As I perused the Kindle store one night, I ran into the books of North Carolina author Ellen Elizabeth Hunter. Since the setting for my books is N.C.’s Outer Banks and I have visited Wilmington, N. C., I downloaded her first book—and then I was hooked. In two weeks, I read all the books in her series like Cookie Monster at a Girl Scout cookie sale. Please welcome Ellen Elizabeth Hunter to WWK. E. B. Davis
Elaine, thank you for inviting me to your blog. I feel a sense of satisfaction when a reader has fun reading my books. I have fun writing them.
Ellen, your series’ setting is Wilmington, N.C. Can I presume Wilmington is your hometown?
I live in Wilmington. Place is so very important to our sense of well-being, mental and physical. Wilmington is a beautiful place with the ocean and the waterway, beautiful skies, and that is so good for our soul. And Wilmington offers great outdoor living, walks on the beach or through the historic district. We eat al fresco here and have an abundance of fresh fish markets and restaurants. All very healthy.
Main character, Ashley Wilkes, is a historic preservationist, which takes her into historic homes that sometimes end up being murder scenes. You know a lot about these houses. Are you involved in historic preservation?
I was involved in a decorating project of an 1898 townhouse in NYC. Then I owned a Georgian Revival house built in 1925, so yes, I’ve been involved with old house restoration. Old houses are absolutely fascinating and so full of mystery.
Ashley’s sister, Melanie, serves as Ashley’s side-kick, when Ashley isn’t trailing behind Melanie. I love the dichotomy between the sisters. Are sisters often opposites and at the same time so very alike?
The sister relationship is complex, full of love, loyalty, yet rivalry. Often sisters measure themselves against each other. I try to show how Ashley’s maturing and achieving success changes the relationship between them, going from Ashley’s feeling that she will never catch up with her gorgeous, successful sister, to the realization that she has.
Is Wilmington a small town regardless of its size?
Our population is about 90,000 but in the summer it feels like it doubles with the influx of tourists. Most the year, Wilmington “feels” very small town, everyone knows everyone else. It’s a very friendly town. People are open. I think that’s because we have many transplants so people know they have to extend themselves to others in order to make friends.
The sisters frequent restaurants often. Are the menus and food descriptions authentic to the restaurants?
Absolutely authentic. I have a wonderful time sampling the meals I write about. I did write about one restaurant that closed and that was a disappointment. But basically, if you come to town, you can find the restaurants and food I write about.
In the front of your books, the publisher’s name is Magnolia Mysteries. Is that company your creation?
Magnolia Mysteries is my publishing company. I printed all nine of my books in the trade paperback editions. I own all rights to my books. I did grant Harlequin the mass market paperback reprint rights but once they printed, the rights reverted back to me. I have two stand-alone suspense novels, Dead Ringer and Lady Justice, posted as eBooks. Lady Justice is under contract to Harlequin. My advice to writers is don’t be too quick to sign over your rights to a publisher. You lose all control and you often lose money. Believe in yourself and your product. The eBook market allows us to go directly to our readers without any middlemen.
My first book, Murder on the Ghost Walk, was “almost” bought by William Morrow. Now I’m glad they turned me down. If they had published that book, it would be out of print, and I’d been fighting to regain my rights. Yes, I’ve published the books in paper for years.
Your covers are intriguing. Are they renditions of actual historic homes in Wilmington?
I have a very talented designer. I am very careful to have permission to use the picture of a real house or scene, or else I take the photo myself. For example, the cover you show here bears a photo of The Bellamy Mansion, a real house/museum, and the picture was given to me by the site director.
How have you promoted your work?
I speak at various organizations, for example I will be speaking to the Great Oaks Club on Wednesday. I send emails to the book editors of newspapers and magazines, telling them my latest news.
Which writers’ conferences do you attend?
I’m not big on writers’ conferences. Sorry. I prefer connecting with my readers, through libraries, bookstores, and community organizations. From about 2001 to 2008 or 2009 we had a fabulous writers’ conference here in Wilmington called the Cape Fear Crime Festival. I attended all of those conferences.
What is your favorite aspect of writing?
I love all aspects of writing. I do a lot of historical research for my plots. I love setting the scenes and directing my characters in their roles. I have writer friends who start writing a book without knowing whodunit or why. I am incapable of doing that. Still, I cannot fully outline a book either. I think you have to remain open to inspiration that happens as the book progresses.
When I started this adventure about 15 years ago I promised myself that when it was no longer fun, I’d quit. Haven’t quit yet.
THANK YOU. Happy writing to all.