Interview with Author Elizabeth Jukes by Melissa Brooks
Elizabeth Jukes is the author of the Dorothea Montgomery Mysteries. I interviewed her to find out more about her writing, her inspiration, and what she is working on now.
1. What inspired you to start writing mysteries?
I had been reading about brain function and one of the suggestions was to exercise the brain by writing stories. Reading has always been my favorite pastime; I earned a journalism diploma and worked as an associate editor; I had always loved the thought of writing something fictional; so all this formulated into a resolution to just do it and write. I had come to enjoy certain kinds of mysteries - what I now know as cozies - in the last number of years so the format of a mystery seemed like something I could do. Set up a puzzle and then solve it.
2. What is your writing process like? How does writing a story start for you?
My writing begins with a thought, or a memory, or a picture, or the line of a song, or even a person walking past - all very random. Some such thing filters through and plants a seed. For example, the idea for the third book in the Dorothea Montgomery series popped into my head while driving past a late 19th century duplex in a town of my childhood. As for the writing process itself, I think through the story in broad strokes and write it out in a small book. It's rather like the story boards film makers use. I also call for occasional brainstorming sessions with family or friends where I pass my ideas by them and hear their ideas. The collaboration is such fun.
3. Do you get writer’s block? If so, how do you deal with it?
Writer's block - yes. I'm thankful that my writing is with a publisher who isn't on the clock! Two remedies for writer's block: one is I just step back for a week or two (or longer) and allow for back burner percolation so to speak. The second is that I make myself sit down and start writing about whatever thin thread of thought is running vaguely through my mind. Even if that goes nowhere, it usually lead to where I want to be.
4. Why did you choose to have Pin it on a Dead Man take place in the 1920s?
I grew up hearing about the 1920's as my maternal grandmother and her sisters came of age in that era, so somehow it seemed familiar. The decade of the 20's was positioned between the fallout from the catastrophe of WWI (of which my family has many first hand stories) and the despair of the 30's. As a writer, I have the advantage of retrospect and can draw from the first and hint at the second which I think allows layering for plots and characters.
5. Why did you decide to have an Egyptian artifact be part of the mystery in Pin it on a Dead Man?
My initial plan for the story was for it to revolve around the theft alone, so it needed to be something of weighty significance. Setting “Pin It on a Dead Man” in the 1920's almost guaranteed that an Egyptian artefact would be involved since the finding of King Tutankhamen's tomb really was a pivotal global moment and affected so many aspects of cultural life.
6. What was your inspiration for the character of Dorothea? How did she develop as you wrote her?
Dorothea popped into my head one day out of the blue. In my mind's eye, there she was, a middle-aged woman descending the main staircase of my home. I knew that she was a composite of the woman who had lived in my house for 71 years, my grandmother and a few other people. Form there, I made up a family history, and that history helped to inform some of her character traits.
7. Are you working on anything right now?
I am working on revisions for "A Taste of Northern Spies" the second book in the Dorothea Montgomery series, and in the recess of my mind, I'm tossing around ideas for the third book.