Ellen Edwards Kennedy (aka EEK) grew up in Miss Prentice’s region of far northern New York State and lived with her husband and children across the South and West. This has given her a deep love for these areas and a sharp ear for regional accents. Before becoming a mystery writer, she was an award-winning advertising copywriter. Along with the Miss Prentice Mysteries, she is the author of a Christian romance novella, "The Applesauce War," in the anthology, THE FARMER'S BRIDE, from Barbour Books; and ANOTHER THINK COMING, a mystery set in Texas. Book Two in the Miss Prentice series, DEATH DANGLES A PARTICIPLE, follows the further adventures of Amelia as she tries to clear two of her students accused of a brutal murder, and book three, MURDER IN THE PAST TENSE, which introduces us to Amelia and friends as teenagers, was released in September, 2014. The fourth book in the series, INCOMPLETE SENTENCE, is in production. Ellen writes weekly articles at The Wordsmith Journal Magazine, www.twjm.com She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Christian Author's Network, Light of Carolina Writers, Sisters in Crime and MurderMustAdvertise. She and her husband live in North Carolina, are born-again Christians, and the happy, blessed grandparents of five little answers to prayer.
What five words describe you?
Wife, Mother, Grandmother, Writer and (the most important) Christian
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from
your most recent book?
That has taken some research. I would be happy seeing Lea Thompson play my main character Amelia in Murder in the Past Tense. She has the right amount of intelligence, pluck and self-deprecating humor for the role and she’s the right age. (Bonus casting tip: I see Rizzoli & Iles’ Bruce McGill as the eccentric, monster-hunting Professor. I think he’d be magnificent!)
If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?
The name that immediately jumped to my mind was Agatha Christie. I would be happy to have written almost anything she did. I love the way she combined humor and trickiness in her mystery novels. She was a child of her time, of course, and there a few bits of politically incorrect things in her work, but I was thrilled when a reviewer said that a book of mine “ticked along with all the clockwork of a Christie.” One of my favorites isn’t even that well-known: The Man in the Brown Suit. It’s an old-fashioned mystery/thriller/romance that entranced me at the first reading. Of course, now I have read all the Christie books so many times, they hold no more surprises for me, alas.
What is the hardest thing about writing?
Two things: getting into the story and later, promoting the book. Once I’ve established where I’m going with the story, it’s downright fun to put the words on paper, but making the initial decision—also known as plotting, I suppose—is the hard part for me. Once that is accomplished, I put the characters back up on the stage of my mind and they seem to come to life. They take over and direct what happens and what is said. It’s weird, but it’s a phenomenon I’ve learned that fiction writers frequently experience.
Promotion should come easily to me. I had a career in advertising years ago. However, promotion work has become a requirement for a writer if your publisher isn’t one of the Big Guys and it can sometimes seem like pounding your head against a stone wall. Thank Heaven for the Internet!
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Sort of: work on something else for a little while. Currently, I’m trying to pull together a fourth book in my Miss Prentice mystery series, and there are times I get bogged down and have to step back. Recently, I unearthed the beginnings of a sweet romance I’d begun several years ago called Vaudeville Trunk about a young girl in show business in the early part of the 20th Century. I began pecking away on that, and it has helped clear my palate, so to speak. Recently, I’ve been able to return to book #4 (tentatively titled Incomplete Sentence) with renewed enthusiasm.
Where would your dream location be for writing?
I used to think that if I only had an office of my own, writing would be much easier. That was when I tapped away at my computer just steps away from my washer and dryer. I’d fold clothes as I thought about plot twists. This past year, my husband and I converted a downstairs guest room into a library office with many of the trimmings I’d longed for. You know what? As lovely as this office is, writing is still hard and requires heaping handfuls of self-discipline! It doesn’t matter where you write. John Grisham wrote The Firm on a legal pad on his lap as he rode on the train every day into the city for his job as an attorney. Whether it’s on a lovely beach, in a penthouse or on the kitchen table, just write!
When creating characters, do you base them on people in your life?
Yes and no. Of course, any writer is influenced by the people he knows. Only one person—the villain—my first mystery Irregardless of Murder was based on a girl I knew in high school. (Actually it was based on my adolescent memory of that girl who has since grown into a fine woman and will remain nameless in her innocence.) Strangely enough, my sister-in-law was convinced that the character of Vern, the young taxi driver/grad student in that same book was based on her son, my nephew. I hadn’t thought so at the time, but looking back, I find that perhaps she’s right. The character of Amelia in the theater scenes in MPT is very much me. Her singing and dancing, auditions were pretty much the way my audition went. Her love of the theater is the same as mine, too, and her longing to be grown up was very much where I was coming from at age fifteen.
As I re-read my books, I realize that Amelia’s parents are very much like mine. The theater characters in Murder in the Past Tense are lightly based on people I met when I was in summer stock, but of course they do different things. I did have the experience of recognizing a person I’d known in the theater on a supermarket tabloid just as Amelia did. And he had been murdered, just as in the story. I decided then to compose my own fictional solution to the unsolved crime.
Do you read your reviews? Do you respond to them, good or bad? Do you have any advice on how to deal with the bad?
I love the good ones and try not to pay any attention to the bad ones, though I have to admit they can sting. My best advice is to not answer them. There will always be people who don’t “get” your work. However, if you can join a writers’ group, by all means, do. If it’s a good group, it’s where you’ll get constructive advice from people who care about words. You do need feedback from some source other than your adoring relatives.
If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?
In the course of writing books, I’ve found that I enjoy being a lecturer. A few years ago, I gave talks to some clubs and libraries about writing mysteries and liked it very much, but only if I’m speaking on a subject in which I’m well-versed. I have a little bit of ham running through my veins, I think.
What would you tell your younger self that would have helped you in your writing career?
Get started, now! Don’t be so self-conscious! I wrote a good bit in college, and even won a prize for a short story, but I was terribly shy about my work. It seemed adolescent to me, which it probably was, and I just stopped writing after graduation. When I worked at a TV station and later an ad agency, I wrote press releases, commercials and interview articles for local magazines, but no fiction. I didn’t get back into stories until after my children went off to college and I couldn’t find any more Agatha Christie mysteries to read. So I started writing my own.
Irregardless of Murder, Death Dangles a Participle and Murder in the Past Tense are all available online in Nook, Kindle and trade paperback at the various online bookstores. Your local bookstore could order it for you, too. I also have a sweet romance novella called “The Applesauce War” published in the Barbour Books anthology, The Farmer’s Bride. It’s available at most Christian bookstores and online, as well.
How can we keep up with you?
I have a regular column at TWJmag.com (The Wordsmith Journal Magazine) called “Behind the Mystery” where I discuss both writing and the Christian life.
On Twitter, I’m @eekmystery. On Facebook, I’m Ellen Edwards Kennedy.
My website is: www.missprenticecozymystery.com