Saturday, March 1, 2008

INTERVIEW WITH LIBBY FISCHER HELLMANN


I first met Libby at the Love is Murder convention in Chicago. Libby has two mystery series and many short stories to her credit, and a brand new book, Easy Innocence, coming out in April. She is also a past president of Sisters in Crime.

How have your other careers in television news and video production influenced your fiction writing? Do you "see" scenes the way other writers "hear" voices in their minds?

I do. In fact, I have to see the “film” in my head -- establishing shots, CUs, pans, and moves -- or I can’t write it. The other element that’s helped enormously -- and I know it came from my film background -- is pacing. I think I have a good notion of when the action needs to be ramped up… calmed down… and when to cut to other scenes. I was an assistant film editor for a couple of years, and that had its effect.

Your series protagonist, Ellie Foreman, appears to have some similarities with you in terms of background and choice of profession. But where did your cynical female cop, Georgia Davis, come from?

Beats me. I’m still not sure. Probably the dark side of my personality. Actually, Georgia was a supporting character in my second and third “practice” novels (I wrote 3 unpublished novels before the first Ellie book), so she actually pre-dates Ellie. I always knew I was going to come back to her eventually. It’s not that she’s cynical as much as she’s been raised closer to the bone… ie on the street.. In addition she has some emotional baggage which weighs heavily.

Tell us about Easy Innocence, the book that comes out in April 2008. Is this a departure for you? How?

Yes, it’s a departure in several ways. First, it’s a PI novel, not amateur sleuth. Amateur sleuth novels get tricky after a while -- how many dead bodies can Ellie come across as a video producer? Why would she even get involved? Having a PI is an excellent solution to both issues. Second, EASY INNOCENCE is a much darker book than I’ve previously written. Still, I hope readers will still find the same level of suspense.. maybe even more. Finally, it’s a more personal book. The idea came to me as my daughter was passing through high school. I was recently separated and feeling unequal to the task of parenting a teenager. EASY INNOCENCE is in some ways every mother’s nightmare.

Will Ellie Foreman come back in another book?

Yes. I’m writing an Ellie-Georgia book right now. Both characters, both voices. It’s proving to be a little tricky.

Which novel or short story you have written is your personal favorite, and why?

Of my novels, I like AN IMAGE OF DEATH the best. At least until now. IMAGE, which incidentally is the novel that introduces Georgia (she and Ellie are working the case at the same time) says things I didn’t know I wanted to say, primarily about women and the choices they are forced to make in order to survive. As for short stories, two recent ones, HIGH YELLOW which was in A HELL OF A WOMAN, and YOUR SWEET MAN, which was in CHICAGO BLUES were also departures for me, and I like the way they both turned out.

You've lived in other cities besides Chicago. Do have plans to set any future books in say, Philadelphia, or would you "rather be dead" than do that?

Ah… you’ve hit a sore spot with Philadelphia. I don’t want to offend any Philly readers -- and I DID set a chapter or two of AN IMAGE OF DEATH there -- but I don’t see myself setting any novels there. I went to college in Philadelphia and thought the streets were too narrow and the food too fattening. I liked the Second Fret, though. I set HIGH YELLOW in my home town of Washington, DC, which was fun. But again, I don’t see myself setting entire novels there. I belong to Chicago and it belongs to me.

How do you juggle your other career(s) with your writing and touring schedule and being mom to a teenager --do you cheat on sleep?

It’s a lot easier now. My son is in law school in California, and my daughter in college. So I have more time than before. Unfortunately, it hasn’t made me any more productive. (I wonder why..) In fact, I think I was more disciplined when I had less time. I find myself playing a lot of Spider Solitaire. Wonder what that means???

Who is the one writer, alive or dead, you would most like to meet?

Shakespeare. I’d love to pick his brain. I’d love to pick his brain.

New crime fiction authors are encouraged to join writers' organizations whenever possible. Which organization has been most rewarding for you personally?

No question, Sisters in Crime… hands down.

You've been interviewed many times before. Is there a question no one has ever asked that you're just dying to answer?

What would you do if you couldn’t write fiction?

For more on Libby, visit her website here.

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