I have known Hallie for a couple of years now. I am a big fan of mysteries, and I love Hallie’s There Was an Old Woman, Come and Find Me, and Never Tell a Lie. Hallie grew up in the fascinating Ephron family, surrounded by great wit and great writers. Hallie and a group of her mystery writer friends host a very interesting and entertaining blog: http://www.jungleredwriters.com. Hallie and I had this great conversation:
MOLLY: Hallie, just about everyone I know is fascinated with mystery writers. How do they come up with the plot? So let me ask: do you start with the crime and the culprit and work backwards? How do you put in the twists and turns? It seems so difficult!
HALLIE: It always starts with some spark from my real life. The spark for There Was an Old Woman was when my neighbor was pulled out of her house by firefighters — she’d collapsed on her kitchen floor, and rescuers almost couldn’t find her because the house was so full of garbage, debris, cats… you get the picture. I thought What if… she didn’t create the mess she was found in?
From there the story evolved into utter chaos and it took me more than a year to find the ending.
MOLLY: Crime novels seem to require a lot more research than love stories. After all, ‘boy meets girl, loses her, and then gets her back’ is pretty easy. But crimes are a whole other thing. Do you have an in with the police? Coroners? Lawyers and judges? How do crime writers go about learning about all the things they need to know to write credible books?
HALLIE: My next door neighbor is a Statie and we have a good friend who’s a criminal defense attorney. Through my writing I’ve become friends with a medical examiner in Connecticut and the preeminent Lee Lofland [www.leelofland.com] and D. P. Lyle, MD [http://www.dplylemd.com] are out there, generously answering the forensics and medical questions of needy writers. Their books are terrific resources, too.
MOLLY: Now I want to turn to you as a reader. What turns you off about a book? If you are at the library and pull a book off the shelf, what makes you put it right back?
HALLIE: Graphic violence too soon. Explicit sex. If the writer is really good and the violence and/or sex are essential to the plot, then I’ll hang in there. But too often it’s not. I’m likely to stop reading, too, if the author uses a child as a plot device to raise the stakes.
MOLLY: And conversely, there must be books that grab you from the first paragraph. What kinds of books are those? Which authors do you think are great at opening GRABBERS?
HALLIE: I actually do not think you have to GRAB the reader. I like books that start slowly and suck me in with characters I grow to care about.
MOLLY: Everybody asks you, I am sure, about your family. You grew up in such a unique family. What did you learn from your upbringing that has helped you the most as a writer? A piece of advice you got that you could share?
HALLIE: I learned that genes help, but it’s sitting down in the chair and doing it that gets you there.
MOLLY: And finally, if you could interview yourself, what is the one question you would love to be asked? Your answer?
HALLIE: Q: How’s your new grandbaby? A: Delicious!
Thanks a million, Hallie! Visit Hallie’s official web site: http://hallieephron.com/
Grab a copy of Hallie’s book by clicking on the book cover below.