Complementing my daily blog interviews, today’s Author Spotlight, the one hundred and seventy-first, is of multi-genre author Elaine Orr.
Elaine L. Orr has written fiction and nonfiction for many years and recently introduced the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series. Before writing fiction she worked as a nonfiction writer and editor and work often took her overseas. Her fiction varies from mysteries to coming-of-age stories to plays. Biding Time, which is geared to young adults, was one of five finalists in the National Press Club’s 1993 fiction contest, the club’s first. The Jolie Gentil books have been read tens of thousands of times. Her nonfiction includes material on caring for aging parents and carefully researched family history books. Elaine grew up in Maryland and moved to the Midwestern U.S. in 1994.
And now from the author herself:
I write cozy mysteries and humorous essays. My first book was set in Bath. I visited and was struck by the beauty and the idea that it had been such a vibrant place and then was lost for centuries. I’m American. We think things from the 1700s are really old!
Secrets of the Gap is a simple story with a few flashbacks to post-Roman Bath. If I were writing today it would have a more sophisticated style but I suppose your first book is your first love.
I wrote several more (thankfully unpublished) books. Through a combination of a short attention span and desire to keep writing, I didn’t try too hard to sell them.
Finally, I decided to just write what I liked and publishing be damned (sort of). The Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series has characters who like some of the things I enjoy (living near an Atlantic coast beach, lots of friends) and have a similar quirky humor. There is nothing about my life in the setting or characters, I just decided to write something that came to me more naturally.
Luckily, the first book of the series did not sell to a traditional publisher and I stuck it in a drawer. As I wrote the second book (Rekindling Motives) I developed the characters more and changed the first book (Appraisal for Murder) quite a bit.
By then, independent publishing was more feasible (e-books and paperbacks). Now close to sixty, I didn’t feel like submitting to dozens of agents. (American publishers generally require you to have representation). I had worked with words all my life. That did not make indie publishing less work, but it did make it less overwhelming.
It’s kind of arrogant to write a series, perhaps more so to self-publish it. That gets back to “write what I like.” I don’t think the books are perfect — in fact I need to be better at maintaining tension. I like to resolve problems. That’s okay in life, but not in a mystery.
With the third one (When the Carny Comes to Town), some characters attend Twelve Step meetings. Not a big part of the books, I saw these family meetings (for kin or friends to someone who has a ‘problem’) as a way for Jolie to grow as a person. She is not fond of introspection or change. To stay in character, Jolie usually has a couple of irreverent thoughts during the brief meetings.
The fourth book starts with a short scene during Hurricane Sandy, which cannot be ignored in books set in a New Jersey beach town. Ironically, I had a weak hurricane in the fourth book (Any Port in a Storm). Trouble on the Doorstep (early 2013) has the challenge of mixing sorrow and laughter. They can be similar emotions. Jolie and friends just have to learn how to handle them. I think they’re up to the challenge.
You can find more about Elaine and her writing via…
- All online retailers, including Amazon in the U.S. and UK
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