Interview with Author Elissa Grodin by Melissa Brooks
Elissa Grodin is a children’s author and has also written for the Times Literary Supplement. She is the author of the Edwina Goodman mysteries for Cozy Cat Press. I interviewed her to find out more about her writing, what inspires her, and what she is currently working on.
1. Were you always interested in writing?
I began writing as a teenager because I found emotional comfort and some degree of peace in reading my favorite writers -- most notably, JD Salinger, so I followed suit by trying to become a writer. Writing is largely about making sense of the chaos of one's inner life, and imposing some kind of order on it. My mother had a vast library of books about all sorts of things when I was growing up, so writing seemed a natural and familiar thing to do. She recited poetry, and had a love of words, including telling long jokes with elaborate puns as the punchlines. My father was also a wonderful story-teller.
2. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I started out writing children's books, but had long wanted to write mysteries, and eventually got around to it. Much of the appeal of writing for me is the actual enjoyment of crafting sentences, but general novel writing seemed too daunting, because it requires substantive sub-text and meaning, whereas I prefer straight-up, character-driven story-telling. Some of my favorite writers, including Wilkie Collins and Agatha Christie, are exemplars of the kind of writing I like. Thumping good reads.
3. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?
My writing process is frustratingly slow. Not much I can do about that. Both my mysteries started when I came up with interesting methods for murdering someone. That's the starting point. Next, I figure out who I want to murder. After that, I begin to fill in all the characters, and the twists and turns in the relationships among them. Once I have my characters, then I can figure out a motive for the murder. It's a gradual evolution. The setting is always the same -- a college town in New England where my protagonist teaches physics. When you have a setting, it's easier to think of characters who can people it. I love college towns, and have lived in several, and it has been useful mining my own memories of those places and people for plots and characters and situations. Many of my characters are based on people I have known.
4. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
I wouldn't say I get writer's block; I would say I get lazy. Writing is very difficult. On the days I don't feel like working, I have to force myself to the desk. Once I start, I get into the swing pretty quickly.
5. How did the character of Edwina Goodman develop as you wrote her?
Edwina hasn't had a chance to develop too much over the course of two stories, but one big change from book one to book two is that she has fallen in love with Detective Will Tenney.
6. How did writing the second Edwina Goodman book compare to writing the first one?
Bearing in mind that ignorance is bliss, with the first book I wasn't particularly aware of rookie writing mistakes I may have blundered into. With the second book, I was more mindful of the real difficulty of writing characters who readers will care about, and with trying to come up with a story that will compel the reader to turn the page.
7. Where do you get inspiration for your Edwina Goodman mysteries?
Since Edwina is a theoretical physicist, I do a fair amount of reading up on what's going on in her world. Reading about what's current in physics provides ample inspiration on any given day. I find the subject endlessly fascinating. At the moment, I am reading Seven Brief Lessons on Physics by Carlo Rovelli.
8. Are you working on anything right now? Anything more planned for Edwina Goodman?
I'm working on the final draft of the third Edwina mystery at present.