Author Elsie “L.C.” Hayden has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years and it’s been exciting to watch as her career has grown and her work has evolved. I never know what she’s going to do next!
PJ: How long have you been writing?
LC: Not too sure, but I think I was born with a pen in my mouth and a piece of paper in my hand. Then I grew up and became one of those who wrote page after page when the teacher assigned a composition. Teachers hated me because I made their grading harder. When I was in college, I had my first piece, a folklore article, published.
PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?
LC: Not quite sure I’m there yet. For every goal I achieve, there’s always twenty million more to accomplish. I’ve had some highlights, though: when I signed my first royalty contract; when the first fan told me how much she enjoyed my books; the first time I was nominated for a major award (Agatha Award for Best Novel,) and so many more memorable times.
PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?
LC: I never knew that being an author meant being a salesperson. Two completely different hats the author has to wear. Also, I probably had a glamorized picture. You know what I mean. You do a book signing and people actually show up.
PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?
LC: It’s finally beginning to. When I first started, there was no such thing as a monthly income. I was lucky to claim a few thousand a year. But now that my books are steadily selling, I have a nice monthly income that surpasses my early yearly incomes.
PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?
LC: I concentrate on writing a better novel. If my current novel receives twenty five-star reviews, I want the next to receive twenty-five five-star reviews because it’s that much better.
PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?
LC: A whopping ten years. That’s the one thing about writing: you should never give up.
PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?
LC: I feel that my early novels, while basically good, are not excellent. I wish I knew then what I now know. I would have made those novels so much better.
PJ: Writing new material, rewriting, submitting new work, waiting, promoting published work…the list is large. How do you manage to divvy up your time to give adequate attention to all needed areas?
LC: When I’m writing, I devote the majority of time to writing. After that first draft is finished, I set it aside and work on something else—usually promotional stuff. After a few days of that, I go back to writing or editing. This switching back and forth works well for me.
PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer?
LC: I received a call asking me to speak at a major cruise line during their days at sea. In return, I and guest of my choosing (which has always been my husband) would receive a free cruise and the ship would carry my books. At the end of the cruise, I would pick up a check. How can anyone refuse an offer like that? So far, I’ve done the Caribbean and the Mexican Riviera several times, Hawaii, the Mediterranean, and the Panama Canal two times, each time with a different cruise line. I love this part of promoting!
PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?
LC: I flew to Alaska to do a presentation. I knew someone would be at the airport to greet me. Soon as I stepped off, two ladies approached me. “You’re L. C.,” they said. I was instantly flattered. They had actually recognized me. I was coming up in the world. “Yes,” I answered. “How did you know?” Their eyes indicated my attire. I wore a parka, a wool hat, snow boots—after all, this is Alaska. Then I looked at the other passengers. They wore light to medium jackets, no head cover, and normal shoes. So much for being recognized. Sigh.
PJ: What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?
LC: While researching my novel set in Las Vegas, I sat back stage with the impersonators of Legends in Concert. “Elvis Presley” looked at his watch and told me it was almost time for the show. Since they had gotten me front row tickets, I asked them for directions back to the stage. I was told to go down the corridor, turn right at the second turn, then go left, up a flight of stairs and make an immediate right. Go through the door at the right. Then . . . He hadn’t even finished and I was already confused.
I tried to follow the directions but got desperately lost. I opened the door I believe “Elvis” said I should. A tiny village expending several yards greeted me. It immediately captured my attention. The lights twinkled, the car wheels rolled. I could almost hear the children’s laughter. From behind me, I heard some noise. I turned and the audience began to clap. I had walked right into the stage.
Someone thought it was cute as they put the spot light on me.
I curtsied and ran down the stairs.
So you see, folks, I have been an opening act to a Las Vegas show.
PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?
LC: No matter which mystery is being reviewed or by whom, the reviewer seems to make the same comment: “filled with lots of action and a surprise ending that you never expected.” Therefore, I’d say that what sets my books apart is that each work promises an edge of the seat read with a surprise ending.
PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?
LC: Never, ever give up. Have faith in your writing and in you. Write the best book possible, get it professionally edited, and be proud of your work.
PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work?
LC: Speaking. If I do a normal signing, I sell X-number of books. But if I speak, I sell an X-number-plus books. That’s one reason I love doing the cruises. I do presentations and get to sell a lot of books.
PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you?
LC: Asking people to buy my books. I hate asking people to spend their money. Consequently, I leave it up to my readers to choose if they want to buy them or not—but I hope they do.
PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?
LC: Unfortunately, I live in El Paso, TX, and we only have two Barnes and Nobles and no independent bookstores. I wish we were a more literate city. However, although I have a lot of non-local mystery bookstores that I absolutely love, I especially like Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, PA. They hold a yearly Book Festival that is one of the very best.
Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:
Mysteries: from latest release to earliest release:
Harry Bronson Mysteries: When the Past Haunts You (2013 LCC Watson Award Nominee)
When Death Intervenes
Why Casey Had to Die (Agatha Award Finalist)
What Others Know (2009 LCC Best Novel Finalist)
(please check for my website for earlier titles: www.lchayden.com
Aimee Brent Mysteries: Ill Conceived
Vengeance in My Heart (coming soon)
Children’s Picture Book: What Am I? What Am I?
Inspirational: Nonfiction: Angels Around Us
When Angels Touch You
Fiction: Bell Shaped Flowers
Writer’s Manual: Help! I Want to Write
Breaking and Entering: The Road to Success (edited)
Paranormal: The Drums of Geruld Hurd
Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:
Did you ever wish you were given a second chance to correct past mistakes? This happens to Harry Bronson in When the Past Haunts You. His estranged sister calls him, begging for help. What follows is a hair-raising journey full of sharp turns and rocky terrain. The refrain Don’t leave me weaves through the book and echoes our deepest longings for connection, for family, and for correcting past mistakes. Goodreads hailed When the Past Haunts You as one of 2012 best reads. Pick up a copy and find out what happens When the Past Haunts You.
Where can we buy it?
If you’re looking for the e-book version, go to www.tinyurl.com/LCHayden If you want the traditional book you can buy it from Amazon or from me. Or you can check with your favorite book store and see if they’ll order it for you.
PJ: What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work?
LC: As an author, I get asked a lot of questions, but the one I get asked the most is “What exactly does L. C. stand for?”
The answer goes back to way before I started writing my novels. Before writing mysteries, I freelanced for several magazines. I looked at the various ones and decided I’d like to write for the treasure magazines. I researched, wrote the article, and since this happened before the invention of computers, I typed the piece. I used my real name as my byline: by Elsie Hayden.
My husband, Rich, took the pictures, printed them (told you it was before computers), and I sent the package in. It came back. “Thanks, but we’ve just bought a similar piece.”
I was devastated but did not give up. I researched another buried treasure and eagerly sent it out. It, too, came back. “Thanks, but we’ve just assigned this to someone else.”
Hmm…I wasn’t liking this trend, but I must be from Missouri. I wouldn’t give up. I sent a third, a fourth, a fifth . . . They all came back.
By this time, I felt like a high school dropout. I picked up a copy of the magazine and slammed it down. Talking to myself, I said aloud, “This is exactly what they’re looking for. Why are they not publishing me?”
Rich picked up the magazine and pointed to the title page. “Look at the articles. They’re written by John, by Steve, by Mike. There’s no Marys, no Susies, no Elsies.”
Being a smart cookie, the light dawned on me. I took out the first rejected manuscript and retyped the first page. The only change I made was the byline. I changed it from by Elsie Hayden to by L. C. Hayden.
The article was immediately accepted. So were a second, and a third. . . I got used to using the initials and when it came time to write my mysteries and other novels, it felt natural to continue to use L. C. instead of Elsie.
And thus, L. C. Hayden, the author, was born (or was I created?)