Friday, February 12, 2016

Interview With Author E. E. Kennedy

Today, I have the privilege of interviewing one of the suspense sisters. Ellen, thanks for getting on the other side of the desk, so to speak. First of all, I note that you use the author name of “E. E. Kennedy.” Tell us why you chose to hide your gender.

EEK: Well, I hadn’t intended to hide my gender, though I suppose my pen name does that. When I published my first mystery, I rather childishly wanted all my old high school and college friends to know it was my book, so I went by Ellen Edwards Kennedy. (Edwards is my maiden name.) Imagine my surprise when my agent informed me that there was an Ellen Edwards who was a prominent editor in New York! So, as to not piggyback on the name of a more prominent Ellen, I changed my pen name to E.E. Kennedy. I’ll bet I’m older than she is, though, and had the name longer!

Another weird thing happened many years ago when I was writing and producing commercials for a TV station. One day, the noon talk show guest was a dietician named Ellen Edwards. I hastened to ask her about her name. It was fake, her professional name. She was a kind of frankfurter Betty Crocker, demonstrating recipes using Oscar Myer hot dogs. Before she left, she kindly gave me some sheets of stationery with my name on it—unfortunately, it also sported little hot dogs!

RM: Early in my career, I was urged to try writing cozy mysteries, but it didn’t work. I enjoy your books, and they’re a pleasure to read. What makes them cozies?

EEK: I’m so glad you like them. I enjoy your medical thrillers, mainly because they’re so different from what I write and so gripping. I think cozies are primarily set in small towns. The characters live ordinary lives, not usually filled with drama. There’s a sense of familiarity; we feel comfortable with them. When a murder or crime does occur, it’s that much more shocking to the townspeople. It’s very important that the reader identify with the characters, which is why some people prefer other mystery genres. Cozies tend to be my favorites, though.

RM: How did you get into writing fiction, anyway?

EEK: Well, my usual answer to that is that I ran out of Agatha Christies and decided to write something I wanted to read! Seriously, though, I always loved fiction. I haunted the public library from the age of ten, getting acquainted with such authors as Patricia Wentworth, Robert Costain, Margaret Mitchell, Mary Stewart. I got into writing commercials right out of college and loved it. I liked to joke that I only had a 30 second or 60 second attention span!

After our children were grown, I decided to try to write something longer. I remembered being thrilled with Mary Stewart’s Madame, Will You Talk?, and started writing in first person, just as she did. Of course, there were lots of false starts. One story was about a college boy who stole his dead roommate’s manuscript and published it as his own, becoming the next J.D. Salinger. He couldn’t write anything else nearly as good, you see? Unfortunately, as I was halfway through the book, I saw a TV movie with almost the very same plot and gave up immediately.

I then decided to start a story set in my home town. The first sentence was dreadful, but I thought it was riveting: “Never have I felt such menace…” Now, where do you go from there? I toyed with all kinds of ideas for a crime, but couldn’t get off the ground. Eventually, after I took an online mystery-writing course with AOL (to show you how old I am!) I began my Miss Prentice story. I originally opened the story with Amelia walking through her neighborhood, reminiscing, but when an editor read it, he nearly gagged at the pathos. So I started the book with the second chapter, where Amelia has fallen over a body. In medias res, they call it: “in the middle of the action.” It was much better that way.

RM: And if you tell me you sold the first one you shopped, I’ll probably hate you…but how long did it take you to get a novel in print?

EEK: Quite a while. I did sell my first mystery, but took about a year and it was to a very, very tiny publisher. My husband joked that the publisher was “two ladies with a mimeo machine.” They didn’t do any promotion. My current publisher is quite small, too, but expert in editing, cover design and all the minutiae that goes with publishing. Essentially, I do the writing and they do the other stuff. Except for promotion. I still do the lion’s share of that.

RM: Tell us a bit about your newest release.

EEK: Incomplete Sentence is the fourth in the Miss Prentice series. In it, Amelia is still on maternity hiatus from her job teaching high school English. Her old family home is now a B&B and she’s part owner. In the midst of helping plan a wedding at the inn, Amelia learns that a man has been murdered in a local retirement home. She accompanies her husband as he researches the story for his newspaper and ends up befriending the victim’s very elderly father. Everybody soon learns that the victim was an attorney for the infamous Rasputin killer. The whole town is on edge. Is the killer still around? Who is he? There are quite a number of possible suspects: a flute player or a drummer with the symphony orchestra? The weird local florist? The busboy at the retirement home? Or the orderly? There’s another murder, much closer to home this time and Amelia’s faith turns out to be the only thing that gets her through the coming ordeal. Incomplete Sentence is my favorite Miss Prentice. I put lots of funny moments and surprises in it!

Ellen (or E. E., if you prefer) Kennedy is giving away a copy of Incomplete Sentence to a random commenter. Please include your email address so your comment can be entered into the contest, though.

Tweet with a single click: "Learn about author E. E. Kennedy, including why she uses initials, and be entered to win her latest novel." Tweet here to click.















