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Visiting with us at Confessions of a Bookaholic today is Elisabeth Grace Foley, author of the Mrs Meade Mysteries.
I have been so busy recently which is why the spotlights I missed are being posted this week - don't worry I am back on track now!
Elisabeth Grace Foley is a historical fiction author, avid reader and lifelong history buff, the author of Peacemaker Award-nominated Western novella Left-Hand Kelly, and short story collections The Ranch Next Door and Other Stories and Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories. Her work has appeared online at Rope and Wire and The Western Online. Her other books include a series of short historical mysteries, the Mrs. Meade Mysteries; and short fiction set during the American Civil War and the Great Depression.
Find out more about Elisabeth on Goodreads | Blog | Amazon
Hi there Elisabeth, welcome to Confessions of a Bookaholic!
Thank you! I’m excited to be here!
Firstly, you have written a lot of books! Tell us about some of your most popular ones.
My series of historical mystery novelettes, the Mrs. Meade Mysteries, have been my bestselling titles most of the time. Everybody loves a mystery! Mrs. Meade is a shrewd but kind-hearted widow lady with a knack for solving the puzzles that arise in a small Colorado town in the early 1900s. Think Miss Marple in the Edwardian era, in a part of America that still has a bit of the frontier element left. And my novella Corral Nocturne, which is a retelling of Cinderella set on the Montana prairies, has also been popular with readers; it’s been receiving some lovely reviews!
What is it about historical and western fiction that you like so much?
History has always fascinated me from a very early age—I love reading about past times and about the personal stories of the people who lived them. There’s a quote by Louis L’Amour that I like: “Historical novels are, without question, the best way of teaching history, for they offer the human stories behind the events and leave the reader with a desire to know more.” That’s definitely been true for me. As for westerns, I grew up watching western movies with my dad and enjoying them, and then later, when I ventured into reading western fiction and history, I became interested in the Old West era as a part of American history. I find it a wonderful backdrop for storytelling: you have such a large slice of the country to choose from for your setting, and so much history to spark ideas for plots and characters. It isn’t only about the cowboys and outlaws; it’s about the families who settled the country, those who went west to start a new life after the Civil War, the young people who headed west to seek their fortunes. There are so many stories there to tell.
How do you balance fact and fiction in your works?
Usually when I set out to write a story it’ll be in a time and setting that I’m already interested in, so I have a background gathered from the history I’ve read, and also from fiction written at that time. I try to have my characters speak and act in a way that’s realistic for the time period—reading fiction written during the era itself is an excellent way to get a sense of that—and I research factual things like clothes, houses, inventions, etc. as I go along, if I run into something that I don’t know about in detail.
What authors influenced your work most?
For westerns in particular, my biggest influence is probably my personal favorite B.M. Bower, an early woman author of westerns who began writing around the turn of the 20th century; and also Henry Herbert Knibbs, Dorothy M. Johnson, Max Brand, and Elmore Leonard’s early western short stories. O. Henry, P.G. Wodehouse and A.A. Milne taught me the delights of wordplay and a sense of humor; Booth Tarkington and Leo Tolstoy I love for their ability to create wonderfully human, sometimes flawed but relatable characters; while authors like Mary Stewart and Daphne du Maurier leave me awed by their skills with description and creating a sense of place and atmosphere.
I notice that you write lots of short stories/novellas, what is it about those that appeal to you more than the traditional novel?
Actually, my ambition has always been to write novels. If anyone had told me five years ago that I’d have written and published this much short fiction, no one would have been more surprised than myself. But I’ve enjoyed writing short stories and novellas, and I feel that all the work I’ve put into them has been like serving an apprenticeship in honing my writing skills. At present I’m trying to take a step back from shorter works for a while (except for continuing the Mrs. Meade Mysteries) and focus on finally completing a novel—I’ve got a few novel manuscripts in various stages of being written or edited.
On your blog you say that you’re a Christian, many writers cite their faith as a major influence on their works – is this the case for you?
