Interview with Isabeau Vollhardt

What is your writing process?
At the start, it begins with an idea. That idea, however, is completely reliant -- for me -- upon the characters together with a compelling setting as well as premise for the story (or in the case of The Casebook of Elisha Grey, many stories!) I sketch stories as they come to me, then rough them out, then proceed through a series of redrafts (usually about three or four, which include spelling/grammar editing). If I need to research details, I consider that in the process.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I started reading at the age of three. So I don't remember the first story I read, however, I DO remember the first story that had a real impact on me: it was Paul Gallico's "All Cats Go To Heaven" and I think I read it when I was about seven years old.
How do you approach cover design?
I rely upon photographs from my own personal library, or if I need it, photos another photographer can provide. For The Casebook of Elisha Grey series, I have been gravitating toward photos that put architecture at the forefront, as Atlantis was the most advanced civilization of its time.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
Hard to limit myself to just five! What a wicked question! That being said..."The Trial" by Franz Kafka, because it is a harrowing existential descent into the machinations of bureaucracy and the protagonists determination to maintain his individuality despite the abuse; "Moby Dick" (the abridged version) by Herman Melville (who, by the way, Albert Camus said in one of his essays that had the Nobel Prize in Literature been awarded in Melville's lifetime, Melville deserved it, and that's no small praise) because it turns Christian good vs. evil on its head; "The Plague" by Albert Camus, because it shows that heroics don't always save the day; "The Waves" by Virginia Woolfe, for the emotional connections between characters over their lifetime, and "The Return of the Native" by Thomas Hardy for the sheer beauty of his descriptions of the English countryside..
What do you read for pleasure?
I do so much research reading that I consider THAT pleasure. I'm curious about whatever I don't know about; I'm also intrigued by different writing styles. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry....bring it on...it's all good!
Describe your desk
As a feng shui consultant (among other things) my desk is fairly clean and functional, and decorated with a variety of items for their color, usefulness, and symbolism. Hotei in the "holding heaven up" pose is next to my monitor; I have herkimers and unfinished emeralds, Chinese coins, a piece of petrified wood, a Chinese red lacquer box holding paper clips, and (most important) an easel for typing from reading printed pages. Always, a stack of books on the corner to which I refer for various reasons. Oh. And two of my Barbie dolls I saved from my parent's garage (One in the astronaut suit).
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I moved around a lot in childhood. My mother noticed I was recognizing words early, so she taught me to read around the age of three. When we moved to Denver, Colorado, i was a latch key kid, and I had my own library card, so after school I would walk to the local library several blocks away and check out a whole stack of books that I read before they were due. My mother also bought me Nancy Drew mysteries regularly, and I had a subscription to children's classic literature (included Black Beauty, Robinson Crusoe and the like). Because of the extensive reading, I was always enthralled with storytelling. At age eleven, when I was living in Seattle, our teacher had us do creative writing for an hour (when we often listened to Sgt. Pepper's Heart Club Band). Without the reading, the writing wouldn't exist.
When did you first start writing?
I started in grade school at age eleven.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The Casebook of Elisha Grey series is based upon this premise: What if...Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's stories weren't just fiction, but memories? This premise forms the basis for The Casebook of Elisha Grey story series.

The Casebook of Elisha Grey is set in Atlantis during the Second Era following its Civil War. Our definition of crime may have much in common with Atlantis during the Second Era when technology and society were in flux just as it is now. With new innovations and new abilities, economic and societal classes shift, priorities change, values are redefined. Then as now, power came packaged with its companion: corruption.

Atlantis during the Second Age is similar to the Victorian Era, when scientific innovations and inventions made life easier and more productive, and new forms of travel allowed people to travel to far-off, less developed countries. Atlantis was a continent and culture so advanced that during its Third Age, following another Civil War, the technology existed and was employed to destroy it utterly. A diaspora of Atlanteans traveled mostly eastward to what is now the Mediterranean area, Africa, the British Isles, and also immediately west to North, Central and South America.

For those who have seen portrayals of Atlantis as an ancient, Greco-Roman culture with shades of Xena, Warrior Princess, that may be a memory from the post-diaspora beginnings chronicled in Plato’s Dialogues.