34 comments:

  1. Ellen, I absolutely love your initials: EEK. Perfect for a murder mystery writer! And I also love reading who "dun its", especially when all my guesses are wrong!
    tumcsec(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. I do my best to make the mystery puzzle tricky, Gail. I love the challenge of a whodunit, too!

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  2. I enjoyed this interview. I have never read any of Ellen's books, but I am going to have to put them on my TBR list. They sound really good.
    susanmsj at msn dot com

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    1. Thank you, Susan. I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview. I'm pleased to say that the books are available in all kinds of forms, including in eBooks and iBooks, or trade paperback.

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  3. EEK I like that! LOL
    I enjoyed your interview! As you know I love your books!

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    1. You're too kind, cd8le14e. Can't say I recognize the number, but I'm so glad you like them.

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  4. Enjoyed the interview. kamundsen44ATyahooDOTcom.

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    1. So glad you enjoyed it, Kim. Good luck in the drawing! (fingers crossed!)

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  5. I've been asked to add Louise to the entrants, since she encountered a glitch in the entry process.
    lesowa2012@gmail.com

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  6. Great interview! And your book sounds intriguing! Thanks so much for sharing about it!

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    1. Marji, the book was based on an actual news story about someone called "the Unicorn killer." It interested and outraged me at the same time and gave me a brand new, ruthless villain to work with.

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  7. I enjoy cosy mysteries because they're clean and not terrifying. I know I'm in for a comfortable read. That being said, it's amusing that your initials are EEK! I look forward to reading "Incomplete Sentence." LeeCarver2ataoldotcom

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    1. I agree with you about cozies, Lee. I try to make my stories intriguing and exciting without the "flinch" factor, in the tradition of my hero, Agatha Christie.

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  8. I've followed Ellen on twitter for awhile now. It's that connection that led me to ask The Central Arkansas Library System to buy her 1st — they did! At one point it made it home with me, but I became overwhelmed by my blogging schedule and never cracked the cover. Irregardless of Murder remains on my goodreads tbr.

    Ellen, Can new readers jump in on book 4 or should we start at the beginning?

    @AmandaGeaney

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  9. I've followed Ellen on twitter for awhile now. It's that connection that led me to ask The Central Arkansas Library System to buy her 1st — they did! At one point it made it home with me, but I became overwhelmed by my blogging schedule and never cracked the cover. Irregardless of Murder remains on my goodreads tbr.

    Ellen, Can new readers jump in on book 4 or should we start at the beginning?

    @AmandaGeaney

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    1. Amanda, I try to make each book work as a stand-alone, trying not to give away too much of what happened in other books. So you can jump in anywhere! Thank you for requesting IRREGARDLESS at the library!

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  10. It's great reading about new-to-me authors. I love the EEK title. Nice to meet you, Ellen.
    debsbunch777(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Nice to meet you, Debbie. I hope you enjoy the visits with Miss Prentice and her friends.

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  11. Thanks for sharing the interview and for hosting the generous giveaway! alison (dot) louise (at) gmail (dot) com

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    1. It's a trap! We hope to get you addicted to Miss Prentice books! LOL

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  12. Enjoyed reading the interview. I love the titles of your books and look forward to reading the one I purchased recently.

    betsylu2@msn.com

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    1. Which one? I try to make each book work as a stand-alone, even though they are a series. Good luck in the drawing, Beth.

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  13. The interview was so fun to read. Who knew someone else had your name. Very funny. I would be honored to receive a book from you. Thank you. Jhdwayne@peoplepc.com

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  14. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Deana. It was a weird coincidence, indeed!

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  15. I loved the interview with Ellen and am going to have to go buy the book because it looks really good.Thank you for the chance to win your book that is really nice of you! Pkhambrick@hotmail.com

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  16. What a pleasure to meet another new to me author and series. I am adding you to my every towering TBR list. Thanks for the chance to win. doward1952@yahoo.com

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    1. I hope you enjoy the Miss Prentice books, Doward!

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  17. A delight to meet such a talented writer. Of another worthy title to add to my reading collection. Donna McKenzie

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  18. Thanks to everyone for your comments, and to Ellen for giving away a copy of her latest cozy mystery.

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  19. Looks like an awesome read! Thanks for doing this for your readers! Have a Blessed day!
    swanphillips4(AT)gmail(DOT)com

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  20. I thought the interview was quite adorable. Pen names can be a joy to create. I have a couple pen names...but this pen name in particular "Johanna"...I picked because I relate to the character in the Sweeney Todd Musical. AND Johanna is such a pretty name! It is fun to create pen names, even if it is just simple.
    johanna.rosenbloom@yandex.com is my e-mail. Your books look epic. I never really read a mystery before, except those Nancy books as a child. KEEP up the good work and write till your heart is content. Writing is such a blessed tool from the Lord. God bless.

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    1. My books are a cross between a romance and a mystery, Johanna. By the way, I love the name Johanna, too!

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  21. Loved the interview. The Miss Prentice books sound fascinating.

    betsylu2@msn.com

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