Lauren Elliott - An Adventure Filled with Mystery, Murder …and Just a Touch of Romance
Lauren Elliott grew up devouring the entire Nancy Drew series and then graduated to Victoria Holt, Agatha Christie, Barbara Erskine, Lynn Kurland, and Michael Crichton to name a few of her favorite authors. When it came time for post-secondary education, journalism seemed like the logical choice as she had written for as long as she could remember. Soon after graduation, while working for a small publication, she discovered that reporting wasn’t what fueled her writing passions. As someone with an additionally strong background in professional theater who had the love of storytelling and captivating and holding an audience, her fiction-writing career began to take center stage. As our Author of the Day, she tells us about her book, Murder by the Book.
Please give us a short introduction to what Murder by the Book is about.
In book one, Murder by the Book, readers discover that our protagonist Addison (Addie) Greyborne, a rare and old book expert from Boston has had, to say the least, a lousy year. Her fiancé was killed during a home invasion robbery, and her father died in a car accident. After that, a great-aunt she didn't know she had passed away and left Addie her entire estate, including an old Victorian house and all its contents. Addie had never heard of the town Greyborne Harbor, where the house was located, but the quaint New England coastal village seemed like the perfect place to start life afresh after suffering through her heart-breaking losses. Besides, the town and Addie share a name—Greyborne—so it must be fate, right?
Addie discovered her aunt’s house held a treasure trove of rare books and collectables which Addie thought were too precious to be hoarded away in a dusty attic and should be shared with the world. Some of the books were of museum and library quality and others, though old and well-loved, had little monetary value but would be perfect in a used bookshop. Except the small town, she now called home didn’t have one. That was when she decided she would open her own book and curio shop. So Beyond the Page Books and Curios was born, and then the peaceful new life she had envisioned became anything but... it wasn’t long before her reputation lay in ruin, and evidence pointed to her as a suspect in the murder of a local merchant. All this before she’d even finished unpacking and settling into her new home.
If readers love stories that are centered on bookstores and rare books, then they’re going to enjoy following the adventures of Addie, Serena, her best friend and local tea merchant, plus the other cast of colorful characters in the quaint seaside town of Greyborne Harbor where murder and mystery are not … uncommon.
What inspired you to write about someone who works with rare books?
I grew up, wandering the aisles of my local library and my earliest memories were of an old brick and sandstone library down the street from my grandmother’s house. There is a similar era library in the city where I live and to this day it remains my favorite library because of the fond memories I have of my grandmother taking me to her library. My connections with Addie include, our love of old books, researching/fact-checking to the extreme as a trained journalist I insist all my information is verified from a number of sources. In addition, Addie and I love to solve a good mystery. We both have sharp observation skills and share the ability to see how each individual puzzle piece fits with each other one in order to create the big picture and see it as a whole.
In truth, the inspiration behind my Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series came to me a number of years ago. I had a good friend who owned a small used bookshop that, being the book lover I am. I frequented regularly. It was my vision of the perfect bookstore, old and rare books, a reading corner, charming knick-knacks, and a bay window display that she decorated to highlight the season and one that never failed to attract passersby.
When I had more time to devote to writing, my old reading friend, Agatha Christie emerged, and the first image that came to mind was my real-life friend Maggie and her bookshop. From there, Addie’s was born. Even though, Beyond the Page Books & Curios is an expanded version of my friends, it’s one that I hope, through my writing, reflects the same feeling to readers as Maggie’s did to her customers. That is, an environment where you want to browse, stay and in general enjoy the ambiance of comfy reading chairs along with the aroma of fresh brewed coffee niggling at your nose—a place that feels like a home away from home … well, except perhaps for the murder and mayhem surrounding Addie’s bookstore.
Tell us more about Addie Greyborne. What makes her tick?
I believe characters should be flawed and more relatable. My favorite quote is one, by author Roxane Gay. “If people cannot be flawed in fiction, there is no place left for us to be human.” This is an element I strive to convey in all my characters. They are real people with real emotions. Sometimes they slip and fall, other times, they meet adversity head-on. It’s about being real and my protagonist Addie is no different. She has good days and bad. She can be serious, and silly, acting no better than a teenager at times, but she’s always a very real woman, no different than you or I. Heck I’m older than her early, thirty-something years and some days; I'd have a hard time passing as a fourteen-year-old.
