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 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?
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?
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.
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…
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:
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.
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. 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!
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