I'm pleased to welcome Elena Hartwell to the blog today. Elena writes the Eddie Shoes Mystery series. ONE DEAD, TWO TO GO is the first book in the series.
Kathy: Private Investigator Edwina “Eddie Shoes” Schultz has a unique relationship with her adrenaline-junkie mother, Chava. Are their similarities between their relationship and you and your mom?
EH: My mother and Chava are very different people, but there are some similarities to our relationships. I love to travel with my mom and in a lot of ways she is my best friend. We don't bicker like Chava and Eddie sometimes do (and we've never solved a homicide together!) but we love spending time together. My mom is one of my first beta readers, so she's very involved in my process as well. I trust her judgment about issues in my manuscripts, and she knows a lot about human behavior. She's also a great resource for me to ask questions about some specific areas of research I do for my work.
Kathy: How has working in the theatre influenced your writing?
EH: Spending over twenty years in the theatre has influenced my writing a lot. I have always had a good ear for dialogue, part of why I've been successful as a playwright, but so many years working with actors and scripts has honed that as well. Playscripts are also great tools for understanding story structure. There isn't any room in a play for unnecessary actions or dialogue - so it helps me be concise and stay tight with my scenes. But I think the biggest influence it has had is on my ability to collaborate. Authors who have never worked with anyone else might struggle with editor suggestions or publisher demands for rewrites. I've been working with directors, other playwrights, actors, and producers on new plays for years and collaboration is part of the process. I embrace feedback from my editors and look to them to help make my work the best it can be, rather than seeing it as an adversarial relationship. Even when I don't agree with a note, I trust that there's something not working with that passage and I know I need to figure out what's wrong and fix it one way or another.
Kathy: What first drew you to cozy mysteries?
EH: This is a great question, because I think it speaks to the issue of genre and genre descriptions. Cozies technically use amateur sleuths, so my PI series is an outlier - but my work shares so many characteristics with cozies, I would say I write cross-genre. Cozy/Private Eye. Although my protagonist, Eddie Shoes, is a professional private investigator, her mother Chava is an amateur. Cozies don't have graphic violence or sex. My series doesn't use graphic violence or sex - my murders are offstage and even the gun battles in book one are humorous rather than gritty. I read a wide variety of books in the mystery/thriller category, including works that are very graphic, but I've always loved that you can write mysteries in less violent ways. There is something very satisfying about the "whodunnit" part of the mystery genre that doesn't require skin-crawling, gut-turning specificity. I started out reading the books my granny read - especially Tony Hillerman and Agatha Christie, so that kind of novel has always been on my bookshelf.
Kathy: Do you write in any other genres?
EH: As a playwright, I write for the stage, which doesn't have such specific genre assignments for writers. A playwright might write a comedy followed by a serious drama and no one thinks twice about it. It's only in the literary world that there appears to be this question of whether or not to cross into different genres. I find that very interesting. Currently, I'm only writing in mystery, but we'll see what the future brings. If I write some of the kinds of stories I explore on the stage as novels, it would change my genre.
Kathy: Tell us about your series.
EH: Eddie Shoes is a private investigator. Her mother, Chava, is a card-counting poker player who has been kicked out of Vegas and shows up on Eddie's doorstep. The two join forces, albeit somewhat reluctantly on Eddie's part, and solve homicides. One Dead, Two to Go is out now, Two Heads Are Deader Than One launches April 15, 2017, and Three Strikes, You're Dead comes out April 15, 2018. I'm finishing up the first draft on book three now.
Kathy: Do you have a favorite character? If so, who and why?
EH: I do love Chava, she makes me laugh. I'm also very fond of Debbie Buse, who appears in book two and continues into the rest of the series. She's based on a real person and was part of a donation I did for Serenity Equine Rescue and Rehabilitation in Hobart, Washington. The reason she's in the book and the fun I had creating a fictional character based on a real person makes her very special to me.
Kathy: Did you have a specific inspiration for your series?
EH: My husband and I were on a road trip and out of the blue he came up with the name Eddie Shoes. It was totally random and not connected to anything specific. I thought ... that's a great name for a private investigator. That's where the whole thing started.
Kathy: What made you decide to publish your work?
EH: It would never occur to me to write something this complex and not intend to have it published or produced. I might write short pieces on occasion that are just for me, but even shorter things are usually for my blog or with a specific intention. As a professional writer, I don't do this for fun, even though I love doing it, this is my job.
Kathy: If you could have a dinner party and invite 4 authors, living or dead, in any genre, who would you invite?
EH: Tough question! So many to choose from. Probably J.R.R. Tolkien, CS Lewis, Agatha Christie, and Dorothy Parker. That would let us cover the gamut of conversation from religion to philosophy to politics to mystery novels, and also be very witty.
Kathy: What are you currently reading?
EH: Vermilion Drift by William Kent Krueger.
Kathy: Will you share any of your hobbies or interests with us?
EH: Most of my free time is spent with our horses. My hubby and I have two, Jasper, a big Palomino Paint and Radar, a chestnut solid Paint. They are wonderful and I love working with them. I'm also an amateur landscape painter.
Kathy: Name 4 items you always have in your fridge or pantry.
EH: Cheese. Chocolate. Coffee and Cream.
Kathy: Do you have plans for future books either in your current series or a new series?
EH: I'm working (in my head) on books four and five in the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series while I finish book three. I like to be thinking a book or two ahead because I'm sprinkling seeds into the current book.
Kathy: What's your favorite thing about being an author?
EH: I live in my head, so it's nice that can be my day job. I'm always surprised when I discover everyone around me isn't making stories up in their heads 24/7. Plus I get to work in my jammies.
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