Hi there, guys and dolls! So here it is again, the end of another month. And I for one am always glad to see the back end of February, which even though it is the shortest month according to the calendar, it always feels like the longest to me. Sigh, the ennui that sets in, forming a whole heap of general malaise as yours truly awaits the breathiness of spring, naturally in the form of the birds and the bees, of course.
One thing that was a bright spot in the gloomy month was my interview with fellow Cozy Cat Press author Alice K. Boatwright. She wrote one of my favorite cozies, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, the first in her Ellie Kent mysteries, and she assures me there’s another to come. So fellow readers, it’s time to settle down with a cuppa or two and learn all about Alice and her writing life.
1. So tell me a little about your series and main characters.
The Ellie Kent mysteries are set in Little Beecham, a village in the English Cotswolds. Their heroine is a divorced professor of English literature from San Francisco who favors wearing “black and more black”, but who is now, through the vicissitudes of love, the new wife of a charming English vicar, Graham Kent. In the first book, UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN, her adjustment problems quickly move past knowing the difference between cookies and biscuits, when she stumbles over a body in the churchyard – and becomes the murder’s chief suspect. An ex-pat, she finds, can be rude; and a vicar’s wife hears secrets. With these tools – plus her experience as a researcher – she sets out on another unexpected career path: detective. As evidence piles up against her, Ellie tries to stay one step ahead of the police to unravel a decades-old literary mystery and love story. In the second book (now underway), Ellie continues to find out more about who her friends and allies are – and who they aren’t – as she takes on the search for a missing Oxford student.
2. What is your writing process like? Do you thrive on routine or work spontaneously as the whim takes you?
I am a morning writer and most content and focused when I work every day at about the same time. One of the most important lessons I ever learned is that the way to write a book is one sentence – one page– at a time. Thinking about your project is critical to the process, but it is not writing. Only writing is writing. And writing is rewriting. I am definitely a “how will I know what I think until I see what I say” writer. I love the process of discovery that unfolds between my first notion of a story and the final final draft.
3. What exciting moment or moments have made you realize that you were really an “author”?
I began telling stories when I was young, and people’s reactions surprised and pleased me. For example, my grandmother loved a story I told her about the life of a nickel, and forever after I was linked in her mind to that story. When I was 15, my English teacher assigned us to write a short story, and I had my first experience of becoming totally immersed in my characters and the world they lived in. I still remember the chair I was curled up in when it happened, and I still have the pencil copy I wrote that day. Writing is not always like that – there are plenty of hours devoted to “just trying to get the words right” (as Hemingway said), but those moments – when I am so absorbed in creating a world with words that hours just disappear and when people are delighted or moved by something I wrote – that’s when I know this is the right path for me.
4. What do you do to spark up your creativity when you feel the well of inspiration is running dry?
When I feel as if the writing well is dry, I turn to other arts to get re-inspired. Taking a walk and listening to old rock ‘n’ roll helps. Stopping in to look around an art or crafts store helps. Looking at paintings or going to a concert helps. But actually, one of the best things is doing the dishes. I get some of my best ideas with my hands in hot water. I think essentially, what I am doing is turning off my word brain and letting it rest, while stimulating my other senses.
5. Who are some of your favorite authors and how do you feel they have influenced your desire to write?
As a mystery writer, I love Dorothy L. Sayers the best of all. The four Harriet Vane books are my favorites for the complexity of the puzzles they offer and the long, drawn out, witty and thoughtful courtship of Peter and Harriet. I also recently re-read all of the books by Josephine Tey and thought they were brilliant. I like to read women writers who write cracking good mysteries that are not bound by the conventions of the genre and also offer strong characters and relationships, interesting commentary about life and the world, and fresh, clean prose. Other writers who have influenced me in different ways are P.D. James, Mary Stewart, Agatha Christie and M.C. Beaton. Speaking more broadly, I am a huge fan of the Brontës (all of them), Jane Austen and Virginia Woolf. Stir them all together and that’s the writer I would like to become.
Thanks so much for taking the time for our little confab, Alice. It was a true delight. I’d also like to mention that Alice is the author of COLLATERAL DAMAGE, a collection of three novellas about the impact of the Vietnam War. Want to get to know Alice a little better? Be sure to look for her on Facebook and Twitter. And friends, don’t forget to check out UNDER AN ENGLISH HEAVEN on your Kindle.