A Chorus Lineup By Joelle Charbonneau: Review/Interview/Giveaway

Jan 18, 2014 | 2014 Articles, Mysteryrat's Maze, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

This week we have a review of the latest Glee Club mystery from Joelle Charbonneau, along with a fun interview with Joelle. At the end of this post are details on how to enter to win a copy of A Chorus Line-up.

A Chorus Lineup By Joelle Charbonneau

Paige Marshall is still teaching kids how to sing, dance and perform in hopes of winning the big interstate contest. Teaching is not a calling, just something to pay the bills while waiting for her big break as an opera singer. It doesn’t hurt that Devlyn, a remarkably handsome man, shows interest in pursuing a relationship–if only he hadn’t spread the rumor that he’s gay to keep the teenage girls at bay. There was that cop she liked, Mike, but he declared his love for her and then disappeared–no return phone calls, nothing. Guess he’s out of the picture.

At the competition, odd accidents keep happening–costumes are destroyed, a light bar falls on stage and the loading dock door is stuck and can’t be fixed until competition day. One of the teachers of the Master Class has a family emergency, so Paige is tapped to teach the class with Scott. When she shows up though, Donna is back. Well, that was a waste of time, or not?

One woman in particular, is a Stage Mom from Hell. Lu Ann accuses Paige of the vandalism and insists she and her students be eliminated from the competition. Luckily, the organization’s decision makers are well acquainted with Lu Ann and her need to win at any cost.

When Paige gets a mysterious text message to meet at the auditorium later that night, she’s not much concerned about it. On the way back from a shopping spree to spruce up the band members who accompany the singers, it’s just a few minutes until the meeting time. What could it hurt to swing by and see who’s there?

With her aunt as driver and corroborating witness, Paige finds out just what could go wrong as she finds Lu Ann’s body and has to perform CPR. It’s too late though and it seems Lu Ann was the victim of a hit and run driver. The question is–was it an accident or murder by vehicle?

To complicate matters further, Paige finds out she’s got an audition in Chicago, right smack in the middle of the conference. If she goes, will the kids think she’s abandoned them or cheer her on? Devlyn lets his feelings be known–he can’t believe she’d walk out on them.

Paige, her aunt Millie, Millie’s boyfriend, Aldo, the kids–all great characters. The book takes you behind the scenes at the big competitions, complete with the politics and extreme measures taken to win without diluting the mystery.
Killer, Millie’s standard poodle, of course steals every scene he’s in.

This is the third in the series, with Murder for Choir (reviewed for KRL) and End Me a Tenor as books one and two. This book ends on an inconclusive note–has it tied up loose ends that signal no more in the series or does it open the series to a broader venue for mystery? I’m hoping for Option # 2.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.

Joelle Charbonneu Interview

KRL: How long have you been writing?

Joelle: I started writing about 10 years ago. Never did I think I would become a published author. I just had the opening line of an idea for a book in my head, and as an avid reader I was curious to see if I could write an entire novel–beginning, middle and end. No one should read that book! My poor mother and husband did, but they’re family so I’m allowed to torture them, right? But it taught me that I really loved to write and I’ve been working hard to learn the craft of writing ever since.

KRL: When did your first novel come out? What was it called? Can you tell us a little about it?

Joelle: My first novel, Skating Around the Law, was published on Sept. 28, 2010. It is the first of the Rebecca Robbins mysteries, which is about a woman who returns to her hometown to sell the roller rink she inherited from her mother and finds a dead body headfirst in a rink toilet. With potential buyers turned off by the thought of a murderer on the loose, Rebecca (aided by her socially frisky grandfather and a large animal, camel-owning vet) turns sleuth to catch a killer and sell the rink.

KRL: Have you always written mysteries/suspense? If not what else have you written?

Joelle: Everything I’ve published has been in the mystery/suspense arena. Even my young adult work (The Testing, Independent Study and the soon to be published Graduation Day) is filled with tension and suspense. However, I will confess that in my quest to learn how to write, I did attempt to write women’s fiction and romance. Trust me when I say, I am better at mysteries and thrillers.

KRL: What brought you to choose the setting and characters in your latest book/series? Tell us a little about the setting and main character for your most recent book.

Joelle: As a former professional musical theater/opera performer and private vocal coach, setting a series in the world of music was an easy choice. I just had to look to my experience and the experience of my friends for research and inspiration. In the Glee Club series–Paige Marshall is a classically trained singer and actress who has yet to make it big on the stage. To make ends meet, she has taken a job as a local high school show choir coach, which has turned out to be a lot more challenging and rewarding than she ever expected. In A Chorus Lineup, Paige and her team of singers are at the National Show Choir Competition in Nashville, Tennessee hoping to snag first place…if a killer doesn’t stop them from taking the stage.

Joelle Charbonneu

KRL: What brought you to use the setting of a glee club?

Joelle: Because I teach private voice, I work with students who perform in their competitive show choirs. The work and dedication required to compete at a top level is astonishing as are the kids who devote so much time to being the best. With students driven to be at the top of their game, there is lots of drama to be had.

KRL: Do you have a musical background?

