For author, murder is always on pointe

Lori Robbins is a Glen Ridge resident and writer who has just written the next book in the On Pointe mystery series, ‘Murder in Second Position.’

GLEN RIDGE, NJ  – The crime rate hasn’t gone down much in Lori Robbins’ fictional world.
A year after the publication of her book “Murder in First Position,” a murder mystery set against the backdrop of a New York City ballet company, the Glen Ridge resident and writer is back with the next book in the On Pointe mystery series, “Murder in Second Position,” in which the main character, a dancer named Leah Siderova, is on the hunt for another killer.

“Amazingly, there has been a murder in this ballet company again,” Robbins joked in a phone interview with The Glen Ridge Paper on Thursday, Dec. 2. “It doesn’t exactly pick up where the last one left off; it works as a stand-alone. But a lot of the same characters appear.”

This is Robbins’ third book, but it’s the first time she’s written a sequel. Continuing the series of what will be at least three books named after ballet positions, she was surprised by how hard it proved to be.

“It was challenging,” Robbins said. “I’d never done a sequel before. I probably threw out the first 10,000 words twice. I was surprised about how much fun it was to get back in their heads.”Characters who were in the first book returned and new ones were introduced. Robbins said they all had to feel organic to the story and as if they belonged in the New York City ballet world, not that they were thrown into the story for the sake of being there. Some returning characters, such as Leah’s mother, were given more of a chance to shine in the sequel.

“You start to resonate with an author’s voice,” Robbins said about reading and writing a series of books. “You come to expect certain things from them, character quirks or how they dress and how they speak. It’s like coming back to an old friend.”

The sequel is the latest in a string of new writing experiments that Robbins has tried this year; she published two short stories, in the mystery anthologies “Justice for All: Murder New York Style” and “Murder Most Diabolical.” Normally a fan of writing around 80,000 words per project, she found short story writing to be a lesson in restraint.

“To get in a whole story in so few words gave me a chance to try something different,” Robbins said, mentioning that there isn’t a lot of time for dialogue in a short story. “There’s such a craft to it. You just have to get to the point. Every word matters.”

Learning how to write more compactly made her novel better, Robbins feels, even though a novel isn’t bound to the same kind of word count. She says that “Murder in Second Position” shares some structural DNA with a short story form.

“I really made an effort to pare it down,” she said. “And I think it’s a better book for it, not necessarily in length but in pacing.”

Robbins isn’t leaving the world of series writing any time soon: she’s halfway through the third On Pointe book, and is currently reediting her first novel, “Lesson Plan for Murder” to rerelease and turn it into a series as well. That book wasn’t originally intended to be a family of books and actually couldn’t, because her first publisher closed its doors yet still retained the rights to the characters. Unable to return to the concept, Robbins turned her attention to writing the On Pointe series.

Years later, she now owns the rights to her first book again.
“It did turn out to be a good thing,” she said. “Other writer friends told me, ‘Put it out of your mind. Write something else.’ That was the best advice I could have gotten, because I started these new books.”

“Murder in Second Position” can be purchased at https://tinyurl.com/3aaps7na. More information about Robbins and her work can be found on her website at www.lorirobbins.com. And just to be clear, no prior ballet knowledge is necessary to enjoy the On Pointe series, says Robbins, who is still enjoying the series herself.

“I don’t feel tired of the series,” she said, two books in and with at least one more coming. “I actually feel energized by it.”

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