Wednesday, October 15, 2014

An Interview with Indie Authors Polly Iyer and Ellis Vidler

Polly Iyer and Ellis Vidler are both indie authors who have new books out. Polly’s Backlash continues the story of Diana, the psychic, and Lucier, New Orleans cop, who team up on the job and in private. Backlash focuses on the unjustness of some court decisions and their ramifications. Ellis’s book, Prime Target, shows the extreme measures that our police forces must provide to bring criminals to justice and how easily those forces can fail. In both books, one bad apple always spoils the bunch (sorry for the pun, Ellis). Both books are fast paced books with characters the reader wants to embrace.

Please welcome Polly and Ellis to WWK.                                                                  E. B. Davis

Questions for Polly:

Your setting is New Orleans, and you seem to know it well. Have you spent time there?

I’ve been to New Orleans twice, quite a while back. The city lends itself to intrigue and was perfect for Mind Games, which takes place during Mardi Gras. At the time, I had no idea that it would be the first book in a series. I’m very clear that I make things up—that’s what fiction is. For instance, Lucier would work out of Headquarters in reality, but I want him in the French Quarter, so I put his division there to suit my purpose. I really think if there’s a book four, I may have to take a trip, for research, of course.

Which element in your stories is more important to you, the romance between Diana and Lucier or solving the mystery?

Definitely, solving the mystery; otherwise, these books would be romance or romantic suspense. They’re not. They’re psychological suspense/thrillers. The relationship between Diana and Lucier is important. Though not exactly Nick and Nora Charles, I do want an element of fun between them in addition to their solving crimes. They are a partnership in work and in life. The hard part is developing their characters so they don’t become cardboard figures. They need to grow as people and in their relationship.

What is a burner phone?

From the Urban Dictionary: Burner Phone: A prepaid cellular phone, replaced frequently (weekly) (monthly) to avoid leaving a trail and getting caught up in illegal activities

You’ve used subtitles under chapter number. Why?

I guess the simple answer is I always have. Every book I’ve written has subtitles. I try to make them a forecast of what’s in the chapter. Some are plays on words; some are serious. One reason is the subtitles make it easy for me to zero in on a chapter of the book while I’m writing it. That way it’s easy to find when I have to go back and change something. Now readers expect them.

Cash says that for every action there is a reaction, the underlying theme of Backlash. Can apathy and inaction be a reaction? 

Of course. If a child acts up and is ignored by his or her parents, might the child keep doing bad things to garner attention? How far will that child go before s/he gets attention, and what will the ramifications be? My guess is many go on seeking attention through their actions throughout their lives. I’ve always thought apathy and inaction the worst offense. Think Nazi Germany. Would the horrors of that time have escalated to the extent they did if people hadn’t turned a blind eye? Apathy and inaction enabled what happened.

Vigilante justice harkens back to the old west’s gunslingers. Do you see any parallels between them and street gangs of today?

I don’t see vigilante justice in the street gangs of today. I see pure meanness and the competition for power and turf. There’s a difference. I took examples from real life in Backlash that warranted the vigilantes to even the score. Every one of the instances I wrote about happened somewhere in this country at one time or another. Some, readers will recognize. I just exacted the revenge many thought those people deserved. Well, maybe not murder, but certainly more jail time. In some instances, perpetrators of the crimes got no jail time at all.

This is the third Diana Racine novel, Polly. Why did you finally decide to write a series?

As I mentioned, I had no intention to write a series when I wrote Mind Games. But I had an idea for a second book and wrote it. It all fit so perfectly. I mentioned Diana, Goddess of the Moon, in the first book. Thus was born book two, Goddess of the Moon. I probably wouldn’t have written a third, but readers asked when the next book was coming out. Then the pressure hit. If readers liked the first two, could I write a third and fulfill their expectations? I’ll know when the reviews of Backlash come in, but the idea of not succeeding was never far during my writing the book.

Thanks for hosting us, Elaine. As always, you ask terrific questions.

Questions for Ellis

Has the FBI changed the name of its Witness Protection Program to Witness Security? What does ICE stand for?

