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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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