Sunday, May 3, 2020

Virtual Book Event: Elena Taylor in Conversation with James L'Etoile

Fellow authors and friends Elena Taylor and James L'Etoile had an event scheduled for last night to celebrate Elena's brand new book. It was cancelled, of course, so we decided to hold a virtual book signing instead. Here are Elena and James in conversation, with a big thank you to the folks at local bookstore Face in a Book for the event I know they'll host as soon as they're able.
Hi, James L’Etoile, here. Claire Booth was kind enough to let Elena Taylor and I guest post on Do Some Damage today. When you have plans, the world has other ideas. Elena Taylor and I had a few joint events scheduled this spring to celebrate the release of her latest book, All We Buried. Then, the landscape shifted—travel restrictions, lockdowns, and stay-at-home orders made this release season a bit more “unique.” Elena, Claire, and I were all chased home from Left Coast Crime in San Diego in early March, which will be known as the best one day crime fiction event ever. It was at a Left Coast Crime convention a few years ago where I first met Elena. We’d connected with one another on social media, and if I'm honest, it was more about Elena getting to meet #NotMyCat.
Elena has a rich background as a playwright, developmental editor, mentor, and a talented author in her own right, so it’s no surprise that All We Buried was released to critical acclaim and raving fan reviews.
She’s agreed to share some of her thoughts about the book, her sources of inspiration, and creating and writing in this unique time. 
JL:       All We Buried is set in the fictional small town world of Collier, Washington. Why did you create a fictional setting instead of using more familiar locations?
Salish Lodge at Snoqualmie Falls.
ET:      My fictional setting is actually a combination of familiar locations. Set high in the Cascade Mountain Range, Collier is based on Roslyn, Washington, a very real town just off Interstate 90 east of Snoqualmie Pass. Readers might recognize it as the shooting location for Northern Exposure back in the '90s. But I also wanted Collier to be in a hanging valley, similar to the place where I live, just west of Snoqualmie Pass. A hanging valley is a high valley with one end coming to an abrupt drop off. For the Snoqualmie Valley, where I live, the drop off is filled with the famous Snoqualmie Falls, a 268-foot high waterfall that is home to another famous TV sight. The Salish Lodge, better known as the “Great Northern” in Twin Peaks. It's one of my favorite spots for breakfast or a cocktail with a gorgeous view of the falls. Combining the hanging valley where I live with the old, historical mining town of Roslyn, then locating it not far from the very real highway 97, Collier is a combination of places you can visit in the real world. I liked having the real world details of my beautiful state and the Cascade Mountains, but the freedom to make changes to best suit the story and the isolated mountain town I wanted Bet to live in.
JL:       Bet Rivers comes back to Collier and assumes her father's role as sheriff. She doesn’t feel like she belongs, does she?
ET:      She really doesn't. As a person who has moved around a LOT in my life, I share her sense of rootlessness. I have lived in four states and countless towns and communities since I turned eighteen. I have enjoyed all the places I've lived, but I've always felt like an outsider. I don't have the lifelong attachment to a place that some people enjoy. Bet doesn't have the wanderlust that I spent much of my life following, but she has been gone from her tiny hometown long enough to feel out of place. She thought she was going to have a different kind of life than the one she's living now, so she also feels like an outsider to her own story. This book is a lot about her figuring out where she fits, in and out of her own skin.
JL:       There are two secondary characters that have gotten a great deal of attention from bloggers and reviewers: Alma and Schweitzer. Did you expect them to be as popular as they turned out?
ET:      I love that Alma and Schweitzer are finding their own set of fans. Alma is based on a real person, so it's fun to see her become such an appreciated character. Then, what can I say? I love a good dog character and I'm thrilled other people love him too.
JL:       #NotMyCat wants to know why you made the flawed decision to select a dog as a character in this book, as opposed to say, a cat? Your cat, Coal Train, cannot be happy about that either.
Cocoa and Coal Train. If you can't tell who's who, that's your problem. 
ET:      Coal Train has made it clear in no uncertain terms that I have failed miserably by not putting a cat front and center in All We Buried. I feared that #NotMyCat would feel the same. In fact, I think I heard Cocoa calling #NotMyCat on the phone the other night to discuss ways to interrupt both our writing schedules until we promised to include a strong feline character in our next books. What I've reminded both Coal Train and Cocoa is that cats are so wonderfully independent and wily that they are hard to capture in prose. It's easy to have Schweitzer stay at Bet's side as her most important helper, but it would be totally unrealistic to have a cat serve that same purpose. They both said they understood my dilemma. I'm just not a good enough writer to create the perfect cat.
JL:       All We Buried is quite a departure from your earlier series. This release is more intense and deliciously dark. What drove you to the dark side?
#NotMyCat prefers intense and dramatic.
ET:      As a playwright I wrote a lot of very dark plays, then I turned to fiction and wrote my light, funny Eddie Shoes Mysteries as a departure. So the darkness of All We Buried is actually a return to my roots. I guess it would be more accurate to say I was driven to the light side for three books and now I'm back over on the intense, dramatic side.
JL:       We’ve both lived in small towns and they are filled with secrets. There are closely held secrets in Collier, aren’t there?
ET:      So many secrets. I'm still uncovering them as I work on the second book in the series! I can't wait to see what else I can discover about Bet's past and the town's.
JL:       When you're not plotting and planning, what do you do to keep sane, especially during our pandemic lockdown?
Radar and Elena.
ET:      Spending time with my horses is my favorite past time, and that's become even more true during this pandemic. Being out with a thousand+ pound animal requires you stay in the moment, in the present. And while my mind sometimes wanders, it can't for long. They keep me upbeat and outside enjoying our beautiful springtime. Between the two of them, Jasper and Radar are making this lockdown bearable. I'm grateful for all my animals, with them and my hubby, I'm getting through.
That's what's going on with me and Bet Rivers. Thank you for asking, Jim! 
Elena with Jasper, who points out that horses make good book characters, too.

