Today we sit down for a chat with Ellen Butler, author of mystery, thriller, suspense, historical fiction, and romance. Learn more about Ellen and her books at her website
When did you realize you wanted to write novels?
I’d had an outline, character list, and four chapters of my first novel, Poplar Place, stuffed in a drawer for years. When my youngest son went to preschool, I had nine hours a week to myself. I dusted off the outline and went to work.
How long did it take you to realize your dream of publication?
After I finished Poplar Place, in 2012, I went about searching for an agent which took about four months of querying, before I contracted to work with one. The book was published with a small press in 2014.
Are you traditionally published, indie published, or a hybrid author?
I’m a hybrid author. I’ve got books placed with a large publisher, small press, and independently.
Where do you write?
For the most part, I write in my home office. However, I’ve been known to take up residence at a Panera, library, or park and write for hours, thanks to my laptop.
Is silence golden, or do you need music to write by? What kind?
I don’t need silence, but I don’t write to music either. I’ve no problems writing with the general hum of a restaurant in my ear, but I do have problems concentrating when people are watching YouTube videos at full volume without using headphones.
How much of your plots and characters are drawn from real life? From your life in particular?
All my plots have some sort of basis in fact or inspiration of true events. My characters are all fiction, although they may take on occasional characteristics of friends and family members. Some even wonder if I’m Karina Cardinal, but I can assure my readers, I am not Karina. First, my life is not nearly as exciting. Second, Karina takes a lot more risks than I would. However, over the years, I’ve likely infused her with some of my own traits and sayings.
Describe your process for naming your character?
I determine what the ancestry of my character will be – Irish, Chinese, Indian, Puerto Rican, etc. Then I’ll do some research into names from that background and use surnames that fit the character’s origin. Most of Karina’s adventures take place in Washington, DC. DC is such a melting pot of diversity; I like to take free reign which is why Karina’s novels are littered with characters of various ethnicities.
Real settings or fictional towns?
All my books, except for Poplar Place, take place in real settings.
What’s the quirkiest quirk one of your characters has?
Mrs. Thundermuffin, in the Karina Cardinal series is quite the eccentric. She’s a retiree who wears colorful outfits that include sparkles and fringe, with dyed to match hair, and walks her cat, Mr. Tibbs, on a leash. In Pharaoh’s Forgery, Mrs. Thundermuffin plays a central role, and the reader finds out what she did for a living. The story gives a whole new depth to this oddball character.
What’s your quirkiest quirk?
Oh, no. That would be telling.
If you could have written any book (one that someone else has already written,) which one would it be? Why?
I’ve been asked this question before, and it’s always the same answer—Harry Potter, hands down. First, the world JK Rowling designed was phenomenal and incredibly creative. Who doesn’t wish they were a witch or wizard going to Hogwarts? I want to push my trolley through the barrier at platform 9-¾ and get on the Hogwarts Express. Second, the Harry Potter world has become an institution that children, generations from now, will still enjoy. Books, movies, merch, theme parks, if only I could create such a beloved series!
Everyone at some point wishes for a do-over. What’s yours?
I don’t know that it’s so much a do-over, but more of a “I wish I knew.” I wish I knew more about the publishing industry when I’d gotten into it. As a matter of fact, I’m developing a slate of webinars about the business of publishing. It would include writing query letters, synopsis, blurbs, taglines, publishing contracts 101, marketing and more.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who sit at a green light because they are paying attention to their phones rather than driving.
You’re stranded on a deserted island. What are your three must-haves?
Yikes. This is my nightmare. I don’t camp, because I don’t like nature—bugs, snakes, spiders, they all freak me out. I’m also partial to my creature comforts. However, if you insist…
1. I’d need Rick Donovan from my Karina Cardinal series. The guy is military trained in special ops. I have a feeling he can make a radio out of coconuts.
2. Bug spray. See above comments about nature.
3. A helicopter, so Rick can fly us the heck outta there!
Who’s your all-time favorite literary character (any genre)? Why?
Nancy Drew. She makes me nostalgic. I used to love pulling out one of those yellow-spined volumes and delving into a cracking new mystery. Those books (and Scooby-Doo) launched my interest in mystery and suspense novels.
Ocean or mountains?
Mountains. I lived in Colorado for 10 years. I miss the Rockies.
City girl/guy or country girl/guy?
Suburban girl. I like having access to the cultural aspects of the city, but not living in the chaos of it. Suburbia allows me to be close enough to shopping that it’s only a few minutes away. And it allows for access to rural farmlands (a.k.a. vineyards & wineries) within 20-30 minutes.
What’s on the horizon for you?
I’m working on the 6th and final installment of the Karina Cardinal mysteries.
Working title: Ghostly Revelations It takes place in Williamsburg, Virginia. Karina’s aunt has gone missing, and she heads south to try to get a beat on her. While staying at her aunt’s home—in Colonial Williamsburg—Karina is pestered by the resident ghost, a civil war soldier. She realizes the ghost is guiding her to clues, which, if she takes them at face value, points to the conclusion that Aunt Vera skipped town for a reason. A five-fingered reason.
Anything else you’d like to tell us about yourself and/or your books?
If you enjoy historical spy thrillers, check out my Brass Compass series for a look at life inside the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) during WWII. My latest release Operation Blackbird takes the reader into the Cold War where the enemies are no longer Nazis but communism. The story takes place in the heart of Berlin, a powder keg, a spark away from WWIII.
Thanks for having me at Killer Crafts and Crafty Killers!
A Karina Cardinal Mystery, Book 5
White collar crime can get dirty quicker than a line drive into foul territory.
Karina Cardinal’s Saturday starts out with a bang, and it’s not the home renovation marathon she’s watching on HGTV. It’s the FBI banging on her door, hunting for a fugitive. As if she could easily hide one in her modest condo. Especially one named Mike Finnegan.
The two of them called it splitsville a couple months ago, but Mike? Take a $1.2 million bribe? No and no and no. No matter how much damning evidence the feds claim to have.
When a mysterious burner phone shows up in her pocket, Karina has no doubt who dropped it there. Mike is deep undercover and so far off-grid, he needs help to figure out who’s framing him—and why. Classic Karina, she jumps in with both feet, ignoring the dangers. The trouble with leaping before you look? You can land in a world of dirt. And when an old enemy starts playing hardball, you can end up six feet under it.