Friday, September 14, 2018

ROCCO welcomes Author Kathleen Ernst!






Kathleen Ernst is a social historian, educator, and author. Her Chloe Ellefson mysteries reflect the decade she spent as a curator at a large outdoor museum, and feature historic sites in the Upper Midwest.  Library Journal says, “Ernst keeps getting better with each entry in this fascinating series.” Kathleen has also written many mysteries for young readers.  Honors for her work include a LOVEY Award and Agatha and Edgar nominations.  Kathleen lives and writes in Wisconsin.


Hi! Would you tell us a little bit about yourself? J 
I’m a full-time writer who’s passionate about historic places and artifacts and the stories they can tell.  I worked at an outdoor museum for twelve years, and have channeled my memories into the Chloe Ellefson Mysteries.  Chloe works as a curator at the same historic site, and travels to different sites and museums as the series progresses.  I’ve written many other books, but this series comes straight from the heart.

Otherwise…I was born on the east coast but have lived in Wisconsin for over 30 years, and love it.  What little spare time I can find is devoted to gardening, knitting, rosemaling, and getting outdoors.  My husband and I enjoy traveling to the kind of places I love writing about.

Do you have anything you would like to say to your readers?
I am enormously grateful to readers!  I dreamed of being a novelist from a young age, and I wrote novels for 20 years (yes, really) before getting my first book contract.  My newest book is my 37th, a number I find astonishing.  Readers make it possible for me to do what I love.  Thank you!

Please tell us about your newest release   
My new release is The Lacemaker’s Secret, the 9th Chloe Ellefson Mystery.  Here’s the official scoop:

Museum Curator Chloe Ellefson needs distraction from the unsettling family secret she's just learned. It doesn't help that her boyfriend, police officer Roelke McKenna, has been troubled for weeks and won't say why.
Chloe hopes a consulting job at Green Bay's Heritage Hill Historical Park, where an old Belgian-American farmhouse is being restored, will be a relaxing escape. Instead she discovers a body in a century-old bake oven.
Inspired by a courageous Belgian woman who survived cholera, famine, and the most devastating forest fire in American history, Chloe must untangle clues to reveal secrets old and new . . . before the killer strikes again.

I’m really excited about this one!

 What was the inspiration behind this story?
I’m fascinated by immigrant history (the museum where I once worked focused on the 19th-century immigrant experience) and most of the Chloe mysteries feature a particular ethnic group.  Doing a book about Belgian settlers had long been on my mental list.  Heritage Hill, a State Historical Park in Green Bay, includes a fabulous restored Belgian Farm.  Belgians are not one of the largest ethnic groups in Wisconsin, so their stories aren’t as well known as some.  They are compelling, though.

I often feature folk arts in the Chloe books.  Before I had a chance to do much research, I by chance met someone connected to the lace collection at the Smithsonian Institution.  She arranged a tour for me, and I was introduced to Belgian bobbin lace.  Not only was it an important industry for the country, it kept many impoverished girls and women fed.  I knew I wanted to include that art in the book. 

Tell us about your main character.
When the series began, Chloe Ellefson was starting a new job as curator at Old World Wisconsin and trying to recover from a bad breakup.  It’s been satisfying to have her create a new life for herself and gain her equilibrium again over the course of nine books.

Chloe is passionate about history too, especially digging out the stories of unknown women who might otherwise be forgotten.  She is a reluctant sleuth who would prefer not to engage in detective work, but in each mystery her knowledge of the past is essential to solving a crime.  She makes a good companion for Police Officer Roelke McKenna, who is a dedicated cop but has no background in history or museum work. 

Chloe is not afraid to speak up for what she believes is right—even if it means antagonizing her boss, Ralph Petty.  She can be a little impetuous but she has a good heart.

What is your favorite personality trait of your main character?
Chloe follows her passions and is willing to speak truth to power.  She’s also a bit braver than I would be in dicey situations!


What is your favorite personality trait of your villain?

A recurring villain is site director Ralph Petty.  Petty is the quintessential bad boss!  He’s described as a misogynistic micro-managing megalomaniac, and he is a perpetual problem for Chloe, who can’t quite bring herself to be as subservient as he wishes.

One of your characters is going on a shopping spree. Where does he/she go and what does he/she buy?
Chloe’s idea of a good shopping spree would be going to a farmers’ market and stocking up on fresh, local fruits and veggies.  She’s a vegetarian, and accomplished in historical and multi-ethnic cooking and baking.

Were you surprised by the behavior of any of your characters or the direction of your plot at any point while writing?
I don’t outline, so to a certain extent I always encounter surprises when writing the books.  I start by thinking about where my main characters were emotionally at the end of the previous book, and where I want them to be at the end of the book I’m about to write.  I think about what settings and story ideas will reflect the struggle the characters will face.  Then I wade in and see where the characters and story take me.

How long did it take you to write this book?
I’m on a book-a-year schedule for the Chloe Ellefson series, although I sometimes work on other projects for other publishers simultaneously. I’m always planning ahead so I can plant appropriate seeds for future books.

Of all the books out there, why should readers choose this one? (What makes your book stand out from the rest?)

