Edith/Maddie here, pleased to welcome our first guest for a new feature on the blog. Each month on the third Thursday we will invite an author who writes in a genre none of the Wickeds is currently published in to talk about their work and their writing, plus other fun questions.
I love Joanna Schaffhausen‘s work and am thrilled she agreed to be our first guest in the feature. Joanna, who lives in the Boston area, writes hugely successful books categorized as serial killer thrillers, police procedurals, and crime thrillers. Her Ellery Hathaway series has been described as having heart-pounding suspense, and her latest one, Every Waking Hour, comes out next week. She’s giving away a signed copy to a commenter, too (US only)! So let’s see what she has to say.
E: What drew you to the genre you write?
J: I have been writing mysteries since I was watching Scooby Doo and learned how to hold a pencil. I liked the puzzle aspect and still do. In grade school, I used to write whodunnits for class assignments and put the solution upside down at the end. As an adult, I appreciate the way crime stories can illuminate different aspects of human society. What is often revealed isn’t pretty, but I still hope that the long arc is bending toward justice.
E: What sets your book apart from what is out there?
J: I think the characters are the memorable part of any book. We authors are told there are only seven basic plots, right? The people who live the adventures are the fun, differentiating aspect. The two characters who anchor my main series, Ellery Hathaway and Reed Markham, are loosely inspired by two real people involved in the Ted Bundy serial murder case: Carol DaRonch and Robert Keppel. Keppel had been working homicide for just one week when he caught the Bundy case, and it changed the trajectory of his career. Carol was eighteen years old and shopping at a Utah mall when Bundy, posing as a police officer, abducted her. She escaped and became his first known living victim. Every time the Bundy story is retold, which it is in books, television or film every single year, Carol has to relive this event that happened to her when she was a girl. Bundy’s been dead for decades but he still follows Carol everywhere.
In my books, Ellery also escaped a serial killer at age fourteen when Reed, a green FBI agent at the time, rescued her from captivity. The media still hungers for the story even decades later. How Ellery and Reed cope with this and form their own paths is the backbone of all the stories.
E: Your characters are deep and richly written. What are you currently writing?
J: I am not actively writing at the moment, but I am gearing up to start the second book in my new series. I tend to spend a lot of time researching and thinking about a book and then I write them in a 60-day burst.
E: Yay – somebody else who writes a book in two months! Do you write a series or standalones? Why?
J: So far, I’ve written series. Every Waking Hour is the fourth book in the Ellery and Reed series, although it can be read as a standalone. That series begins with The Vanishing Season. I have a new series starting this summer with Gone for Good, about a rookie female detective in Chicago who has a cold-case serial murder land in her lap.
I like series because you can grow the characters over multiple books, exploring different aspects of them. You can deepen the relationships. It’s like returning to visit an old friend.
E: I feel the same about writing series – and reading them. What are you reading right now?
J: I am reading Watch Her, the latest Hester Thursby novel by Edwin Hill. I love Hester and her found family, and Hill creates such layered, rich characters.
E: My copy of Edwin’s book is on its way! What is your favorite deadline snack?
J: I like to slice up an apple and have a little bit of peanut butter for dipping. The apple satisfies my sweet tooth and the peanut butter provides protein.
E: That’s a favorite combo of mine, too. Do you have a favorite quote or life motto?
J: I don’t have any life credo other than “When you can choose to be anything, be kind.” But I think when it comes to writing I like this one: “A winner is just a loser who tried one more time.”
E: And yet she persisted! Favorite writing space?
J: I write from home, and it’s a good thing I do because that’s where I’ve been for the past year. We have two offices in the house and neither is mine. My husband, who has also been home, needs one for work because he has frequent meetings throughout the day. My daughter needs the other for online school. So, I write in the bedroom, propped up with a laptop. I usually write alone so it has been a challenge to figure out how to do it with everyone so HERE all the time.
E: That’s quite the challenge. What do you see when you look up from writing?
J: Usually a basset hound. My dog, Winston, lies next to me when I am working. Sometimes on top of me. I am constantly wiping nose prints from my screen.
E: Everybody loves Winston! Thanks for joining us today, Joanna.
Readers: What’s the range of genres you read? Are there any you won’t go near? Also, Joanna will be by to answer questions, so ask away. She’ll send one US commenter a signed copy of the book!
Joanna Schaffhausen is the author of the award-winning Ellery Hathaway series as well as the forthcoming thriller Gone for Good. She has a doctorate in psychology, which reflects her long-standing interest in the brain―how it develops and the many ways it can go wrong. Previously, was an editorial producer for ABC News, writing for programs such as World News Tonight, Good Morning America, and 20/20. She lives in the Boston area with her husband, daughter, and basset hound Winston.