Tag Archives: mystery

Author Interview: Eliza Maxwell


Grave Tender cover

 

I had the pleasure several months ago of reading The Grave Tender by Eliza Maxwell, an extremely powerful debut novel. Ms. Maxwell will be joining our Mystery Readers meeting next Saturday in Georgetown, so I asked her if she would mind answering a few questions for me:

 

Eliza Maxwell photo

 

How long have you been writing?

For as long as I can remember, in some form or other.  But if I’m honest, my first true love was reading, not writing.  Reading anything and everything I could get my hands on.  From my Dad’s Louis L’amour and Stephen King paperbacks to my Mom’s dog-eared romance novels, I was hooked from the very beginning.

Writing came about as an experiment, almost.  A little like an alcoholic that decides to try out home brewing.  Because, why not, right?  I was, and still am, looking for just the right concoction.  The one I can’t put down.  Then I share, and hope there may be a few fellow readers out there that like it too.

What was your reaction when you made your first sale?

As a decades long smoker, I finally managed quitting for what I hope was the last time this past summer.  The first two weeks was rough.  I was antsy, irritable, agitated, and I couldn’t keep my hands occupied enough.  I wasn’t fun to be around, to say the least.  At one point I overheard my husband mumbling about a rabies shot for women, but when I called him out, his only response was, “I said your hair looks nice, babe.”  Smart guy.

Making the first sale?  Awesome.  No doubt.  The time between making the first sale and the point when the reviews start to trickle in?  That part felt pretty much the same as nicotine withdrawal.  It’s a wonder my husband still speaks to me.

Where you do get your inspiration?

Inspiration… Hmm.  That’s a tricky one.  To me, drama and story come from secrets.  From mood.  From the dark, deep parts of the heart that we all know are there, but most don’t care to look at too closely.  And somewhere in my head, all of that is intertwined with east Texas and pine trees and riverbanks meant for bare feet.  Trying to separate those, for me, is like trying to unwhisk the eggs from the milk.  It can’t be done.

Whatever takes me to those places is inspiration.  Certain music.  Bluegrass, zydeco.  A spring afternoon in the sun, listening to the birds.  But especially the stories.  You know the ones.  The weird ones that you hear over iced tea on a wraparound porch.  Like the one about the abandoned cabin down the road with iron bars on the windows.  How the old man just couldn’t face the place after that tragedy with his son… Bless his heart.

Those stories, the ones that seem to pepper small towns and quiet places like the seasoning in a good stew, those are the purest form of inspiration for me.  I can’t seem to help dwelling on things that are probably best left alone.

Have you found it difficult to market your work? Any tips for things that worked?

Marketing.  The dreaded, despised mystery of marketing.  All I can speak to is what I’ve tried myself.  Upon launch, I did a blog tour, and connected with some amazing book bloggers.  The tour did little for sales, but I did get a nice boost in reviews.  Some good, some bad, and that was just fine with me.  Expecting everyone to like your book is a bit like expecting the holidays at the in-laws to be drama free.  It ain’t gonna happen.

But the boost in reviews helped to land a Bookbub ad.  And Bookbub knows how to sell some books.

Do you enjoy interacting with fans, or are you an introvert? Do you get much fan mail?

I absolutely love interacting with fans on a personal basis like email, or a book club meeting.  I am, however, a down-to-the-bone introvert.  Social media is an amazing tool that I’ve seen many use masterfully, and though I’ve tried it out, it’ll  never be something I do well.  And that’s a shame.

In spite of that, I really do adore hearing from readers.  There’s nothing that quite compares to it.

What has been your most challenging project to date?

My biggest challenge was, and still is, book number 2.  The first time around, I had no expectations.  Not of myself, and not of the characters.  Number 2 is proving to be my problem child.

What are your other hobbies and interests?

I love anything that involves creating something with my hands.  Within that framework, it’s all fair game.  I paint, I cook, I occasionally build things, and I put more enthusiasm than skill into all sorts of home improvement projects.  I try, sometimes more successfully than others, to keep my family clean and fed.  And in between it all, I read as much as I possibly can.

What does the future hold for you?

My hope is that the future holds all the hours one could need to turn two small children into functioning human-ish creatures, rather than sociopathic cat burglars.  When I’m not setting aside funds for future bail money, my hope is to be able to sink into another character’s secrets and fears as they unfold on the page in front of me.

Not asking too much… I hope.

What advice do you have for new writers…or just those of us not as accomplished as you are? 😉

It feels presumptuous to give advice when I still have so much to learn.  But I don’t mind passing along some words of wisdom from those more successful and talented than myself that I’ve found helpful.

To paraphrase the imitable Chuck Wendig, writers write.  So do it.  I take that to mean, for better or worse, show up and write something.  Anything.  You can always fix it later.

And my favorite piece of advice, from Elmore Leonard: Try to leave out the part that readers tend to skip.

Where can readers find you?

I’m on Facebook, and you can follow me on Bookbub for updates on when the next book will be ready to go, but if you really want to reach out, email me at theelizamaxwell@gmail.com.  I’d sincerely love to hear from you.

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Here is the book blurb if you are interested in seeing more:

 

Hadley Dixon was ten years old when her life changed forever.  Since those few tragic weeks, she’s tried to keep the past buried, but old bones have a way of rising up. Grown now, Hadley can’t hide any longer.

