Mary Ellis has written twenty-one novels. Her debut book, A Widow’s Hope, was nominated for a 2010 Carol Award. Living in Harmony, won the 2012 Lime Award for Excellence in Amish Fiction while Love Comes to Paradise won the 2013 Lime Award. She is currently writing Secrets of the South Mysteries. Book one, Midnight on the Mississippi, was a finalist for the RT Magazine’s Reviewer’s Choice Award, and a finalist for Daphne Du Maurier for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense. Her current book is Sunset in Old Savannah.
R:Welcome Mary! Tell us a little about your background!
M:Thanks ROCCO. I used to teach school; I worked as a law firm assistant, and I was a part time sales rep. for Hershey Chocolate. They were great jobs, but I like being a full time writer best!
R:Tell us a bit about your Secrets of the South mysteries. Where did that idea come from?
M: My husband and I are visiting cities and towns throughout the South to find one to retire to. I’m also finding wonderful locations to set my mysteries.
R:Tell us about your latest release:
M: My latest release (April 1st) is Sunset in Old Savannah. In Savannah, everyone has something to hide. Investigative partners and best friends Michael Preston and Elizabeth Kirby are hired by a wealthy socialite to do surveillance on her wayward husband. When the husband turns up dead, the socialite becomes the police’s chief suspect. Mike and Beth must follow the clues through the historic town with more secrets than branches of moss-draped oaks. The duo uncovers a hodgepodge of potential murderers, including a scheming business partner, a resentful mistress, and a ne'er-do-well brother. As praise of their agency gets around, Mike and Beth must hire investigator Kaitlyn Webb to ease the workload. But will ghosts of Kate’s past threaten everyone's safety before a killer can be put behind bars?
R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
M: I try to find an actor or singer that looks like the character I’m picturing during the research/plotting stage. Then I hang those pictures on the wall above my desk while I’m writing.
R:How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
M: This could be an hour-long workshop….but basically I decide on the number of chapters based on the word count of the book. After developing my characters and the basic story, I plot chapter by chapter, starting with the turning point chapters, the end and the beginning first.
R:Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
M:Character. If your characters don’t draw in the reader, they won’t get too far along in the plot.
R:What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
M:Trying to balance promotional time with writing time is the biggest challenge.
R:Do you have a “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
M: I met my agent at the Romance Writers’ of America conference. I recommend conferences for writers seeking agents.
R:What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
M: I’m finishing a mystery set in the beautiful city of Charleston, South Carolina. Then I plan to start a mystery in Pensacola, Florida. I love my series, Secrets of the South Mysteries.
R:Plotter or Pantser?
M: I am a plotter, in as much as I develop a skeletal outline of chapters before I begin writing. But as I write each scene, I usually fly by the seat of my pants.
R:What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
M:Work hard and never stop improving your work. This is a very tough business.
R:What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
M: Once I went snorkeling in the Bahamas in the middle of a school of jellyfish.
R: If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
M:I guess that would be a nanny to a mega-rich family living abroad.
R:What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
M: Energy. Since I have two autoimmune disorders, I would love to have more get-up-and-go.
R:What store could you browse in for hours?
M:Macy’s. I’m a department store kind of gal.
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? .Definitely day! I’m usually falling asleep by nine o’clock.
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) I own one of each and pretty much always have. I live in the country and strays often wander up my driveway. My cat is named Barney, and I attached his picture.
Beach or Pool? Well, I love to walk the beach but swim in pools. When I do occasionally swim in the ocean, the thought of sharks is never too far from my mind.
Steak or salad? I’m a steak person, but I eat salad more often. (Does that even make sense??) Steak doesn’t seem like an everyday type of food.
Favorite Drink? Coffee
Favorite Book? Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott
Favorite TV Series? Elementary
Favorite Movie? Oh, that’s too tough to answer since I’m a regular movie goer.
Favorite Actor: I have many, but I love how Leonardo DiCaprio has matured into a serious actor over the years. I also adore Antonio Banderas, Jimmy Smits, and Javier Barden (do you see a pattern here?)
Favorite Actress: Again, a tough one. But I absolutely adore Lucy Liu!
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Since I’m trying to lose a few pounds, I’ll take the dirty martini with extra olives. A pina colada has about a trillion calories in it.
Hawaii or Alaska? Definitely, Hawaii! I am the world’s biggest freeze-baby.
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Bono of the rock band, U-2.
If I had just one wish, it would be to spend next winter with my husband someplace (any place!) warm.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be: Mrs. Dale Earnhardt Jr. I’m a fan of Nascar Racing.
Thanks for a great interview, Mary!
Mary will give away a signed print copy of Sunset in Old Savannah to one lucky reader! To enter, leave a comment with your contact information below. ). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:
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Winner will be chosen at random using random.org. Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! Contest ends midnight, April 15!