As far as the strengths, Addie posses that help her most in her adventures it’s probably her resiliency, resourcefulness, and the ability to keep her cool when faced with a challenge. In spite of the emotionally devastating setbacks, she encountered the last few years when she lost everyone she loved under tragic circumstances. She remains loyal to those she cares for and will stop at nothing to help a friend in need.
Why did you pick a small New England town as the backdrop for your story?
Before I penned my first cozy book, I conducted extensive research into the history of various locations that would work well with what I had in mind writing. And found that the east coast of the US appeared to be perfect. It is steeped in history that goes back to the 1600s. It’s easily accessible to hundreds of other cultural-historical sites that sadly, aren’t found where I live in western Canada and made for the perfect setting of a cozy murder mystery.
Which of your characters was the most challenging to create?
I find it a challenge to create all my characters, no matter how minor their role might be in the story because, like real people, I want them to be believable, complete with all the quirks and flaws that many of us have. Most of my characters are roughly based on people whom I have crossed paths with in some way during my life, but their individual characteristics can be a combination of more than one person. Keen observation skills are required in fiction writing. There was an important lesson that I learned while studying journalism. It was that a person speaks more and exhibits more clearly their true intentions through their body language than the words they convey. This is something I attempt to incorporate into all my characterizations –the little nuances, such as a lip or cheek twitch, biting one’s lip when stressed or thinking, an occasional eye roll, a slight tic of the head or shoulders, a fleeting smirk or snicker. It’s those small things that give us a more detailed glimpse into a person’s character than just writing their dialogue and telling readers what color their hair is or describing their body build.
How did the idea for the novel originate?
My whole life the stories have just come to me. I have always been an observer of people and made-up stories about them as I watched them. It might be something as insignificant as a woman sitting alone in a café and the look on her face or the set of her shoulders, or a twitch of her eye as she glances around the room. I start to wonder what her life is like, what her story is, why she’s there, why is she alone? Character development comes from the old who, what, where, when, why and how of journalism based on those observations, we make daily. If I don’t write an actual story about the woman in the café, I will at least file her away in my memory banks to use those observations for a character in one of my books later.
Tell us more about the cover and how it came about.
Sadly, I can’t take credit for any of the amazing cover art on my books. The finished product is up to my editor and the art department at Kensington publishing. I can make suggestions, but the real magic takes place in the Kensington art studio.
This is book one of a mystery series. Can it be read as a standalone? How do the other books in the series tie in with this one?
All my books can be read as a standalone as there is enough back story given in each one to catch the new reader up. However, since I have written it as a series and there are a lot of relationship and character developments throughout each book. I would suggest for readers to really appreciate the gang in Greyborne Harbor that they start with book one and read the series in order.
Do you have any interesting writing habits? What is an average writing day like for you?
I wouldn’t say I have any interesting writing habits or rituals as I’m not a superstitious person. However, part of my routine is to write at least 500 words every day, whether I feel like it or not. On days like that I generally, but not always, find the words and ideas start to flow easier, and before I know it. I have completed a chapter which for my books is approximately 2,000 to 2,500 words.
When I write, I enjoy the comfort of my home office. It can become cluttered at times, but it’s always a cozy space and has a door that I can close and retreat behind. Inside, I’m surrounded by whiteboards, stacks of books, photos, and memorabilia of my travels.
What are you working on right now?
It’s been a very busy time. Book seven in the Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery, To the Tome of Murder is set for release in October, and my publisher has just accepted my manuscript for Book eight, A Margin for Murder, which is set for release in May 2022.
Currently, I am writing book one in a brand-new, three-book series set to be launched the fall of 2022. The publication dates of the new series will be alternated between the releases of books nine and ten of the Addie series. All I can say about my upcoming series right now is that it’s very different to the Beyond the Page Bookstore Mystery series. So keep an eye out for Kensington’s reveal to catch a glimpse into the exciting new cozy community I’m looking forward to exploring together with my readers.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
For more information about my books, and upcoming releases, please check out my links.
Facebook – Lauren Elliott Mystery Readers: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1213565802478082
Kensington Authors: https://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author/lauren-elliott/