Lori Roy
June 3, 2024


Lori Roy

Lori Roy is the author of six novels, including her latest novel, LAKE COUNTY (6/1/24). Her debut, BENT ROAD, was awarded the Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best First Novel by an American Author. She went on to receive the 2016 Edgar Allen Poe Award for Best Novel, making Lori the first woman to receive an Edgar Award for both Best First Novel and Best Novel, and she is the third person to have done so.

Lori’s critically acclaimed work has been named a New York Times Editors’ Choice, twice named a New York Times Notable Crime Book, featured in People Magazine as Book of the Week and excerpted in Oprah Magazine. Her work has been widely reviewed and has been included on numerous Best Of lists and summer reading lists.

Lori lives with her family in west-central Florida.

Q. Can you share some of your inspirations that led to creating Lake County?
Lake County, Florida is a real county in the central part of the state, and I first began learning about the area and its history through the work of Gilbert King. His work inspired me to spend some time in this part of the state, and I quickly found the setting conducive to suspense. Southern gothic fiction, for me, is much about the contrasts we can draw between what is beautiful about the South and what is disturbing. I was particularly inspired by the sharp contrast I imagined between the beauty of orange blossoms in bloom, which is where the book begins, and the hot, oppressive landscape of a rural Florida town in the 1950s.  From this setting, my characters began to emerge. 


Q. What was it like writing about a famous, real-life figure like Marilyn Monroe? And making her a critical character in a crime novel? What kind of research did you do?
Lori: I thought long and hard before incorporating the real-life Marilyn. If I were to write about her, I had to assure myself that I wasn’t using her as a gimmick. That was my first hurdle. In deciding that, I gave myself a litmus test. If Marilyn brought something to the book that no other person could, I would be comfortable that she belonged. To make that determination, I brought her into the story to see what she had to contribute. I got my answer immediately. I can best describe the experience by saying that Marilyn was happy to be on the page. She was willing to show her good sides and her less attractive sides, and she most certainly had much to say. The character of Marilyn Monroe does much of the heavy lifting with a few of the major themes in the book. 

As to research, I read many biographies, studied the timeline of her life, read some of her own writing, watched various films, and tracked down the few clips in which she speaks in her natural voice, as opposed to the voice we all hear when we think of Marilyn Monroe.


Q. What do you think makes your portrayal of Marilyn different or unusual from other prominent books in which she’s been featured?
Lori: In LAKE COUNTY, I wanted to explore Marilyn Monroe in a setting that would be the one place in the world where she could escape the spotlight and the toxicity of fame and be an everyday person. I gave her this setting with the fictional town of Hockta, Florida. For a few weeks at a time, when she comes to visit her pseudo-family in this small town, she is just Jean. Putting her in this artificial setting, one I don’t believe she truly had in life, allowed me to isolate many aspects of her personality, both positive and not-so-positive, in a new light. A light that came only from her and not from her fame. I was able to explore what she was made of when she was just Jean.


Q. You’ve often set your novels in small towns that can feel claustrophobic. What is it about the small-town motif that makes for a good setting for crime fiction?

Lori: Claustrophobic is the perfect word to describe how a small town can feel, particularly for the person who doesn’t fit the mold. For the person who feels they are different, for whatever reason, there is nowhere to hide in a small town, and this is the person I’m most interested in writing about. The small town can alienate this person, leave them without allies, and put them at greater risk of failure. All these situations raise the stakes, and high stakes make for great crime fiction.

Q. The Tampa Bay mafia plays a big role in Lake County. What did you learn about the organization in the 1950s that was intriguing?  How did you incorporate true events or persons into the story?  
Lori: I was a little nervous to tackle writing about the mafia, but after studying much of what Ace Atkins has written on the subject, I began to find my footing. Like writing about Marilyn Monroe, I had to dive in and give it a try. But I wanted to approach the subject matter in a unique way, so I chose the game of Bolita as my way in. I was surprised and intrigued by the amount of money this simple game brought in for organized crime and the amount of bloodshed it created.

All the mafia characters readers will meet in LAKE COUNTY are fictional, except Charlie Wall. He is largely considered the grandfather of organized crime in Tampa. He was famously murdered in Ybor City, a location also featured in the book, back in the 1950s, and his murder remains unsolved.


Q. Can you share what it was like to give Marilyn Monroe “a different ending?”
Lori: I didn’t know where Marilyn’s story would take me until it unfolded.  I’ll be honest, I was in tears writing the ending. But I won’t tell you if they were tears of joy or sadness. That’ll be for the reader to discover.


Q. Is it possible to give us a preview of your next book? 
Lori: My next book, currently scheduled for late June 2025, is titled THE FINAL EPISODE. Set alongside the Big Cypress Swamp in southern Florida, it’s a present-day thriller that explores the strength of everyday women and how they bend history each and every day. That’s about all I’m ready to share at the moment.  

Lori Roy's Latest

Lake County

Lake County


Desperate to break free of small-town Florida, Addie Anne Buckley dreams of following in the path of her glamorous aunt Jean—known to the world as Marilyn Monroe. When Aunt Jean plans a trip to Hollywood for Addie’s eighteenth birthday, Addie sees her chance to escape.

One thing stands in her way: her boyfriend. Truitt Holt is Addie’s first and only love and will be joining her in California. But days before Addie’s due to leave, Truitt does an about-face and gives her a painful ultimatum: stay and marry him, or they’re through. Addie chooses her dream.

Hurt and angry, Truitt unwittingly exposes the illegal bolita game he’s been running in mob territory. Now the Tampa Mafia is after him, and he has until midnight to cut a deal that will save his life and Addie’s. What he doesn’t know…his trouble with the mob has already found Addie and her family. She’s already in a fight for her life.

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