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Five Questions with Elizabeth Heiter

Louise Ahern

Elizabeth Heiter is a long-time member of the CCWA. Attendees of our Write on the Red Cedar conferences have cited her workshops as some of their favorites. We are thrilled that she's bringing her knowledge to this month's free workshop!

Elizabeth was kind enough to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions for the CCWA blog.

What is your writing schedule like?

Because I work full time as well, and I am not a morning person, my writing tends to happen in the evenings during the week and then starting late morning or early afternoon on the weekends.  I work on book-related tasks almost every single day of the year.  Some days all I do is pop on social media or update my website.  But most days, I’m doing actual writing, too.  Usually, I’m writing the book that’s currently on deadline, I’m somewhere in the revisions process for one or two books that I’ve turned in and haven’t hit shelves yet, I’m doing research for the book coming up, and I may be jotting down ideas for the proposal that will come after that.  The longer I’ve written novels, the better my first drafts get and the fewer rounds of revisions they need.  But I also tend to edit as I go.  So, on a typical writing evening, I start by re-reading whatever I wrote the day before to get me in the voice of my character, then dive right into writing the next part.  On an average evening, working three or so hours, I can usually get a solid 2-3,000 words.

What has surprised you most about your journey as an author?

 My journey as an author has been long and winding: it took me nine years of solid submitting before selling my first five novels all at once.  Once I finally sold, I figured my challenges would change: from the writing and selling to the marketing and public relations.  And in some ways, that’s true.  But I think what has really surprised me is that the writing is still a challenge.  In some ways, it’s become easier: I know what methods work for me, and I think I’ve gotten better (and faster!).  But in other ways – maybe because I like to challenge myself – with almost every book I’ve written since I’ve sold, I’ve done something that at the start I wasn’t sure I could pull off (from merging two complicated plots in one story to writing in a totally new length or genre).  The good thing about this surprise is that even though it means I still have some of the same fears as I did before I published, I also have some of the same joys – discovering more growth as a writer and pushing myself to get better with each book.

Do you have any writing rituals or habits that others might think are strange?

 I think my strangest writing habit is actually related to plotting, because I tend to plot best when I’m pacing.  So, when I get stuck in a book or I’m figuring out what the next book will be about, you can usually find me pacing back and forth in my living room at the kind of speed you’d expect from mall walkers.  I’m sure it looks strange if my neighbors can see me, but it works!  For the writing itself, my rituals are probably pretty common: give me a mocha latte and a little music and I’m ready to go!

What’s the LAST thing you Googled for your novel?

 The last thing I Googled for my novel was for the romantic suspense book I’m currently writing and it was about gangs.  I needed a name for the gang I was creating, and so I wanted some examples.  Of course, once you start researching, there’s always something else interesting that sends you off in another direction.  I discovered that big gangs are often brought down by law enforcement in a way I didn’t expect: through racketeering charges.  It made sense – this is how the FBI has nailed a lot of organized crime members over the years.  But it surprised me, so I pulled up a bunch of real cases.  An hour or so later, I returned to my book, armed with a lot more knowledge about how my hero had brought down the gang in the story…or so he thinks, because when the book opens, someone is shooting at the heroine and it’s the anniversary of a gang attack.

What are you working on now?

Currently, I’m writing POLICE PROTECTOR, the fifth book in my Lawmen series with Harlequin Intrigue.  I just turned in revisions for STALKED, the fourth book in my Profiler series with MIRA Books.  And I’m expecting revisions for HOSTAGE RESCUE HERO, the fourth book in my Lawmen series.  I also just turned in a new proposal for a stand-alone thriller, and I’m working on a short story.  I like to keep busy!  You can find out about my current books over at my website:

Elizabeth will be teaching a workshop on Wednesday, July 6th, 7-8:30pm at Schuler in Eastwood. Be sure to stop by!