Leigh Perry, who also writes as Toni L. P. Kelner, has penned an engaging, interesting and entertaining series, known as the Family Skeleton Series. The series began with The Skeleton Haunts a House, continued with The Skeleton Takes a Bow and the newest book is A Skeleton in the Family.
This is how Kelner explains the concept and series on her Leigh Perry web site: ”
We’d like you to meet Sid…
Most families have skeletons in their closets…
Moving back into her parents’ house with her teenage daughter had not been Georgia Thackery’s “Plan A.” But when she got a job at the local college, it seemed the sensible thing to do. So she settled in and found herself face to face with the family skeleton.
A skeleton named Sid.
Sid walks, he talks, he makes bad jokes, he tries to keep Georgia’s dog from considering him a snack. And he’s Georgia’s best friend.
Together, they solve crimes!”
Intrigued, I wanted to learn more so I did this email interview with Kelner:
How did you come up with the concept of having a family with a skeleton?
I wish I could remember that “Eureka!” moment, but honestly, I just don’t. I do know that I had the idea of Sid rattling around in my skull for a decade before I pitched and sold the series. As near I can figure, I was speculating about a paranormal series of some sort, and since my two best friends—Charlaine Harris and Dana Cameron—were doing wonderful work with vampires and werewolves, I figured I better go in a different direction. There were witch mysteries, ghost mysteries, angel mysteries, wizard mysteries, zombie mysteries, fae mysteries… All that was left was skeletons. And the I sat and wrote down the scene in which Sid first appears. That scene changed very little by the time it made it to the page.
The family Sid was destined to live with evolved a lot. Originally, Georgia was going to be younger and a grad student living on her own. Instead of her sister Deborah, there was a button-down Brooks-Brothers-wearing brother. But in working with my editor at that time, Ginger Buchanan at Ace, she suggested an older companion for Sid and a nerd-y daughter, not dissimilar from my own. I’m not sure when I switched the brother to a sister—I just liked the dynamic better.
How did you choose his name and decide to have him help solve mysteries?
Sid was his name as soon as I imagined him. I never considered seriously another name. As for mysteries, as a writer, I am addicted to the structure of mysteries. All of my novels and the vast majority of my short stories are mysteries, even if there are paranormal elements. So Sid had to be a sleuthing skeleton.
Is this skeleton series your first books or have you written others?
I wrote eleven novels before the Family Skeleton series: eight in the Laura Fleming Southern Mystery series and three in the “Where are they now?” series. Plus I co-edited seven paranormal anthologies with Charlaine Harris. But all of those were under my real name, Toni L.P. Kelner. (Though Leigh Perry has a story in one of the anthologies Toni co-edited.)
Why did you choose to write under a pseudonym?
It was a new series, in a new sub-genre. So it made for a fresh start with readers.
How far have you planned out this series? What’s next in the series?
I’m working on a proposal for a book in which Georgia takes a teaching job at an art school. Since my older daughter is in art school, I have plenty of material to draw from. I’m also doing some preliminary work on a young adult book in which Sid works with Georgia’s teenaged daughter Madison. That one would be set a LARP camp, a camp for kids who do live-action role-play. Think of it like real-life Dungeons and Dragons. My younger daughter attends a camp like that every summer, so again, I have material to borrow. I’m all about stealing from real life. Which is kind of ironic, given that I’m writing about a dead man walking.
Should readers start with your first book in the series? Or start with any book?
I try to make each book stand alone, and I have had readers start with the first, the second, or the third, and then get the rest. So it’s up to the reader.
What’s next for you?
I’m working on those previously mentioned books, and I’m noodling over a new series as well, but since I haven’t even put it in front of my agent yet, I can’t say much. It’s another idea I’ve had for many years. The trick for me is to be able to hear the characters in my head—until I do that, I can’t write the book no matter how compelling the idea is.
What do you do for work when you’re not writing the Family Skeleton Mystery series?
I’m a full-time writer, though admittedly I’m also a stay-at-home mother. So basically I write in between driving my daughter to and from school and her endless list of activities.