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Romance and adventure. Passion and revenge. Blood Moon.

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A secret no one dared whisper…

Giving thanks for reading in November

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Jen's Jewels
Get the lowdown on your favorite authors with Jennifer Vido.

A Conversation with Elaine Viets

I don't know about you, but I have a heck of a time trying to keep up with what's hot and what's not. Thank goodness I have an eleven year old son who is more than willing to inform me when I am teetering too close to the line of geekdom. Take for instance blogging. Honestly, do you even know what the word means or more importantly, how to join one?

A while back, I got an e-mail from my good friend Michele Martinez (author of Cover-Up March 2007) telling me that she was joining The Lipstick Chronicles blog. Of course, I congratulated her, but not before I clicked on the link that she had sent me and figured out what she was talking about! Here at Fresh Fiction, we, too, have a blog. (Here is the link if you'd like to check it out.) But being technology impaired, I really didn't know much about the blogging world until now.

Within days, I was hooked on The Lipstick Chronicles and that's where I first discovered Elaine Viets. Like I have said before, I judge a book by its cover (and I'm not afraid to admit it!!) and Elaine's novel High Heels Are Murder caught my attention. Her latest release is Murder Unleashed which is just as hilarious and entertaining as her previous books.

As part of this interview, Elaine has generously donated five copies of High Heels Are Murder to my loyal readers. So look for the link at the end of the column and answer the question correctly. I hope you win!

Go grab a glass of iced tea and get to know my friend, Elaine Viets.

Elaine Viets

Jen: Please tell us a little bit about your educational and professional background.

Elaine: I started as a journalist. I was a newspaper reporter for more than 25 years and wrote a syndicated column for United Media in New York.

My first career was a big influence on my work. I still see my novels as reporting: What is it like to work a dead-end job? What's it like to be a mystery shopper? A single mother? What's it like to live in South Florida?

Jen: At what juncture in your life did you decide to become an author and what made you take the leap?

Elaine: I didn't leap. I was pushed. I'd been a newspaper columnist for many years. I lost my job. I loved mysteries. I sat down in a fever and wrote the kind of mystery I liked to read. I've been writing mysteries ever since.

Jen: What is your writing style? Plot first? Characters? Outline form? Do you always know whodunit before you begin writing or does the story take on a life of its own?

Elaine: Characters. Definitely. If my readers don't care about the characters, they won't follow them through 300 pages. I try hard to make my characters believable, but also true to their environment. I can get by with much wackier characters in Florida, where my Dead-End Job series is set, because it's a lawless, rootless place. In my Josie Marcus series, which is set in >St. Louis, I have to have different kinds of people. They need to be part of a community.

I do 110-page outlines, where I have whole pages of scenes and dialogue. I guess I get carried away. And yes, I always know who the killer is. I wouldn't want to accidentally fall into bad company.

Jen: Please take us through your typical work/writing day.

Elaine: I usually wake up about 3 a.m. and write until 6 a.m. My cat, Harry, follows me into my office and sleeps by my computer while I work. I write better when he's with me.

I love working in the early morning. It's so peaceful. There are no phone calls or even emails. My office overlooks the water, and I like to watch the boats with no running lights go past my window. I know there's another novel going by.

Promptly at 6 a.m., Harry demands his breakfast. I eat mine, too, and watch the sunrise. Then I go back to bed until about 9:30 or 10 a.m. After that, I do rewrites and the business of writing -- letters, email, etc.

Jen: From conception to completion, how long did it take to write your first book? What is the title? How did you get it published?

Elaine: Backstab took me about three months. I wrote it in a white hot fever and loved every minute of it. A newspaper editor told me about this hot new agent in New York, David Hendin, who was also Miss Manners' agent. He took me on, and has been my agent through thick and thin since 1997. (No, sorry folks, I can't give you a referral. He's not taking on new clients.)

Jen: What is the most difficult part of a book for you to write and why?

Elaine: The opening. I have to introduce the setting and the characters, and make them believable. Once I have my new world set up and running, the rest is easy. Except for the title. I'd rather write two books than one title. Now that's hard.

Jen: High Heels Are Murder (which I loved, by the way) is the second book in your Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series. How did you come up with the premise for the series?

Elaine: My publisher, Signet, asked if I'd be interested in doing a series about a mystery shopper. My mother was a mystery shopper, and she used to shop with her best friend, very much like Josie and Alyce do in my series. I was surprised to find out the mystery shopper questionnaire has changed very little since my mother had the job in the 1960s. Mystery shopping was considered a good job for a woman back when Mom did it -- she could get the kids off to school, do her work, and be home in time to have dinner on the table for her husband. I figured it would also work for my single mother, Josie. Since I sort of grew up with mystery shopping, it was fun to write about it.