Minor characters play key roles in expanding the landscape of Atlantean society. Each unique in her or his way, they bring their experience and knowledge not only to Elisha Grey and Kiara Ptolmai as they work to assist the capitol city's constabulary in solving crimes – or intercede on behalf of private citizens where no crime is apparent – they also illustrate the breadth and sophistication of Atlantean culture, which was the pinnacle of the world at its time. The influence of knowledge from foreign lands and cultures is an additional influence. From the northern island of Albion with its psychic culture to the Baikal regions of the Asian continent and their shamanic traditions, The Casebook of Elisha Grey incorporates metaphysical concepts and spiritual perceptions into each story as it evolves.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
It's the only way TO become an author!
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has given me a reliable platform for uploading and managing my works, with excellent guidelines as to how to navigate formatting and cover design.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
I get lost in the present moment as my characters dictate the story to me (yes, I'm not really a writer; I'm a typist -- the characters write the story).
What do your fans mean to you?
Anyone who reads my books and enjoys them encourages me not only to continue writing, but that the content of my writing, and the characters who come through the writing (do I even create them? I'm not sure anymore) have significance in their lives and may change their point of view with regard to the issues addressed in each story.
What are you working on next?
I'm working on The Casebook of Elisha Grey V. After that, the series title will change, and there are three more volumes sketched out beyond that. In addition, I'm publishing poetry on short-editions.com as well as writing public service announcement scripts.
Is dystopic science fiction worth subjecting your psyche to?
Absolutely yes! Although The Casebook of Elisha Grey series isn't dystopic by definition, it does provide, like dystopic sci-fi does, the cautionary tale about just how stupid our hubris can make us...even to the point of destruction. I consider dystopic sci-fi REQUIRED reading for everyone at high school level and beyond (yes, there will be some sex and drugs and violence. Dystopia. They go together. Think about it.) Here's my required reading list. Required. Let me say it again. REQUIRED. "Brave New World" by Aldous Huxley (and when you read about 'soma' think about all the SSRI drugs that are prescribed for anxiety/depression...sound familiar?) "1984" by George Orwell (just a reminder, yes, our technology can be and in some cases has been co-opted to watch us and everyone consents because they want convenience or safety...think about it long and hard). "The Handmaid's Tale" by Margaret Atwood (women's rights are only as good as the law, and if the law legislates that fertile wombs are for the taking by the infertile...so much for freedom). "A Clockwork Orange" by Anthony Burgess (and if you actually speak Russian, you won't even need to go to the glossary, but even if you need to do that...you did that when you read "Watership Down" didn't you?) Although it's not classed as science fiction, "The Trial" by Franz Kafka (what would you do when you'd committed no crime and someone knocked on your door explaining that you were under arrest?) "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley (considered the first science fiction novel, this is the ultimate cautionary tale about man playing god -- and now that there's news stories about human/animal cloning....well, the results of that are in the characters of The Casebook of Elisha Grey, which being set in Atlantis, the historical past possibly, perhaps this is history repeating?). And lastly, another book that isn't classed as science fiction but should be: "Orlando" by Virginia Woolfe (man with an amazing lifespan wakes up one day to discover he's a woman...and that women don't have the same social rights as men...how to navigate that?) There are more (Logan's Run, Soylent Green) but for me, these are the must reads. Dystopic fiction makes us think about what we are doing as social creatures, and the ethics/mores we either are, or aren't, using that preserve individuality and free choice.
Who are your favorite authors?
I've named a few: Franz Kafka, Herman Melville, Albert Camus, Virginia Woolfe, Thomas Hardy; and add to that list Jane Austen, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (of course!), Edgar Allan Poe, Friedrich Nietzsche, Rainer Maria Rilke, e.e. cummings, Margaret Atwood, Ursula LeGuin, Mary Shelley, Lao Tzu, Chuang Tzu, Mary Wollstonecraft.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I'm alive.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
Gardening, working, cooking, qi gong.
Published 2016-08-10.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Songs for the Water Dragon / Poems for Plants & Planets / and Others
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 14,730. Language: English. Published: July 2, 2019. Categories: Poetry » Themes & motifs » Nature, Poetry » Contemporary Poetry
This volume of poetry contains three different chapters. Songs for the Water Dragon are a diary of experiences following Shui Long (Water Dragon) qi gong practice, with each poem referencing the place and date of the practice. Shui Long is a Mongolian/Buryat form of qi gong with shamanic roots, requiring physical communion with water, fire (or sun), and wind. The remaining two chapters of poems we
