Guest Hallie Ephron

Edith here, so pleased today to welcome Hallie Ephron, a friend and mentor to all of us. Careful What You Wish For, her new standalone suspense, comes out in August, and got a rave starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Check it out – Marie Kondo meets creepy:

A professional organizer who helps people declutter their lives is married to man who can’t drive past a yard sale without stopping. He’s filled their basement, attic, and garage with his finds. Sometimes she finds herself wondering: Does he spark joy?

“Ephron’s tidy approach to stowing clues, arousing suspicions, keeping the chaos of the climax under control, then tying up loose ends makes her a professional organizer of this type of entertainment. In a word—neat.” – Kirkus Reviews

I Write Creepies, Not Cozies.

I started reading mysteries with cozies. I raced through all of the Agatha Raisins, Miss Marples, Aunt Dimitys, and Blanche Whites that I could get my hands on. Put me in an airport bookstore tomorrow and I’ll buy a cozy to while away the layover. But do I write cozy?

Like cozies, my novels are steeped in domesticity with a relatively small cast of characters, and you can be sure you won’t stub your toe on graphic violence or explicit sex. Occasionally there’s a cat. If there are cops, they’re competent. If there are children, they won’t get threatened and become plot devices. My protagonists, nice young women at whom life has thrown a curve-ball, would be at right at home in a cozy.

But there’s a lightness that I look forward to in a cozy mystery that I’m afraid my books have only in brief spurts with the occasional character who leavens the tone. Just look at my covers.

They’re dark, a little sinister and foreboding. My titles (Never Tell a Lie, Come and Find Me…) give off what I hope is a slightly ominous vibe. I like to think that if they were fairy tales they’d be the Grimms version.

Plus my last six books have been standalones, and by the end each protagonist has pretty much been through the mill. A sequel would be cruel and unusual punishment. Also not believable.

When people ask me what I write, I say creepy but not icky. I mined the dolls in You’ll Never Know, Dear for their creep-factor, not for their cutes. The old woman in There Was an Old Woman who starts wondering if she’s losing her mind is no Betty White. My August book Careful What You Wish For is inspired by Patricia Highsmith’s Strangers on a Train.

Often there’s no murder in my books, so even to call them murder mysteries is a misnomer. They’re what’sgoingonheres, not whodunnits. If I had to pick a genre, I’d label them domestic suspense, and even then I’m not sure, because I don’t use an unreliable narrator, as has become the pattern of late in that sub-genre.

I’m also happy to be categorized other. Or creepy-cozy. Or women’s fiction with a twist of suspense. Most of all, I try to write books with situations that seem utterly believable. Yes, this could happen to me, I want the reader to think. And shudder.

Edith: I, for one, can’t wait to read the new book! Please, Wickeds fans, run out and preorder Careful What You Wish For .

Readers: Have you noticed that the coziest of images can so easily be tinged with creepiness. Dolls, of course. (Doll parts! For sure.)  Tea (what is that strange smell in my Oolong?) Costumes/masks. As Stephen King demonstrated, red balloons.  (Feral) cats. What other cozy things can become not quite so cozy?

Hallie Ephron is the NY Times bestselling author of eleven suspense novels. Her books have been praised for integrating the mystery genre with women’s fiction. She is a five-time finalist for the MH Clark Award, Edgar finalist for Writing and Selling Your Mystery Novel.

33 Thoughts

  1. Sounds terrific, Hallie, and I look forward to reading it. You’ve never disappointed me with any of your stories!

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  2. Congratulations on the new book! Creepy-cozy is an interesting descriptor. I love your writing career, and that you keep pushing yourself and the genre.

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  3. I can’t wait to read this. I love how you put a regular person in somewhat ordinary circumstances and wring every last thing out of the story. I’ll never forget posting on Facebook about coming home from walking Lily and finding the door ajar. I called my husband and talked to him while I walked through the house. And then you commented something like “What if the husband was in the basement waiting for her?” That created a shiver and is exactly what your books do. I can add dogs to the list from cozy to creepy if you think about Cujo.

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  4. I took a writing workshop with Hallie Ephron, sponsored by Sisters in Crime. It was terrific. Hallie is a born teacher.

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  5. I can’t wait to read Careful What You Wish For and see how creepy dolls feature in the story (like the one behind Hallie in the photo). I loved There Was an Old Woman ~

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  6. I can’t wait for this new one! How about cute little houses? Cast them in the right light, throw in a couple shadows, a garage with an open door leading to a dark interior, front door slighly ajar, curtains fluttering…

    I can see it.

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  7. Hallie, you are the Master of What’sgoingonheres and I can’t wait to read Careful What You Wish For. I’ve always admired your titles, they have that familiar ring that, as you say, give off that slightly ominous vibe. I want to read the book the minute I hear the title.

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    1. Thanks, Ang! Titles are so tricky. The working title of Careful What You Wish For was FOLDING FRANK. Which I loved and made me laugh. But it sounded too much like LOVING FRANK and besides, that gerund/proper noun combination title felt like someone else’s book.

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  8. Hallie, I am certainly looking forward to this one! Not sure how you manage to have just the right amount of creepiness! But whatever – it does work just fine!

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  9. I love that you write about the creepy in the everyday. I think for many people that is the most terrifying thing of all. Most of us are not likely to be swept up into an international terror plot. But we do hear a weird noise coming from the attic whilst tucked up for the night or overhear strange snatches of conversation floating over the back fence. Thanks for being here today and sharing your take on the thin line that separates the comfortable and the uneasy!

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  10. Just about anything can be creepy given the right context. The beach. Pools. Green grassy fields at day vs. alone at night.

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  11. Creepy, but not icky — perfect description — and so very readable. I get swept up in the suspense, unwilling to put the book down because characters I care about are in trouble. I also love the generous doses of irony. Brava!

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  12. Hallie, you raised some seriously interesting ideas. And personally very timely, as I am tinkering with a new book setting that presents as classic cozy but won’t be.How to do it? Must say I hated missing your recent SINC workshop n NY – I had to be away. Creepy doll houses? Personally I love dollhouses, but I could see a twist. In fact, we once had a couple of pre-teen boys visiting with parents, and they turned my daughters beloved doll house into a house of horrors. Death and destruction everywhere! Every adorable miniature turned into a murder weapon. It was hilarious!

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  13. I always thought the school janitor and his closet were super creepy. Love your books Hallie!

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  14. I scored an ARC and loved this book. Just the right touch of insidious elements that grow out of control so you couldn’t read ahead lest you missed something important. I suppose that is what creepy is? And the characters felt real. One in particular so much so that I felt like I could name people I’d known who were just like her. And I won’t say more except that I highly recommend it.

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