Earlene Fowler: writing quilted mysteries
Excerpts from the interview by Cindy Tambourine in the June/July 2009 issue of Mystery News
Truth be told, I would not know where to begin a quilt if someone handed me a threaded needle and precut material. Nor do I know a thing about ranching, very little about folk art, and I would need a map to find many central California locales. Consequently, when Earlene Fowler's work was recommended to me, I was more than a bit skeptical. In fact I thought it was going to be a waste of time. Occasionally, it is good to be reminded of how wrong I can be. It's so humbling
Simply put, through her descriptions and dialogue, Earlene brings her characters to life. My lack of familiarity with their backdrop or employment has not diminished the way I have been drawn into the character's lives. While I have read all thirteen Benni Harper installments, it was after reading Earlene's first standalone, The Saddlemaker's Wife, that I decided I had to reach out and see if she would agree to an interview. After all, how many authors can tell you a person died on page one of their first standalone and have you choked up at the memorial service on the last page? Luckily, Earlene can and she agreed to be interviewed.
Clearly, Earlene spent her fair share of time learning the writing craft. "I started writing when I was in my mid-twenties. I took a creative writing 101 class and until that class, it never occurred to me to try to write anything." I found Earlene's candor about her learning process refreshing. "Back then, I'd write one draft and think it was ready to be seen by the world! At that time, magazines like Redbook and Good Housekeeping still published short fiction. I began writing short stories because it seemed doable. Of course they were rejected." And as she acknowledged, "I made that first crucial step in becoming a real writer-I realized I wasn't that good. My stories weren't up to the quality of what was being accepted. I realized that, but kept writing. Over that time I probably wrote about 100 to 150 short stories. But, that was my learning time, my apprenticeship...what started me thinking about writing a mystery was a series of talks [To benefit literacy programs] given by mystery writers at a mall in my area these mystery writers were scheduled to talk one-after-the-other for six hours. I sat through all of them and the seed started in my head-maybe I could write a mystery. I put into it all the things I loved and set it where I wanted to live-Central Coast of California. So, I made up a world and that became Benni, Elvia, Gabe, Gramma Dove and San Celina. It truly was an alternative reality for me."
And as for the highlights and low points of writing, Earlene candidly shared"On a day-to-day level, being a writer is great because I work at home. Of course, the down side to that is the isolation. On an emotional level, I've never had a more satisfying job. Or a more frightening and frustrating one. For me, the hardest part of being a writer is always having something due. Don't get me wrong, it's been a privilege and gift to have had book contracts for the last sixteen years, but I also feel like I've been working without finishing for that amount of time. I've always written each book with the intensity and belief that it would be my last one. I keep in mind it might be the last thing of mine anyone ever reads, so it has to be the best I can do at that moment."
Read the complete interview in the June/July 2009 issue of Mystery News