Elizabeth Heiter Interview: “Inspiration can come from anywhere”

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Continuing with my quest to find out more about exciting new genres I spoke to Elizabeth Heiter, romantic suspense writer, to learn more about this style of writing and what draws her readers to it.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards writing suspense fiction?

Since I was very young, I’ve always loved suspense. As a kid, I plowed through Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy mysteries. Younger than I probably should have been watching him, I was intrigued by villains like Darth Vader. What I’ve always appreciated about suspense is the puzzle aspect: as a reader, I enjoyed trying to unravel the mystery before the big reveal. As a writer, I like creating that puzzle, including all of the clues and red herrings. The other part of suspense that appeals to me is that (in many mysteries), at the end of the book, you can get the kind of closure real life often doesn’t offer. The protagonist prevails, the mystery is solved, and the villain pays for his crime. I like the vicarious closure in that.

As a suspense writer, I often identify myself within the psychological suspense sub-genre, because I’m equally drawn to characters. Why do people make the choices they make? What causes two people with the same background to take vastly different paths (e.g., one a serial killer and the other a profiler, as in my debut book). So, for me, character is equally as important as plot.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

My degree is in English Literature, and I knew since I was a kid that I wanted to be an author, so many of my educational and professional decisions were based on that goal. In high school, I co-wrote my first finished manuscript (a YA action-adventure) with my critique partner. After college, I got involved in writing organizations to keep honing my craft and learning about the industry. And because I knew I wanted to write suspense and realism is important to me, I also began seeking out research opportunities (e.g. visiting places like the FBI Academy at Quantico and the CIA at Langley). Early on, I put together a career plan to help guide me in making decisions. In 2012, I sold my first five books, which were in two genres – both psychological suspense and romantic suspense; that was also the beginning of my journey as a multi-genre author.

Talk me through romantic suspense as a genre and how you would define this style of fiction?

In romantic suspense, the suspense plot and the romance plot (which involves two people overcoming personal and plot conflicts in order to fall in love) are so intertwined it would be difficult to pull them apart. Quite a bit of suspense fiction contains a romance; the difference in romantic suspense is both the amount and the role romance plays in the plot. One of the things I love about romantic suspense is that it really gives me a chance to dig into my characters’ flaws and force them to grow in order to earn their “happily ever after” at the end of the book. For a writer like me, who’s fascinated by why people make the choices they do, romantic suspense really gives me room to delve deep into character.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

Inspiration can come from anywhere. As a suspense writer, I definitely get ideas from real incidents. I’ll see something in the news (a headline or some small detail about an action someone took) and I’ll wonder, “what if this happened instead”? Whenever I plot my books, I’m constantly asking myself “what if” and “how can I make this worse”? In my opinion, character and plot are equally important, and I think the strongest books have the “right” combination of character and plot (meaning that the plot is in some way the worst possible thing for this particular character to face). So, if I’m ever having trouble developing a story, I dig into character and motivation. And I never underestimate the power of a little caffeine and chocolate when I’m feeling writer’s block!

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

I’m a huge fan of Shakespeare. I love that so many of his plays contain elements of multiple genres: suspense, romance, drama etc. Back in high school, with the same critique partner I co-wrote my first finished manuscript, I made a complicated project involving a new play containing half a dozen Shakespearean endings. So, I think my dream collaboration would be with Shakespeare! (Although I suspect he might be a bit of a prima donna!)

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

Currently, I’m working on a new romantic suspense involving a woman searching for her long-lost sister in the wilds of Alaska. If she has any shot at succeeding, she needs the help of local a local ex-Marine and his Combat Tracker Dog, but that ex-Marine is fighting his own demons in the form of a new disability and PTSD. For years, I’ve wanted to set a book in Alaska, so this book has been a lot of fun to write. It’s called K-9 Defense and it releases in Spring 2019.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

My friend and fellow suspense writer Jennifer Hillier recently released a book called Jar of Hearts that I’ve been waiting for since she first told me what she was working on over a year ago! I’ve got the book sitting on my desk as a reward as soon as I meet my own deadline.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

If readers want to know any more about me or my books, they can visit my website at www.elizabethheiter.com.

Thanks ever so much for taking the time to answer my questions, it has been fascinating hearing more about your work.

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Night Driver Review: An Engaging Thriller the Likes of Which You Won’t Have Seen Before

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If you’re looking for something a little bit different to your average thriller, but with the grit and human drama that you’re used to, then look no further than Marcelle Perk’s latest novel. Initially established as a sort of alternative crime novel, the narrative quickly escalates as the reader becomes embroiled in a tense mystery that is both unsettling and empathetic at the same time.

Heavily pregnant Frannie is an English woman who now lives in Germany. Hoping to gain some control over her confusing life, she learns to drive; however she is so nervous that she chooses to only drive at night. During one of her nocturnal drives, she becomes entangled in a search for a missing person, and is then thrown into the path of a serial killing truck driver.

