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Thursday, November 5, 2015

Interview & Giveaway: Paula Berinstein, author of the Amanda Lester Detective Series

I'm thrilled to have author Paula Berinstein here today for a fun interview and giveaway...

Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy
(Amanda Lester Detective #1)
by Paula Berinstein
May 22, 2015
The Writing Show

Amanda Lester wouldn’t be caught dead going into the family business. Her ancestor, Sherlock Holmes’s colleague Inspector G. Lestrade, is a twit. Nevertheless her parents refuse to see his flaws, and she’s going to a secret English school for the descendants of famous detectives whether she likes it or not.

When Amanda arrives at the dreaded school, she considers running away—until she and her new friends discover blood and weird pink substances in odd places. At first they’re not sure whether these oddities mean anything, but when Amanda’s father disappears and the cook is found dead with her head in a bag of sugar, they’re certain that crimes are taking place.

 Now Amanda must embrace her destiny and uncover the truth. The only snag is that arch-villain Blixus Moriarty, a descendant of Holmes’s nemesis Professor James Moriarty, might be involved, and he doesn’t like nosy little girls interfering in his business.

What three words best describe your book, Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy?

Fun, quirky, mystery

Can you give us your best one sentence pitch to convince readers, especially reluctant readers, to give Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy a try?

What would you do if you discovered a secret conspiracy involving the world’s most notorious arch-villain?

Grab a copy of Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy and answer the following:

favorite chapter?

Chapter 30, “Monkeyshines.” In this chapter Amanda meets up with a very cheeky monkey, and it’s not pretty.

favorite page?

Page 293, when the truth comes to light.

favorite setting?

The Holmes House common room at the Legatum Continuatum secret school for detectives. Legatum’s d├ęcor gremlins change its appearance every day so the observation teacher can test the students’ skills. You never know what you’ll find there.

flip to a random page and give us 1-2 sentences teaser:

Page 122: “There was a mood in the room that Amanda couldn’t describe—a creepy kind of silence that made her feel as if something terrible were about to happen.”

What inspired Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy? How did the story come to be?

I love mysteries, and I’ve always wondered if I could write them. Before I could test myself, though, I had to invent a detective. I wanted it to be a woman because I thought I could get inside a woman’s head more easily than a man’s, and I wanted her to be unusual. I came up with the idea of a young woman who would rebel against her upbringing. Her family would be intellectual and college-educated, but she wouldn’t want to be anything like them, so she’d become a plumber. And so I made her a plumber’s apprentice. In the first story, she’d find a dead body under a house when she crawled underneath to fix a pipe.
I got the idea of her being descended from the fictional character Inspector Lestrade because unlike Amanda, I love Sherlock Holmes and I wanted to use him in the story, but only indirectly. Trying to follow Conan Doyle’s (the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories) amazing act was just too intimidating, so I didn’t want to write about Holmes himself. Since I enjoy speculating about the lives of minor characters, Lestrade was the perfect choice.
I made Amanda American so I’d be likely to get her right. At first the setting for the story was going to be Los Angeles—specifically Woodland Hills—which I know really well. But I couldn’t make that setting exotic enough, so I moved the story to England, which is where my husband, Alan, comes from.
But I still had difficulty—until I came up with the idea of making Amanda a kid. Once I did that I was able to invent a school for her to attend, and everything fell into place. Writing for kids allowed me to come up with some crazy ideas, such as a sugar conspiracy, which adults might have trouble taking seriously.
Can you tell us a bit about your heroine, Amanda? What makes her unique and interesting?

Amanda is a twelve-year-old girl whose parents won’t stop talking about the great la-di-da detective Sherlock Holmes. “Amanda, that isn’t the way Sherlock Holmes would do it.” “Amanda, did I tell you what Mergatroyd Thumbwhistle said about Sherlock Holmes?” “Amanda, when I was your age I had already memorized the complete memoirs of Sherlock Holmes.” They’re just exhausting.

You see, Amanda is descended from Holmes’s colleague, the bumbling Scotland Yard detective Inspector Lestrade, and they want her to be just like him. Or Holmes. Or both of them. Of course Amanda will have none of it. She wants to be the world’s greatest filmmaker. Unfortunately, her parents think that’s a frivolous idea and insist that she prepare for her career by attending a secret English school for the descendants of famous detectives, the Legatum Continuatum Enduring School for Detectives. (Ssh. Don’t tell anyone about the school. It’s a secret.) That presents several problems for her. For one thing, she’s afraid of criminals. For another, she lives in Los Angeles and would have to move to the English Lake District where it’s very cold. And when would she have time to make movies? She’s so proud of the films she’s made—“Lunchpail,” “A Distant Snail,” and “Mynah Bird” in particular. Now she’s about to make the best film of her life—still untitled—and she’d have to drop it at the absolute worst time.

