Interview with Elaine Orr

When did you first start writing?
I enjoyed writing by the time I was in my early teens, but did not see it as a full-time career possibility until I was in my early thirties. I started writing more seriously then--first plays, then screenplays, and finally, novels.
What's the story behind your latest book?
There is always something new going on in the Jolie Gentil mystery series. I have been working on two projects concurrently. One is the sixth book in the series, and the other is the story of Jolie and Scoobie during the one year she went to Ocean Alley High School. That has been quick to write because I have thought through their high school time as I have written the five books in the series.

Five (and now six--Behind the Walls) needed to consider the impact of Hurricane Sandy, which was a life-changing event for the Jersey shore. The fictional Ocean Alley was set about 80 miles north of where Sandy came ashore in 2012, so it would not have been devastated. Still, there would have been damage, and lots of the long-term impacts of a very bad storm. So, Sandy hurricane repairs were woven into the plot for Trouble on the Doorstep, and are in the background for Behind the Walls. That book will be out in fall 2013.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
In a word, age. Through the years of writing I had rejections, many with very nice notes of encouragement. I would lose interest in submissions and go on to the next project. When I decided to write a mystery series I worked on the first two books in tandem, fine-tuning the characters and getting the humor where I wanted it. When I finished, I thought, "Heck, it could be years before these could get published." I was in my late fifties. Thankfully, self-publishing was a reasonable option.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords is technical and moral support, even though you never talk to a person. The Smashwords Style Guide taught me how to format a book, and I have applied those techniques to other online retailers. The blog posts are very helpful nuts and bolts about the publishing industry and its changes. Finally, being able to sell on multiple sites with only one submission is a big plus.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Being able to create characters and settings that I like is important to me. I especially like writing when I enjoy a particular character.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are touchstones. I write what I want, but in a practical world it is the fans who let me earn a living through my writing. Their comments or reviews can be enlightening. When several people have the same reaction to a character -- and it's not what I expected -- I may rethink how I present the character in future books. Ultimately, what I write is my choice. It's just good fun to see what others think about it.
What are you working on next?
As noted in an earlier question, I'm working on a prequel to the Jolie Gentil mystery series, as well as the sixth book in the series. The sixth book was about half done when that prequel took over my imagination, so I've been going back and forth.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
There's an expression, Today is the first day of the rest of your life. I am fortunate to love what I'm doing. I wake up early and go to bed late. I don't write all day, by any means, but I think a lot about my characters and pick up ideas just from seeing other people. And family and friends, of course.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read a lot, do family history research, and keep in touch with friends. Most of that is remote contact at the moment, as I've just moved. I go to a few movies and watch a few TV shows. Some writers won't say they do the latter, but I love a good plot, on paper or the screen.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
Usually I get a free book and then traipse through other books by that author. As I meet more mystery writers, I seek out their books. I read book review publications some, but not as much as I used to, since I write more.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Not really. When I got serious in the mid-1980s I first wrote a play called "Permission to Hope." I was fortunate that the Writer's Center of Bethesda, Maryland give it a staged reading. It needs a lot of editing! Maybe someday...
What is your writing process?
I don't have an exact process other than forcing myself to do it when I don't want to. That would be the middle of each book. I have written large portions of several books in coffee shops. There is activity there, but those aren't my dirty dishes piling up, so I can ignore them. I make myself write something almost every day. It can be one sentence. It's usually more.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
Winnie the Pooh. I liked Piglet best. Not sure about a particular impact. My favorite book as a preteen was "Sea View Secret." It may have been the first mystery I bought, and my sister just found a copy for me at Amazon. It was a wonderful story of children taking charge, something that encouraged me.
How do you approach cover design?
I always have ideas. I give them to a designer as suggestions, and I've never been disappointed. I like Patty G. Henderson best.
What do you read for pleasure?
Mysteries, mysteries, mysteries. Book clubs keep me reading literary fiction. They almost never pick books I would choose for myself, and I always love them.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I have a Kindle Fire and a Nook HD. I wish the Kindle were lighter weight. I prefer the Nook, but read more on the Kindle because I go to Amazon to hunt for freebies. Lately I have looked on the Nook for more.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I write about these on my blog ( I use Twitter (see my article on hashtags). People say it's ineffective, but I had no sales overseas until I started using it. I also think you get more when you give back, so I've developed a couple of talks on epublishing and using social media to market, and give those for free. It helps others, and calls attention to my work. I also seek guest blog posts. I should do a lot more marketing, but I like to write. As I get even more successful I'll invest in a publicist.
Published 2013-08-24.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Ground to a Halt
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 62,430. Language: American English. Published: December 26, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
An SUV smashes Jolie's car, a break-in at the home Jolie and Scoobie share, and a terrifying kidnapping. Jolie needs to know who's telling the truth and what the thugs will do to find what they want. Only solving the puzzle will keep her safe, protect a vulnerable Iraq war vet, and make sure everyone stays alive. But if Jolie keeps searching, her budding romance with Scoobie may grind to a halt
First Four Jolie Gentil Mysteries
Price: $4.99 USD. Words: 287,900. Language: English. Published: November 5, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
The first four books of the Jolie Gentil cozy mystery series are now in one set. First is Appraisal for Murder, followed by Rekindling Motives, When the Carny Comes to Town, and Any Port in a Storm. Jolie is a real estate appraiser in a New Jersey Beach town and her flexible schedule allows plenty of time for trouble. Join her and friends for fun fiction you can share with your family.