Since there are indeed many wonderful books in the mystery world, I’ve tried to create something unique.  I write about topics and themes and places I care about.  My first job is to tell a good story, but readers tell me that they love learning something new in each installment.  The stories are character-driven, with a strong sense of place.  Chloe and cop Roelke McKenna grow and change in each mystery.  I hope they are strong enough characters to admire, but at times vulnerable enough to make readers care about their well being.

Most of the books include a strand of historical fiction, so readers actually learn more about the past than Chloe can do through her research.  And the books provide a glimpse of life behind the scenes in the museum world.

Is there an underlying theme in your book? If so, tell us about it and why/if it’s important to you.

In The Lacemaker’s Secret, the question of spiritual faith is considered by several characters.  Wisconsin’s Belgian immigrants were generally quite devout, but the trials they faced provided fictional strain for my main character in the historical timeline.

When the book opens Roelke is wrestling with a decision he made in the previous book, Mining For Justice—one that changes the way he feels about himself as a cop.  He doesn’t feel comfortable attending church…and yet, it just may be that a friendly priest can help him come to terms with his moral dilemma.

Roelke and Chloe are also dancing around the idea of getting engaged; the fact that Roelke was raised Catholic, and Chloe is more of a spiritual free soul, presents a challenge as well.

 Fiction can often provide powerful life lessons. What message do you hope readers get from your book?
I write about the past because I find the lives of so many of the people who have gone before us to be inspiring.  I’d love to think that some of my characters might inspire readers as well.

I also hope that the stories show that history matters; that historic places are important and that old objects can sometimes tell powerful stories. Nothing makes me happier than hearing from people who read a Chloe mystery and then felt compelled to visit the featured historic site or explore a topic further.

 Is there an author or book that influenced you or your writing in any way growing up or as an adult?
I often cite Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House series as a major influence.  When I was a child in suburban Baltimore, her books delivered me to other times and places. (I had fun writing Death on the Prairie, the 6th book in the series, which has Chloe visiting each of the homesites dedicated to Wilder.)

 Do you think you may ever go into another genre?  If so, which one?
I’ve written quite a few historical novels for young readers, two nonfiction books, and some poetry—so obviously I enjoy different formats and different audiences.  I wish there were more hours in a day…

What is the hardest part of writing in your opinion?
I love writing stories.  The business end of things can be challenging.

 What is your favorite part of writing?

Disappearing into my imagination; visiting fascinating places while doing research; meeting wonderful readers.

Which do you consider more important, plot or character?
Character!

What advice do you have to offer to an aspiring author?
Take the time to learn your craft.  Then learn about the publishing industry.  Believe in yourself and follow your dreams.

 Where can we learn more about you and your books?
Please visit me at kathleenernst.com; or join me on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/kathleenernst.author/

Random Quickies!

Favorite kind of chocolate?
Dark, fair trade, preferably combined with peanut butter.

Cats or dogs?
Cats. (My name is ROCCO, and I approve this answer, meow!)

Do you read more than you write?
No, although I wish I could!  Deadlines are always looming.

Favorite movie?
I like historical dramas such as Glory, The Last of the Mohicans, Rob Roy, Foyle’s War, and Poldark (TV).

Favorite book to movie?
                  I’m a fan of Shetland, Inspector George Gently, and Longmire.


Thank you so much, Kathleen!

Giveaway time!


Kathleen will give away a copy of The Lacemaker’s Secret to one lucky commenter!
To enter, leave a comment on this blog post with your name and email address (entries without email will be disqualified). For extra entries, you can do any or all of the below:


* Follow my blog (+ 1 point)
* Follow me on Twitter (+ 1 point) (Link: https://twitter.com/RoccoBlogger)
* Tweet about the contest (+ 1 point)
* Friend me on Facebook (+ 1 point) (Link: https://www.facebook.com/ToniLotempio)#!/
* Mention the contest on Facebook (+ 1 point)
* Mention the contest on your blog (+ 1 point)

Winner will be chosen at random using random.org.  Don’t forget to mention all you’ve done in your comment. Good luck! US entries only please! Contest ends midnight, September 17!


46 comments:

  1. Nice interview, ROCCO! Chloe sounds like a wonderful character, but as another vegetarian who loves farmers' markets what would you expect me to say? Thank you for spotlighting this series. Marla Bradeen: mbradeen [at] yahoo [dot] com

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    1. Marla - It sounds like we--and Chloe--have some things in common!

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    2. Yes--I KNOW an engagement and wedding are coming. And you know my Stoughton plans. Just let me know! Susan Slinde
      slinsl@aol.com Oh--can't wait to read the new book.

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  2. What an interesting post, great interview, ROCCO! This is a new series to me and one I will be checking out - I love history.
    I follow the blog and we are FB friends. Thanks for the giveaway.
    sallycootie@gmail.com

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    1. I love history too (obviously), and that's a big part of what makes this series so meaningful to write. I hope you give it a try!