There’s another thing, if you haven’t already guessed it. If Amanda goes to the stupid school, people will find out she’s descended from that laughingstock Lestrade, and she’ll never be able to face anyone again. And then what will she do?

You must be a big Sherlock Holmes fan...what are some of your favorite Holmes mysteries?

“The Hound of the Baskervilles,” to be sure. The setting is so atmospheric, with spooky moors and creeping fog and large, dark houses, not to mention shady characters. There is also a good deal of forensic activity in the story—physical evidence to be analyzed—which I find fascinating. Also, because of its length, we get to savor it.

I must say that I am rather partial to “The Red-Headed League” as well, for kind of a crazy reason. I once made puppets and put on a little show based on the story. You can imagine what fun it is to create a character with flaming red hair, not to mention Holmes himself, with his signature deerstalker hat and cape. I think I even made him a pipe. Do you know that in the Conan Doyle stories Holmes never wore a deerstalker hat or smoked a calabash pipe? Those became associated with him because of the way he was portrayed on the stage. Obviously they stuck, though, and now we don’t think of him any other way.

Can you give us any hints about what’s to come for Amanda in future books in this series?

Yes! For one thing, a descendant of Sherlock Holmes becomes a student at Legatum, and is he a dork! He’s crazy about Amanda, but she can’t stand him. Unfortunately she will have to find a way to work with him or the bad guys are going to get hold of something they really, really shouldn’t.

After that, Amanda and her friends tangle with the world’s most dangerous hacker, and it isn’t who you think. Later even more new villains emerge, including someone Amanda is related to.

We will be also meet some very silly blue peacocks and some bright red spiders with remarkable powers. You won’t want to miss them.

What’s the best thing about being an author?

World-building. Even when you’re writing a realistic story, which the Amanda Lester, Detective stories aren’t quite—they’re very exaggerated, although they’re not fantasy or paranormal or science fiction—you can create a unique world for your characters to inhabit, and it can be anything you want. It’s hard work though. You can’t be lazy or inconsistent or the story won’t work and your readers won’t be happy.

Fill in the blanks:

I’m really awesome at being silly.
I’m really embarrassed to admit that I have not read every single Sherlock Holmes story. Amanda’s parents would not be pleased.
The last great book I read was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

If you were to bake a cupcake inspired by Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy, what would it look and taste like, and what would you call it?

Well, I suppose I would have to call it the Nigel, after Amanda’s roommate’s guide dog. It would be chocolate because Amanda is a chocoholic, and of course it would have pink icing because I’d use pink sugar to make it, and that would make it so sparkly. However, the frosting would taste terrible, and if you read the book, you’ll know why. The chocolate part would be lovely, though. Very light and airy and not too rich, but dark as night. I’d be tempted to put copper sprinkles on it as well, and if you look at Chapter 34, “Acting,” you’ll see why.

Thank you so much for stopping by, Paula!

Paula Berinstein is nothing like Amanda. For one thing, she’s crazy about Sherlock Holmes. For another, she’s never wanted to be a filmmaker. In addition, compared to Amanda she’s a big chicken! And she wouldn’t mind going to a secret school at all. In fact, she’s hoping that some day she’ll get to build one.

Win 1 of 3 paperback copies of
Amanda Lester and the Pink Sugar Conspiracy!
Paula has generously offered a paperback copy of her book for three winners.
-open to anyone
-ends 11/13
please read full rules below

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Slowsly said...

Sounds like a great book. I love Sherlock mysteries. Looking forward to reading this book.

Lola said...

Great interview! You asked some interesting questions and I liked learning more about this series! Especially about paula her inspiration for the series and why she made Amanda a kid. It sounds like a fun mystery series! I am only recently getting into the mystery genre, but I don't think I read a Middle Grade mystery book so far. I have the first book on my to-read list already. Thanks for the giveaway!

Unknown said...

Thanks so much, Kay and Lola! I hope you enjoy the books. Little did I know that when I made Amanda a kid I would be getting in touch with my true self--and that it's so silly! Of course there are very serious things going on at Legatum too, as you will see . . .

Anubha said...

I really liked reading mystery/detective books since my teen years and now my pre-teen cousin has expressed her desire to read interesting books, I can't wait for her to dive into this part literature ASAP

Unknown said...

Thank you so much for your interest in Amanda, Anubha! If your cousin likes detective stories too, I think she'll enjoy the series. The third book comes out on Sunday (Amanda Lester and the Purple Rainbow Puzzle).