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Interview with Elizabeth Ludwig

Elizabeth, in today’s world of branding, you’ve broken away from the pack with books crossing three genres – historical romance, contemporary and cozy mystery. Died in the Wool is book 2 in the Massachusetts Mayhem Mysteries you co-authored with Janelle Mowery.

I read Chap 1 of Died in the Wool on your website where you set up the dead body and introduce possible suspects. Do you find it harder to write with a large cast of characters as opposed to romance where you haven’t much room for subplots?

Absolutely. In fact, writing mysteries is what changed me from being a “seat of the pants” author to a plotter! In a mystery, every character has to have a background and link to the crime. The more characters you have, the more links there are to keep track of. I found this impossible to do without carefully plotting out the entire book, red herrings and all.

What technique or aid do you use to keep your characters on track?
Okay…I’m going to speak the word every author hates to hear—SYNOPSIS. I know, I know, put the tomatoes down.

The simple fact is a synopsis can be a very useful tool in keeping the story arc and character development on track. No more writer’s block for me, I tell ya. Now, before I even begin writing chapter one, I have a fully detailed synopsis in hand, often six or seven single-spaced pages.

Now, this might not be what I put in my proposal, mind you. Editors really don’t want to wade through a seven page synopsis scene-by-scene. This is my copy of the synopsis, and it includes all of the details of the story that I want to happen in every scene.

Do you and Janelle live physically close or is your working relationship possible only because of technology?
It’s both, actually. For our first book, Where the Truth Lies, Janelle and I corresponded every day, either by phone or email. When we got the first round of edits back, I traveled to Houston—about a two hour drive—so we could sit side-by-side and review them. This wasn’t possible for books two and three however, simply because the time between contracts was much shorter. We had to do much of our editing and revising via email.

How do you and Janelle split the workload?
I think every writing duo has to find what works for them. For me and Janelle, it was taking an individual character and only writing their POV. For example, in Died in the Wool, Monah was Janelle’s character, and Mike was mine. She wrote all of the scenes that take place in Monah’s POV, and I wrote the scenes that take place in Mike’s. Of course, we critique each other extensively, so by the time a scene is finished, we each have our thumbprints all over it.

Believe it or not, we actually have a logical explanation for why we chose to do it this way.

The reader naturally expects the characters to sound different in their head, right? So we thought by splitting the POV’s, we’d actually blur the line between which author wrote what. Based on the feedback we received from Where the Truth Lies, the technique has been very effective. We’ve never had anybody tell us that the book sounds as though it was written by two different authors.

What significant event led to your first publication?
Goodness, this is hard. I don’t think it was one significant event, but a series.

In 2002 (or thereabouts) I attended my first ACFW conference in Houston, Texas, which led to me submitting to an editor—Jim Peterson, who at the time worked for Heartsong Presents, which led to a recommendation that I join a critique group, which led to me meeting Janelle, which led to us attending writing classes, which led to sending in our chapters for paid critiques, which led to meeting Susan Downs!

Does that qualify as a “run-on” sentence?

What’s your biggest challenge in balancing writing time with your other responsibilities?
Well, here’s the problem…I’m one of those insane people who thinks they can do it all. At one point, I worked full-time as a secretary, part-time as a youth minister, full-time as a writer/mom/wife. No balance there, let me tell ya! I was tired, stressed, and not very creative.

Since then, I’ve had to let some of those responsibilities go—which really and truly broke my heart because I hated trading in my kids. LOL!

JK (just kidding). I actually ended up giving up the youth ministry, though I stay in close touch with those kids and visit them when I can. I’m also no longer such a fanatic about keeping my house clean. If there are dishes in the sink but I have a deadline to meet, so be it. The dishes stay in the sink.

And how do your faith and spiritual life play into the picture and affect your storytelling?
When I am walking closely with the Lord, my writing reflects that. When I’m not, my writing reflects that, too. I simply cannot separate one from the other. Back in 2002, God gave me a verse from Habakkuk. It’s in chapter two, verses two and three:

Then the LORD answered me and said: “Write the vision and make it plain on tablets, that he may run who reads it. For the vision is yet for an appointed time; but at the end it will speak, and it will not lie. Though it tarries, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

For me, this was both a command and a promise. God shared with me a vision for spreading His truth and His love through fiction. It’s not my grace that I write about, or my plan for salvation—it’s the Lord’s. I’m just the tool He is using to communicate it.

If I chose to be obedient, He also offered this promise: The vision is for an appointed time. To this day, I believe He was telling me then that I would one day see my words published. It tarried, now. Almost seven years, but oh how it thrills my heart to look back on this verse and say, “You did it, God. You really did it.”

Goodness, writing that made me cry. I’ve gotta go get a tissue now.

Will you continue writing in different genres?
Honestly, I don’t know. I just want to write. My agent keeps telling me it’s easier to establish a following if I stick to one genre, but I love trying my hand at different things. It stretches me as a writer, makes me study the craft harder.

Fill in the blank... When I was a 5 yrs old, I wanted to be an ACTRESS when I grew up.
LOL! If you could only see me acting the scenes out from my manuscripts in the car. I look like a crazy lady talking to myself. Actually…some of you probably have seen me. I’ve caught you staring.

Here’s a tip: If anyone asks why you’re talking to yourself, tell them you’re not. It’s OnStar.

Any parting words?
Love the Lord, then love your writing. If ever one or the other fades. . .stop.

Thanks for sharing with us, Elizabeth!

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