Do you like a good mystery? So does Cathy Elliott. That's why she writes them. Follow me as we go inside her world.
It seems as though there is something of me in every character. I can’t seem to stay out of their lives! But overall, the characters are compilations of traits that work for their role in the story. They are not based on anyone in particular, not even me.
What is the quirkiest thing you have ever done?
There are quirky characters in my cozy mystery, so you can imagine I have a few quirky experiences of my own. Once, I left a friend/colleague on hold while I answered another telephone call. (This was before call waiting, etc.) After finishing with the caller, I punched a flashing light and picked up what I thought was my friend’s waiting phone line. I answered using a crazy Swedish accent, “Yah, sure, and kin I help yer?
The voice that answered wasn’t my colleague, but a stranger calling my workplace. I panicked. How could I explain I was just joking at work? So I stayed in character, still speaking with my faux Swedish accent, and completed the call. Somehow, I got away with it, then fell apart laughing at myself.
Still, I should offer my apologies to the Swedes.
As a person from Swedish extraction, I also think it is hilarious. So you're forgiven. When did you first discover that you were a writer?
When my friend and writing mentor, Mary Vaughn Armstrong, told me I had the heart of a writer, I dared to believe her. It was many years before I had my first published piece in my hands, but Mary’s words carried me until then.
I'm glad you listened to her as I'm sure your other readers are, too. Tell us the range of the kinds of books you enjoy reading.
I love the classics and most types of mysteries, though they can’t be too graphic or gory for my Care-Bears heart. Some literary fiction, historical romance, and classic children’s books like The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. I also love to read non-fiction encompassing a variety of subject matter. Lately…pioneer diaries. I enjoy many genres, as long as the writing is good.
We must be sisters under the skin. I love pioneer diaries, too. I get some information for my historicals from them. What other books have you written, whether published or not?
I’ve written thirteen children’s books for an educational company; ten titles have been published to date. Most of these books were scientific in nature and I had to do a lot of research so the facts would be correct and the experiments would work. Two of the books were fiction, using a word list. All were challenging to write.
I understand that. I wrote videoscripts for the School of Tomorrow. The scientific experiment ones were tough. How do you keep your sanity in our run, run, run world?
I struggle to slow down, so much to do. But what works for me is to take it day-by-day, chip a little away at my word count, or my unanswered email, or the plethora of projects bearing my name. I have to come back to what really matters – my relationship with Christ and with others. When I focus on this, things come back into perspective.
How do you choose your characters’ names?
I love this part! Often, the characters will just come to me already named. I knew Thea James was Thea James when she introduced herself inside my head. I like names to mean something as well, so Thea is short for Dorothea, one of the main characters in George Eliot’s classic work, Middlemarch. There are reasons why Thea has her name, but that’s a wee mystery.
I try to think of several things at once. If I have a common first name, I might choose an uncommon last name. Instead of Bill Miller, I’ll choose Bill Kapolski. Or Winston Miller. For the most part, the names should start with different letters. If I have a Jenny, I don’t want a Janet and a Jason, too. I try and mix it up: some names that sound like the backwoods of hill country, some that sound like the lord and lady of the manor, a nickname or two, and I’ll sprinkle in some that just make me laugh.
Twice, I’ve had to rename characters. Once, the original name looked too much like the heroine’s name on the page, though it sounded different said aloud. But still, that sort of thing confuses me as a reader. The other time, the character never came alive in my head. When I renamed her, she got real spunky!
What is the accomplishment that you are most proud of?
I’m not sure how to answer this. Writing my book comes to mind, of course. But I had a lot of support. Raising a wonderful daughter? Hmm, I had so much help. In truth, I think it would be that way with any accomplishment I wanted to name. God has always provided that which is needed to achieve anything good.
If you were an animal, which one would you be, and why?
Maybe a Labrador retriever. I love the idea of being useful, like a guide dog or company for someone who is lonely. Labs are beautiful, smart, loyal, and relational. That makes my heart smile.
My favorite dog from childhood was a golden Lab. What is your favorite food?
God forgive me, I’m an ice-cream gal. In my defense, I come from a long line of ice-creamaholics. I didn’t have a chance.
What is the problem with writing that was your greatest roadblock, and how did you overcome it?
If I’ve had a roadblock, it was the onset of a care-giving season for my parents. I was afraid that I would have to give up my writing for a time, and would have done so. My folks needed me. But it wasn’t required after all. Instead, God has used my writing to give me joy and to bring healing in a difficult time.
I’d love to tell you a bit about my first book, a cozy mystery titled, A Vase of Mistaken Identity. It was published in April of 2006 by Kregel Publications, who have been a delight. Here is a brief overview:
Antique dealer, Thea James, acquires a vintage vase with an old list of familiar names tucked inside. At first, she is just curious. But after the first woman on the list has a freak accident and the second goes missing, Thea gets nervous. Then she gets involved, because her name is next!!!
When I first started to write Vase, many people, including some editors, asked, “What is a cozy mystery?” It was a new term for a number of folks. I offered a definition that I especially liked: “Cats and quilts and not a lot of blood.” The murder happens off stage. Since this was my first cozy, I added a quilting theme and my protagonist, Thea, is actually making a quilt for her cat as she lives out the adventure. As a little bonus, the quilt pattern is in the back of the book, so the reader may make Thea’s “Kitty in the Cabin” quilt, as well. Enjoy.
Thanks, Lena, for providing this opportunity to meet your readers in the blogging community. It has been great fun to answer your insightful questions. If anyone else has a question, please feel free to contact me at: email@example.com - have a great day!
Thank you, Cathy. I know the readers enjoyed getting you a little better. However, I think it's time to come out from behind the book and let us see all of you.
Remember, leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of A Vase of Mistaken Identity.