Ellen Byerrum takes us into the mysterious fashion world with her heroine, Lacey Smithsonian. Follow them in “The Raiders of the Lost Corset”!
Hi Ellen! Welcome on “Veronika asks”! Would you like to introduce yourself?
Thanks so much for inviting me to your Web site. I’m a mystery writer in Alexandria, Virginia, where I live with my husband. During the day, I work as a journalist for a trade publication. Although I have been a newspaper reporter in the past, I’m not now. I have a private investigator’s registration in the state of Virginia, which I acquired as part of my research for my books. And I am a playwright with two plays that are published by Samuel French Inc. under my pen name of Eliot Byerrum.
A bit of Astrology, now: what is your sign? Do you match your sign’s description?
My sign is Aquarius, but I’m not sure that I’m a typical Aquarian. I’m not that impressed with technology. (Most are said to be technology lovers.) I think there’s a place for quiet days without computers. Aquarians are supposed to be intelligent, and I’d like to think I am, but opinions may differ.
If you could describe yourself with three words…
Friendly, loyal, tenacious. (I asked my husband how he would describe me in three words. All he said was “very carefully.” That’s only two words.)
Now, let’s talk a bit about Lacey and her adventures… especially “The Raiders of the Lost Corset”!
This is the fourth book in the Crime of Fashion mysteries starring Lacey Smithsonian. In Raiders of the Lost Corset, Lacey grabs the chance to see Paris, the fashion capital of the world, and chase the fashion story of a lifetime. Her quarry: a legendary lost Romanov corset lined with jewels. Pursued by a Russian ex-spy and an English jewel thief, she and her fellow “raiders of the lost corset” chase a bloody thread of clues from Washington to Paris and Normandy and finally to New Orleans, finding, and fleeing, romantic complications and danger at every twist in the trail, while an elusive killer pulls the laces on this mystery every tighter.
How did you create Lacey? Are you a bit like her?
Some years ago, I was reading a lot of mystery novels about women who were smart, tough, witty, intelligent, resourceful and brave. But they found fashion to be frightening. I wanted to read about a heroine who could have all those tough private-eye qualities but also know how to dress herself in style. I made her a fashion reporter in D.C., the city that fashion forgot. Lacey is a bit like me, and her apartment is a great deal like mine, but she has a better wardrobe of vintage 1940s fashions.
Lacey’s books take place in the fashion world. Are you a fashion fan yourself? Did you work in the fashion world before starting writing?
I love clothes and fashion, but I think having a personal sense of style is more important than following fads. For a short while, I worked at the headquarters of a large salon chain, which helped to inspire some of the events in my first book, Killer Hair, and the character of Stella Lake, Lacey’s sidekick.
Will there be another Lacey’s adventure?
Yes, I’m working hard on finishing the next book in the series. It will be titled “Grave Apparel,” and it is set at Christmas time in Washington.
You used to work as a journalist. Did it help you?
Being a journalist is a great background for being a novelist. It helps teach you discipline and it teaches you to listen for each person’s voice, his (or her) distinct way of expressing himself. I try to pay attention to my characters so that they are not interchangeable.
You tell so many funny anecdotes about it on your website, can you tell us one now?
I’m afraid one of the traits I share with Lacey is curiosity. Knowing the end of the story is important to me. That’s probably how I wound up climbing through a massage parlor window at my first job as a reporter, in a very rough and tough boom town on the Western slope of Colorado. I did manage to get in and interview the girls there and ended up being offered a job. They told me I’d make a lot more money than I was as a reporter. I declined – and wrote the story instead.
How do you usually work?
I try to write every day when I’m in the middle of a book. I work at home, or at coffee shops and the library. I work on the computer, but I also like to write using pen and paper.
How about the writer’s block?
I take long walks and I discuss things with my husband, who is brilliant and a very good listener. Sometimes I like to take a shower. The water pounding over my head gets the thoughts running. It might not work for everyone, but it works for me.
How do you see your reader? You know, when you say to yourself: “there’s somebody reading my book right now”…who do you picture?
Wow. It changes, because I often meet my readers in person at book signings, and I also receive e-mails from them. I know that some of them are teenagers, some are grandmothers, most are somewhere in between. I think it’s a wide range of ages and interests. I hope so.
And now the nothing-to-do-with-books question: you’ve just found 100 $ in your pocket, how will you use that money?
Go see a play, especially anything by Moliere, my favorite playwright. I don’t have nearly enough time for the theatre, but I love it.
“Tea or Coffee?”
Saturday evening. Going out or reading a book ? Going out.
Holidays. Beach or Mountains ? Beach, even though I was born in a Rocky Mountain state.
Country or City ? City, but country on vacation.
Watching a movie. Comedy or Drama (or something else ?) ? Comedy, or film noir.
Shy or Easy-going ? Not shy, pretty easygoing.
Serious or Funny ? Funny is serious, isn’t it?
Traveler or…? Traveler, when I can.
Sporty or Couch Potato? Not ultra sporty. I like to walk and to swim.
Leader or Follower? Depends on the group.
TV show: 24, last season.
Movie: His Girl Friday with Rosalind Russell and Cary Grant
Book: At the moment, Heloise and Abelard by James Burge and The Lost Love Letters of Heloise and Abelard by Constant J. Mews
Music: Big band, standards
City: Paris; New Orleans; Doylestown, Pennsylvania
Place to write: Library
Motto: I have this quote from Henry David Thoreau taped to my computer: “If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Thank you, Ellen!
You can visit Ellen’s site