Origin of a Pen Name

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To see larger cover, click image.

It’s been twenty years since my first mystery came out, but my new book  cover shows that this job never gets boring. A Skeleton in the Family is  the first in the Family Skeleton series, but just as dramatically for  me, it’s the first under my new pen name, Leigh Perry.  I admit I’m still not sure how this will work, but there were some good reasons to  reinvent myself.

From the authorial perspective, this is a good way to introduce a new  direction in my work. My novels have all been traditional mystery, and  while A Skeleton in the Family is still on the cozy side of the genre,  it’s got a big paranormal element. So this is a signal to readers that
this is going to be very different from the Laura Fleming and Tilda  Harper mysteries, and even from the anthologies I co-edit with Charlaine  Harris.

From a marketing perspective, it’s often easier to sell bookstores and  customers on a series from a “new” author than on starting a third  series. So it’s hoped that I’ll pick up new readers while I do my best  to let my existing readers know that it’s me hiding beneath the covers.

Finally, it seems appropriate for a more personal reason. When my first novel (Down Home Murder) came out, my mother was a little peeved to see “Toni L.P. Kelner” on the cover. She was sure that I’d sell more books  if family and people I knew from my previous publications recognized my  maiden name: Toni Leigh Perry.  I tried to convince her that (1) my  family would buy my books no matter what and (2) publishing a dozen  limericks in Dragon magazine weren’t really enough to build a brand, but  didn’t have a lot of success. The fact was, she just wanted to be able  to say, “That’s my daughter Toni Leigh!” So I was very glad to be able  to tell her that I was going to be a Perry again, at least in print.  Mama has since passed away, so now seeing the name reminds me of her,  and that’s lovely.

Anyway, I’ve now given away the origin of the name Leigh Perry, just in  case nobody made the connection with the “L.P.” in Toni L.P. Kelner, but  I suppose I ought to talk a little about what the book itself is about.

When single mother Georgia Thackery moves her daughter back to her  hometown to take a teaching job at the local university, she also has to face the family skeleton. But while other families have ancestral  bootleggers and illegitimate offspring lurking in their closets,  Georgia’s family skeleton is… a skeleton. A skeleton named Sid. He
walks, he talks, he makes bad bone jokes. And he has no intention of  resting in peace when there are mysteries to solve, starting with his  own murder.

Here’s hoping that people enjoy reading about Sid, and they grow fond of  Leigh Perry, too.

Toni Kelner/ Leigh Perry

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