 

And if anyone is going to be in or near Georgetown, Texas Saturday March 12th at 2:00 pm, the Mystery Readers will be meeting upstairs at the Library. You are welcome to join us to hear Eliza speak about her book and her career in general. 🙂

1/19/2012 — Checking in

So, someone told me that if I didn’t have anything to say, it was perfectly acceptable not to blog everyday. That seemed like sound advice to me. Things have been rather slow on the writing front so far this year, as I am engrossed in my big housecleaning project, but I do want to let everyone know that my newest piece is in Zombie Writing! — an essay on writing humorous zombies — and that it is FREE for the Kindle through Sunday (I was mistaken. I think it is only free til Saturday. Sorry about that…) Check it out.

I am also very excited that this weekend’s Georgetown Mystery Readers meeting is going to be discussing MY books, even though I don’t really write mysteries per se. It’s rather nerve-wracking also, but I am looking forward to hearing what they have to say.  🙂

So, I did have a little news to share. See you when there is more. 😉

10/25/11 — RieView — Rick Riordan

Yes, I know. Rick Riordan isn’t a book. How can I review him? Well, the answer, plain and simple, is that I can’t choose just one book, so I thought I would compare and contrast his Young Adult series Percy Jackson & The Olympians Boxed Set The Complete Series 1-5 and his wonderful Adult Tres Navarre books, starting with Big Red Tequila.

For about a month now, I have been reading nothing but Rick Riordan. It started because we were reading the gentleman for the October meeting of the Georgetown Mystery Readers. I originally decided to read one of the YAs because I knew most of the group would be focusing on the Adult mysteries, but part of the reason we had chosen him as an author was his versatility.

I picked up The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) because I like to start at the beginning of a series, and by the time I was four or five chapters in, I had the rest of the series downloaded into my Kindle. These are a great introduction to Mythology in my opinion. Mr. Riordan flirts with us, teasing with bits of myth that sound hauntingly familiar, and yet show us a fresh perspective on old friends. And, honestly, despite a lifelong love of mythology and folklore, some of the creatures he mentioned made me make a mental note to look them up later because I was unfamiliar with them. The ability to arouse a desire to research in a reader is a rare gift. His premise of the Greek Gods moving shop to America as the seat of Western Civilization drifted across the Atlantic was intriguing and innovative. In short, I loved the series and bought all his remaining juveniles as a result. They are waiting in my Kindle, but I took a break to make sure I had read at least one of the adult mysteries before the meeting.

And so I met Tres Navarre. My first intro to Tres was Mission Road (Tres Navarre). This isn’t the first in the series…it is actually number 6 of 7…but one of the beauties of the writing is that you can read them out of order, and when you read the next it fills in gaps. Perhaps because it was the first I read, this one is my favorite. The weaving of flashback and present action; the doling out of information that only later takes on full significance; the character sketches that can bring a person to life in a paragraph or two — all of these skills are what makes Rick Riordan such a fabulous writer.

While I can surely see why his Young Adult novels continue to dominate the charts, I have to admit that I love Tres Navarre even more. So much so that I had to go into an actual bookstore to find the first four volumes that weren’t available for Kindle! 😉

I am currently reading Rebel Island (Tres Navarre), and dreading the end of it because it is the last of the Tres Navarre series. Last time my mother met Mr. Riordan at a Mystery Writer’s event, she scolded him soundly because he had abandoned Tres. I hope it isn’t for long. For now, I’ll have to settle for more mythology. Luckily I have the Roman and Egyptian series to go.

Tres Navarre books in order:

3/28/11 — RieView: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo — 5 Stars

I really liked The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The story is an intriguing mystery dealing with a decades old murder — or is it?

Journalist Mikael Blomkvist is asked to investigate what really happened to the grand niece of a Swedish tycoon. As he has recently been convicted of slander and has nothing better to do at the moment, he agrees to try. As he burrows deeper and deeper into the mystery, he enlists the help of “investigator” Lisbeth Salander — the girl with the dragon tattoo.

More than anything else, this is a fascinating character piece. The details of Swedish society were interesting, but it was the people who brought it to life. While there were sections of the banking system I was not as interested in as the main plot, they were necessary to fully understand the unraveling of the whole thing.

I look forward to reading the further adventures of these two in The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest.

By the way, if it looks like I give a lot of 5 Star reviews…that’s because I usually only review things I really like. 🙂

1/2/11 — RieView: The Alienist — 5 Stars

I’ll be doing a lot of RieViews for awhile, as I have a lot to opine about. 😉

The Alienist by Caleb Carr has been out for a few years, but I just had a chance to read it. I am extremely glad I did. This is a very powerful book which offers a fascinating look at the budding concept of profiling in the 1890’s and paints a vivid picture of turn-of-the-century New York.

Set in 1896, the story is told from the viewpoint of journalist John Moore, who is chosen by Police Commissioner Theodore Roosevelt to assist “alienist” Lazlo Kreizler — practitioner of the burgeoning science of psychology — in tracking down a serial killer. With the aid of a pair of unconventional police detectives, and a woman who desires to be on the police force instead of a secretary for the department, they set about creating a portrait of the killer from the clues he leaves behind. Not everyone believes that the hunt is a good idea, and our detectives are in danger at every turn from forces both within and without the department they are unofficially aiding.

The most intriguing aspect of the book is the glimpse it gives us into a past where fingerprints were a newly discovered identification method, and not considered hard evidence, where profiling was not a standard way to limit a suspect pool, where a serial killer was an almost unheard of criminal force. The characters are vivid and well-drawn. The pace pulls you forward picking up speed as you go until you are racing along with the team toward the inevitable confrontation. This is a book that is well worth reading. I recommend it to all mystery lovers, and anyone else who is interested in historical fiction. Brilliantly written.