Putting a woman, and better yet a heavily pregnant one, at the centre of the mystery gives this a great dynamic, and as unlikely sleuth Frannie gets deeper into this intriguing mystery we learn more both about her and the danger she is facing. Author Marcelle Perks creates has a true imagination and an eye for detail that lends itself to this great, new take on the traditional late night thriller.

Written in the third person, the novel gives Frannie a unique agency as she explores a truly horrendous underground world of pimps, prostitutes, organ trafficking drug addicts and sadistic serial killers. It is really different to read about a heavily pregnant woman snorting cocaine and generally raising hell, but this is what you get with Night Driver.

At the end of the day, this is an unusual take on a thriller/ mystery novel, but it’s definitely one worth checking out. Being a book blogger who specialises in crime fiction, mystery and thrillers, I rarely read anything truly unique, but with this novel I was genuinely impressed.

Can A Rapper Really Influence Great Literature?

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Somebody once told me ‘You’ve got to write about what you know’, and that really stuck with me. You can’t write about things you don’t understand, and as such I constantly work to educate myself and learn more so that I can write about exciting new things.

So, as Stormzy, the famed London rapper, announces that he is launching an offshoot of Penguin Random House, under the name #Merky, to support aspiring writers, what does this mean for the industry?

After all, what does Stormzy know about writing, and will he be able to spot the good from the guff? Sure, I know that he won’t be doing most of the work- which is about as likely as the Kardashians making their own perfumes or slaving away in the factory that makes their lipkits- but it still begs the question, what does a writer of rap music know about literature, and how will he be able to influence the up-and-coming generation of young writers?

It’s my theory that what Stormzy needs to do now is make sure he’s taking on the right writers. People who are truly passionate about their craft- young writers who have grafted, have their names out there and are working hard to succeed. Those who think writing is an easy way to make a name for themselves, and send in a load of poetic cobblers or some true-life drama will only stop writing as soon as their name is out there and try to live off the fame it has bought them. The industry doesn’t need more of those; what it needs is real triers who are working hard to get a foothold in this competitive market.

Offering paid scholarships to kids in schools is a great idea, but I disagree with the rapper’s assertion that it is hard for writers to ‘get their name out there’. With the internet, blogs, free websites and social media, getting your name out there is the easy part- it’s getting people to pay you for your work that’s tough. As a copywriter I know that pretty much every journalist, writer and novelist out there had to go through months, if not years worth of unpaid posts, internships and writing ‘for exposure’ before they managed to get a paid role. What the industry needs is fundamental change; a shift in thinking so that writing is not viewed as something everyone can do, but as a real skill, and something worth paying for.

Overall, I guess really only time will tell whether Stormzy’s foray into publishing is just another publicity stunt or a real chance for some great new voices to be heard.

The Top Five Canadian Authors to Celebrate on Canada Day

Margaret Atwood

Happy Canada Day!! To celebrate, I decided to compile a list of my five favourite Canadian authors from across the genres that showcase the best that this unique country has to offer. So check it out and see if you can find something new to read on this exciting national holiday, and maybe keep going with for a bit longer if you’re so inclined. Happy Reading!

5. Yann Martel: Celebrated author of The Life of Pi, Martel offers readers a truly unique perspective on the absurdity of life. Another of his books that is well worth a read is Beatrice and Virgil, an allegory for the holocaust told through a novelist’s exploration of taxidermied animals.

4. Joy Kogawa: Japanese-Canadian Poet and Novelist Joy Kogawa writes some truly phenomenal poems which are really delve deep into human trauma and the most harrowing of human experiences possible. I have personally never read her novels, however I am told that her work is inspirational, and as such she is absolutely worth looking into.

canada writers3. Peter Robinson: Odd to think that the author of the Yorkshire based DCI Banks as Canadian, but Robinson was born in Leeds and moved to Toronto, presumably because it’s better than Leeds (although, let’s be fair here, there are lots of places better than Leeds). His novels are gripping and will keep you entertained for ages, because there are a lot of them, so what’s not to like?!

2. Louise Penny: Canadian thriller writer Penny creates harrowing and tantalising novels, which will stay with you forever. Set in Quebec, her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has been translated into a number of different languages and has become a true bastion of Canadian fiction, and as such any thriller reader should defiantly check her out, especially as it is Canada Day today!

1. Margret Atwood: Renowned for her novel The Handmaid’s Tale, which has recently been turned into a brilliant TV series, Atwood has also written a range of novels across a variety of genres, and her work really resonates, particularly in today’s perilous world. Her intuitive explorations of human nature are incredibly empathetic and as such everyone will find a character in Atwood’s work that they can relate to.