Ellen Butler is a #1 International Bestselling novelist who writes books of the genre mystery/suspense and romance. Having read her Karina Cardinal series, I must say I am a huge fan of her writing. I had a chance to interview Ellen and here’s how it went.
Hello Ellen and welcome to my blog, The Book Decoder. Tell me and my readers about yourself.
Hello Rekha, thank you for having me on your blog. I’m excited to reach new readers. I write in a variety of genres. I began in romance, moved to historical spy fiction, and am now writing the Karina Cardinal mystery series which takes place in the Washington, D.C. metro area. When I’m not writing, I’m spending time with my two boys and husband.
What inspired you to write Karina Cardinal series?
While researching my historical fiction novel, I caught the tail end of a documentary about the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist that happened back in 1990. That sparked my interest, and one afternoon, I went down a research rabbit hole to find out more. While writing The Brass Compass, the Gardner theft kept rolling around in my head, and I decided I needed to create a storyline around it, and that is how Karina Cardinal was born.
What is your writing process like?
When I was writing my romances, I tended to write more organically. I knew who the main characters would be, and how it would end, but I never created full outlines. Once I got into writing mysteries, I found that pantsering no longer worked. The first draft of Isabella’s Painting was a mess. Full of plot holes, and it took forever during the editing phase. Therefore, beginning with Fatal Legislation, I started plotting the mysteries. It’s worked much better, and even though my characters occasionally go off on tangents, plotting has worked out nicely for me. I don’t target a daily word count, but, after reviewing my schedule for the week and determining how many hours I will have for writing, I tend to set a weekly word count goal.
What kind of research do you do, and how long do you spend researching before beginning a book?
I research all kinds of things. I put in two and a half years of research for my historical fiction. It took that long for a number of reasons. I was still working on a romance that I’d been contracted to write, so my focus was split. Additionally, The Brass Compass was my first foray into WWII fiction, and since I wasn’t alive during that time, I needed to take the time to interview people who were, read a lot of nonfiction books on the era, and research the OSS. For my contemporary mysteries, I tend to do research during the plotting phase, and, as questions come up, during the writing phase. Luckily, I live in the Washington, D.C. area, and I’ve been able to make a number of contacts—D.C. police, FBI, Capitol police, paramedics, lobbyists, journalists, etc.—who help me with my research.
How do you select the names of your characters?
It depends, I give a lot of thought to my main character names. I determine their backstory, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, etc. I also think about why parents would name their kid that name, so I create parents that may not even turn up in the book. For side characters, I tend to pull names out of google. Sometimes I look up my favourite movies and combine cast list names with character names. My family likes to throw funny names at me to see if I’ll put it in my book.
How long does it take you to write a book?
About 6 months—from inception to plotting to a good draft that goes off to my editor.
What’s next for Karina Cardinal?
First, I’m excited to announce that I’ve signed a contract to turn all of the Karina Cardinal mysteries into audiobooks. I’m thrilled to see Karina reaching a wider audience. Additionally, I am working on the fourth novel in the series. A fan favourite, Rodrigo, will be back in the story, along with Karina’s kooky neighbour, Mrs Thundermuffin, and our regulars, Mike Finnegan and the Silverthorne gang. Karina’s next adventure will also go international. Life is always fun when a mystery is uncovered outside of a heroine’s comfort zone. Karina takes this vacation to get away from her troubles. Only trouble, per usual, finds her.
What’s next for Ellen Butler? Any new book/series in the making?
After I finish the fourth Karina Cardinal mystery, I have plans to write a sequel to The Brass Compass. I’ll be focusing on my spy, Lily St. James’ life post-WWII. After WWII, women were encouraged to return to homemaking, while the men were given jobs the women performed during the war. As a post-war spy, what will happen to Lily?
K.C is going international!! Woo-hoo! The Silverthorne Gang, Mike and K.C once again on an adventure!! I absolutely loved the first three books in the Karina Cardinal series. I highly recommend it. Brass Compass is another highly acclaimed book by Butler so go ahead and read em’ all. 😀
Many thanks to Ellen for answering my questions.