I don’t know that it was ever officially Witness Protection Program. The Witness Security Program
was first authorized by the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. The U.S. Marshal I spoke to called it Witsec, so I used that. The marshals still have a 100% percent safety record for people who follow their rules. ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was established in 2003. Recently ICE has changed to Homeland Security Investigations (HIS), but that doesn’t have the same ring and I kept it ICE for my story.

Pike was my favorite secondary character. Are you a dog person, Ellis?

Definitely. We have two small dogs now, but we used to have Irish setters, and I always wanted an Irish wolfhound. This was a good opportunity to have one. Their personalities fit what I wanted for the story: gentle, loyal, and sensitive but a huge dog that could frighten people.

You live in South Carolina, but most of the story occurs in the mountains of North Carolina. Have you spent time there?

Flat Rock and Hendersonville are only about 25 miles from my home, and we go there often. The book idea came from a photograph of a deer eating apples in the snow, and I had the perfect setting nearby. It was easy to do the research; I visited several apple farms and met some helpful, generous people who answered questions and gave me some insights into apple growing. I took pictures and got lots of new ideas from those trips. We ate a lot of apples last fall too.
Flat Rock especially is a charming little village, and I let Madeleine use the bookstore there.

Although Charlie, your male main character, is a war hero, he is disfigured—people turned away from him. Why has our society become obsessed with beautiful people?

I’m not sure why we traded natural beauty for the canned look in Hollywood and all the ads. We seem to want the same thin, toned body, facial features, full lips, and even teeth on everyone. In the beginning of Prime Target, Madeleine is part of that culture, though she didn’t resort to plastic surgery or collagen injections. Real people seldom look that way, and it’s hard on them.
This obsession adds to the difficulties faced by disfigured people. Maybe scars are associated with horror and evil, but it’s usually far from the truth. Whatever the reason, most of us don’t know how to react to differences, and many turn away.

With our borders besieged by illegal immigrants, is the demand for this supply of cheap labor still an issue?

Yes. Even though the sex trade is more prevalent, cheap labor is still in demand. Farm work is hard, and few people who have a choice want to do it, so it creates a shortage. Some farm workers come in through the guest worker program, which helps, but in many areas the number allowed in isn’t enough to fill the need. The need for workers provides an opportunity for easy exploitation of immigrants and people desperate for a better life. Traffickers are always there to take advantage.
The farms I visited have small orchards and are able to hire locally for the most part. Many migrant workers have settled in the area and manage to find work most of the year.

All of your books, Ellis, are standalones. Will you ever write a series?

For me, a character in crime fiction needs a reason to be involved. I love Harry Bosch, Joe Pike, and many series characters. But though the Jessica Fletchers are entertaining, I don’t want to write about one. However, I don’t know enough about law enforcement to create a fictional cop or detective, so I write mostly standalones. My books are linked through family or job, but so far each one features a different main character. If I found the right protagonist, I’d love to write a series.

What excites you about writing romantic suspense?

My books are much more suspense than romance, but there’s always some level of romance. Relationships are part of life, and I want my characters to be whole people. I want them to find the right person, but one difficulty is that I have to fall for both characters. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen on the pages. I don’t write the banter and conflict readers expect in current genre romantic suspense. Mine are closer to traditional RS, such as Helen MacInnes and Mary Stewart—but with more adult situations and language.

I know Polly is a beach person, Ellis. After reading Prime Target, I wonder. Are you a mountain person? 

Absolutely. I like the beach, but I love the mountains. The constantly changing scenery is a source of wonder, and being there give me a feeling of rightness. I’d love to live in western North Carolina.

Elaine, thanks for having us. It’s been fun. 

Look for more of Polly's and Ellis's books on their websites. Thanks so much for the interview. Your writing has inspired this writer. 


Warren Bull said...

Thanks for sharing on WWK. It sounds like an interesting setting and intriguing characters.

KM Rockwood said...

They both sound like interesting books that I need to check out.

Polly, when I was a kid, "looking for attention" was considered the worst possible motive for any type of behavior, and got rapid reaction. You got attention, all right, but seldom repeated whatever it was you did.

