Tag Archives: Elena Hartwell

A Crime Writer Interview: Elena Hartwell

Today, we are pleased to introduce you all to another crime writer whose work we thought you might like. Please help us welcome Elena Hartwell to the blog!

Elena spent more than twenty years in the theater, before shifting her storytelling over to fiction. She writes the Eddie Shoes Mystery Series. Her next novel, Resurrection Lake, will be out in early 2020 with Crooked Lane Books under the name Elena Taylor.

Kass Lamb (on behalf of the misterio gang): Let’s start with a “tell us about yourself” question. What two or three things do you feel people need to know in order to understand who you are?

Elena with one of her horses, Radar. (Photo Credit: Mark Perlstein)

Elena Hartwell: What a great question. I guess the first thing I would say is you can’t ever really understand me! Ha ha ha, but that sort of defeats the purpose. I would say it would help to understand that my animals are one of the most important aspects of my life. I currently have two horses, two cats, and a dog.

Second, that I am an outgoing introvert. This means I enjoy people and don’t mind public speaking or events, but afterwards I need to be alone with a cappuccino to recharge. Lastly, what you do means more to me than what you say.

Kass: Why a crime writer? What is the appeal of mysteries for you?

And her other horse, Jasper. Isn’t he handsome?

Elena: This is something I think about a lot. It’s interesting because I’m not a violent person, so why am I drawn to writing about murder?

I think first and foremost, it’s about the puzzle. I love reading (and writing) the puzzle of “whodunit.” I like to incorporate human behavior into the various pieces of the picture. Because I am most drawn to character and character relationships, I’m intrigued by how we behave under the worst of circumstances. My “bad guys” aren’t all bad and my “good guys” aren’t all good.

I’m fascinated by the grey areas of human experience and how we’re all capable of incredibly bad behavior under the right conditions. What would push a person to commit such a heinous act against another human being? What would make someone else cover it up?

Kass: What type, i.e. subgenre, of mysteries do you write? Why does that subgenre appeal to you as a crime writer?

Two Heads are Deader than One book cover
Available on AMAZON and other retailers.

Elena: My Eddie Shoes Mystery Series is a humorous series about a private eye, set in Bellingham, Washington. I think Eddie and her mother Chava are the only mother/daughter crime-fighting duo in the genre. Eddie, the daughter, is the professional. In the books, she teams up with her mother, a card-counting poker player who was kicked out of Vegas, to solve homicides.

My new book is about a sheriff living in a tiny town in the Cascade Mountains of Washington State. The new book is much more serious, but it also centers around a strong female protagonist. I like that both my protagonists are professionals.

In my Eddie books, Chava is a fun secondary character, because she can work outside the law and the ethics of a private investigator, but my protagonists have to weigh their professional ethics with catching the criminal. So they sometimes have to decide if they are going to do things by the book or take some risks to save the day. They also have training and experience, which gives them tools to go up against criminals and solve crimes, but it doesn’t mean they can’t make mistakes or put themselves in risky situations.

I love the research aspect of how law enforcement and homicide investigations take place in the real world. I enjoy putting as much of that as I can into my own work. As a reader, I read a wide variety of subgenres, including thrillers and domestic suspense, but I tend to write the private eye/law enforcement protagonists.

Kass: What was your favorite book/author as a child? Why was it your favorite?

Elena: It’s incredibly hard to pick just one, but I would probably go with The Hobbit. I loved the world J.R.R Tolkien created. The magic, the animals, the non-human beings. I loved the adventure and the quest and how the smallest of the group made the largest contribution. In some ways it is the perfect book. It grapples with good and evil, war and peace, individualism versus the greater community and culminates with a fight to the death with a dragon.

Elena’s cats, Cocoa and Coal Train, supervise as she writes.

Kass: Haha, and who doesn’t like dragons? Tell us a little more about your stories. Where are you in your writing career?

Elena: I worked professionally as a playwright for several years, including professional and amateur productions of my plays around the US and abroad. Then I moved over to writing fiction.

I wrote a couple manuscripts before the first Eddie Shoes book was published in 2016, One Dead, Two to Go. That was followed by Two Heads are Deader Than One and Three Strikes, You’re Dead.

My latest novel, Resurrection Lake, is coming out with Crooked Lane in 2020, under the name Elena Taylor. I’m working on another manuscript with my agent now. I hope that standalone finds a home as well. After that, I have a few other projects in the works.

Kass: What do you find to be the most fun and/or the most difficult part of the writing process, and why?

