Interview with Elaine L. Orr

Published 2017-02-26.
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 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 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.
What led you to write mystery series rather than stand-alone books?
I created the first series (Jolie Gentil) because I wanted to write about the Jersey shore and thought I could not do it in one book. Of course, the books are about the characters more than the place, but the setting was important to me. I never thought there would be ten books (more coming). Because I love my adopted home of Iowa, a series there was almost inevitable (RIver's Edge series). It grew from experiences working in several towns along the Des Moines River. The combination of rural life and water living is compelling. Now, here's the funny part. I wrote "Tip a Hat to Murder" in 2016, intending it to be a stand-alone book set in an Illinois town (where I now live). Dang, if I didn't really enjoy those characters and want to continue them. So, three series! Sometimes I wonder if it's...lazy to want to use the same characters, but I don't think so. They just kind of grab your heart and won't leave.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author or publisher.

Latest books by This Author

Jolie Gentil Coz Mysteries: Books 8 to 10
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 159,060. Language: English. Published: February 15, 2020. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
Jolie Gentil still solves mysteries. She also becomes more involved in Ocean Alley and is starting to realize her feelings for an old friend are growing beyond friendship. Enjoy three books in this box set. Ground to a Halt -- problems in the Java Jolt Coffee House. Holidays in Ocean Alley -- Aunt Madge and Scoobie are the sleuths. The Unexpected Resolution - weddings and murder bring changes.
Mildred Mistletoe Rescues Christmas
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 7,490. Language: English. Published: December 12, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Holiday » Christmas, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family
(4.00 from 1 review)
Mildred Mistletoe has her paws full. She needs to get her high school humans, Fergie and Frank, to get over being mad at each other about a silly school dance. And then she spots a deserted puppy in the snow! Can she get her humans' attention in time to save it? With little help from Dog or the local mouse, Mildred has to make things right or Christmas won't be merry. A heartwarming tale.
The Twain Does Meet
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 33,730. Language: English. Published: December 20, 2019. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family
I promised readers tthe story of Jolie and Scoobie's twins' birth -- an anything-but-calm event -- but it didn't seem right to mix it with a murder. So, we have a nearly 33,000 word novella that features laughs and angst with the Ocean Alley crew and more than a few surprises. A fun read with familiar characters. Join Jolie, Scoobie, and their extended family and friends for a heartwarming time.
Demise of a Devious Suspect
Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 64,590. Language: English. Published: October 31, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy
Melanie finds a body in the coat closet at the Farm Bureau dinner. Tired of fingers pointing toward her and curious about why someone burned some of her late father's files, Mel does some poking on her own. The kidnapping of a local woman raises the stakes. With pets who have a nose for trouble, Melanie seeks a devious suspect.
Underground in Ocean Alley
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 52,330. Language: English. Published: September 7, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Women Sleuths
Jolie Gentil has sworn off butting into other people’s business. Sounds as far-fetched as finding used bubble gum on Mars. Her life revolves around her husband Scoobie, her twins, appraising the occasional house, and helping run the Cozy Corner B&B. Nothing could drag Jolie into solving crimes. Really. Except maybe a request from the most unlikely source. Sergeant Morehouse needs a favor.
Mildred Mistletoe Fixes Christmas: A Holiday Short Story
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 8,600. Language: English. Published: December 11, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Holiday » Christmas, Fiction » Young adult or teen » Family
Mildred Mistletoe was born under a Christmas tree, but her life isn't problem-free. When her human, Fergie, is accused of stealing coins from a Christmas collection tub, Mildred needs to make things right. She also has to find a new home for Mittens, a socially awkward cat.
Falling Into Place
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 20,880. Language: English. Published: October 13, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Literature » Literary, Fiction » Inspirational
Everett was a stay-at-home dad before it was a choice. Only his wife Sue Ellen had a clue why he found it hard to cope. His children wished he could do more than create gardens and fix breakfast. Sue Ellen's illness means he has to fend more for himself. It also brought his World War II secret to light. And from the sadness grew understanding, An important story told with humor and grace.
The Unexpected Resolution
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series. Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 60,430. Language: English. Published: July 24, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
A midnight wedding, Army veterans who face repercussions of two wars, and a startling wedding guest. Wedding days don't usually pack as big a surprise as Jolie and Scoobie's New Year's Eve nuptials. A 9-1-1 call during the wedding changes everything. Jolie has to help Scoobie figure out what he wants to know, and determine who seems to want someone in his family dead. Jolie Gentil Book 10.
Demise of a Devious Neighbor
Series: River's Edge Cozy Mystery Series. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 60,210. Language: English. Published: January 13, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
(5.00 from 1 review)
The reverberating bangs shake Melanie Perkins' nerves. Either someone's aiming at her truck, or they don't know fireworks are supposed to go upward. Could things get any worse? Yes. The next day she discovers a dead body in the barn on her late parents' farm.
Jolie Gentil Mysteries - Books Five to Seven
Series: Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 231,730. Language: English. Published: January 6, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Mystery & detective » Cozy, Fiction » Mystery & detective » Amateur sleuth
(4.00 from 1 review)
The Jolie Gentil Cozy Mystery Series box set, books 5-7. The books are Trouble on the Doorstep, Behind the Walls (finalist for 2014 Chanticleer Mystery and Mayhem Awards), and Vague Images. Jolie has a lot to do with real estate appraising, but she just can't stand things that don't add up. Get ready for friends, pets, and laughs. Readers love the Jersey Shore and its Ocean Alley crew.
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