MLC: Do you remember the first mystery you ever read? If so, what was it, and what pulled you into it?
AUTHOR: I don’t remember the first mystery I read but I do remember losing myself in fiction at an early age, finding the world drop away as I read. I was hooked!
MLC: When did you first decide you wanted to write a mystery, and what led you to that decision?
AUTHOR: After reading
mysteries for a lifetime and having written
nearly a dozen non-fiction books in nursing,
I thought “how hard could it be?” I was soooo
wrong! And a number of years struggling,
attending classes, and working at the craft I
discovered that I had been terribly na´ve.
Fiction writing is an art and craft unto
itself and everyone must go through this
incredibly challenging learning curve. I’m
glad I stuck it out.
MLC: Do you write in any other genres? If so,
AUTHOR: I write only mysteries now but I’m starting a second series, this time historical, and plan to continue my contemporary one going as well.
MLC: Which comes first for you, the plot or
AUTHOR: Mostly the plot but actually both seem to interact with each other during the early exploratory phase (by the way, that’s the most fun part!). I start with a murder—who was killed, by whom, and why, then build other characters and complications around the murder. I write a complete backstory, character bios, and outline before beginning the writing.
MLC: When you are all wrapped up in the
story, do you feel like you could solve the
crime, or maybe even solve all the world’s
AUTHOR: When I’m into the story the words can’t come fast enough—the ideas seem to tumble over one another in a rush. That’s the best time!
MLC: Do you write every day, or what kind of
a schedule do you have? Do you write
fulltime, or do you have a “day job”?
AUTHOR: I write in two different ways depending on the phase I’m in. During the beginning phase, I take a week or two, go into what I call “seclusion” turn off phone, email, and inform family that I’m not available. Then I write and think about the story almost constantly. I don’t read any other authors but I do take breaks—go to the art museum, botanical garden, listen to music. Then I come out and go to my regular schedule which is writing five days a week, sometimes all day but always all morning depending on other work such as promotion tasks, etc. If I’m under a deadline, I may do a seclusion period again.
MLC: Other than your writing, what do you
enjoy doing? What is the most important thing
to you in your day-to-day life?
AUTHOR: Certainly my family is most important to me—5 grown children, 8 grandchildren. I enjoy the symphony, live theater, gardening, reading (of course!), and knitting—very relaxing.
MLC: Who are your favorite mystery authors?
Do you try to emulate them in your own
AUTHOR: I have so many favorites and it depends on what I’m in the mood for at the time. I like Lawrence Block for story telling, Robert Parker for sparse dialogue, Lee Harris’ straight-forward style, Margaret Frazer and Karen Harper for historicals…and you can see I could go on and on. I’ve never thought of trying to emulate any of them but I do hope to learn from their styles.
MLC: In your present book, is this part of a
series, or is it a standalone book?
AUTHOR: Assumed Dead is the third in my series featuring intensive care head nurse Monika Everhardt who finds more murders in her hospital than any of us would want!
MLC: If you are doing a series, do you see an
end to it sometime, or do you plan to go on
for several years with it?
AUTHOR: I’m starting a second series—these historical and I also plan to continue my contemporary series—the next book in the Monika Everhardt series is “Play Dead.”
MLC: Do your characters ever drive you a bit
crazy by going off in their own direction? If
so, how do you rein them in, or do you just
let them run off on their own?
AUTHOR: I’ve never had my characters go off on me but sometimes I the ideas seem to jump out—maybe that’s the same thing. I’ve found, though, that the first thought that occurs to me is usually too predictable. That’s why I can’t let them go off on their own.
MLC: Do you pattern your sleuths after
yourself or someone you know? If so, do you
let that person know they were your
AUTHOR: I was inspired to become a nurse after I watched intensive care nurses care for my husband before his death so I guess in a way my stories are a tribute to all of them.
MLC: How long did it take you to get
published? How many rejections did you have
to suffer through first? Were you ever
tempted to give up? What do you think made
the difference when it was accepted?
AUTHOR: I knew I was an author when I received my first rejection letter! I don’t recall the number of rejections but I still have the file—and it’s full! Finally Nancy Picard told me that all authors throw away their first story—it’s the learning one. Then I started afresh and found a top notch editor who criticized the heck out of my work. But it worked!
MLC: Do you ever attend any conferences? If
so, which ones?
AUTHOR: I attend a lot of conferences. Currently I’m on the national Board of Directors of Sisters in Crime and we meet at Malice and Bouchercon. I also attend Magna cum Murder in Indiana and the Greater Manhattan Mystery Conclave in Manhattan, Kansas.
MLC: Do you have to promote your own work, or
does your publisher do that for you?
AUTHOR: My publisher does the national promotion but I hire my own publicist for appearances at stores and media scheduling.
MLC: If you have to do marketing, what
methods have worked the best for you?
AUTHOR: I have an extensive database of people I know or have attended my signings and I keep in touch with them by email and book announcements. Last year I bought an ad on Google and a number of sales came through that way.
MLC: Do you have any idea how your book is
AUTHOR: My publisher is happy with my sales and wants to keep publishing me!
MLC: What has been the best review you have
gotten, and why?
AUTHOR: Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine (July, 2005) said, “The telling and characters are expertly handled, and the specialized background is rendered in warts- and-all detail.”
MLC: Have you won any awards, either as an
author or for your books? Please tell us
AUTHOR: I’ve received the “Book of the Year Award” from the American Journal of Nursing for FOUR of my books in nursing.
MLC: Is there any one certain thing that a
reader has written to you that made you just
want to jump up and shout “Yes!!!!”?
AUTHOR: A few weeks ago I was walking through the lobby at the symphony and a woman stopped me. “Aren’t you Eleanor Sullivan, the author?” Yikes! What a thrill! When I could calm myself, I asked for her name and address for my database (always remember marketing!)
MLC: What is your next project, and when will
it be out?
AUTHOR: I’m working on the first in my “Death of…” historical series set in 1830s northern Ohio in a German settlement of religious dissendents and featuring herbalist and midwife Adelaide Eberle. The first book is “Death of a Dairy Maid.”
MLC: If you could write anything at all,
ignoring what editors and publishers say they
want, what would it be?
AUTHOR: I’m doing what I want and my publisher loves it!
MLC: Do you have any words of wisdom for
aspiring mystery authors?
AUTHOR: Persistence—persistence in learning your craft, persistence in accepting and using criticism (I find aspiring authors most resistant to this part), and persistence in getting your work out there.
MLC: Do you have any teasers for your readers
and fans about the next book?
AUTHOR: What if a young woman is found dead in the river beside a 19th century village? But she didn’t drown!
MLC: If a genie suddenly appeared and said
they would grant you just one wish for your
books, what would you wish for?
AUTHOR: A TV movie made by Hallmark!
MLC: Thank you so much for giving us a little glimpse into your books and your life. We look forward to a lot more books from you.