Leslie Wheeler is the author of three Miranda Lewis “living history” mysteries, most recently Murder at Spouters Point, published in October 2010. Her short stories have appeared in four previous Level Best anthologies. Leslie is the Speakers Bureau Coordinator for Sisters in Crime New England and has served as the chair of the Al Blanchard Award Committee for five years. Both roles have introduced her to many fine writers both inside and outside New England. Visit Leslie’s website at www.lesliewheeler.com .
Your story in Thin Ice, “Dead Man’s Shoes”, has elements of the paranormal, or even magical realism. What was your inspiration for this story?
The inspiration for “Dead Man’s Shoes” came from two sources. One was a pleasant October week I spent two years ago at a friend’s home on Martha’s Vineyard, where the story is set. The other was a story the same friend told me about how his frugal Yankee father used to call up the widows of friends who had recently died and who wore the same shoe size as my friend’s father, and ask if he could have their shoes. As for where the elements of paranormal and magic realism in the story came from, all I can say is that I’ve played with these elements in other things I’ve written, and in this story, I thought it would be fun to have the shoes come alive. They became characters in their own right, and I confess I’m quite fond of them.
You’ve been Chair of the Al Blanchard Award Committee and a judge of the contest for five years. How is being an Al Blanchard judge differ from being a Level Best co-editor? What is something you’ve learned doing one that influences how you approach the other?
The main difference between judging the Al Blanchard Award Contest and being a Level Best co-editor lies in the number of stories that are submitted and can then be selected either as winners or for publication. For the past two years, the contest has received 160 stories, and of that number, we judges can only pick one winner and four honorable mentions. For the Level Best anthology, we received about 80 stories, and picked 25 to publish. As a contest judge, I’ve had to accept the fact that I can’t have all my choices. There have been a number of stories that I absolutely loved, but that the other judges, for one reason or another, didn’t pick up on. As a Level Best co-editor, it’s been gratifying to be able to publish more stories that I wanted to see in print. I think that having been a contest judge for five years has helped me better understand the elements of a good story. And this, in turn, has made me appreciate a variety of different kinds of stories, which is what my co-editors wanted to include in the anthology.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on a new mystery series involving vintage clothing and film noir. I also have a couple of ideas for more stories, including two rather dark ones, and a more light-hearted one involving—you guessed it—the famous/infamous dead man’s shoes.