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AND OTHER STORIES with Toni L.P. Kelner

Book Cover: THE SKELETON RIDES A HORSE AND OTHER STORIESToni L.P. Kelner has been writing thoughtful mysteries for over thirty years. She won an Agatha Award for her short story “Sleeping With the Plush” and her story “Baby Trap” was selected for inclusion in Best American Mystery and Suspense 2024, edited by S.A. Cosby and Steph Cha. Kelner’s short fiction has also been nominated for the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Derringer.

Author recently sat down with The Big Thrill to discuss her anthology, THE SKELETON RIDES A HORSE AND OTHER STORIES.

Can you pinpoint a moment or incident that sparked the idea for this book?

My story “Baby Trap” was included in the Crippen & Landru anthology School of Hard Knox. Afterward, I was chatting with Jeffrey Marks, who runs Crippen & Landru, who’d published two previous stories in his own anthologies. He said he’d always loved my stories, and asked how many I’d published. I thought he was just being curious, but it turns out he wanted to do this collection. A bucket list item for me, and I’m still grinning about it.

Author Photo: Toni L.P. Kelner

Toni L.P. Kelner

A novel is such a major undertaking; there’s the writing of it, of course, then you’re spending months and months revising, polishing, and then promoting it. How did you know this was the book you wanted to spend the next couple of years on?

This is a collection, not a novel, so I can’t speak to this question. I can say it was an experience to go back and reread stories written over my 30-year career to see which ones still worked for me. Happily, I still like most of them, and included the ones I like best in this book.

Were there any particular books, movies, or songs that were knocking around in your head while you were writing this one?

Thirty years of movies and books and songs. I can say that Fredric Brown’s books strongly influenced the voice in the story “Sleeping With the Plush.”

When you first created your protagonist for this book, did you see an empty space in crime lit that you wanted to fill? What can you share about the inspiration for that character?

Out of the dozen stories, I think I’m saying that Sid the Skeleton is the most unusual character. He’s not a metaphor–he’s a walking, talking skeleton who helps solve crime. I don’t know that this was a space that needed filling, but people seem to like him, so maybe it was. I was inspired by the many paranormal mysteries already published, but found myself having to look pretty far afield to find something that hadn’t already been done. Sid has a few competitors, but not many.

In addition to a great read, what do you hope readers will take away from this story?

Satisfaction and surprise. I like stories that surprise the reader with a conclusion they weren’t expecting, but which seem inevitable and satisfying in retrospect.

What can you share about what you’re working on next?

I’m working on the seventh Family Skeleton novel, tentatively titled Tthe Skeleton Swings a Sword. It’s set at a summer camp for LARP players. (That’s live action role-play, kind of like actually acting out a Dungeons and Dragons game.)


Toni L.P. Kelner and Leigh Perry are two authors in one.

As Toni L.P. Kelner, she’s the author of eight Laura Fleming mysteries and three “Where are they now?” mysteries, and the co-editor of seven urban fantasy anthologies with Charlaine Harris. Kelner has won the Agatha Award and an RT BookClub Lifetime Achievement Award, and has been nominated for the Anthony, the Macavity, and the Derringer. Her story “Baby Trap” will be included in Best American Mystery and Suspense 2024, edited by S.A. Cosby and Steph Cha.

As Leigh Perry, she writes the Family Skeleton series about an adjunct English professor and her family’s peculiar family skeleton. He’s named Sid—he walks, talks, and tells bad bone jokes. Together, they solve crimes. The seventh in the series, The Skeleton Swings a Sword, is forthcoming.

Both Toni and Leigh write short stories, and teamed up for The Skeleton Rides a Horse and Other Stories, a collection published by Crippen & Landru.

Leigh and Toni live north of Boston with fellow writer Stephen P. Kelner, Jr. and their daughters: a graphic artist and a flute finisher. The family has many books.

To learn more about the author, please visit her website.