The Fans Are Out There
How author Leslie Langtry found her readers.Leslie Langtry’s writing career began in the second grade, when she wrote a story about a family camping trip gone wrong. When the kids in her class laughed, she says she was “hooked.” In college, she focused on political science, Soviet studies, and art administration. But her love for writing—and making readers laugh—never left her. As she neared age 40, she joined a writer’s group and wrote three books, which she says she subsequently “buried in the backyard after a ritual burning, so no one would ever, ever read them.”
But, after Langtry wrote for a couple more years, her husband challenged her to sell a book in one year. The result of that effort was 2007’s ’Scuse Me While I Kill This Guy, the first book in what would become the Greatest Hits Mysteries series. She sold the first book to Dorchester Publishing, followed by the next four titles in that series. Her publishing story gets a little twisty after that.
Around 2011, Langtry got the rights back to the Greatest Hits books and decided to give the indie route a try, republishing the original Greatest Hits books herself in order to reach a broader readership. They were later picked up again by a small mystery press, Gemma Halliday Publishing. “Working with Gemma has been incredible, and I’ve hit the USA Today bestseller list under her guidance,” the author says.
Langtry’s other series include eight Merry Wrath books and two books in Gemma Halliday Publishing’s Aloha Lagoon series. She has recently self-published a Greatest Hits novella, as well as two horror books, and is looking to self-publish four additional books across two series in the next year. Langtry describes her books as “cozy comedies” because they have elements that fall into the cozy category, but “they seem to make people other than my mother laugh.”
Langtry says she has always been a fan of mysteries: “I read my first Nancy Drew in the third grade. At some point, I graduated to Agatha Christie by stealing my mother’s books off her nightstand and blaming it on my sister.”Recurring themes find their way into Langtry’s books. There’s one leitmotif in particular: animals, including a rabbit, skunk, raccoon, and owl, grace the covers of the Merry Wrath books. In this case, art imitates life. “I think it’s safe to say we have a problem,” Langtry says. “We have three dogs, three cats, and a disturbingly large mini lop bunny we inherited after our daughter broke up with her boyfriend.” Other past animals have included turtles, parakeets, zebra finches, guinea pigs, and an iguana named Cedric.
Langtry also writes a lot about the Girl Scouts, having spent 10 years as a troop leader: “I must admit my hilarious and precocious troop gave me a lot of material to work with. Some people are surprised when they find out that many of the more absurd incidents in my books actually happened.”
Langtry writes funny books, but writing is not all fun and games. “Someone once said, ‘Dying is easy—comedy is hard’—and they’re right,” she says. “I’ve written straight books without humor, and I can write those in half the time I write my comedies. The trickiest part is having the right balance of comedy mixed with serious life-and-death situations.”
With 23 books and additional short stories both traditionally published and self-published, Langtry has earned her merit badges. She believes that self-publishing has meaningfully transformed the landscape—perhaps most significantly by allowing for more fluid parameters between genres.
Langtry is confident that, as long as authors put out the best versions of the best books they can write, readers will come: “You can write a space opera/sweet romance/werefrog novel with nonfiction elements, and you can find an audience who will eat that up.” Her next book, perhaps?