Today I’d like you to meet my friend and mystery writer, Ellen E. Kennedy. She’s not only a compelling author, she’s a wife, mother, grandmother, and retired commercial copywriter, living in the Raleigh, NC area.
Welcome, Ellen! I'm excited to do this interview with you. Let’s talk about your writing career. How long have you been writing books?
Roughly seventeen years, when I began writing the first book (Irregardless of Murder) in the Miss Prentice Cozy Mystery Series, about a high school English teacher. It was first published around 2001 and then re-published in 2012, followed by Death Dangles a Participle, Murder in the Past Tense and Incomplete Sentence.
What type of writing do you normally do?
I always recommend that new writers write in the genre they most enjoy. I love cozy mysteries, a la Agatha Christie. I’ve also written Christian romance and a couple of Christian suspense novellas.
Tell us exactly what a cozy mystery is.
A cozy mystery, in my opinion, is one set in a small community where all the characters know each other well. The murder, if there is one, occurs offstage, so to speak. There is a minimum of sex and violence and little or no police procedure. Some have said a cozy mystery needs a “hook” of some kind, such as a knitting theme, or coffee, or a bakery. If that’s the case, my cozy series’ “hook” is that my character, Amelia Prentice, is an English teacher and her thoughts and speech reflect her profession.
How many books are in your series and how do they relate to each other. Introduce us to Amelia Prentice.
Amelia’s story starts in Irregardless of Murder, when she trips over the corpse of a former student in the public library. The aftermath of this incident changes her life, which is that of a single, forty-something teacher who has taught at least half the local population.
In Death Dangles a Participle, two of Amelia’s students are accused of a particularly brutal murder and she sets out to clear them. There are many side plots, including a strange lunchbox and a mysterious illness that plagues Amelia.
Murder in the Past Tense is centered around a flashback, when Amelia and her husband Gil remember the summer they worked together in the local summer theater. I especially enjoyed making up a musical, complete with lyrics, for the actors to perform. The strange disappearance of a young woman and the enigmatic life of an Adirondack hermit are intertwined.
Give us a brief synopsis of the third book in your series, Incomplete Sentence.
Incomplete Sentence is about a ruthless killer who was found guilty of the brutal murder of his girlfriend fifteen years before, but has eluded the law, hence the title. Amelia becomes acquainted with the father of one of the victims and when she and her friends are stranded in her family B&B during an unexpected blizzard and another victim is found, she fears that the killer may be among them.
Folks, I’ve read this book and it is a page turner! Ellen, how long did it take to write this thriller?
I worked on Incomplete Sentence for about a year. Most of the books have taken about that long.
Do you have a favorite line from the book?
I love the character of Hugh Channing, the elderly law professor and father of one of the victims. He reminds me of my own dad. Here’s a favorite quote: “Die. You can say it: die. It doesn’t frighten me. Don’t say ‘pass.’ I hate weasel words. I’ve heard my share. Lawyers use far too many of them.” He goes on to say, “The Bible is the ultimate law book. Everything stems from it, or should.”
Is it published and, if so, when and by whom and how can my readers get a copy?
Incomplete Sentence was published by Sheaf House Publishers on 2016. You can buy it or any of the other Miss Prentice mysteries from the publisher, from CBD (Christianbook.com), Amazon or B&N. It’s available in Ebook or paperback.
What do you enjoy doing besides writing?
Until they came along, I had no idea how much I would enjoy having grandchildren. We have five and my husband and I take every opportunity to spend time with them. Another joy is the writers’ circle I mentor every Friday morning. It’s made up of some extraordinary people who turn out remarkable work. It’s a highlight of my week!
Do you have advice for would-be writers?
People should write whatever it is they want to read themselves. If you love science fiction, that’s what you should write. The same for romance or mystery. If you like biography, do that. It’s important to learn the basics, but don’t spend all your time learning how. Just do it, as the Nike slogan says!
What do you wish you knew when you started your writing career?
I wish I knew how hard promotion is. I thought that part would be easy, because I have a background in advertising, but it’s much more difficult in my opinion than the actual writing, which is a joy and agony by turns. But writing is well worth it, even if you’re never published.
What are you working on now?
Earlier, I mentioned writing novellas. I’m working on a story for an anthology now, to be called I’ll Be Watching You, and one for another anthology, Christmas at the Cactus Café. Barbour is going to re-publish—for the third time—my Christian romance novella The Applesauce War, the plot of which is based on one of my favorite musicals, The Fantasticks. The novellas have proven much more lucrative than my full-length novels, but mystery novels are still my first love.
Sometime soon, I hope to finish book number five in the Miss Prentice series. The title will be The Village Idiom.
Folks, I have one word of advice for you. Don’t read this book if you plan to pick it up and only read for a few minutes. You won’t be able to put it down and before you know it, your few minutes will have turned into an hour. I know. It happened to me.
Thank you, Ellen, for a good interview and a great series of cozy mysteries. They are just the thing to take to the beach, take on vacation, or curl up by a fire with. (I hope I didn't just dangle a participle or something!) Trust me folks, Miss Amelia Prentice is a character you won’t soon forget.
Quote of the Day: There will be time to murder and create. T.S. Eliot