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Interview with author Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets

1. What inspired you to write the Dead-End Job Mystery series?

I was between contracts and looking for a new idea for a series. I went to work at a bookstore in Hollywood, Florida. I loved the booksellers, but some customers were difficult. If they were having a bad day, they’d take it out on the booksellers.

I still remember the guy who wanted to return a paperback. He had another paperback, threw the old one on the counter and said, “This is an even exchange. It’s the same price.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I need the manager’s approval.” I called for the manager, who was really busy, and the guy kept yelling at me.

“You’re an idiot,” he said.

A woman in line said, “Rude people stink.”

And all the other women in the line commented on his bad behavior. Finally, the over-worked manager arrived, approved the exchange, and the guy slunk out.

The woman patted me on the hand and said, “You hang in there, honey. You’re doing a good job.”

I appreciated her kindness. And thought, “Hey, this is a book.” In fact, it turned out to be a series. The Dead-End Job mysteries are about the invisible people who do the work. My lead character is Helen Hawthorne, a St. Louis woman on the run from her greedy ex-husband.

Elaine Viets

2. What is the premise of your newest release, The Art of Murder?

My 15th – yes, that many – Dead-End Job mystery, The Art of Murder, is set at a quirky South Florida museum. Built in 1920, the Bonnet House seemed like the perfect place to start Helen's new adventure. Helen and her landlady, Margery Flax, are touring the mansion-turned-museum when they see Annabel Lee Griffin, a young, talented artist, at a museum painting class. Later, they also see Annabel's deadly end. Helen is hired to investigate her death. Was Annabel killed by her jealous husband? Her best friend? A lover from her bohemian past? Helen has her own brush with death as she searches for this artful killer. Meanwhile Phil, Helen’s PI partner and husband, is trying to catch a slippery gold thief. Helen has to go undercover – well, not that undercover -- as a call girl to catch the thief. There’s a car chase through a pricey neighborhood that ends when a sports car crashes into a yacht.

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Elaine Viets

3. Let’s talk a little bit more about your main characters, Helen Hawthorne and her husband Phil Sagemont. What makes these super sleuths such a formidable pair?

They are a marriage of equals. Both are smart and dedicated. People always try to figure out who’s the better person in a couple – which one is smarter, richer, better looking. I believe a marriage of equals is possible. Sue Grafton said she didn’t want to give Kinsey Milhone a husband or long-term lover because she didn’t want to write the “Nick and Nora Charles dialogue.” I saw it as a challenge and hope it works.

4. Please take us on a tour of your website highlighting points of interest.

Elaine Viets

My website has my bio, events, contests, and all my novels' first chapters for both of my series, and a free poster for Checked Out. It says, Libraries are like Las Vegas – what happens there stays there. Librarians protect patrons’ privacy. There is also a picture of my 1986 Jaguar, the same car Judge Lexie Deener drives in my Dead-End Job mystery,"Catnapped!" There are also photos of my cats, Harry and Mystery. Harry is my striped rescue cat. Mystery is a Chartreux, a French cat, who was bred to be a show cat. Unfortunately, she bit a judge and was barred from the ring, so we got to adopt her. She’s a lovable cat, as long as you’re not a show judge.

5. Are you currently at work on your next book? If so, what may you share with our readers?

Elaine Viets

Yes. I’m starting a new dark series featuring Death Investigator Angela Richman. She lives in mythical Chouteau County, near St. Louis. The rich live in the town of Chouteau Forest, a bastion of old money. The workers live in Toonerville. But death doesn't discriminate between the rich and the poor. Brain Storm, the first Angela Richman mystery, will be published August 2. This is a deeply personal mystery, which reflects my own fight to survive six strokes and brain surgery. This new series is a departure for me, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

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