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?
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.