From The Booking Desk:

I believe I was first “introduced” to Lauren O’Brien (Winters) online by Erin Mitchell. From there, I began to follow her excellent reviews at Shelf Awareness and then on her own blog. Since we share many common reading interests, I know I can always count on her recommendations when they overlap. Needless to say, her answers to our weekly questions are well thought out, informative, and enlightening. I think you all are going to love them.

Name: Lauren O’Brien
Location: Alameda, CA

This person from my personal life is such an inspiration:

My aunt, Joy Winters. Aunt Joy is aptly named, because even after 90+ years of living (and marrying into my family of hooligans and no-goods, her one moment of questionable judgment) she is a damn delight and the best person I know. Despite the demands of three kids (and now multiple grandkids), an ornery husband (my beloved Uncle Bob), and a career in marketing, she has always devoted countless hours to others and her community. She even put a roof over my and my dog’s heads when home repairs forced us to move out for three months. (Best. Roommate. Ever. But she stays up waaay past my bedtime.) She is a true example of living as a good and giving soul and I can only aspire to be a fraction of the person she is (spoiler alert: not gonna happen).

One of the people I admire most in the crime fiction community is:

Eric Beetner springs immediately to mind. Everyone I know works hard, but you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who works harder while giving more than Eric. On top of his 21 novels (I think? By the time this column runs that could be 5 books shy) and short stories in countless anthologies, Eric is a gift to the community (ugh, I hope he doesn’t read this). Among other things, he promotes countless writers in his Writer Types podcast, has edited two anthologies, Unloaded (2017 Anthony Award nominee) and Unloaded 2, the proceeds of which went to CeaseFireUSA, a nonprofit working to prevent gun violence, superbly emcees Murder and Mayhem in Chicago, does great cover art, and is an entertaining and knowledgeable panelist and moderator in his own right. All of this is on top of his editing career. However, what I admire most about Eric (I really hope he isn’t reading this) is that in addition to all THAT, he’s a genuinely fabulous human being and friend who, along with his lovely wife, is raising two incredible girls–come rain or shine or swimming practice at 5:00 a.m. on a stormy weekend. I give him endless grief (because I adore him, see catchphrase below) and I really, really hope he isn’t finding out the truth by reading this.   

STALKER ALERT! If this fictional character were real, they would likely need to get a restraining order against me:

Robert B. Parker’s Spenser. I would never step on Susan Silverman’s toes, I just want to hang out and be pals. Sit at the kitchen counter sipping a fancy cocktail while Spenser cooks and we engage in witty repartee. We would dodge bullets and dish out some knuckle sandwiches together while fighting for the forces of good. Now that I’ve put that all on paper it’s clear my life goal is to be Hawk.

People are always surprised that I am a fan of this individual (singer, actor, or artist):

This is the most difficult question of the bunch. My tastes in the arts run across a vast spectrum and I’m a firm believer in no guilty pleasures, so I don’t hide or not admit to what brings me joy (or pushes my envelope or makes me laugh). For now, I’ll guess that anyone who isn’t Jed Ayres, Duane Swierczynski or my sister might be surprised that in a couple of weeks I’m paying to see an old(er) man in a (fingers crossed!) jumpsuit sing old 70s songs. Yep, Billy Ocean, baby.

My personal catch phase is (or should be):

If I go down the list until I find one without a swear in it, I come up with:

“I kid because I love.”

This actually fits well with the theme of some of my other answers. I was probably raised a bit backwards, but in my family (except my saintly Aunt Joy) we showed our affection through good old-fashioned ribbing (that sometimes pushed the boundaries of decency and decorum).  I’m not going to go too deep, because I can’t afford the therapy bill you’d send me, but it was a “safe” way to show we cared. I’m working on being more open about my feelings without sticking a knife between your ribs, but in the meantime know that if I poke fun at you it’s probably because you’re one of my favorites. Except for Eric Beetner. I only tolerate him because he has an awesome sister.