Saturday, October 29, 2011

Hello, Elle Druskin

Thank you so much for being here, Elle Druskin

1: What genre do you write?

That’s a simple question with a complicated answer.  I wrote my first book, To Catch A Cop, more or less to figure out how to write a novel.  I had a lot of experience in academic writing which undoubtedly helped and I’ll explain why a bit later.  I had a story in my head that wouldn’t go away.  It was always there so I thought maybe if I tried to write the thing, the vivid images and sounds would stop. (Yeah, I know, if you tell certain people about this, you might end up medicated.)

Anyway, I wrote the book like I said, to figure out HOW, presuming nobody would see it but me, so I didn’t worry about genre or word count.  I was more concerned with having a story and plot that hung together, tight pace, realistic characters who spoke believable dialogue, and since nobody was going to see it, well, it didn’t matter what genre I wrote.  When I finally got up the nerve to show it to a few people who would be critical readers (published authors or editors) the first told me it was a rather unorthodox romance, the second said it was “cute mystery and better than others I have read recently.”  Well, that made me sit up.  I KNEW the story had mystery elements, but I didn’t consider them strong.  The third told me he felt the story had some elements of a thriller.  All three said they laughed (that was good, they were meant to laugh at some points), found the story entertaining, and in their opinions, the book should be published.  By then, I had no idea what I had written.  What mattered to me was they all thought it was professionally crafted, a great story and completely engaging.  I figured I should let readers figure out what genre it is.  Interestingly, the reviews have all been mystery first, romance second.  To Catch A Cop was nominated as Best Romantic Comedy of 2010 by The Romance Reviewers.  Go figure.

Since then, I have written contemporary romance and mystery/suspense. 

Going To The Dogs, which is due out with MuseItUp in February 2012, is a contemporary romance about a dog-hating cop on the trail of his partner’s killer.  His new partner is a junk food addicted, country music loving poodle who drives the guy crazy.  Enter chief suspect Jodie McBride, dog trainer par excellance, who’s smart about dogs but not so smart with men.  Mix in some eccentric dogs and their equally eccentric owners and pretty soon everybody is Going To The Dogs.  I am a dog owner, always have been, been to a lot of dog shows and know a lot of “doggie” people so I guess this book was based on some of those experiences.  I had a wonderful time writing it.

2: How long have you been writing?
Probably always.  I come from a family of great storytellers and any book has to start with a great story.  I always enjoyed writing; in high school I worked on school publications and learned a great deal about writing from a wonderful teacher during those years thanks to those experiences.  This was informal learning, not in a classroom, but she had been an award winning journalist and taught us all many technical skills.  In my job as an academic, I continually have to produce scholarly papers, books chapters, etc. and I review submissions for a number of scholarly journals.  It’s a different form of writing but basically a similar process to fiction in the sense that you need the feedback to strengthen the work.  I have published quite a bit in the academic world and I do consider that writing so it’s been many years.

3: What do you like the most and least about writing?

The best part is getting that story out of my head while battling to find the words that express exactly what I am seeing and hearing so readers see and hear exactly what I do.  The worst part is the same; it’s a struggle and challenge.  If this process was easy I guess everyone would do it.

4: What do you for fun and relaxation when not writing?

I take ballroom dancing classes a few times a week.  I don’t think I am particularly good, but I enjoy them.  It’s great exercise, something I always wanted to learn and during the lessons you have to empty your mind of any other things that are distracting you.  You have to pay attention, so I think it’s good for tension release too.  I also think it helps you learn about movement, posture, working with a partner—you can’t do this alone -- and trust, because you have to trust your dance partner to give the right signals and your partner has to trust you to read them correctly.

I’ve also been trying to learn to surf. (Not the web ).  It’s also always been an ambition and it’s not easy but I keep getting out there and trying.  The first time, I dinged myself with my own board, the second, I was stung by a killer bee and ended up on Prednisone due to a very swollen arm. Last time, my board leash caught the guy who teaches me and I dragged him behind me as I took off with the wave.  No serious damage done and he was quite philosophical, said he figured it was his turn to have something happen.  I will get this, it’s a question of perseverance.  And one of the things I found really inspiring has been a correspondence with THE REAL GIDGET, the woman that the books were based on.  She is 70 (!), still out there and told me, “Don’t forget the Gidget can do spirit. You can do anything.”  That’s great advice for anyone in lots of circumstances.