ET:      But I'll bet readers would love to hear from you too. And I'd love to hear what's going on with #NotMyCat, and your adorable Corgis, Emma and Bryn. 
#NotMyCat belonged to the neighbors, came in through the doggie door one day, and now refuses to leave.
JL:       Our Corgis, Emma and Bryn, are certified therapy dogs and the statewide virus lockdown has stopped their regular visits to nursing homes, memory care facilities, and reading programs for the kids. I think they miss making the visits and all the attention they draw. But, they do seem to like the fact that we’re around 24/7 to feed and pet on demand. As for #NotMyCat, she has firmly clawed her way into the household. She doesn’t venture far from the backyard and brings me the occasional mouse to show her appreciation.
Emma hard at work.

ET:      What are you working on now?
JL:       I’ve been busy on revisions to a speculative fiction project. It’s something new for me and I’m enjoying diving in on fear, betrayal, and loss (something all writers can relate to). If I had to give a comp for the new project it would be pitched as Backdraft meets The Sixth Sense.  I’ve also submitted a new procedural and #NotMyCat makes her debut in that novel. A couple of other projects are out there and I hope to have some news to announce soon.
ET:      How are your animals helping you with your writing and social distancing?
JL:       Helping? They have no clue about social distancing. I can’t keep #NotMyCat off my keyboard as I work and the Corgis have decided to practice their CPR techniques on my chest every morning before sunrise. But, they do remind me that as bleak and scary as our personal lives can get in the midst of all we’re going through, being happy as a Corgi isn’t a bad goal in life.
ET:      I'm really looking forward to rescheduling our live events together. Besides live book events, what are you most looking forward to when we can return to a less restricted life?
The Face in a Book store mascots suggest buying local and independent.
JL:       I’m looking forward to hitting the reset button too. When they release us from bondage, I’m looking forward to spending some time with my kids. They don’t live at home anymore and I miss spending time with them. I’m looking forward to catching some live music shows and bookstores—I’m going to spends days in bookstores, like my local Face In a Book.
I’m glad you could spend some time with us, Elena. Huge congratulations on the release of All We Buried. Thanks to Claire Booth who let us come and splash around in the pool. 
Take care everyone…
Interim sheriff Elizabeth "Bet" Rivers has always had one repeat nightmare: a shadowy figure throwing a suspicious object into her hometown lake in Collier, Washington. For the longest time, she chalked it up to an overactive imagination as a kid. Then the report arrives. In the woods of the Cascade mountain range, right in her jurisdiction, a body floats to the surface of Lake Collier. When the body is extricated and revealed, no one can identify Jane Doe. But someone must know the woman, so why aren't they coming forward?
Bet has been sitting as the interim sheriff of this tiny town in the ill-fitting shoes of her late father and predecessor. With the nightmare on her heels, Bet decided to build a life for herself in Los Angeles, but now it's time to confront the tragic history of Collier. The more she learns, the more Bet realizes she doesn't know the townspeople of Collier as well as she thought, and nothing can prepare her for what she is about to discover. 
All We Buried is available from here from independent bookstore Face in a Book, or from IndieBound, which will link you to other independent bookstores. You can also get it from Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
James L'Etoile's Det. Penley mysteries, At What Cost and Bury the Past, are also available through Face in a Book, Indiebound, or at B&N and Amazon.

1 comment:

Elena Taylor said...

This was such a fun interview! Thank you Jim for such great questions and to Claire for hosting us!