Meow, my guest today is author Elena Hartwell.
Elena Hartwell spent years in the theater before turning her dramatic skills to fiction. She writes the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. One Dead, Two to Go, Two Heads Are Deader Than One, and Three Strikes, You’re Dead (launching April 15, 2018). According to Peter Clines, Eddie Shoes is “the most fun detective since Richard Castle stumbled into the 12th precinct.” Elena lives in Twin Peaks, called North Bend, Washington in the real world. The perfect place for a writer, especially one who kills people for a living.
R: Welcome Elena! Tell us a little about your background:
E: Thanks ROCCO! I grew up in San Diego, but moved to the Seattle area in 1996. Other than three years out in Athens, Georgia, for graduate school, I’ve called the Pacific Northwest home ever since. Now I live in the little town of North Bend, the location where Twin Peaks was filmed. Before becoming a novelist, I worked in the theater world as a playwright, director, educator, designer, and technician. I still teach Playwriting at Bellevue College, so I have a foot in that arena as well.
R: Tell us a bit about the Eddie Shoes mysteries. Where did that idea come from?
E: My husband and I were on a long drive and he came up with the name Eddie Shoes. I can’t remember what the conversation was about, or why he made up the name, but I remember thinking, that’s a great name for a Private Investigator! So I began wondering who was this Eddie Shoes? and what kind of trouble could she get into?
R: How do you “get to know” your characters before and while you’re writing the books?
E: I spend a lot of time just thinking about characters. A friend of mine and I made up the expression “honor the mull” – by which we mean, you have to allow for time to let ideas percolate. Sitting down at a computer screen to “write a book” will almost always fail unless you have some idea of what or who you’re writing about. Now that I’m writing a series, I’ve got the basic details of my main characters already in mind, so I get to think about how they change and grow, which is a lot of fun. And also include new characters, which I find come from part people I meet, part people I know, and part me, mixed together with a healthy dose of imagination.
R: How do you construct your plots? Do you outline or do you write “by the seat of your pants”?
E: I typically know the beginning and the ending of my stories before I start, then I write to figure out the middle.
R: Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
E: Neither. They are inextricably linked. I find it easier to write character, so I have to work harder at plot, but you can’t have one without the other. One may take center stage, but stories are never solely one or the other and I think manuscripts that fail, fail because either the plot is weak or the characters are flat. No matter how brilliantly you’ve executed the other, you have to have both.
R: What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a writer and what inspires you and keeps you motivated?
E: This is very difficult to answer, because I can’t rank what’s hard about being a writer. There are a lot of things that one has to deal with, which are hard in different ways, learning craft, finishing a draft, then rewriting until it’s as good as you can get it, dealing with rejection, finding a publisher, promoting your books while writing the next one. I guess for me I would say social media is what’s hardest. I’m very much a face-to-face person, I love to do workshops and panels and talk one-on-one with readers. Engaging with people on the Internet is tricky and I have to work very consciously at it. What inspires me is when people I’ve never met contact me and tell me how much they enjoyed my book, or I hear a story about someone who loved it so much they bought ten copies to give away. Learning a reader enjoyed meeting me or hearing me speak or reading my book makes getting out and interacting, whether live or via social media, worthwhile.
R: Do you have an “How I got my agent” story you want to share?
E: I’ll share a caution instead, when you have an agent interested in working with you, check them out. They need good writers just as much as you need a good agent. Don’t just jump into bed with anyone, make sure it’s a good fit. Trust your instincts. You’re better off with a great agent, but you’re better off without an agent than having a bad one.
R: What are you working on now and what are your future writing plans?
E: I’m currently working on book three in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. “Three Strikes, You’re Out” launches April 15, 2018. I anticipate other books in the series, so I’m also thinking about four and five and what I might hint at in three that will be resolved down the line.
R: Plotter or Pantser?
E: I prefer “organic” J
R: What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
E: Learn your craft. Lots of people write well, that’s not the same as writing a good manuscript. Story structure, genre expectations, presenting yourself as a professional, these things all matter. You may blow up traditional story structure, or write cross-genre, or meet your agent at a casual cocktail party, but you need to understand the underpinnings of this industry before you can make it your own.
R: What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
E: That I’m willing to have my parents read about? Hmmm…. Again, a tough question – let’s just say it involved dressing up and pretending to be a performer for a singing telegram company to try to meet a rock star. Epic fail, but makes for a good story.
R: What’s one thing your readers would be surprised to find out about you?
E: I worked as an auto mechanic, primarily heavy line in a truck shop (engines/transmissions on 18-wheelers).
R: What question do you wish interviewers would ask? (And what’s the answer?)
E: What’s something readers can do to help out their favorite authors? Word of mouth is huge for authors. If you love a book, tell your friends, or even better, buy them a copy. Write reviews on Amazon and Goodreads and Barnes and Noble and other social media outlets, if you have a blog – blog about us. Follow us on social media and share our information. We work hard at writing, but we often have to work equally hard at promoting our work, and many of us aren’t very good at that!
R: If you entered the witness protection program and had to start over, what job would you want to do?
E: I’d run an animal rescue.
R: What would you love to have a never ending supply of?
E: Oh, so many things. Chocolate, the really good dark kind that’s not overly sweet. Horses and dogs. One should never be without them. Frequent Flyer Miles.
R: What’s the last tv show that made you laugh?
E: Goliath. Billy Bob Thornton is fantastic. He does dry humor so well. It’s not a comedy by any stretch of the imagination, but some of the dialogue makes me laugh out loud.
R: What store could you browse in for hours?
E: Any bookstore, especially if it also sells a good cappuccino!
Just for Fun:
Night or Day? . Dusk J
Dog or Cat? (answer carefully) Dog – though my dog comes with cats of his own, so that’s kind of fun.
Beach or Pool? Pool on the beach. (See how good I am at not having to choose.)
Steak or salad? Steak (Notice I didn’t have to think about that one too much!)
Favorite Drink? Vodka/soda – I’m going through all the fruit infused vodkas to find my favorite. Pear is pretty great.
Favorite Book? The Hobbit
Favorite TV Series? Currently – Goliath/Murdoch Mysteries
Favorite Movie? Casablanca
Favorite Actor: Sam Elliott comes to mind.
Favorite Actress: So many … Today I’ll go with Dame Judi Dench
Dirty Martini or Pina Colada? Pina Colada
Hawaii or Alaska? No fair, I can’t figure out how to get both in my answer. I think I have to go with Hawaii because it’s very different from where I live. But there’s so much of Alaska I haven’t seen yet, it’s a close second.
Finish this sentence: If I could meet anyone in the world, past or present, it would be Ray Hunt. http://www.rayhunt.com/
If I had just one wish, it would be for zero population growth, worldwide.
If I could trade places with anyone in the world, it would be temporary, I’m actually really happy being me.
You can find her at:
Elena will give away 1 paperback copy of One Dead, Two to Go, and 1 paperback copy of Two Heads are Deader Than One to one lucky commenter!
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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! Giveaway ends midnight, May 12!