Vague Images
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 82,550. Language: English. Published: June 26, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Jolie finds a dead woman in Ocean Alley Hospital's restroom, and soon she's on the lookout for a runaway teenager and whoever planted the dead hospital budget cutter in her path. Jolie’s also planning another crazy fundraiser for Ocean Alley's food pantry—this one a Corn Hole Contest. Is Jolie putting her trust in the right people, or will misplaced trust see her hurt—or worse?
500+ Hashtags for Writers
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 4,250. Language: English. Published: May 30, 2014. Categories: Nonfiction » Business & Economics » Marketing, Nonfiction » Publishing » Self-publishing
"500+ Hashtags for Writers" you'll learn what a hashtag is and how choosing the right ones help you reach readers who will want to read your book. There are several sections that describe how to use Twitter and its hashtags, and thirty-four specific lists of hashtags. They are listed by such things as genre, marketing, and audiobooks.
Behind the Walls
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series, Book 6. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 87,120. Language: English. Published: November 30, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Behind the Walls has been through three rounds of judging and is a finalist in the 2014 Murder and Mayhem Awards! Chanticleer Book Reviews will announce the winner in March 2015.Something was hidden behind the walls of the Jersey shore house Jolie bought. Something someone seems willing to kill for. A purse thief and a burglar pursue Jolie, but she’s most worried about the body on her porch swing.
Jolie and Scoobie High School Misadventures
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 34,800. Language: American English. Published: September 13, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Humor
Jolie's parents take her to Aunt Madge for junior year so they can work on their marriage. She’s mad. Some kids snub her but she makes friends with the irreverent Scoobie. He’s quirky & fun but he's skipped school & smoked pot, so people avoid him. Jolie shoots a squirt gun from under the boardwalk & sits for a family with a secret that's trouble for her. Same humor, different challenges.
Any Port in a Storm
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series, Book 4. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 73,060. Language: English. Published: March 9, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Jolie, Scoobie & friends plan a Talk Like a Pirate Day fundraiser for the food pantry. They don't expect a body under the pirate ship. Someone wants to frame Jolie for the murder. She and her nemesis, reporter George Winters, are determined to find out who the murderer is and why someone is targeting Jolie -- before the killer strikes again.
When the Carny Comes to Town
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series, Book 3. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 71,970. Language: American English. Published: February 16, 2012. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths, Fiction » Mystery & detective » General
Jolie did not want to sit above the dunk tank at the carnival's food pantry fundraiser. She never dreamed what Scoobie saw that day would nearly kill him. His ex-con mother shows up and there's murder to add to the mix. Soon Jolie is doing more than appraising real estate, and even that is complicated by home burglars. She asks reporter George Winters for help, so you know she's desperate.
Rekindling Motives
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series, Book 2. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 71,510. Language: English. Published: November 3, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
Jolie Gentil appraises the Fisher house & dances with a skeleton hidden in the attic. She & friend Scoobie see a link to the family's Prohibition era business & seek clues from old photo albums and ledgers. A present day murder says they're on the right track. Between running a food pantry at Christmas time and escaping a burning building they hope to find the killer before someone else is hurt.
Appraisal for Murder
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series, Book 1. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 72,460. Language: English. Published: September 25, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Can a real estate appraiser in a New Jersey beach town get in this much trouble? Jolie Gentil dumps a husband who put their assets in the toilets that masquerade as slot machines and moves to Aunt Madge's B&B in Ocean Alley. Jolie is rekindling friendships, dodging a low-level wise guy, and (oops!) finding a dead body. Her old buddie Scoobie looks down and out, but he may be smarter than anyone.
Biding Time
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 12,770. Language: English. Published: September 16, 2011. Categories: Fiction » African American fiction » General
Frank Myers never met the uncle he was named for. He was in Vietnam and he's still MIA. The young Frank learns about himself as he hears more about Uncle Frank from those who served with him. Is it enough to help Frank overcome the challenges of the streets of DC?
Tess and All Kinds
Price: Free! Words: 2,840. Language: English. Published: September 15, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary
Tess lives with Grandma Wilma now. Grandma manages a storage facility, and Tess watches people come and go. She places them in categories, and for a seven-year old she has some insightful thoughts.
Secrets of the Gap
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 34,730. Language: English. Published: September 13, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » General, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Secrets of the Gap is a modern mystery set the ancient Roman Baths of Bath, England. Can events of centuries ago matter today, and will archeologists Carolyn and Greg sort them out in time? In school they butted heads, now their lives may depend on working together. They need solve a secret that has lived through the ages and unmask a colleague who will do anything to find the ancient prize.