Wednesday, March 31, 2021

In today's author spotlight, 
I shine my light on author
Jennifer Oakley Denslow
and her newest book

When an extra body turns up backstage, Quanah High School’s production of Romeo and Juliet is in trouble. Small-town high school teacher Regina Murphy has to stop directing and muster up her amateur sleuthing skills to find out who killed stern math teacher Robert Slayton, an ex-military man whose classroom demeanor has made him the center of conflicts with students, parents, and other faculty. Against the advice of Sheriff Mac Snyder, Reggie balances her day job initiating students into the mysteries of the dangling participle, explaining why stage right is the audience’s left, and confronting plagiarists to protect her students and make sure the curtain goes up on time.

Check my chat with Jennifer!

LKBR:  Thank you for joining us today, Jennifer.

JOD: Thanks for having me! I’m always happy to talk with others who love cozy mysteries as much as I do.


LKBR: Please tell us a bit about your new book.

JOD: When Regina Murphy, a small town theater teacher, finds a dead body backstage during rehearsal and her lead actor is the prime suspect, she has to put down her director’s notebook and polish here sleuthing skills to find the real culprit so the curtain can go up on the show.

I’ve been reading cozy mysteries for decades, and it’s kind of surprised me how many people don’t really know the cozy  genre. When I share with them what a cozy is, how they are usually set in a small town, the crime is committed offstage, the detective is an amateur in it to find the perpetrator for personal reasons, and the cast of characters is usually full of quirky personalities, they get excited to read one. Rapier Wit has all of those qualities, plus, it made my sister laugh out loud, so there’s definitely some humor!


LKBR: Are you working on any new projects?

JOD: Rapier Wit is the first book in a series, so now that it’s out, I’m working on the sequel, Slings and Arrows.


LKBR: How many books do put out annually (if more than one)?

JOD: Right now, I plan to put out one a year. I have a lot of ideas in the pipeline, so if I can fit in the writing around my day job teaching, I may be able to adjust the schedule and do two a year!


LKBR: What is your brainstorming process like? Do you have a certain order you use when starting a new story? Such as, main character development, do you already have a murder in mind, the location it takes place?

JOD: I’m always open to stories that strike a chord with me as a writer, a reader, and a lifelong Okie!  I think that sometimes people think nothing ever happens in a small town, but in Quanah, Oklahoma, the setting of all the Regina Murphy mysteries, the issues that are important to people everywhere are important to the people there, too.  In Rapier Wit, some of the story draws on the problems teachers deal with every day, like high-spirited students and plagiarism.

As for the crime, I start with thinking, why would someone be a target in this little microcosm, and take it from there. The victim in Rapier Wit is a math teacher who’s had conflicts with students, parents, and other faculty members. Slings and Arrows is going to be about how close to home the opioid crisis is to small towns in Oklahoma.


LKBR: Where’s the strangest place inspiration has hit?

JOD: Even when I’m not at the keyboard, the story I’m working on is always simmering.  During NaNoWriMo one year, I had an epiphany about a plot twist during a debate tournament and had to find a place to hide out for a bit so I could type up the idea on my phone before I lost it!

The bathroom. I hid in the bathroom so I could make sure I didn’t lose the idea.


LKBR: What publishing decisions are made by you, and what are made by the publisher? Such as, cover design, paperback/hardcover, publishing date, pricing, and so on.

JOD: Since I’m an independent author, it’s all on me to find the people to help me deliver the best book I can! I’ve learned so much since I began publishing my books and I keep learning every day. I work with very talented people who edit my books and do the work I can’t do, like design awesome covers.


LKBR: Multiple questions here. Have you ever thought about giving up on writing? If yes, why? What kept you going? What would you see yourself doing instead? If no, YAY!

JOD: I have never given up on writing. Writing has been a part of who I am from a very early age. It’s just taken different forms through the years. I’ve written poetry, academic papers throughout college, memoir, blogs, you name it. For a very long time, I had a daily writing practice inspired by Natalie Goldberg’s book, Writing Down the Bones.

What is very new is publishing.  I read Catherine Ryan Howard’s book, Self-Printed a few years ago and it inspired me to publish my own books. The self-publishing industry was just getting started, and I knew I could do it, so I did.

Writing can be a very isolated and isolating pastime. Knowing that people are reading my books is a way of making a connection that I value very much. There’s that saying that “books are a uniquely portable magic.” Part of that magic is in the connection between the writer and the reader who picks up the book.


LKBR: If you could make one request of a reader, what would that be?

JOD: I wish I could hear from every reader when they finish one of my books. I know that’s not possible, but if I had a map and could stick a pin in every location where someone has read one of my books, I think it would be incredible!

In reality, I would ask each reader to let themselves get lost in the books they read so they can truly enjoy the world the author, any author, not just me, has built for them.  I want my readers to know what it’s like to be in the darkened theater with Reggie, to feel the empathy she has for her students, and to experience what Quanah, Oklahoma is like.


LKBR: Thank you for joining us here today, Jennifer!

JOD: It’s been a pleasure!

Like so many writers, Jennifer Oakley Denslow began her journey as a passionate reader. Compelled to tell the stories she wanted to read, as a pre-teen she penned a series of tales for her middle school creative writing class. In high school, she went to school an hour early every day to work with other young writers to create an anthology showcasing their work.

And that was just the start.

Florid poems in the local paper, impassioned letters to the editor, and later a BA in English followed by a Master's degree in Composition and Rhetoric, firmly sealed her fate as a writer. Her love of complex characters led to a twenty-six-year career as a theater educator and a series of award-winning essays. But it wasn't until Denslow learned about the fille de cassette, or 'casket girls' sent to wed men in French colonies, that she was compelled to write a novel about the plight of women in historical times, and An Ignorance of Means was born.

Denslow is drawn to strong female protagonists with sharp intellects, and stories that delve into experiences far beyond the scope of our daily lives. When she isn't using every spare second to pen her latest novel, she can be found coaching her debate team and working with young actors to create the emotional experiences for which theater was created.

You can learn more about Jennifer's work at

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  1. I love the premise! I will be checking this out!

  2. Thank you for the interview with Jennifer Oakley Denslow and for introducing me to a new to me author. "RAPIER WIT" sounds like a wonderful book and is now on my TBR list. Can't wait for the opportunity to read it.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  3. Love it great review thank you Lisa