Cozy to Cold-blooded: An interview with DP Lyle

by Sara Farmer
published in Reading

DP Lyle’s 4th Jake Longly thriller Rigged is here! Fans of the series can expect another smooth, funny ride with Jake, girlfriend Nicole Jamison, dad Ray, and childhood friend Tommy “Pancake” Jeffers. Since this book is set in the nearby town of Fairhope, rather than Jake’s hometown of Gulf Shores, AL, we meet police chief Billie Warren, who makes a welcome addition to the crime-solving crew. 

Dr. Lyle kindly agreed to answer questions about his mystery favorites and inspirations, his creative process, and which series we will be hearing from next. 

1) First off, I want to say that I love that the Jake Longly series is set in Gulf Shores, AL, and the surrounding area. My family went to Gulf Shores and Fort Morgan for vacations every summer when I was a kid and you don’t see it as a book setting often! How and why did you choose Gulf Shores and the surrounding towns as the setting for the Jake Longly series? 

I’m originally from Alabama and I know the coastal area of the state fairly well even though I grew up in the far northern region in Huntsville. I wanted this series to have a beach setting and I wanted it to be along the Gulf Coast and so I chose Gulf Shores for Jake’s home. The first book in the series, DEEP SIX, was set in that area and the fourth in the series, RIGGED, is set in nearby Fairhope. A great little town. For A-LIST, I took the crew to New Orleans and for SUNSHINE STATE to Florida. So even though all the books weren’t set in Gulf Shores, they were each along the Gulf Coast. It’s an interesting place with a lot of interesting characters.

2) Rigged is described as a humorous thriller, but it also has elements of a gritty cozy – charming town setting, punny names for businesses, quirky characters, but still some violence and darker elements like drugs. Your other series read as harder-edged. I happen to like and read all those categories, but you don’t often see writers producing such different kinds of work. And the cozy genre and its variants seem to mostly be the province of female writers. Did you intend to add cozy elements? Do you think it’s that different from the humorous elements of a thriller? 

Oh yes, when I conceived the Jake Longly series I wanted it to be humorous. I wanted it to deal with crime of course, and most crime has a dark element to it for sure, but I also wanted it to be quirky and offbeat. Much lighter and less forensic science and police procedure driven and perhaps less psychologically disturbing than my other series. 

My other series do have moments of humor tossed in, more to break the tension than anything else, but I wanted to have fun with Jake and his crew. I wanted to write humor. When I began DEEP SIX, I had only a single scene in mind and only vaguely knew who Jake was. I simply sat down and started writing and it took off. No outline, no net, as it were. I write all my books this way now. Very little if any outlining.

3) Jake’s girlfriend Nicole Jamison is a likable, fun character. She does remind me of the “cool girl” type memorably described by Amy Elliott Dunne in Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. For readers like myself meeting her for the first time in Rigged, do we get to know her better in the other books or a future one? I’d like to get inside her head, see who she is besides Jake’s girlfriend. Do you see Nicole as a “cool girl?”

There’s no doubt that Nicole is a “cool girl.” She’s drop-dead gorgeous and on first appearance many folks might believe that she’s just another pretty blonde with an empty head. Nothing could be further from the truth and she often uses that to her advantage. She’s tough and ballsy, smart and clever, and can be sarcastic and funny. She’s often the one that comes up with the plans for gathering information and for solving the crimes, and she is definitely not afraid of a physical confrontation. In an almost reckless fashion at times. 

What I like best about this series is the dynamic between Jake and Nicole. They are on an equal footing and spar with each other all the time. Of course, Nicole gets in the best jabs. It wasn’t until the third in the series that I realized I had created a dynamic that reminded me of Tracy and Hepburn, movies that I grew up watching. Still do for that matter.

4) In addition to your fiction writing, you’ve written several books about forensics in crime writing. And you always seem to be available to answer questions. “Email Dr. Lyle” pops up on writer email lists pretty often. ? What inspired you to take time out of your already busy schedule to educate other writers about forensics? 

