Interview with Author Glen Ebisch by Melissa Brooks
Glen Ebisch is a retired philosophy professor. He has written many mysteries over the years, including the Marcie and Amanda Mysteries series and the new Pastor Clarissa Abbot Mysteries series. I interviewed him to find out more about is writing, his inspiration for his characters and what he’s working on now.
1. Have you always been interested in writing?
No, I only got interested in writing fiction in my late twenties. By profession I teach philosophy, and at that time, I became involved in a project to teach philosophical concepts to children through the use of stories. As I began writing fiction, I found that I very much liked the freedom that comes with writing whatever you are able to imagine. Because I started by writing for young people, my first mysteries were for young adults.
2. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I’ve always enjoyed reading them. I also found that the mystery has a structure that almost forces the writer to focus on plot and strong characters, which are the bedrock features of a good story. Writing a mystery generally prevents you from becoming rambling and self-absorbed. These are the two dangers every writer must avoid.
3. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?
Sometimes it begins with an idea for a plot or a particular setting. But most often I begin with the vision of a really strong character, and then I decide what sort of a situation will bring out the most striking features of that character. I think an appealing and interesting protagonist is more important than anything else to a story. If you don’t have that, the reader won’t care what happens, no matter how exciting the plot.
4. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Not really. However, some stories begin more slowly than others. When I am having difficulty getting started, I will often just relax and write down on a sheet of paper every idea that comes to me. This sort of personal brainstorming often helps me find the way to proceed.
5. There is a wide array of plot elements in your books. Where do you get inspiration for your various plots?
Sometimes the plot comes from the main character. Once I have a clear view of the protagonist, I start to see the situation I want to put her into. Other times, I get an idea from something I’ve seen or read. Current events often make their way into my stories, as do situations from my own past.
6. What was your inspiration for Marcie and Amanda’s characters?
I knew that I wanted to write about paranormal events in New England but, still have them be mysteries at heart. In other words, they were stories about human wrongdoing, but with an unresolved, paranormal element. To do this, I thought it would be a good idea to have the main characters be writers on a magazine that specializes in stories about New England with a particular focus on a column that Marcie writes entitled, Weird Happenings. The characters of the two young women developed out of this. Marcie is the more adventurous, investigative reporter, while Amanda is the editor, who sometimes goes out in the field but remains more cautious at heart. I think they represent the two extremes within each of us: the desire for adventure and the wish for security.
7. What was your inspiration for Clarissa Abbot from Seaside Secrets, and why did you make her a pastor?
I often go to the New Jersey shore, and once while there, I spotted the welcome board for a church with the name of a woman pastor. I never went into the church or met the minister, but the idea remained in the back of my mind for several years that a female minister at a church on the Jersey shore who solves crimes might be a good concept for a mystery series. When I finally sat down to work on it, I decided to have her be single and in her late twenties, so romantic relationships could be part of her story. I thought this would humanize her and also make for some interesting plot developments. I also found the whole idea of what it means to be a woman minister in what is still in so many ways a man’s world to be an interesting backdrop for mystery stories. A church congregation and a small town with tourists also provide a wealth of murderous possibilities that can challenge her investigative abilities.
8. Are you working on anything right now?
I am working on the next in the Clarissa Abbot series. Several people who have read the first book found her an appealing character and have expressed a strong interest in hearing more of her adventures. All I can say right now is that the next book will find her former fiancé involved in a crime and the possibility of a violent ghost inhabiting an old inn.