Saturday, April 1, 2023

L.S. Stratton Interview - Not So Perfect Strangers

Photo Content from Chelsea Sedoti

L.S. Stratton is a NAACP Image Award-nominated author and former crime newspaper reporter who has written more than a dozen books under different pen names in just about every genre from thrillers to romance to historical fiction. She currently lives in Maryland with her husband, their daughter, and their tuxedo cat.


When/how did you realize you had a creative dream or calling to fulfill?
I started writing short stories in my black and white composition books when I was about 11 years old. The stories got progressively longer and longer. I was always a voracious reader but I never took the idea of writing my own book seriously until my mother suggested I submit to a First-Time Writers Contest while I was in college. I entered a short story in the competition at the last minute with no expectation at all that I would win. I didn’t win like I expected, but I was one of the four finalists. My story was published and appeared in national retail stores. That’s when I realized something I had always considered a creative passion could become a professional reality. I knew then I wanted to be an author.

Beyond your own work (of course), what is your all-time favorite book and why? And what is your favorite book outside of your genre?
My favorite book of all time is also out of my genre. It’s Stephen King’s IT. When I was a kid, I saw the TV series with Tim Curry as Pennywise and it absolutely terrified me. I couldn’t sleep for TWO DAYS and wouldn’t go near a storm drain. When I got older, I finally decided to read the book (it’s more than 1,000 pages) and I was amazed at how much depth was in the story. How it talked about the innocence of childhood, the power of imagination, and the importance of friendship. That’s when I realized genre fiction could have themes and subtext just like literary fiction AND entertain simultaneously. It inspired me.

Tell us your most rewarding experience since being published.
I was shocked and immensely honored when I received my NAACP Image Award nomination. The day the finalists were announced, I wasn’t even going to visit the website but I wanted to see who got the nominations and I nearly passed out when I saw my book cover on screen. I called my husband. He was busy in a meeting. I called my parents, and they were out shopping. I had this huge, good news but no one to share it with. So I silently cried and bounced up and down in my office chair. It was so surreal.

What was the single worst distraction that kept you from writing this book?
It’s not the worst but just reality–life, in general. I work full-time. I’m a mom. Writing is my priority but it isn’t my TOP priority and I admit that. I have work obligations (it pays the bills) and kids don’t care if you’re on deadline. If they need Mommy, you’re on duty whether you’re at a good stopping point when you’re writing or not.

Can you tell us when you started NOT SO PERFECT STRANGERS, how that came about?
I was inspired by Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train . . . the idea of a “criss-cross” murder plot. I wanted to explore the premise in a modern setting with female characters and themes of intersectional feminism and race.

Your Favorite Quotes/Scenes from NOT SO PERFECT STRANGERS
I wave goodbye and turn, winding my way through the crowd in search of my husband. I look for men in the maze of rooms who fit my husband’s build, who are his height. Finally, I spot him near a baby grand piano in front of one of the floor-to-ceiling windows. He’s standing with three other men, all in tuxedos. A few of them look familiar.

Phil takes a sip of wine and nods at something one of them is saying. I raise my hand to get his attention and start to walk toward them, but stop short when another woman glides across the room from the other direction. She is a tall, lithe, young redhead in an emerald-green dress that sways around her hips and drapes off her pale shoulders. My husband notices her but not me, lowers his wine glass, and grins. He reaches out to her, lightly grips her elbow, and pulls her toward the group and closer to his side.

My back goes rigid as I watch the familiar gesture. The young woman tosses her hair over her shoulder and offers her hand for a shake to the others. They greet her, and the five begin to talk. I can’t hear them from this distance, but they all laugh at something she says. As they talk, she reaches up and picks at a piece of lint on Phil’s shoulder. She lets her hand rest there.

My cheeks and neck flame with heat, like they’ve been doused with hot water. I feel light- headed.

My outrage and disbelief seem to take on solid form. They fly across space, spanning the distance between me and my husband, and roughly shove at his back. He finally turns to look at me.