I think there are several reasons for this. First off, everybody is smart in something and not so smart in something else. All of us writers have to do research and we have to trust the sources of that research. Some types of information are more difficult to obtain because you have no independent knowledge of the arena and so it’s hard to know what’s fact and what’s fiction. I know medical and forensic science pretty well but there are so many other arenas where I’m clueless. So I reach out to people who know what I need to know. I want to help other authors get their facts correct so I offer what I know to help them. Add to that the fact that knowledge is not worth much unless it’s shared. Another reason I like this type of consulting is that I love stories. I love to read stories and I love to write stories. I’ve always said that I learn as much from the questions I am asked as I hope the questioner receives from my answer. I get sort of an inside look at how they construct their stories and I like that.

5) You have five series going, plus your forensics writing. How do you decide which series to work on and generate so many ideas? Which will you work on next? 

I do have five series, but only two are active right now: the Jake Longly series and the Cain/Harper series. I try to write a book in each series each year so it basically means that every six months I’m working on a different book. I find that going back and forth between the lighter and more humorous Jake books and the darker and more complicated Cain/Harper stories helps me keep a fresh approach to each and keeps boredom at bay.

6) I saw on your bio that you’ve worked  on a lot of awesome TV shows including favorites of mine like Pretty Little Liars and Cold Case. What was your role? Consultant on forensics or script writer? Both? What was it like? 

Over the years I’ve worked with many screen writers on their stories. I’m not involved in the production or anything like that but rather only work with the writers. Again, creating the story is the fun part. Often it’s help with a plot or perhaps a few scenes. I might be asked to go over the science and how it works, or offer suggestions for how the plot might be smoother and more realistic, or work on the dialogue between two characters when they are discussing police procedure or scientific issues, and just about everything in between.

7) Which writers inspire you as a writer?

The list is long since I’m a voracious reader but the two that have helped me the most are James Lee Burke and Elmore Leonard. They are both masters of crime fiction and yet are very different. James Lee Burke is more poetic and literary in the way he constructs his often dark and complex stories while Elmore Leonard is more sparse in his word use and leaner in his plots. Yet he created some of the most memorable characters in all of literature. There is much to learn from each of these gentlemen. I know I have.

Sara Farmer lives in Austin, TX, with her husband, three kids, and two cats. When she’s not chasing kids and cats, she reads and writes mysteries. You can find her at and on Twitter @avonlea79.

DP Lyle is the Amazon #1 Bestselling; Macavity and Benjamin Franklin Award-winning; and Edgar (2), Agatha, Anthony, Shamus, Scribe, Silver Falchion, and USA Today Best Book (2) Award-nominated author of 20 books both non-fiction (Murder, Mayhem, Forensics for Dummies, Forensics and Fiction, More Forensics and Fiction, Howdunnit, Forensics and ABA Fundamentals: Understanding Forensic Science) and fiction, including the Samantha Cody thriller series (Devi’s Playground, Double Blind, and Original Sin); the Dub Walker thriller series (Stress Fracture, Hot Lights, Cold Steel, and Run to Ground); the Jake Longly thriller series (Deep Six, A-List, Sunshine State), the Cain/Haper thriller series (Skin in the Game) and the Royal Pains media tie-in novels (Royal Pains, First, Do No Harm and Royal Pains: Sick Rich). His essay on Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island appears in Thrillers: 100 Must Reads his short story “Even Steven” in ITW’s anthology Thriller 3: Love is Murder, and his short story “Bottom Line” in For the Sake of the Game. He served as editor for and contributed the short story “Splash” to SCWA’s anthology It’s All in the Story.

He hosts the Crime Fiction Writer’s Blog and the Criminal Mischief: The Art and Science of Crime Fiction podcast series. He has worked with many novelists and with the writers of popular television shows such as Law & Order, CSI: Miami, Diagnosis Murder, Monk, Judging Amy, Peacemakers, Cold Case, House, Medium, Women’s Murder Club, 1-800-Missing, The Glades, and Pretty Little Liars.Visit his website, and connect with him on Twitter and Facebook.

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