5: Which authors do you like to read?
How much time have you got?  I love so many writers, the list is endless.  A real favorite is Diana Gabaldon who writes with such skill and elegance.  She is also very accessible to her fans and encouraging to other writers.  I also love the Amy Tan, Herman Wouk, R. F. Delderfield, David Grossman, Sara Donati, Sharon Penman, M. C. Beaton, Jennifer Crusie, Peter Mayle, Matt Benyon Rees, Kathy Reichs, Janet Evanovich, and authors of many classics such as Jane Austen, L. M. Montgomery, William Faulker, John Steinbeck, Ernest Hemingway, etc.   More recent first novels that I loved were Kathryn Stockett’s The Help and Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle.

I read in several languages, although much faster in English and I do enjoy discovering interesting writers that are not published in English.

In non-fiction, I especially enjoy Thomas Friedman, Martin Gilbert, Dee Brown, Bruce Catton, Shelby Foote (who also wrote fiction, but his mammoth work on The Civil War is sheer brilliance).  Look, I’m a reader; I read voraciously in almost any genre and I think that is absolutely critical for any writer.  Reading teaches all of us so much—what hooked you?  Why are you engaged with the story?  Why was that word chosen?  There is nothing like the sheer pleasure and enjoyment of sitting down with a good book.

6: What’s the one thing you’d most like people to know about you?

7: Tell me about your current novel with Muse, where I can find it? Going To The Dogs scheduled for February release. 

Animal Crackers for May
The Life of the Party for August
Hanky Panky for December

8: Do you have any tips for aspiring authors?

I don’t know if I am qualified to give advice but since you’re asking, some general rules are READ and keep reading.  Like I said, reading teaches us so many things.  I assume anyone who wants to write started out as someone who loves to read so why would you stop?  Fatal mistake.  Read anything and everything, not only the genre that you aspire to write.

Research carefully when necessary.  Here is where I think having an academic background was useful for me.  Basically, a doctoral degree involves researching something that has not been done before or approaching it from a new angle, researching thoroughly and then writing it up.  I kind of call the dissertation a book that a handful of people (the supervisor and examiners) will read.  There are some people who have managed to turn their dissertations into best-selling books but that is pretty rare and I wouldn’t count on it. But, the process taught me the skills and rigors of research and how to conduct it. Sorry, but surfing the web is NOT research.  It might be a starting point, but I cannot emphasize enough the importance of relying on sound library skills and preferably a library that has access to many sorts of materials, ideally, a college library.  Again, I have been fortunate because my dissertation involved library research, archival research (which involves many other skills) and interviews.  All of those skills have been useful to me as a writer and I would encourage any writer to develop them.

9: Do you base your characters on real-life people?

Not usually but it has happened.  I don’t sit down and plot and outline.  I have a basic story in my head and I generally know how it is going to end but I am not always sure what might happen along the way.  I write as I see things unfold in my head.  I see and hear these scenes clearly and usually while writing that scene, another one starts to form.  Eventually, they will come together but might need some “gluing”—a transition scene or chapter to link them together.  In To Catch A Crook,(the book that follows To Catch A Cop) the London soap star is based on someone I knew; a wonderful woman who is charming, gracious and generous but yes, she stays up all night and performs.  Anyone and everyone becomes her captive audience, dropping with exhaustion while she is singing, dancing and acting non-stop.

10: How did you come up with the idea for Going To The Dogs?
I am a dog owner, always have been, been to a lot of dog shows and know a lot of “doggie” people so I guess this book was based on some of those experiences.  I had a wonderful time writing it.
See above.

11: What are you currently working on?

I’ve just finished work on a suspense/mystery novel.  I’m pretty happy with it but I have to say there were things in it that scared me.  I have no idea where it came from, if I have some deep, dark place in my brain.  I used several readers to check technical details in the story and give me general feedback. They all enjoyed it immensely but also said this was pretty scary—I thought I knew what was coming but I didn’t imagine the end.  No idea what I will do with this work yet, but I hope eventually it will be published.