So many young people join gangs for a family and sense of belonging that they are missing. Given lack of positive guidance and caring in so many of their lives, it's not surprising to see the meanness.

Ellis, I live in an area with lots of orchards ("some of my best friends are orchard owners....") and see the ongoing problems with migrant workers. It's hard to hire the help to take care of the harvest, and in recent years some of the crops have gone unpicked. Many of the owners are ready to give up on agriculture, and when the housing boom picks up again, they will seriously consider selling out.

I like to see books where the idea that everyone needs to be physically perfect is challenged.

Polly Iyer said...

Thanks for having us on this wonderful blog, Elaine. You always ask great questions. KM, you're right. These gang kids seem to seek the family closeness missing in their lives. They find power is numbers, and I wonder if they're acting out on others what they'd like to do to their family members. I wish I had the answers, but it could start with parents doing their jobs by creating a safe environment for their children. But that's a whole different story.

Ellis Vidler said...

It's a pleasure to be invited here. Thanks to you all. KM, I've seen how people are affected by their inability to meet our current "ideals," and it's so hard, especially on young people. Charlie's is an extreme case, but I wanted to show the effect on him, how damaging reactions can be. Madeleine isn't beautiful but she's normal and reasonably attractive. The only time the word "beautiful" is used in Prime Target to describe a person, it's about Charlie, whom I love.

E. B. Davis said...

I loved reading both very different books, although they did have one common element (which I won't state since it may spoil). I identified more with Ellis's setting since I'm more rural than urban, but Polly's steamy New Orleans matched the plot very well. The dog in Ellis's book captured my heart. Polly, I think Diana needs a dog--I know you think its cute, and you hate cute--but you can show a lot through characters' interactions with pets.(Polly will probably have Diane find a dead bird in the next book due to that comment.) Oh well.

Polly Iyer said...

Elaine, you made me laugh. Surprisingly, what I have in mind for Diana should there be a fourth book will surprise you. But no dead birds, I guarantee. Still laughing. You know I love dogs. My dog Bogie is the love of my dog life.

E. B. Davis said...

I'm so glad! I had visions of Hitchcock parallelism--dead crows in a New Orleans cemetery--Diana has visions cooked and stuffed birds. I'll stop. But I'm glad to know you are working on Diana's next plot and adventure--sneaky of me, isn't it?

Polly Iyer said...

There will be a standalone first. But I'm thinking about a fourth Diana book. I must be deranged.

Gloria Alden said...

Both of your books sound like ones I'd like to read, Polly and Ellis.

I've never been to New Orleans, but it would be nice to visit it through your book, Polly.

Ellis, I love the mountains, too. I've been in the mountains of N.C. and others in the east, and a few weeks ago, I visited the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Yosemite. Totally awesome.

Polly Iyer said...

Gloria, if there's a book 4, I think I'm make a trip to New Orleans myself. It's about time. I haven't been there in years. As far as the NC mountains, they are beautiful, and a city like Asheville is one of my favorite US cities.

Kara Cerise said...

Both books sound terrific!

Polly, now I'm curious what you have in mind for Diana if there is a fourth book in the series. Hmmm

Ellis, that is so interesting that a photo of a deer eating apples in the snow inspired your story.
My niece is studying to be a doctor and hopes to help migrant farm workers with physically demanding jobs who may not have access to medical care.

Polly Iyer said...

Kara, I've started the fourth book while I'm readying the standalone for the next publication. All I'll say is there will a new permanent character that comes into Diana and Lucier's lives. As always, I have not idea where I'm going after chapter 2. :-)

Ellis Vidler said...

I love the mountains near here. They're old and graceful, a bit softened by time. I lived in western NC for a couple of years and loved the area. Once we had snow April.

Kara, I admire your niece. Migrant workers need help. Even those here legally are poor and without resources.

Ellis Vidler said...

Gloria, I've flown over some of the western mountain ranges but never been there to see them. One of my favorite movies (Last of the Dogmen) is set in Montana, i think in Glacier National Park, part of the Rockies. The scenery alone is worth the price of the movie. Just magnificent.