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  3. This is a great series. Well written and quite informative.
    We are FB friends and I've linked this to my page.
    I visit regularly.
    I don't tweet or have a blog
    libbydodd at comcast dot net

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  4. The story sounds excellent and I'm loving that cover art as well. Thanks for the chance to win a copy!
    I follow your blog by email: crs(at)codedivasites(dot)com
    I also follow on Twitter: @carlrscott
    I tweeted a link to this post: https://twitter.com/carlrscott/status/1041023776538804226
    We are also friends on Facebook: (Carl Scott)
    Thanks again, have a great weekend!!

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    1. Hi Carl - Thanks for the comment! I love the cover art too--each book is bold and graphic. I'll pass your comment on to the designer.

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  5. Kathleen Ernst writes books that all ages enjoy. It would be a pleasure to have her book to add to my read pile. I enjoy following your blog by e-mail - robeader53(at)yahoo(dot)com, also friends on facebook - Robin L. Coxon.

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    1. Robin, thanks so much. I love writing for all ages!

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  6. I love your Chloe books and this one sounds like another winner. It is interesting to learn how you select where each book will take place. I am a public librarian and make sure your hooks are on the shelf. I follow you on Facebook.

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  7. I love the history combined with present day characters in this series. dbahn@iw.net

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  8. I love this series! Thanks, Kathleen, for such terrific reads.
    kpbarnett1941[at]aol.com

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  9. I love all things Chloe. I hope Kathleen lives a long and prolific life. This series is that good. You wait for the next book to come out and devour it in days. Read any one of them and you'll be hooked! So very happy I heard her on WPR. Not sure how I missed this series up until that point.

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  10. I like mysteries that include history.
    sgiden at verizon(.)net

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    1. The Chloe Ellefson mysteries should be a good fit then, Sandy!

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  11. I can't wait to read this book! But now I've seen this blog, I think I will have to follow it too, after all, what's better than cats and books?

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    1. I'm with you, Jane! Cats and books, and life is good.

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  12. I really want to own this book, it takes place where I was born and raised. What a interesting post and awesome cover. I love farmers markets, my grandma used to sell produce and knitting she’d take me with her. It was wonderful.thank you for the chance. Here’s hoping.im a Facebook friend, I visit you a lot. I don’t tweet though. No blog either. But I will request my library to buy it. I tell people about it too.i love the history combined with the present. Thank you so much for the chance.

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    1. Donnamae, asking your library to carry the book is one of the kindest things you can do for an author. Much appreciated! And I hope you particularly enjoy this one.

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  13. I am a big fan of mystery/psychology/horror thrillers! Thank you for the opportunity to win this mystery series! Yes, I am a book store and cats person

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  14. I love Kathleen Ernst's books!! Wisconsin is my adopted state & I attended college at UW-Whitewater which is near Old World WI. I moved 1st to Fond du Lac WI after college & have been in Oshkosh Wi for the last 10 years or so. I used to drive by Old World WI on my way "home" to Woodstock IL. I love it that this contest is here because I also love Toni LoTempio's books - Rocco is one of my favorite cats!! (I tried the FB link, but it said page not available. Not sure how to follow this blog.)

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    1. I'm delighted to hear you're enjoying the books! Wisconsin is also my adopted state, and for 10 years I lived in LaGrange just a bit east of Whitewater.

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  15. Great interview, Rocco. I really enjoy reading historical fiction and Kathleen is a new author to me. Would love to read "The Lacemakers Secret".
    Rocco, I follow your blog and on Twitter, we are friends on Facebook, shared on Facebook and Twitter.
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Hi Dianne - thanks for stopping by! I love historical fiction as well--I got hooked as kid, and it had a lot to do with why I love history.

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  16. I love historical fiction and mysteries and look forward to reading The Lacemaker's Secret.
    susiesellner@gmail.com

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  17. I so enjoy the Chloe series; can't wait for the Lacemaker's Secret to come out. It's incredible what our ancestors went through.

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    1. I'm so happy to hear that you're enjoying the series! I agree, it is incredible--our ancestors stories are inspiring.

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  18. I have really enjoyed this series! I spent over half my life in Wisconsin and love to hear about the places I remember so fondly. I am looking forward to reading The Lacemakers Secret.
    Joanne Buchweitz
    Joeybz@aol.com

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    1. Joanne - So glad the series prompts good memories!

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  19. Very interesting interview. I love this series because one can learn a bit of history while enjoying a good mystery.
    I follow you blog by email, I follow on twitter, I'm a facebook friend, too.
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com
    suefarrell.farrell@gmail.com

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    1. Sue - I'm delighted! So glad you're enjoying the series.

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  20. I liked meeting you at my library here in my hometown of Lake Mills. I love your books and have several. But I am a student now and can't afford to buy any right now. Would love to have your new book.

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  21. Love the books I have read and I am following on blog,follow email,facebook friend ptclayton2@aol.com Peggy Clayton

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  22. I'd love to have dinner with Chloe & sample all her historical & multi-ethnic cooking.
    turtle6422(at)gmail(dot)com
    Following your blog
    Following on Twitter
    Tweeted about the contest
    Friends on Facebook
    Mentioned the contest on Facebook

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    1. Hi Jana - incorporating ethnic food traditions is one of the elements I enjoy the most! :>)

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