Ellie DeFarr is the author of two books in the Hera Hunter Mystery series: Haunting Memories from a Troubled Past and Melancholy Manor, which was just released September 6th. She is currently at work on her third novel, which you can read more about in this exclusive interview. Please visit her website at elliedefarr.com.
Your author bio states you have a Master’s in a scientific field. Tell me more about how you started writing.
From the time I learned to read, there has always been a book waiting for me on the bedside table. Like so many avid readers, I dreamed of writing a book that would bring enjoyment to others, as so many books have done for me. That dream began to unfold with the embrace of the internet.
Instead of calling long-distance friends, I emailed them. Soon, I started each letter with a short story, usually an anecdote about some wild animal that had crossed my path. Eventually a good friend encouraged me to write a book, repeatedly. I tended to ignore his advice. Occasionally I sat down to write an outline of a tale that piqued my imagination, but I soon bored with the outline and abandoned it.
Still, the encouragement continued. Then one day I began typing on my computer without any previous thought for the story that was instantly unfolding. I realized then that this unfettered approach was more natural and rewarding for me. From that moment on I never stopped writing. And I never wrote another outline.
Describe your writing routine. What is a typical day in your life?
I write in the afternoon, when most of the day’s demands are met and my home and neighborhood are at their quietest. I am content when I write. But putting together a story does not come easy for me. I have to work at it. I turn on soothing music, so low that it cannot be heard outside the room. And I like a cup of coffee, sometimes a glass of wine, at my fingertips. I suppose these familiar comforts calm me and ready my mind to enter the story.
I write six days a week, allowing a day off for my mind to rest and engender new story ideas. Each day I write a scene, which will end up as six to eight single-spaced pages in the final book. Once the scene is written, I start at the beginning and carefully edit it. Each sentence must consist of the fewest words necessary to express its idea. And all words must be the most commonly used. I check for sufficient detail throughout the scene to plant pictures in the mind of the reader. I’m not talking here about page after page of description, but a couple sentences or a short paragraph to make the reader see what my character is seeing, and in that way make the reader feel they’re in the midst of the action.
I am finished for the day when the scene is clear, fast paced, and moves forward smoothly, while adding to the story. If there’s still time left in the afternoon, I grab a good book and let someone else entertain me, even if it’s for just fifteen minutes.
Did you intend the Hera Hunter character to be a continuing story, like the Nancy Drew mysteries you used to read as a child?
I love a good whodunit. I grew up reading them. And a mystery series featuring the same interesting characters is even better. Also, book series seem to be popular with readers. So yes, from the very start I wanted to write a continuing story.
However, I intend that each book can be read as a standalone story. The murder mystery is unique in each book. But each book will also continue one or two subplots that were seeded in the previous book. I think that the experience will be richer if the series is read in proper sequence, since it will provide a fuller background for each story. But reading the books in order isn’t necessary.
The inclusion of Lucky is so unusual. Not many authors give a dog a supporting role in a novel. Is there a real dog that you draw inspiration from? How did you choose his character?
I can’t imagine life without a dog. They need attention and affection, so I’ve always spent considerable time with my pets. It seemed only natural that my leading character, Hera Hunter, should have a pet and pamper it, too. I’ve witnessed with my own dogs most of the situations that involve Lucky. So, I’m drawing inspiration from all of my past and present pets. Also, dogs are so entertaining that they’re a useful means for adding humor to a tale.
My characters tend to come from the fringes of society. They are flawed. Lucky should be, too. He has to be small, so as not to be physically cumbersome to Hera, since he’s always with her. She can’t carry an eighty-pound dog while she climbs to a second-story balcony. And since he prefers to hide when danger is at hand, there must be plenty of places in his surroundings for him to squeeze into, not so easy for a larger dog.
But although he is timid, he is not a coward. In the first book, Hera is strangled from behind by a hired assassin who’s dragging her backward, denying her any purchase to fight back. Lucky attacks the man’s ankles, distracting him and giving Hera just enough opening to change the outcome of the assault.
This little dog will always come through for Hera whenever she needs him to.
What is next for Hera & Co? I can’t wait to read the next installment!
The third book of the series should be available around August of next year. In it a young runaway named Paperback Rose falls to her death. The police deem it a suicide. But Calamity Jane, another street child, claims she saw someone with Rose when she fell. Hera isn’t sure she should believe Jane, since Jane’s a known thief, pickpocket, liar, and peeping Tom. But when Rose’s mother hires Hera to find out what happened to her daughter, it falls to Hera to discover what evil is brewing in her town that would give reason for throwing a child off the top of a three-story building.