I don’t see myself as writing so-called “Christian fiction,” because I’ve always been rather ambivalent toward that term—but yes, my Christianity does influence my work in the way it influences all areas of my life. I always strive simply to craft the best quality book that I’m able, but I think my writing will always reflect my beliefs and worldview in some way, as all writers’ do. Sometimes Christianity may play a direct role in a story, if I feel it’s needful to the plot; other times it won’t; but I think it always influences what I write in some way.
What books would you compare your works to? Comparisons are always helpful for readers looking for more books.
Well, as I mentioned before, I think anybody who enjoys Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple books and similar mysteries will enjoy the Mrs. Meade Mysteries. A recent reviewer of Corral Nocturne compared its style of that to L.M. Montgomery, which was a very flattering compliment! For my westerns, I think readers who like the traditional westerns of Louis L’Amour and others will enjoy them; but my stories are not just based around gunfights and action; they’re largely character-driven and I think they would appeal to readers of general historical fiction too.
You described a liking for ‘obscure forgotten gems’ in your blog, will you share some of those with my readers?
Some of my favorite discoveries from the past few years: Thorofare by Christopher Morley, Poor, Dear Margaret Kirby and Other Stories by Kathleen Thompson Norris, The Street of Seven Stars by Mary Roberts Rinehart (one of her non-mystery novels, set in Vienna just before the outbreak of World War I), and Uncle Abner, Master of Mysteries by Melville Davisson Post, to name just a few. And one of my favorite books ever is Westward Ho! by Charles Kingsley, a splendid adventure novel set in the Elizabethan era that doesn’t seem to be as well known.
Which of the characters that you’ve created do you like the most and why?
I get quite attached to most of them, but I think some of my favorites are Claire Lester in Left-Hand Kelly, Cole Newcomb in Corral Nocturne and Sheriff Andrew Royal in the Mrs. Meade Mysteries. Sheriff Royal has been one of the most fun characters for me to write. As for Cole, when I set out to write a Cinderella retelling, I knew I wanted to give my Prince Charming character a little more personality and charm than the prince seems to have in most traditional versions of Cinderella—and I think I succeeded pretty well, for I’m quite fond of him myself. With Claire, it’s a little harder to say, but by the time I finished writing the book she was one of the characters that I liked and empathized with the most.
Which of your works did you find the most enjoyable to write?
Probably my short story “The Rush at Mattie Arnold’s” from Wanderlust Creek and Other Stories. The idea for the story came to me on the spur of the moment, and it only took a few days to write, which is much faster than I usually complete a story. I knew where the story was going, the ideas for dialogue came to me smoothly as I went along, and basically it was just plain fun.
I noticed that you're quite young to have so many works published, what advice would you give to a young writer like yourself?
First of all, read—read plenty of good books, and definitely include classics that have stood the test of time. There’s nothing like reading quality books to observe what good writing looks like, and to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t work. Second, if you are young and just considering publishing for the first time, I’d advise taking a good hard look at your work and deciding if you’ve really made it the best it can be before you go ahead and put it out there. There are some manuscripts I wrote not too many years ago that I’m glad I didn’t rush ahead with, things I’m quite content now to regard as practice for what came after. Edit it as many times as you need to; get honest feedback from friends or beta-readers, and just try to appraise it honestly.
Finally, do you have any upcoming works that the readers of Confessions of a Bookaholic should look out for?
The one definite thing on the agenda at the moment is the next entry in the Mrs. Meade Mysteries, The Silent Hour, which I’m aiming at releasing in autumn 2015. After that, I don’t know yet which of my works-in-progress will make it into print next!
Elisabeth has kindly agreed to give away a copy of Left-Hand Kelly, which was recently named a Peacemaker Award finalist for Best Independently Published Western Novel
About Left-Hand Kelly
Sixteen-year-old Lew Kelly grew up idolizing his enigmatic ex-gunfighter father. Everyone thought Lew’s habit of practicing his quick draw was a harmless amusement—until the day when a boys’ hot-headed quarrel exploded into gunplay, with disastrous results.
Three years later, Lew is withdrawn and bitter—and he still carries a gun. When an unexpected twist of circumstances forces him to face again the memories and the aftermath of that ill-fated fight, will old wrongs be righted—or will the result be an even worse tragedy than before?
Find the book on Amazon | Goodreads | Blog
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