 years.
Then, I took a mystery writing workshop from M.K. Wren, who taught me a lot about scene and structure. That was many workshops and thousands of hours of writing ago.
What kind of media (books, TV, movies) had the biggest effect on your writing career?
Books. Definitely books. I read armloads of library books as a kid and filled my house full of books as an adult. The back seat of my car serves as a bookshelf so that I’m never caught somewhere with nothing to read.
That said, from the time I was a little kid, I was a huge fan of TV’s Perry Mason. My current favorite is the Swedish Wallander series.
Is there a real-life criminal case, historical or current, that you’re particularly interested in?
The inspiration for Betting Blind came from a radio story about a therapist who fell in love with a robot on a computer dating site. It was months before he realized that the woman he’d fallen in love with was a computer program from Chechnya. My murder victim is a woman who trolls computer dating sites looking for gullible prey.
Did any other books inspire or influence this book?
I recently finished Sun Storm by Åsa Larsson, and was intrigued by her character, Sanna—a helpless woman manipulating everyone in the story and taking zero responsibility. I love the story idea of the weak pulling down the strong. That character does not show up in Betting Blind, but I’d love to write a future mystery with her (or him) in it.
Tell us about Lennox Cooper? Where did she come from, as a character?
I set about trying to create a character completely different from myself: someone who is intrepid, readily faces conflict, and never backs down—even when she’s in danger. Her problems are very different from mine, but she’s someone for whom I have great sympathy and admiration. She’s a character I can continue to live with.
What makes the setting special?
One of the things that I appreciate most about a book is its sense of place. I love Raymond Chandler’s LA, Dennis Lehane’s Boston, Henning Mankell’s Ystad and John Straley’s Sitka. I’ve wanted to make Portland a character in both Betting Blind and A Bitch Called Hope.
What makes Portland special? It’s the Emerald City: everything is green and growing. The fir trees all around town are 50 feet tall. You can’t imagine the flowers—or the rain…
Lily Gardner lives in rainy Portland with her husband, two corgis and several thousand books. Betting Blind is her second in the Lennox Cooper series of hard-boiled detective fiction.