As part of the bling surrounding my award as 2019 Top Female Author (Mystery/Suspense/Thriller), I was interviewed recently by Don McCauley of The Authors Show.
Don sent me a list of questions in advance of the interview. Once having been a Girl Guide, I was happy for the chance to ‘Be Prepared’ with an answer to each question.
Since many of you may not have had the opportunity to listen to the interview when it aired on July 30th, I thought share some of those questions and answers with you today.
Who do you write for?
I write for myself, first of all. If I don’t like my characters or my story line, no one else will.
Secondly, I write for my fellow lovers of classic detective fiction – fans of Phillip Marlowe, Sam Spade, and Kinsey Millhone. Third of all, I write for my father. My sister once commented that I write the sort of books he used to like to read. Her observation is always at the back of my mind when I’m writing.
My father was not a fan of blood and gore, beyond what is absolutely necessary to a story. Nor was he fond of sex scenes or lewd behavior in the books he read. My books aren’t entirely clean: there’s the occasional swear word, where appropriate. As for sex scenes, I don’t want to reveal any spoilers, but I don’t think The Gold Dragon Caper would necessarily pass muster with the Clean Indie Reads Facebook group.
Is there a central message in your books?
Not deliberately. I’m just trying to write stories that people will enjoy reading. I think I can do that without resorting to extreme violence, serial killers, and extraneous sexual encounters.
What is the most important idea you are sharing in your book that will add value to the reader’s life?
My husband and I owned and operated our own small business for more than twenty years. We worked together successfully, because we each valued and respected the other’s expertise and integrity. I couldn’t have had a better business partner.
In the relationship between Damien and Millie, I try to share that same sense of caring, trust and partnership which formed the basis of my relationship with my own husband. A married couple can work together, play together, and stay together successfully if they are sensitive to and understanding of each other’s needs.
What does it mean to you to be one of the top female authors this year?
Validation. I am not a fan of popularity-based competitions, and do not enter them. To have received an award in a juried competition is very special.
Tell us your most rewarding experience since publishing your books?
I had a cousin who was a world-renowned dentist and professor of dentistry. He passed away last year.
Cousin Harry read mostly non-fiction. He almost never chose to read a detective novel. Yet, he decided to take my second book, The White Russian Caper, with him on a holiday cruise a few months after it was released. Upon returning home, he sent me an email, calling the book a ‘tour de force,’ and adding: “Most impressed am I with your ingenuity, creativity, intellect, research and ability to keep people like myself glued to the suspense of the story. I rarely take time out to read fiction. You produced a convert.”
I cherish that email.
Did your environment or upbringing play a major role in your writing and did you use it to your advantage?
All four of my grandparents were of East European-Jewish stock. I grew up surrounded by traditional values and traditional practices. My heritage informed the significance of an old Russian medallion in my second book, The White Russian Caper. Also, Millie’s grandfather, a minor character in The Chocolate Labradoodle Caper is a quiet tribute to my own maternal grandfather.
If someone wrote a book about your life, what would the title be?
“Send in the Clones”
I have a habit of committing to projects without considering how much time and energy they will consume. This includes researching one or more new book projects, beta-reading for some of my Street Team members, writing reviews, maintaining my eFoodAlert blog site, grooming the dog, cleaning the house, and all the other daily minutiae of life while still finding time to work on my current manuscript. It reaches a point where I feel guilty if I sit down in an easy chair, book or iPad in hand and just read.
After going through a period of hyperactivity, I find myself wishing for a clone to take on the less fun tasks. Instead, I try to cut off making additional commitments until I have caught up.
How would you describe your writing style?
When working on one of my detective novels, I tend to be a ‘seat of the pants’ writer. I have a rough idea of the main plot when I begin, but no formal outline. I tried outlining, and found that the finished manuscript bore almost no resemblance to the initial outline. I do keep track (or try to keep track) of characters: their names, physical attributes, personality quirks, et cetera. This is especially important when writing a series in which several of the characters make return appearances from one book to the next.
My approach to non-fiction writing is much more structured. I am in the early stages of writing a book on the pet food industry. I have completed a formal outline, and have been carrying out my research (mostly on the internet, of course) to flesh in the necessary technical details. Even so, I expect I shall deviate from the outline as I actually start to write.
Why do you write?
I write to keep my brain alive. I write because it feels good. Because it’s fun. I love creating a world in which I have control over the outcome of events. A world in which the good guys (usually) come out on top.
Writing is an escape for me. I hate what has been happening to the political climate in the US in the last few years. Writing helps me to close my ears when the tumult becomes unbearable.
What do you hope to accomplish?
I am a competitive person; however, my biggest competition is myself. I enjoy sharpening my writing skills from book to book. I have several beta-readers who help me to avoid the worst pitfalls in my plots, syntax, and presentation. I listen to them and incorporate most of their suggestions both into the current manuscript and into subsequent works.
Bottom line, I hope to provide enjoyment to my audience through my writing. My goal is to have each of my new books be hailed as ‘the best one yet’ – to read a review that says “Phyllis Entis keeps getting better and better.” If I can achieve that goal, I’ll know that I haven’t disappointed my readers.