Elena: I love the whole process, but that doesn’t mean any of it is easy! The first draft is simultaneously the most challenging and the most fun. Challenging, because I’m just hoping I will have a complete story that’s strong enough for a full-length novel. Fun, because I’m discovering the plot and the characters at the same time and they do things that surprise me.

Kass: What’s the oddest and/or most difficult thing you ever had to research?

Elena: As a playwright, I did a lot of work around Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and service men and women. That was difficult because I did a lot of research, including interviews, and the stories are heartbreaking. I include some of that in my novels, but not to the extent that I did in my plays.

My heart goes out to all the men and women who have served and who struggle. Society owes them an eternal debt of gratitude, regardless of individual politics, and should do more to help them.

Kass: I agree. One of my series is about a young woman who trains service dogs for veterans with PTSD. Now tell us, in your latest story, what was your favorite scene?

Elena: In Three Strikes, You’re Dead, I have a scene where Eddie is in a forest fire. That was so much fun to write, but I also did a ton of research, including interviews with the Issaquah Fire Department.

Best research ever! I got to ride in a fire truck. I have tremendous respect for firefighters and what they do to keep us safe.

Kass: Thanks so much for joining us today, Elena, and please hang out for a bit in case our readers have questions for you.

And folks, you can get Three Strikes, You’re Dead and the other Eddie Shoes mysteries at the retailers below…

Three Strikes, You're Dead book cover
Available on AMAZON and other retailers.

Private investigator Eddie Shoes heads to a resort outside Leavenworth, Washington, for a mother-daughter getaway weekend. Eddie’s mother Chava wants to celebrate her new job at a casino by footing the bill for the two of them, and who is Eddie to say no?

On the first morning, Eddie goes on an easy solo hike, and stumbles upon a makeshift campsite and a gravely injured man. A forest fire breaks out, and she struggles to save him before the flames overcome them both.

Before succumbing to his injuries, the man hands her a valuable rosary. He tells her his daughter is missing and begs for her help. Is Eddie now working for a dead man?

Barely escaping the fire, Eddie wakes in the hospital to find both her parents have arrived on the scene. Will Eddie’s card-counting mother and mob-connected father help or hinder the investigation? And how will Eddie find the missing girl with only her memory of the man’s face and a photo of his daughter to go on?

The Eddie Shoes Mystery Series is available on:

Amazon ~ IndieBound ~ Barnes & Noble

Also on all e-book platforms and Audible.

And coming soon! RESURRECTION LAKE introduces Bet Rivers, interim sheriff of a tiny mountain town in Washington’s Cascade range. With the election looming up ahead, she faces the opportunity to live up to her late father’s reputation, but then a body is discovered floating in the town lake. Bet has never investigated a homicide before, and this one threatens to take everything she’s worked for, including her life.

You can connect with Elena at her website, her blog, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Goodreads.

And Kirsten Weiss has a new release today as well! She’ll be taking over the blog next week with a great post on Tarot reading!

Steeped in Murder cover

Steeped in Murder. A Tea and Tarot Mystery

Tea, tarot, and trouble.

Abigail Beanblossom’s dream of owning a tea room in her California beach town is about to come true. She’s got the lease, the start-up funds, and the recipes. But Abigail’s out of a tearoom and into hot water when her realtor turns out to be a conman… and then turns up dead.

But not even death puts an end to the conman’s mischief. He rented the same space to a tarot reader, Hyperion Night. Convinced his tarot room is in the cards, Night’s not letting go of the building without a fight.

But the two must work together, steeping themselves in the murky waters of the sham realtor’s double dealings, in order to unearth the truth – before murder boils over again.

Steeped in Murder is the first book in the Tea and Tarot cozy mystery series. Buy the book to start this hilarious caper today.

Recipes in the back of the book!

Available Now on: Amazon ~ iBooks GooglePlay ~ Kobo ~ B&N

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

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Highlight Reel from Left Coast Crime 2019

by Vinnie Hansen

When my husband contemplated coming with me to Left Coast Crime 2019 in Vancouver, I said, “It’ll be rainy and cold. It won’t be much fun taking in the sights in March.”

Burrard Station, near the Hyatt

 

I was wrong. So wrong.

Vancouver was the first highlight of the conference—sunny, abloom, and full of wonder.      

Seaplanes in Coal Harbor, a few blocks from the conference hotel.

A steam-powered clock in the Gastown part of Vancouver–perfect detail for steampunk fans.

The icebreaker at Left Coast Crime 2019

A generous and clever ice-breaker.

WEDNESDAY HIGHLIGHT:

On Wednesday evening, I participated in Hijinx and Hot Chocolate, pitched by Becky Clark and  Libby Klein as a way to start the convention with 10 new friends.

