An interview with E.E. Smith

E.E. Smith.picture-1 (1)  E. E. Smith lives close to her native San Francisco where, after many years as a playwright, she now writes books and short stories instead of plays.  One story was published in Writers’ Forum:  Britain’s Best Magazine for Writers, in 2006. The play, WARTIME RECIPES, first performed in Oklahoma City in 1998, was reprised there in 2010. Her first novel, BOARDINGHOUSE STEW, was published in 2009, and the New Edition published in 2011. The second novel, TIMES LIKE THESE, was also published in 2011, and IN LOVE AND WAR, a memoir, was published in 2012.  She is now writing a murder mystery series, the first to be published late in 2013.

PJ: How long have you been writing?  

ES: All my life! But I wrote my first play in 1984, then the first novel twenty years later.

PJ: At what point did you reach a place where you felt successful as a writer?  

ES: After the first play was produced in 1986.  More so with each production and/or publication.

PJ: Is the writing life what you expected when you started out? If not, how is it different?  

ES: It’s a lot more complicated than I thought it would be.  I always say that writing is the easy part; getting produced or published is much harder.

PJ: The general public seems to think authors are relatively wealthy. Without prying too much, has your writing income lived up to expectations?  

ES: I’m not sure what my “expectations” were. Some authors certainly are relatively wealthy, but they are the better known, best-selling types.  I’m not there yet!

PJ: Early on, so much focus is given to getting published. Now that you’re published, how has your focus changed?  

ES: Not that much, really.  I still want people to read what I write, and the only way for that to happen is to get the books published.

PJ: How long did it take you to get published the first time?  

ES: I’ve been lucky. The first play was published a year or two after it was produced.  The first novel took longer because the publisher got into financial difficulty, delaying publication for more than two years.  That early experience was a disaster, but I learned a lot from it, and it led me to my present publisher.

PJ: Would you do anything differently if you had it to do over again?  

ES: Hindsight being 20/20, of course I would do some things differently. But each mistake has been a learning experience.

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?  

ES: It’s not easy!  I am a “hands-on” author, which means, for example, that I am actively involved in every aspect of publication, long past the basic writing. At the moment I am working with the graphic designer (for the cover), the editor for corrections and changes, the publisher for his input and approval, and promotion for the book when it comes out.

PJ: What is the single most exciting thing that’s happened to you as a writer? 

ES: Hearing the words that I had written (as a playwright) spoken for the first time by actors on a stage. I was absolutely thrilled.

PJ: What is the single most disappointing thing that happened to you as a writer?  

ES: Not becoming a best-selling author (but I can still hope.)

PJ: It could still happen! What’s the most memorable thing (good or bad) that’s happened to you while promoting your work?  

ES: I hate book signings, where you sit at a table and wait for someone to come and ask you to sign a book that they have bought.  There is one good thing about e-books.  No book signings!

PJ: With more books being released each month now than ever before, what do you believe sets your work apart from the others?  

ES: The time frame, primarily.  The novels are set in the World War II era, the new mystery series is set in the post-WW II recovery era.

PJ: What would you like to share with writers who haven’t reached the point of publication yet?  

ES: If you are severely discouraged or depressed by rejection slips, you may be in the wrong line of work. Don’t take it personally — the market is over-saturated.

PJ: What do you feel is your most effective tool for promoting your published work? 

ES: I would like to think that it’s myself, but I would have to be honest and say that it is finding the best person or PR firm to do it for me.

PJ: What area of book promotion is the most challenging to you? 

ES: See above answer:  book signings!

PJ: Do you have a local independent bookseller you’d like to mention?  

ES: I wish I did. They have all gone out of business as a result of competition from discount and internet sales. (And the rise of e-books.)

