How old you when you wrote your first story?
I’ve been writing since I was eight years old, but I first started writing novels when I was twenty-three. I never finished one, but I had several projects.
What genre was that ?
I tried writing romance, although I struggled with the pace and the character development and motivation. I also had a YA novel that bordered on literary fiction. Neither one got any traction.
Do you think that or do you have another series in mind? Where would it be located?
I’m pretty sure I’ll write another mystery series, but it might not be a cozy series—I might experiment with police procedurals. I’m almost certain to continue writing stories set in the Southern US. That’s where I’ve lived most of my life and its full of quirky characters and evocative settings.
Do you enjoy any sports? Crafts? Other?
I don’t quilt myself, so I’ve had to work hard to research it! I’ve been to quilt shows, spoken with quilters, read quilt books and magazines, and watched videos of quilting online. It’s a fascinating art with a lot of narrative built into it . It’s easy to admire quilting and quilters.
Where do you write from?
a. place in your emotions
At the beginning and end of my stories. I try to put myself in a very comforting mindset. Everything at the beginning and end is usually happy, cozy, and contented. What come to mind most (besides happy childhood days) are the books from childhood:
The adventures of Frog and Toad, The Wind in the Willows and even Little Women (in its happiest moments). The idea is a spot of cheerful, contented camaraderie.
b. A place in your house? From your
organizations? If so what organizations?
I usually either write in my kitchen at the counter or in my den at home. I no longer write with my laptop on my lap and my feet on the sofa! My physical therapist told me that was a terrible idea (and my aching back confirmed it). I’ve been known to write at the Matthews Library, coffee shops, and in the carpool line outside the local high school while waiting to pick up my daughter.
How much like Myrtle are you? She seems like a fun character.
Myrtle is a lot of fun to write. Her good traits, her intelligence, her sense of humor, her attitude toward aging and her appearance are based on my beloved grandmother, Mary Spann. Myrtle’s bad traits (her impatience, in particular) and ineptitude int he kitchen are based on me.
Are your characters based on people you know or have met? I read Myrtle is based on your grandmother and Ms. Marple, but what about the other characters? Do they just “come to you”?
Some of the characters are amalgams of people who I know. Others are similar in appearance to strangers I meet when I’m out. The main characters in my books are frequently based on real strangers I meet when I’m out the main characters in my books are frequently based on real people. Puddin, the wayward housekeeper , for example, is based on a real person who used to clean for my grandmother. I never met her, but my grandmother’s stories about her sparked my imagination. The same goes for Myrtle’s horrible neighbor, Erma. Erma was based on someone my grandmother couldn’t escape at her retirement home.
How much support do you receive in relation to your writing and eventual publication? From where and whom?
I first received support from my family and my teachers in school (in particular Penny Tritt at Calhoun Elementary). As an adult I’ve received support from my husband and children, as well. the online writing community has also been tremendous help to me, both in terms of resources shared and encouragement. Although it’s wonderful to get support from home, it’s even better (in my opinion) to have encouragement from other writers.
If you could do only one form of writing, would you write stories or keep a blog? Why?
I’d definitely write stories. Fiction is what I’m called to do , although I love the interactive element of blogging.
How much research do you do for your books?
For the quilting books, I tend to do a good deal of research. For both series, I’ve studied police departments in small towns. I’ve also spent time researching poisons, as well as other murder methods. Aside from that, I”m lucky that cozy mysteries [being puzzle mysteries and not forensic ones) are relatively free from the heavy research.
What surprised you most about the publishing process?
What’s surprised me most is the amount of time writers put into promotion . . . both traditionally published authors and independent ones?
What do you want your obituary to say? What do you want engraved on your headstone?
I’ve always been amused by funny headstones (I told you I was sick!). Maybe my headstone would have a link to my website. J I’m more of traditionalist when it comes to obituaries and I’d likely stick with mentions of my family, organization I’ve belong to (like Toastmasters), and information on what I’d written, Toto me there’s an element of immortality about writing. I’m 45 now . . . I may catch up with my octogenarian Myrtle. I may surpass her age. But Myrtle has the advantage of living in the pages of my books forever. There’s definitely some comfort in that.
Elizabeth writes the Southern Quilting mysteries and Memphis Barbecue mysteries for Penguin Random House and The Myrtle clover series for Midnight Ink and independently. She blogs at ElizabetherSpannDraig.com/blog, named by Writer’s Digest as one of the 101 Best Websites for WRiters. She curates links on Twitter as @elizabethscraig that are later shared in the free search engine WritersKB.com. Elizabeth make her home in Matthews, North Carolina, with her husband and two teenage children.