Becky and Libby guided participants to a nearby chocolate shop and treated us to hot chocolate, before we settled back at the hotel for word games.

Chocolate and word games—my idea of heaven.

THURSDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

I enjoy contributing to LCC by volunteering at the registration desk. That’s where I spent Thursday morning, meeting even more new people. Because, hey, this convention is all about networking.

Fault Lines cover

This gorgeous new anthology contains my story “The Last Word.”

Thursday evening at Left Coast Crime 2019, I could have ended up drunk as a skunk! The NorCal Chapter of Sisters in Crime launched its new anthology, Fault Lines, with a party—and a free drink for authors and participants.

Then Mystery Writers of America had a gathering, also offering a free drink to members, and finally, I wanted to check out Noir at the Bar (to see how it was organized, mind you).

FRIDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

The Lefty Best Novel Nominees panel. I’d read, and loved, all the authors on the panel except Matt Coyle. As it turned out, I was seated at his table for the Saturday banquet. Now I’m reading and enjoying his book Night Tremors.

The other nominees included Terry Shames, Lori Rader-Day, James W. Ziskin, and my absolute favorite, Lou Berney (who went on to win the award).

The Sex Panel at Left Coast Crime 2019

Holly West and Rhys Bowen watch Lou Berney squirm and blush as he reads aloud an R-rated sex scene.

The Sex Panel. This is always a favorite, featuring some truly horrendous and hilarious sex scenes (not for the modest).

SATURDAY HIGHLIGHTS:

While the Liars Panel was fun, the tribute to Sue Grafton was more meaningful and moving.

Sue Grafton had been asked a couple of years ago to receive her Lifetime Achievement Award at this conference. As you may know, she sadly didn’t make it. Her daughter was in attendance to accept the award.

Sue Grafton was my role model as I embarked upon writing mysteries. I’d been reading in the genre from a young age, but when, as an adult, I came across an American female writer writing about a tough (and tender) female P.I., I thought I’d stumbled upon nirvana.

I particularly loved this frame from the slide show. It reminds us all to persevere and not to place too much stock in reviews.

Tribute to Sue Grafton at Left Coast Crime 2019

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I’d be remiss not to mention the Left Coast Crime 2019 Banquet in my Saturday highlights. The food was good and my table hosts, authors Matt Coyle and Baron R. Birtcher, couldn’t have been more gracious! Matt Coyle will be the Toastmaster for LCC in San Diego, 2020.

SUNDAY HIGHLIGHT:

That would be my own panel, of course, Setting as Character.

Setting As Character Panel at Left Coast Crime 2019

As a stream of people roll their luggage toward the exit, it’s always a little worrying who is going to show up for a nine a.m. panel on a Sunday morning. To top off the anxiety, at the last minute, one of our panelists could not make it to the conference, because her passport was lost!

But Elena Hartwell, John Billheimer, and I drew in a full room of friendly faces and we had a lively discussion, led by moderator Bryan Robinson.

All of this, plus five cohorts from Santa Cruz Women of Mystery attended this year and last, definitely adding to the fun.

Santa Cruz participants at LLC 2019

Santa Cruz Women of Mystery (left to right): Leslie Karst (nominated for Best Humorous Mystery), Mary Feliz, Katherine Bolger Hyde, Peggy Townsend, and me, Vinnie Hansen.

At the end of Left Coast Crime 2019, I was completely drained. I had not been planning to attend LCC 2020 in San Diego, but now—knowing that Matt Coyle will be toastmaster and wanting to see all these great people again….

How about you? Have you ever had occasion to attend a conference? Do you enjoy them or just find them draining? Who’s your favorite mystery writer?

Posted by Vinnie Hansen. Vinnie fled the howling winds of South Dakota and headed for the California coast the day after high school graduation. Still sane(ish) after 27 years of teaching English, Vinnie is retired. In addition to writing, she plays keyboards with ukulele bands in Santa Cruz, California, where she lives with her husband and the requisite cat.

She’s the author of the Carol Sabala Mystery series, and LOSTART STREET, a cross-genre novel of mystery, murder, and moonbeams, plus her short fiction has appeared in a variety of publications and anthologies.

We blog here at misterio press about twice a month, usually on Tuesdays. Sometimes we talk about serious topics, and sometimes we just have some fun.

Please sign up via email (upper right sidebar) to follow us, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun! (We do not lend, sell nor otherwise bend, spindle or mutilate followers’ e-mail addresses. 🙂 )

To see our Privacy Policy click HERE.