Today I’m welcoming Michelle Cox to my series of author interviews. Michelle is the author of the Henrietta and Inspector Howard mystery novels. The first in the series, A Girl Like You, has just released.
Elizabeth: Welcome, Michelle.
Michelle: Thanks for having me, Elizabeth!
Elizabeth: Can you tell us about your novel?
Michelle: A Girl Like You is the first in a historical mystery series set in 1930’s Chicago. It’s about a young, impoverished woman, Henrietta Von Harmon, who works as a 26 girl at the local bar to support her mother and siblings until she is persuaded by a friend to take up taxi dancing. Soon after she starts working there, the floor matron is murdered, and Inspector Clive Howard appears on the scene to investigate. Drawn to her apparent innocence and beauty, he persuades her to go undercover for him in a burlesque house to search for the killer.
Elizabeth: What drew you to this time and place?
Michelle: I’ve always loved the war years, and originally I wanted to set the story in the 1940’s, but the real woman that the fictional Henrietta is based on had a job at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933, and I really wanted to use that detail, so I set the story a decade earlier. As for the place, I love Chicago. I’ve been here since 1986 when I came for college and have never looked back. It’s a very cool, unique city.
Elizabeth: How much historical fact is woven into your stories?
Michelle: The character of Henrietta is based on a real woman’s story I heard while working in a nursing home. I’ve written an article in which I outlined what parts of the story are real, and oddly, the more outlandish parts are the truth! Obviously, though, her story didn’t really involve a murder nor an aloof, handsome detective! The streets and the neighborhoods are all real, as are some of the places mentioned, such as the Aragon Ballroom and the Green Mill, but other places are made up.
Elizabeth: What does your research process look like?
Michelle: Honestly, a lot of Googling. Unlike a lot of other historical fiction writers, I don’t really get caught up in researching all the details. I’d much rather write the story. Anything that requires a bit of research gets written as “XXXX’s” in the narrative, and then I go back later and fill it in.
Elizabeth: What is your writing process?
Michelle: I have to write first thing in the morning, so as soon as the kids are off to school and my husband to work, which is 6:50 am, I sit down and start writing. No exceptions. I write even on vacations and sometimes even on holidays! When I first started, I would write just an hour a day, then two, then four. Now I set aside seven hours, but a lot of that these days is taken up with promo work.
Elizabeth: In what sort of situation will we next find Henrietta?
Michelle: Great question! Book 2 and 3 of this series are already written. In fact, I’m due to turn in the manuscript for Book 2 (working title, But Was He Honest?) for edits any day now. I don’t want to give anything away, but Book 2 picks up just where Book 1 ends. We find out what happens next in Henrietta and the Inspector’s relationship and what trouble they find themselves in now. Also, the reader has to figure out who the “he” is in the title who wasn’t exactly honest. Is it the Inspector? Or someone else? Or both?
Elizabeth: You are also the author of “How to Get Your Book Published in 7000 Easy Steps–A Practical Guide” which appears on your blog. Can you tell us about that?
Michelle: Thanks for asking about my blog! It’s the thing that gives me the most dread each week to write, but once it’s done, I find it amusing. I hope others do, too. I started it because I wanted to write about the publishing process in a funny way, from the newbie’s perspective. Everyone thinks that getting a book published is the end-all, the pinnacle! But then you find out that your work is just beginning, that you’re not at the pinnacle, you’re just at the base of yet another mountain. There’s something tragically funny there. But I try to throw in some real tips, too.
Elizabeth: What have you read recently that you feel passionate about?
Michelle: To be honest, I haven’t read a ton of contemporary fiction. I’ve spent most of my teens and adult life reading the classic canon, so questions like this always make me nervous. Since I’ve ventured out of my hole, I find Lauren Willig’s Pink Carnation series and Elizabeth Peter’s Amelia Peabody series extremely well-done. Excellent writing and very funny. I also think Barbara Stark-Nemon’s Even in Darkness was incredibly well-written, in my humble opinion. I absolutely loved it. It goes beyond entertainment into the realm of serious literary art.
Elizabeth: Can you tell us more about yourself?
Michelle: I’m married to a Brit and have three children, all of whom present their own challenges, especially the Brit. We live in the Chicago suburbs with a very needy dog. I used to love baking, gardening and board games before the book took over my life.
We’ve now reached the time in our interview for the let’s-get-to-know-the-author-better, nearly-pointless, sort-of-silly, rapid-fire questions:
Elizabeth: Coffee or tea?
Elizabeth: Ocean or mountain?
Elizabeth: Hiking or shopping?
Elizabeth: Violin or piano?
Elizabeth: Mystery or fantasy?
Elizabeth: Darcy or Heathcliff?
Elizabeth: Love scene or death scene?
Michelle: Love scene!
To learn more about Michelle, her mystery series, and her tips for newbie writers, visit her blog at http://michellecoxauthor.com
You can also friend her on Facebook, https://wwwfacebook.com/michellecoxwrites
Follow her on twitter: @michellecox33
And buy her books on amazon: http://amzn.to/1RELGYi
Thanks to Michelle for joining us today.