Interview: Lisa Q. Mathews

Please welcome Lisa Q. Mathews, author of The Ladies Smythe & Westin series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Uh-oh. The first question, and I’m stumped. So many options…Most perfect days happen when I’m with friends and family, but if we’re talking just me: A morning walk on the beach, followed by a fabulously productive writing session at a coffee shop, sundress shopping Permanently.Booked.Mathews(everything fits), an afternoon poolside with trashy magazines and greasy, snack bar food, drinks at a Tiki bar while watching the sunset, a break at the spa to shower and throw on the new sundress, dinner at a trendy place where I can eavesdrop on my fellow diners for new book ideas, a no-brainer movie with extra-buttered popcorn at a cool theater, a post-flick sundae at an old-fashioned ice cream parlor, and a little late reading before I fall into a sugar-induced coma. Not a very healthy day, I guess. But worth it.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?
You’ll rarely catch me without a Trenta-sized iced tea in hand. Straight up, no sugar, it’s the first thing I reach for each morning. I forced myself to switch from black tea to green because it’s supposed to be better for you. I’m considering an IV drip.

Which books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?
Robert Penn Warren was our neighbor when I was growing up and in twenty years I never saw him once, as far as I know. We had to read All the King’s Men for AP English and he was zero help. But he did have a daughter a few years older than me, who wrote a book about her dog when she was ten. So I figured maybe I could be a writer, too.

Do you listen to music when you write?
Yep, if my husband isn’t working in the next room (I hate ear buds). Surf rock like The Dandy Warhols (sort of alt-Beach Boys). I write best to music with a steady, not-too-intrusive beat and I’m unfazed by the soundtrack at Starbucks (it helps that they sell iced tea). At the holidays I always listen to Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas. For the final chapters of my last book, I played In the Mood over and over, in honor of my older sleuth, Dorothy. Who knew iHeart Radio had so many versions?

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
I’m a big fan of mint chocolate (especially for ice cream), but since Permanently Booked is a book club story, I’ll go with an extra-fudgy chocolate brownie. You can’t have book club without brownies, right?

What made you interested in writing this particular story? 
My parents lived in Florida for years, and when they hit their nineties they moved to a lovely, active retirement community. My mom was thrilled, my dad less so—especially when it came to the structured activities. My mom was a former librarian, and I’m a former editor, so I thought it would be fun for my co-sleuths to start a book club. So many things to go wrong…

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I’m fascinated with relationships between women—best friends and not-friends, sisters, moms and daughters, ex-wives and girlfriends, older women and younger women, Mean Girls, sisters, you name it. I’m particularly interested in the judgments people make about others and how they often lead to complications.

Tell us about your main character.
Summer Smythe acts before she thinks. A fun-loving twenty-something, she’s the athletic, beach-girl-pretty daughter of a LA movie mogul, and used to getting what she wants. Like her name, she’s generally sunny, but she’s had some bad luck lately, and she’s starting over in Florida. She’s currently camping in her late grandma’s condo, and she has a knack for attracting men and trouble. But sleuthing is something she’s good at, and those who think she’s clueless are dead wrong.

Dorothy Westin thinks before she acts. A practical, seventy-something widow, she’s neatly-dressed, well-read, and unusually diplomatic, with a wry sense of humor. Others look to a reluctant Dorothy for leadership, much to the chagrin of her bossy nemesis Gladys Rumway. Dorothy misses her late husband and daughter, and found life rather dull at ritzy Hibiscus Pointe, until she teamed up with Summer to solve murders.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Summer: Cameron Diaz for her looks, fashion sense, athletic skill and physical comedy, Elle Woods (Legally Blonde) for her upbeat attitude and the way she thinks outside the box, Veronica Mars for her guts

Dorothy: Jessica Fletcher for her class, deductive abilities and quiet people skills, Betty White and Helen Mirren for their sense of humor, tastes in fashion, and refusal to worry about aging

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
I’d rather be a fly on the wall than the hostess at this soirée, but: Carl Hiaasen, Tim Dorsey, Mary Higgins Clark, Elmore Leonard, Janet Evanovich, and Robert B. Parker. I’d hate to take out so many mystery greats in one fell swoop with my dubious cooking, so a restaurant would be preferable. With multiple, clearly-marked exits.

What’s next for you?
I’m currently writing the third book of The Ladies Smythe & Westin, Fashionably Late, which comes out this September. After that, I’ll pen more mysteries starring Summer and Dorothy, and I’m also plotting out a brand new series. Thanks for having me, Mysteristas!


Lisa Q. Mathews was a lifeguard, a competitive figure skater, and a book editor before she started writing mysteries. She once edited the Nancy Drew series and wrote for Mary-Kate and Ashley and The Lizzie McGuire Mysteries. She was also Creative Director at Random House Children’s Books. Mom to three grown kids, Lisa lives in New Hampshire with her husband and a busy Golden Retriever pup named Farley. Like her co-sleuths Summer and Dorothy in The Ladies Smythe & Westin series, she loves swimming, rich desserts, romantic comedies, and above all a good mystery. To learn more about Lisa, please visit her website at

You can also join Lisa at:
Chicks on the Case


13 thoughts on “Interview: Lisa Q. Mathews”

  1. Welcome, Lisa! The dynamic between your two main characters sounds fantastic! Now I want an extra-fudgy chocolate brownie and some iced tea 😉


  2. A very interesting book club! Looking forward to checking out your books. Is it a challenge to write 2 main characters? What a pair!


  3. You have such a fun, breezy writing style. No wonder I love Summer and Dorothy! I can’t wait to read book two—coming to my Kindle at midnight tonight! 🙂


  4. What I like about your perfect day is that you eat the three major food groups all day long (carbs, fats, salt) and everything fits. Looking forward to reading Smythe and Westin!


  5. Sue, it’s not too much of a challenge to write these two characters (well, most of the time!). There’s a little of both Summer and Dorothy in me 🙂


  6. Love this interview, Lisa! Especially enjoyed the great story about Robert Penn Warren’s daughter writing a book and your response. Thanks for visiting us and CONGRATS on your book! Can’t wait to read!


  7. Cynthia, I just ordered Robert Penn Warren’s daughter’s book from an out of print bookstore, so I’d have a copy again. Thanks, and can’t wait for The Semester of Our Discontent’s debut this week!


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