Give us a list of your published titles in chronological or series order:  

Boardinghouse Stew, (Original Edition),

Boardinghouse Stew, (New Edition),  Death-by-Misadventure-v9b

Times Like These,

In Love and War,

(and the new series, beginning this year):

Death by Misadventure,

Bad Blood,

Russian Roulette,

Prescription for Death

Share with us an elevator pitch (no more than 30 seconds) of your latest title:

The new murder mystery series features an intrepid young private detective, or “girl gumshoe,” who starts her own detective agency in 1946, called “Discreet Inquiries.” Each book takes her from her office in Sacramento, California, to different locales in Britain, where she works with Scotland Yard as well as the infamous spy agency, MI5, and rubs elbows with the Russian KGB and the Irish Mafia along the way.  There are elements of humor, romance, surprise, and heartbreak throughout.

Where can we buy it?

All the books are now (or soon will be) available from the publisher, Phoenix International, Inc., Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. Also my own website, eesmithwriter.com.

What last thing would you like to share with us that nobody knows about you and your work? 

I have had a long and varied career as an architectural designer of building and aircraft interiors, and a litigation paralegal before becoming a playwright, and eventually a novelist. I used to say that I re-invented myself every 10 years!

I am really excited about this series and hope you will all spread the word about Death by Misadventure!

The Confession by Charles Todd

The Confession

(An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery)

Charles Todd

William Morrow, 2012, 352 Pages

ISBN No. 978-0062015662

Reviewed by Patricia E. Reid

A man walks into Rutledge’s office at Scotland Yard and identifies himself as Wyatt Russell.  From Russell’s appearance, it is obvious that the man is very ill.  Russell admits to Rutledge that he is suffering from cancer and does not have long to live.  His purpose for visiting Scotland Yard is to confess that he killed a man in 1915 and was never apprehended.  Russell states that confessing is the only way to clear his conscience.  He names his victim as his cousin, Justin Fowler.

Rutledge is curious but confused.  Although Russell admits to the murder, he is not willing to offer many details and eventually states that his confusion is due to the morphine that he is taking.  Without enough evidence to open a murder inquiry Rutledge still cannot just let the matter go.  His curiosity will not allow it.  When a body is found floating in the Thames with a bullet in the back of the head, it turns out that the body is that of Rutledge’s confessor to murder of a few weeks ago. There is a gold locket around the man’s neck containing a picture of a young woman.

Rutledge takes the locket and travels to Essex and the village of Furnham, the home of Wyatt Russell.  Although the community of

Charles and Caroline Todd write the Inspector Rutledge series

Furnham does not welcome strangers, Rutledge is able to speak to the minister who informs Rutledge that the picture of the dead man is not that of Wyatt Russell.

It turns out the dead man who passed himself off, as Wyatt Russell is actual Ben Willet, the son of a fisherman, who grew up in the town of Furnham.  Wyatt Russell resided at River’s Edge, an estate near the town.  Wyatt’s mother took in a cousin Justin Fowler to raise after Fowler’s parents died. Cynthia Farraday also came to live at River’s Edge after the death of her parents.  Wyatt’s mother disappeared from River’s Edge and her body was never found. Servants attested to the fact that the gold locket found around the neck of Ben Willet was actually owned by Mrs. Russell and there was a picture inside of Mr. and Mrs. Russell.  Mrs. Russell was known to wear the locket daily.

Rutledge is left with a puzzle of so many pieces it seems impossible to put together but he is determined.  It seems that there are many mysteries surrounding River’s Edge to say nothing of the town of Furnham. The residents have good reason to keep strangers away.  Rutledge has at least three deaths to puzzle out.  Mrs. Russell who disappeared and is believed dead in 1914, Justin Fowler’s reported death in 1915 and now Ben Willet, who confessed to the killing of Justin Fowler when passing himself off as Wyatt Russell.

The story is intriguing and the outcome is not one that I expected.  Hamish McLeod, the ghost that rides shotgun with Rutledge, is present in The Confession but his presence is not as predominant as it has been in past Rutledge novels.  I found this novel to be a great addition to the Ian Rutledge series but can be read as a stand-alone.