“Ah, Maddie! There you are! I was wondering where you’d gotten off to, honey,” he says, like I was the one who disappeared. Phil gestures to his side. “Meet Penelope.”

Penelope drops her hand and turns. Her green eyes settle on me and she gives me a “cat that ate the canary” smile that makes me tremble. The bitch practically has a feather dangling from the side of her crimson mouth.

“Mrs. Gingell,” she gushes, “it’s such a pleasure to finally meet you! I’ve heard so much about you from Phil.”

And that’s when I know my fears were true all along, what I’ve been suspecting for months after Phil’s numerous late nights at work and the missed phone calls and texts and the mysterious charges on our Barneys account: my husband is no longer mine.

What is your most memorable travel experience?
My most memorable travel experience was my worst even though now, looking back, I can laugh. It was like something out of National Lampoon’s Vacation. My husband and I thought we could take a romantic weekend in Philadelphia. We arrived at our hotel and discovered that our room had curtains but no windows. We pulled open the curtains to see the cityscape and got a view of drywall instead. As we were falling asleep, we noticed a wet spot on the floor by the end of the bed, looked up, and saw that the ceiling was leaking. We called downstairs to the front desk to ask for another room. They told us that they were all booked and could only shift our bed so the water wouldn’t drip on us directly. We decided to at least stay the night, woke up the next morning, and called room service for breakfast. No dice. Kitchen was closed due to some staffing issues. We just had to laugh at that point. So much for a romantic getaway!

What's your most missed memory?
I really miss afternoons hanging out with my great grandmother and great aunt. They were in their 70s and 80s and I was a freshman in college back then. My college campus was in the city, not too far from their apartment building. I wasn’t very happy at the time. I was still figuring things out and feeling a bit lost. They always made me feel comforted and loved. I would take the train to their apartment and watch TV with them for a couple of hours, eat junk food, and talk. That time with them helped keep me sane during that rough adulting period.

What do you usually think about right before falling asleep?
I’m happy to have my husband sleeping beside me, two healthy parents, a roof over my head, and I hope my kid has a good day at school tomorrow.

What was your favorite subject when you were in school?
History class. I was always fascinated by historical figures and facts and seeing what small events led to bigger events. Also, seeing how some things are cyclical in history is really interesting. It’s true that those who don’t learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

What is one unique thing are you afraid of?
The teacup rides at amusement parks or anything that spins around and around. I even have to carefully talk myself through rides on merry-go-rounds. (I only do it if my kid asks me to ride it with her.) It’s so funny because I will get on huge roller coasters and water slides, but give me a kiddie ride that spins in a circle and my eyes are squeezed shut and I’m praying for it to be over.

One fateful encounter upends the lives of two women in this tense domestic thriller, a modern spin on Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers On A Train that flips the script on race and gender politics.

“I’m a big believer that women should help each other, Tasha,” she says. “Don’t you think?”

Tasha Jenkins has finally found the courage to leave her abusive husband. Taking her teenage son with her, Tasha checks into a hotel the night before their flight out of D.C. and out of Kordell Jenkins’s life forever. But escaping isn’t so easy, and Tasha soon finds herself driving back to her own personal hell. As she is leaving, a white woman pounds on her car window, begging to be let in. Behind the woman, an angry man is in pursuit. Tasha makes a split-second decision that will alter the course of her life: she lets her in and takes off.

Tasha and Madison Gingell may have very different everyday realities, but what they have in common is marriages they need out of. The two women want to help each other, but they have very different ideas of what that means . . .

They are on a collision course that will end in the case files of the D.C. MPD homicide unit. Unraveling the truth of what really happened may be impossible‒and futile. Because what has the truth ever done for women like Tasha and Madison?
You can purchase Not So Perfect Strangers at the following Retailers:

And now, The Giveaways.
Thank you L.S. STRATTON for making this giveaway possible.
1 Winner will receive a Copy of Not So Perfect Strangers by L.S. Stratt.on

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