Interview with Author Amy Beth Arkawy by Melissa Brooks
Amy Beth Arkawy is the author of the Eliza Gordon Mystery series. She has also written several other stories, plays, and articles. She has also been a radio DJ and talk show host. She is currently a creativity coach and writing teacher. I interviewed her to find out more about her inspiration, her writing, and what she is working on now.
1. Have you always been interested in writing?
I’ve always loved stories. And telling them came naturally. I wrote my first “book” at six from a little kit, which supplied the pictures, my mom gave me. It actually was a little mystery involving puppets and a missing typewriter.
2. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I had written a slew of plays and a literary novel which was one shake-up away from being contracted by a major publisher and was looking for a commercial genre. My mom was a big mystery fan, and I started reading a bunch, everything from classics like Agatha Christie and Dorothy Sayers to contemporary masters. I enjoy John Shaw’s Inspector Morse books and Elizabeth George’s Inspector Linley mysteries.
I gave it a go and discovered I had a knack for the cozy mystery. I love developing the characters, their intriguing, often complicated relationships and creating the world they inhabit. That actually draws me in more than the mysteries. But those mysterious elements provide what I call literary sleight of hand. It’s like a parlor game hidden within a comedy of manners.
3. What is your writing process like?How does writing a story start for you?
It’s different each time. It can be a voice- a particular character who starts talking to me. Or it can be an idea, a theme I want to explore.
4. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Yes and no. I often suffer from “idea overload.” I have so many ideas, characters, stories floating around; it’s often hard to pin down which one to pursue. I’m also a creativity coach who works with individual clients and facilitates writing workshops. So I heed my own advice: listen. For the muses to emerge. Help them along by journaling daily, and in workshop, I’ll provide prompts- photos, opening lines, images, etc. that we use to write, free-form for twenty minutes. It’s sort of remarkable what can be revealed in a short writing session.
5. In the Eliza Gordon series, the mysteries have multiple elements to them. How do you come up with these various parts?
That’s a tough one to answer. I let the story flow organically. But I know there is always the main mystery at hand and at least one side mystery. So as I’m mindful of the clues that need to be planted at opportune moments. Then as the story rolls out, and the characters’ motivations and relationships come into focus, I continue to sharpen all the elements and shape the story.
6. What was your inspiration for Eliza Gordon? Why make her a former soap opera star and now chef?
I was actually sitting in a coffee shop and the name Soup Opera came to me. And then thought who would own it? A former soap opera star made sense, and from there Eliza, and later the other characters, just came to me and developed organically over time.
7. What was your inspiration for Midge Sumner? Why make her a radio DJ?
Midge is a radio DJ because I was in radio for years. And I guess I knew I’d have a local radio station play a role in the series. It was also important to have her be a life-long Goodshipian so she could provide the town’s back stories. Her wayward driving style is reminiscent of my sister’s, though they’d both claim their lead foot antics are in the rearview.
8. Are you working on anything right now?
I’m in the nascent stage of a new project. It’s too early to say if it will be a novel or a collection of inter-connected stories. But it is a departure from the cozy mystery series. I haven’t killed anyone off yet, but as I said, it’s still early days.
I left Eliza and company in a good spot after Murder, She Tweets. But I’ve done several book events recently, and I’m always asked when the next Eliza Gordon is coming, so I may return to Goodship for another installment. And I’m toying with the idea of a series set in the ‘60’s- ‘70’s. I’m intrigued with the cultural touchstones and social tumult of that era. And it will be fun to solve mysteries without the advent of DNA and the internet.