Jen: An obvious question, but one I must ask, do you love to shop? What is your Achilles' heel? Shoes? Handbags? Clothes?

Elaine: Clothes. Definitely. I'm six feet tall and love Escada. It's one of the few labels that fits me without alterations.

Jen: Josie Marcus is a strong woman who has survived some unfortunate events in her young life. What do you like best about this character and why?

Elaine: I like that she accepts her mistakes and goes on. Josie wanted her child, even though her mother disapproved because Josie wasn't married, and she became a mystery shopper so she could spend more time with Amelia. Josie has a great capacity to enjoy life, and takes her daughter to the zoo and other fun places. I also like her loyalty to her friend, Alyce, and to her mother.

Jen: How many books will be in this series and when can we expect the next one to be published?

Elaine: The third book, Accessory to Murder, will be out in November, 2007. I have a contract for two more after that.

Jen: Please tell us about your other series called the Dead-End Job Mystery Series.

Elaine: My character is Helen Hawthorne. Helen is on the run from her ex-husband, and winds up in South Florida, where she works dead-end jobs for cash under the table. I work the same jobs as Helen. I've been a saleswoman (Shop till You Drop), a bookseller (Murder Between the Covers), a telemarketer (Dying to Call You), worked in a wedding dress store (Just Murdered), a doggie boutique (Murder Unleashed), and for Murder with Reservations, the book due out in May, I was a hotel maid.

The books are funny. In fact, they've been called "Janet Evanovich meets the Fugitive," but they are also a serious look at the minimum-wage world.

Jen: Comparing your first book to your latest release, how have you grown as a writer?

Elaine: There is nothing quite like the passion of a first book. I don't think that can ever be duplicated. But along the way, I've learned about pacing, plotting and developing characters.

Jen: What has surprised you most about the publishing business?

Elaine: How kind and supportive other mystery writers can be.

Jen: If you could do one thing over again in relation to your career, what would it be and why?

Elaine: I would understand that writing is both an art AND a business. With my first series, I paid attention only to the artistic side, and didn't realize that once the books were written, they also had to be sold. I learned about sell-through and promotion the hard way.

Jen: I first met you on your awesome blog, The Lipstick Chronicles that you have with my friend, Michele Martinez. Please tell us about the blog and how you became involved in it.

Elaine: I did a guest blog about Male Romance novels that generated some comments. When Susan McBride left the Chronicles, the other Book Tarts (Nancy Martin, Sarah Strohmeyer, Harley Jane Kozak, and Rebecca the Bookseller) asked me to join them. They're a grand group -- funny, talented and very supportive off-list. We email one another several times a day about our writing, deadlines and touring, etc.

Jen: Please tell us about your Website. What do you like best about it?

Elaine: It was designed by Laura Parker, mystery writer Barbara Parker's sister. Laura believes the Website should match the author's books. She gave mine Florida colors and a lighter feel because I write humorous mysteries.

Jen: Do you have a mailing list? Email notification alerts for new releases? Fan club? Bookmarks?

Elaine: Yes. I'd love to add you all to my mailing list. I send out notices of my tours and new books, or you can check out the Events on my Website. No bookmarks, but I do give away signed bookplates for readers. Just email me at my website.

Jen: Do you have Reading Group Guides for your books? If so, where can we find them? Are you available for Author Phone Chats? How can you be contacted to arrange one?

Elaine: Each book has its own guide. You can find them on my Website. Just click on the novel cover you want, then click on the reading discussion questions guide. I enjoy author phone chats. The best way to reach me is by email.

Jen: Thank you so much, Elaine, for agreeing to be interviewed. I love your writing style, strong female characters, and definitely your blog. I wish much success in your future. Please stay in touch!

Elaine: Thank you for letting me be one of Jen's Jewels. Write hard -- die free!

I hope you have enjoyed my interview with Elaine. Okay, here we go!

The first five people to enter this month's Jen's Jewels contest with the correct answer to the following question will win a copy of HIGH HEELS ARE MURDER. Good luck!

What is the name of the sixth title in the Dead End Job Mystery series due out in May 2007?

Next month, I will be interviewing Patry Francis, author of the phenomenal book, The Liar's Diary. You won't want to miss it!

Until next month...Jen




1 comment posted.

Re: A Conversation with Elaine Viets

(Donna Greenlee 3:25am April 26, 2007)

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