Interview: Laurel Peterson

Today we welcome Laurel Peterson, author of the Clara Montague Mysteries.

Thanks so much Mysteristas for having me on your blog. I’m honored to be here!

What’s your idea of a perfect day?

I’m somewhere else: Paris, Madrid, London—or my nearest city, New York. We have a relaxed breakfast outside at a café. Linger over art in a museum. Watch a curious, intelligent, lush movie. Do a bit of shopping and buy something indulgent but not too expensive. Have martinis or champagne, a yummy dinner—somewhere with a view, even if it’s of a charming French street. Linger over good coffee. Walk back to the hotel through street performances. Sleep the sleep of the righteous. (And no hot flashes!)

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase/expression, or meal?

Not really. I like a lot of different things. For a while, I loved the Lâncome fragrance Magie Noire, but I don’t even know if they make it anymore! For drama, I tend toward black and silver.

shadow-notes-cover-compressedWhich books/authors inspired or influenced you the most?

I just finished rereading All the President’s Men, which I adored as a teenager: the language is rich, the images are looked at and then looked at again, the characters are complex and flawed. For mysteries, I think Sarah Paretsky has influenced me the most. She manages to write a great story while still dealing with all sorts of social and political issues. I aspire to do that in my work. One of my favorite writers is the poet Mark Doty, who writes not only beautiful poems, but also has written a couple of powerful memoirs about his life as a gay man, losing his lover to AIDs, his traumatic childhood. Worth reading. I never felt I was outside his experience. Every time I read something wonderful, I learn more about my own craft.

Do you listen to music when you write?

I need silence.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?

Dark chocolate with plenty of nuts. Emphasis on the nuts.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

I wondered what my mother’s therapist knew about her that I didn’t, and if she weren’t around to ask, what would I do? It got out of control from there!

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?

The nature of sanity. The nature of family: who is our family and who isn’t? How do we define family? Who is trustworthy and who isn’t? Social and economic inequality. Religious intolerance. Self-righteousness and the sense of personal empowerment in the face of others’ disadvantage.

Tell us about your main character.

Clara Montague is a landscape architect who left home fifteen years previously after an epic fight with her mother. She spent those years touring gardens all over the world, marrying the wrong man, and avoiding home. She has dreams that warn of danger, and she occasionally sees visions. When she has a dream about her mother being in danger, she feels obligated to return home and engage with the family and community she fled all those years ago.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.

Amal Clooney x Katherine Hepburn x Vita Sackville-West.

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

Sara Paretsky for all the reasons above. Patricia Highsmith. (Such a curious woman.) Julia Keller. Dick Francis. (Addicted.) Peter Spiegelman. Poe. Not because I would really want Poe there (what a downer, even if he was brilliant), but because I would have eternal cool status with my students, and why wouldn’t I want that?

What’s next for you?

I’m currently acting as the poet laureate for my town in Connecticut. I have a full-length collection of poetry coming out in 2017, titled, “Do You Expect Your Art to Answer?” and I’m working on the next book in the Clara Montague series, titled The Fallen. Oh, and I have to work.


Laurel Peterson

Clara Montague’s mother Constance never liked—or listened—to her but now they have to get along or they will both end up dead. Can Clara find the connection between the murders and her mother’s past that will save her mother and finally heal their relationship?

Laurel S. Peterson is an English professor at Norwalk Community College in Connecticut. Her poetry has been published in many literary journals and she has two poetry chapbooks. Her first mystery, Shadow Notes, has just been released by Barking Rain Press, and she is currently serving as the town of Norwalk, Connecticut’s poet laureate. Follow me on Twitter (@laurelwriter49), Facebook, or at my website:
Shadow Notes is available on Amazon, and at Barking Rain Press:


16 thoughts on “Interview: Laurel Peterson”

  1. Welcome, Laurel! Your perfect day sounds splendid 🙂 I’m so impressed you write both poetry and mysteries! Do you find one form sometimes seeps into the other? Congrats on the release of Shadow Notes!


  2. Thanks Liz Milliron/Mary Sutton: To answer your question, I think everyone is a little bit crazy. That’s the nuts part. And dark chocolate has all sorts of implications: its dark (duh, right?), but then it might also be a little bitter, a little sweet, a little edgy… 🙂 Thanks for dropping by!


  3. Hi Kate Lansing: Thanks so much for coming by. Poetry requires a compression of language and image, and I hope I use whatever skill I’ve gained from seeing the world that way to create atmosphere, tension and so on in my novels. I do write a lot of narrative poems, so maybe that’s how it goes the other way, story bleeding into poetry. Thanks for your question–it’s a great one!


  4. Hi Judy: I like Felix Francis, but the last one didn’t have “it”–whatever that is. I think Dick Francis was a better drawer of character; he captured the interior subtleties of what it means to be an honorable man in a dishonorable world. I keep reading, though, hoping… 🙂 ! Thanks for stopping by, Judy.


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