I also have a contemporary romance series under contract with MuseItUp and all three books are due for release in 2012.  The first book is entitled Animal Crackers (yep, animals again ).  –Karma really has it in for Manhattan workaholic Hayley Weaver.  Fired, kicked out of her apartment and hit by a car driven by a clown all in one day.  She’s desperate and a temporary job house-sitting a movie star’s home sounds great.  Too bad nobody told Hayley that the house is in New Jersey, the place Hayley swore never to return to, and it’s full of more critters than the Beverly Hillbillies.  Local veterinarian Jake Marx is desperate to meet a woman he hasn’t known since kindergarten and with Jake on Hayley’s speed dial to corral the animals, pretty soon the whole town is in on the plot to convince Hayley that Jersey rocks and so does Jake.

The title, Animal Crackersis indeed an allusion to all the animals in the story but also to Jake’s last name, Marx, and the lunacy of the Marx Brothers in all those wonderful, wacky classic comedy films.  Some pretty odd things happen in this fictional Jersey town that might seem eccentric or peculiar but make perfect sense to the residents of Liberty Heights. It’s great fun watching Hayley as the outsider slowly being sucked into all the crazy things that happen and slowly seeing them as “normal” too.

I am sure this book grew out of a Jersey childhood.  It might be just outside Manhattan, but Jersey people are well, different.  I had a ball creating this series and the fictional town of Liberty Heights where anything and everything does happen.  I hope readers will enjoy the books as much as I have enjoyed writing them.  One of the fun things about writing the series has been the opportunity to have a lot of secondary characters and being able to give them more prominence in the second and third books, tentatively entitled The Life of the Party and Hanky-Panky.  Sooo, the editing will be going on over the next few months and that is going to be keeping me pretty busy.

12. Is there anything else you’d like us to know about you?

Isn’t this enough?  It might be more than you wanted to know.

13. Where can we find you? Website? Blog?

You can find me on my website and blog at:

I am also a regular at Books and Writers Forum.  There are wonderful writers and readers there where anything and everything is discussed.

Excerpt (Unedited) Going To The Dogs

 Please be aware that this is unedited and could still change.
Going To The Dogs
Copyright: Elle Druskin 2011
Jodie shoved against a chest as solid as the Rock of Gibraltar. George Clooney scowled down at her, dark eyes narrowed. The burglar had her pinned to the ground like a wrestler, and her panic soared. Why didn’t she lock the back door? She’d left it open in the morning confusion, and a criminal got inside. A thief. A rapist. Or worse.
Her body broke out in terrified shivers, and her fists came down on the burglar’s face like a ton of bricks but the guy didn’t budge. Heckel, the reluctant stud with impeccable bloodlines, slunk off to a corner stacked with dog beds and curled up in the deluxe model. In addition to the dog’s ignorance about mating, the worthless stud was also out of the loop when it came to being man’s best friend. In this case, woman’s, and protect her from intruders.
George Clooney rolled to one side, and a giant white poodle slurped his face, changed direction, and sniffed the female Puli that was in heat. The fluffy white tail beat like a bongo player gone wild.
“Hey, get that dog away from her! That female’s in season and I don’t get paid for cross-breed mutts.”
Jodie forgot her terror and to her relief, the intruder yanked the dog who snarled at him, baring sharp teeth. She got to her knees, crawled to the female Puli, and with one hand, shoved the female into a crate and snapped the latch. The poodle parked himself beside the crate, howling like a lovesick coyote.
Jodie arched her brows. The awful racket sounded like Home On The Range, but that was the least of the problems. She scanned the storeroom for a weapon before the intruder could grab her again. Any weapon.
Rawhide chews, dog shampoo, combs. Not a weapon in sight, not even a water pistol. Panic hit all time record highs as the stranger rose to his feet and towered over her. This wasn’t George Clooney, but the man was big and dangerous looking too, with a desperado stubbled chin and black eyes. If the guy wasn’t a criminal, he’d be  real eye candy. Jodie snatched a hairdryer and pointed it at the burglar’s chest. “Hands up! I’m calling the cops.”
The crook had the nerve to grin and relaxed in a casual pose, legs crossed at his ankles as he leaned against the back wall.
“Planning on giving me a blow job with that?”

1 comment:

gail roughton branan said...

Elle, Going to the Dogs sounds like a wonderful, light,, entertaining read, one of those rare reads that just leave you grinning. And I can really relate to the "don't know where that stuff came from" but it kinda scares me comment. I have a dark horror I hope will see publication one day and I have no idea where most of it came from. And yes, that's a bit scary.