Evelyn David has a split personality and an incredible number of out-of-body experiences. Or maybe she's just able to teleport from the East Coast to the middle of the country in the blink of an instant message. For the last twenty years Evelyn's used her biology degree to reclaim the coal mines of Oklahoma. Or for the last twenty years, Evelyn's used her political science degree to write nonfiction books on parenting and education topics...and quite frankly wouldn't know a coal mine if she fell down the shaft. But one thing is true about these dual personalities - they've both had the same dream: to write a mystery that's a roller coaster of a ride, filled with humor, danger, romance, and a nail-biting ending that will leave you breathless.
Please meet the two halves of Evelyn David. Marian Edelman Borden is the Northern half of the mystery-writing duo. She lives in New York, has written eight nonfiction books, edits a magazine for new moms, has four kids, and an imagination that turned deadly when she met Rhonda Dossett, the Southern half of Evelyn David. Rhonda lives in Oklahoma, is the coal program director for the state, and sees dead bodies - or at least can envision them in mysterious and often hilarious scenarios.
Lottawatah Twister might seem like a topical response to the terrible storms we've seen this year, but actually we've been developing this story for many years. Rhonda has often talked about living in Tornado Alley, and frequently has had to cut short an Internet or telephone conversation because of storm warnings in the area. It's a fact of life in her hometown. Her grandparents lost their home to a twister. Since Lottawatah is set in Oklahoma, it made sense to use a natural disaster to begin the mystery. Even more important, stressors like losing a home reveal the strengths and weaknesses in our main characters, and also help develop the relationship between Brianna and Cooper.
Do you tend to base your characters on real people or are they totally from your imagination?
Characters are usually a combination of reality and imagination. There's no one who is a direct representation of a real person, but we do take characteristics, physical and emotional from people we know or have observed. Often certain motivations are based on reality – for example, in Murder Off the Books, Rachel Brenner is dealing with empty nest syndrome. Marian had just sent off her youngest child to college – so she could certainly write about those emotions.
What was the most interesting research you had to do for any of your books?
For our Mac Sullivan books, which are set partially in a funeral home, we both visited mortuaries in our hometowns in order to research the layout, personnel, and inner workings. One of the more interesting items Marian found during her visit was a full-scale Santa Claus suit next to the room with caskets.
How do you go from an idea for a book to the birth of the story? Is the process the same for every book you write? How long does it take you to write a book?
The length of time it takes to write a book or novella varies, often dependent on our day jobs, personal responsibilities, and other fiction works in progress. For a full-length book, it usually takes at least a year. A novella, like the Brianna Sullivan series, takes about two months.
The process is generally the same. We talk through the idea for a book, plotting out the setup, the possible killers, the possible red herrings, and the secondary storylines. Then one of us will say, "I'll start." We write it scene-by-scene, not whole chapters at a time. Generally we write from beginning to end of the book, but sometimes we will write a scene out of order which helps us clarify some issue. We both write all characters (including the dogs), and the scenes go back and forth so much, with much tweaking and revising, that we couldn't tell you who wrote what.
That's so interesting to me, that you work together as a writing team. My sister and I have always tossed around the idea of writing a book together. Would love to try that some day. Are you currently working on any new book projects?
We're still writing Murder Drops the Ball, the third in the Mac Sullivan series. We're also working on a YA mystery novel, as well as a new Brianna Sullivan mystery.
What’s your writing schedule like? When do you find time to write?
Marian is a morning person and tends to do her best writing then. She gets some of her best ideas when she takes her morning walk. In contrast, Rhonda is a night owl. So it often happens that Rhonda will write a scene and Marian finds it first thing when she opens her morning email. Marian works on it during the day, sends it back to Rhonda for her late-night musings.
That's great teamwork. Do you have any writing idiosyncrasies?
Marian tends to need a game plan when she writes – knowing generally where she is headed and what she hopes to accomplish in each scene. Rhonda is inspired when "the characters talk to her." While this sounds like two ends of the spectrum, the truth is probably somewhere in between. Often the best-planned scene for Marian takes a sharp turn into uncharted territory as the characters come alive on the page and seem to have a mind of their own. And chattering characters sometimes are silenced by Rhonda when she sees the need to follow a certain plot line in order to advance the story.
I can understand both ends of that spectrum. I like to plan out my prospective story line, but I also enjoy writing as the characters speak to me. How have your friends and family received your career as an author? Are they supportive?
One of the nicest parts of being an author is the support we get from family and friends. What has been a delightful surprise is the encouragement and kind words we've receive from fans. Social media like Facebook and Twitter has allowed us to meet some of our readers and they have been uniformly caring and thoughtful. Often they provide just the boost we need when we've hit a brick wall and are struggling with a story or passage. We'll hear from someone online, whom we may never have met in person, but who offers us the encouragement we need to soldier on.
Thanks so much for chatting with me today. I enjoyed learning more about you both. Can you share some about your books?
Can you share with us where readers can purchase your book online?
Purchase Link for Lottawatah Twister
Murder Takes the Cake
Purchase Link for paperback version of Murder Takes the Cake
Book #2—Sullivan Investigations Mystery Series
Kindle version—3rd Edition buy at Amazon in November 2011
Hope you all can stick around for a bit to chat! Feel free to comment and ask questions...
Don't forget, more Thanksgiving guest posts will be up this week at The Mustard Seed. Have a great week!
Click the photo above to go directly to the Evelyn David website!