PW: There aren't too many Orthodox Jewish mystery writers. Do you think your vantage point as an Orthodox Jew provides you with either an advantage or a disadvantage?
Rochelle Krich: Being an Orthodox Jew gives me an opportunity to share with readers what an Orthodox lifestyle is like. I want the reader to have an understanding of the Modern Orthodox community that Molly, the heroine of my series beginning with Blues in the Night , lives in and the conflicts she faces in balancing strict religious observance with the pleasures and temptations of the secular world. Some readers may say initially, "Am I interested in reading about Orthodox Jewish characters?" and my experience has been, 99.9% of the time, that readers either write to me or tell me at mystery conventions that they're so glad they picked up my book.
PW: Was there any particular stimulus in creating Molly's character?
RK: Yes. I was a big fan of Harry Kemelman's series about Rabbi David Small. The first time I read one of Kemelman's books I was very excited because it combined my two passions: Judaism and mystery fiction. It was the first time I had read a mystery that dealt with Judaism in a very natural way and explored ideas of Judaism. Harry Kemelman passed away a few years ago, and I was sitting at my desk thinking about what I wanted to write next, and Molly popped into my head. I thought it would be kind of fun to do the opposite side of Kemelman's series.
PW: What about Molly Blumeoom's name? Were you concerned about some of the reactions you might elicit for having chosen Joyce's legendary character?
RK: There was great discussion about the name Molly Blume's. My agent was a little nervous, as was my initial editor. I'm a great fan of James Joyce. When the name popped into my head, I wasn't thinking Joyce, but two seconds later, I said Ulysses... James Joyce, I'm going to do it. I think she's going to get teased about it, but it's her name. In Dream House [see review p. TK], I say she blames it on her mother's epidural. She wasn't thinking.
PW: Dream House revolves around HARP (Historic Architectural Restoration and Preservation), and how far people will go to get what they want. What motivated you to write about HARP?
RK: HARP is actually a fictitious name for a real organization. I wanted to explore the whole idea of historic preservation versus the rights of the individual homeowner. And it's so funny—well, not really funny but ironic—because almost every week since writing the book I see another article either in the L.A. Times or some national publication that deals with that subject.
PW: At one point in the novel, a man encounters stiff, and seemingly ridiculous, opposition in his appeal to HARP board members to put up a new door.
RK: Well, I have to tell you that that was almost verbatim from a meeting that I went to when I was doing research.
PW: Can you give your readers a sneak peek of what's up next for Molly?
RK: The book I'm working on is tentatively titled Rachel's Tomb. In Blues in the Night and Dream House, I make several allusions to the murder of her best friend Aggie Lasher, a murder that has not been solved. It plagues Molly and lies very heavily on her because she was supposed to go with Aggie somewhere the night Aggie was murdered and she didn't, and Molly can't forgive herself for that. Rachel's Tomb opens with some evidence that has just come to light as to the identity of the person who allegedly killed Aggie, but Molly isn't sure if that's the right person.