The Casebook of Elisha Grey VIII
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 33,690. Language: English. Published: July 9, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
The Casebook of Elisha Grey VIII chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar and consulting detective in Atlantis, as recorded by his former partner, an architect and healer in Atlantis as well as mother to his three daughters, Kiara Ptolmai. The three novelettes are: "Elisha Grey and the Silent Boy"; "The Minerva House Murders"; and "The Disappearance of Sequoyah and the Passing of the Trident".
The Casebook of Elisha Grey VII
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 30,710. Language: English. Published: April 25, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
The Casebook of Elisha Grey VII chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar and consulting detective in Atlantis, as recorded by his partner, Kiara Ptolmai. The three novelettes are: "The Runaway Musician and the Return of Lorelei"; "The Deaths at Hanunnah Hot Springs"; and "The Drowned Fisherwomen of Hanunnah". The book follows the previous books in the Casebook of Elisha Grey series.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey VI
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 34,830. Language: English. Published: January 4, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
The Casebook of Elisha Grey VI chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar and consulting detective in Atlantis, as recorded by his partner, Kiara Ptolmai. The three novelettes are: "The Lost Visitor"; "The Destruction of Dark Ladder Laboratories"; and "The Haunting at Sunrise Terrace". The book follows the previous books in the Casebook of Elisha Grey series.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey V
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 39,710. Language: English. Published: September 23, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
The Casebook of Elisha Grey V chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar & consulting detective in Atlantis, recorded by his flatmate & student at the Temple of Atlantis, Kiara Ptolmai. The three stories: "The Pilferings in Albion: Kiara's First Case"; "The Men Robbed of Their True Wealth"; and "The Fall From the High Place". The book follows previous books in the Casebook of Elisha Grey series.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey IV
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 41,930. Language: English. Published: August 9, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Science fiction » Short stories
The Casebook of Elisha Grey IV chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar and consulting detective in Atlantis, as recorded by his flatmate and student at the Temple of Atlantis, Kiara Ptolmai. The three novelettes are: "The Bones in the Cornerstone"; "The Rebirth of the Crime Ridden Slum"; and "The Sabotaged Lift". The book follows the previous books in the Casebook of Elisha Grey series.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey Story Bible
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 9,980. Language: English. Published: April 17, 2016. Categories: Screenplays » Sci-Fi, Screenplays » Mystery
The story bible to accompany The Casebook of Elisha Grey (seminal volume, II, III, IV, V, VI, VII and VIII) with details regarding concept, research, character profiles, and overviews of each story's plot and themes. Offered as a reference for people in other media for consideration for adaptation, as well as for other writers to make a touchstone reference for their own works.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey III
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 43,020. Language: English. Published: March 24, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth, Fiction » Science fiction » Adventure
The Casebook of Elisha Grey III chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar and consulting detective in Atlantis, as recorded by his flatmate and student at the Temple of Atlantis, Kiara Ptolmai. The three novelettes are:"The Missing Daughter"; "The Jewel Theft on Riot Night"; and "The Return of the Weatherchanger". Drawing on the seminal "Casebook" & Casebook II, it can be read independently.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey II
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 48,500. Language: English. Published: August 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories, Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
The Casebook of Elisha Grey II chronicles the work of Elisha Grey, scholar and consulting detective in Atlantis, as recorded by his flatmate and student at the Temple of Atlantis Kiara Ptolmai. The three novelettes are:"The Poisonings At The Pantry"; "The Relentless Sun and Thunder"; and "The Deaths At The Crooked Tower". The text draws on the seminal "Casebook" yet can be read independently.
The Casebook of Elisha Grey
Series: The Casebook of Elisha Grey. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 43,510. Language: English. Published: September 11, 2013. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Short Stories
(4.00 from 1 review)
Three novelettes chronicling the cases of consulting detective Elisha Grey, of Atlantis, recorded by his roommate, Kiara Ptolmai -- "The Winged Dancer" about a missing multimorph; "The Chemist's Elixir" about a stolen medicinal formula; and "The Odalisques" about recruiting underaged women as brides.