Joelle: My Masters degree is in Opera Performance, so technically, as someone who never took an English class in college, I am far more qualified to sing on Broadway or at the Met than write books. Life is funny!

KRL: Do you have a schedule for your writing or just write whenever you can?

Joelle: With a six year old at home, I find that as much as I would like to I cannot depend on having a set writing schedule. I have to write when and where I can. Luckily, the kid is in kindergarten, so I get 2 ½ hours during the day to work. I also work after he goes to bed at night and squeeze in whatever other productivity I can in the quiet(ish) moments in between.

KRL: Do you outline? If not, do you have some other interesting way that you keep track of what’s going on, or what needs to happen in your book when you are writing it?

Joelle: I wish I outlined. I love the concept of outlining. But outlining doesn’t work for me. In fact, I rarely know who the murderer is when I start. And in the case of A Chorus Lineup, I didn’t have a clue who done it until I was close to the end. The only real method I have to keep track of what I do is to write every day. That keeps everything fresh in my mind as I write. Then when I go back and edit, I make sure everything adds up the way it is supposed to. It’s not the best process, but it is the one that works best for me.

KRL: If you had your ideal, what time of day would you prefer to write?

Joelle: I’m a night owl, so nighttime writing works well for me, but it means that I don’t get much sleep. So I guess I’d really prefer to have lots of time in the middle of the day to work so I could go to bed before midnight at least a couple of times a week.

KRL: Did you find it difficult to get published in the beginning?

Joelle: This is a tricky question. My first published book was my fifth manuscript. So I guess because of that fact alone my answer should be yes. However, looking back, I am grateful that none of my initial writing attempts attracted the interest of an agent or editor because I wasn’t ready to be published yet. I needed more practice…not just to make my stories better, but to gain the confidence I needed in order to know I would meet my deadlines and be able to approach editorial notes with a positive and productive attitude. After writing Skating Around The Law, I was able to fairly quickly find an agent (whom I love and would never want to work without) and get an offer of publication. So, I guess the answer is yes, getting traditionally published isn’t an easy path, but I truly believe that everything you learn along that path is important.

KRL: Future writing goals?

Joelle: To keep writing? I love my job and I hope my publishers keep supporting the stories I write.

KRL: Writing heroes?

Joelle: Susan Elizabeth Phillips, who is not only a gifted writer, but an amazing lady and the first published author who mentored me. The fact that she took time out of her life to care about my writing still astonishes me. I hope that I am as generous a writer as she is.

KRL: What kind of research do you do?

Joelle: It depends on the book, but I always have to do a huge amount of research for any novel. Killing people in strange, but ultimately realistic ways takes a lot of research.

KRL: What do you read?

Joelle: When I have the time, I read everything. I love historical fiction, thrillers, mysteries, science fiction, fantasy, memoirs and just about everything else under the sun.

KRL: Favorite TV or movies?

Joelle: I’m a huge Food Network lover and an enormous fan of Top Chef. In my next life, I plan on being a chef. As for movies, well my go-to films are The Fugitive, Die Hard and anything sports related. If Hoosiers or The Rookie is on cable, it’s a pretty good bet that I’m watching.

KRL: Any advice for aspiring or beginning writers?

Joelle: Get to THE END. Don’t worry about if the book is any good and don’t go back and edit in order to make the opening perfect. Get to THE END. That seems simplistic, but it teaches you something incredibly important…that you can get to THE END. Starting a book is easy. The idea is new and exciting and fun. Writing the end is pretty easy, too. You can see the light at the end of the tunnel and you are willing to put in the work to get there. The middle of a book–that’s the hard part. That’s the enormous section that feels like work. So many authors give up and start on a new and exciting project when they get to that middle section and each time they abandon a story they teach themselves that they can’t get to The End. That’s a terrible thing to teach yourself and incredibly hard to unlearn. Get to The End. Celebrate the enormous accomplishment that is and then go back and make the book better.

KRL: Anything you would like to add?

Joelle: Thank you for having me as a guest. And to all readers who pick up one of my books–thank you from the bottom of my heart.

KRL: What is something people would be surprised to know about you?

Joelle: Hmmm…I guess a lot of people would be surprised to hear that I was on WWF HEAT on MTV as a high-priced call girl escort for the Godfather. Seeing wrestling up close and personal was a lot of fun!

KRL: Website? Twitter? Facebook?

Joelle: www.joellecharbonneau.com

To enter to win a copy of A Chorus Lineup, simply email KRL at krlcontests@gmail[dot]com by replacing the [dot] with a period, and with the subject line “Chorus,” or comment on this article. A winner will be chosen January 25, 2014. U.S. residents only.

Check out other mystery articles, reviews, book giveaways & short stories in our mystery section.


  1. Interesting background

  2. I want to win the free book! AND I’m a character in this series! My favorite thing that Joelle said was “to keep writing.” Someone with her talent to write such engaging stories should keep doing so. Love all three series!

  3. thank you for the giveaway!!!
    I cannot wait to read it!!

  4. That is kind of beyond awesome about MTV 🙂

  5. I can’t wait to read this! <3


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.