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My Interview with Beth Solheim


Have you ever found an author whose work just makes you smile?  I did, and I have the honor of interviewing her today.  I’d like you to meet Beth Solheim, author of At Witt’s End. If you want to know more about the book just give the lovely lady’s picture a click and delve into a world of mystery, humor, and ghosts!  Here’s what she had to say to the questions I posed to her:

Is there anything specific in your life, be it a book that you read, or any other experience that made you delve into the realm of paranormal mystery?

I hold the belief that anything is possible. Have I seen a ghost? No. The plot idea came from a television program about a deceased woman who didn’t cross over. What a predicament, especially if she didn’t understand why she was held back. Would she need guidance? What would she have to accomplish to cross over? This television episode created a bubble of an idea that then blossomed into a plot.

Do I think ghosts exist? Possibly. I have experienced a few episodes that defy the norm. One with my car door slamming shut suddenly with such force it could not have been the wind. I wasn’t parked on a slant, either. I was moving boxes into a house we had built on an old vacated homestead. Was it an angry being who didn’t want us living there? Maybe.

If someone likened your work to one book, not author, what would you want it to be?

I have to name an author and explain why. If I would be likened to Harlan Coben, I would be extremely proud. His Myron Bolitar mystery series is excellent. I love his style, voice, pacing skill and how he entwines intrigue throughout. Every reader has an author who pushes their entertainment buttons and Mr. Coben does that for me.

Sadie seems like a very interesting character, is she part you, mostly you, or somebody else you know altogether?

Partly me! I’ll leave that part to your imagination. Also from a lively nursing home resident who had lived life to the fullest and continued to savor every waking moment. Sometimes stark naked. Sometimes as clear-headed as a chemical engineer. This eighty-year-old gal still looked forward to her undies catalog and ordered unmentionables on a regular basis. They were always too small, too gaudy, or too risqué. She also obsessed about spending money. One day she insisted on purchasing the Hoover Dam, the next day a nunnery. Observing this delightful woman lead to the creation of my main character, Sadie Witt. Ideas for characters come when least expected.

What did you find to be the hardest part of seeing your books through all the stages, from inception to publication?

Because I’m not a pantster (writing by the seat of my pants), I need a comprehensive outline to follow for the entire book. This serves as my roadmap. I struggle when formatting a sequential outline that makes sense and keeps the pace flowing. I procrastinate during this phase because of doubt and frustration, but then it slowly takes shape.

Before outlining, I develop a complete story for each character. Then I slice them into strips of paper and start piecing the puzzle together for how and when I want my characters and the crime to appear in each chapter. This project is one of those don’t-interrupt-me-or-else, all-day tasks. When it’s complete, I feel like flying. I can park my butt and actually begin writing. I may detour a step or two from the roadmap, but I know what each chapter must contain to keep the story moving forward.

Sadie sees her clients to the afterlife, that seems like it would be a fun job (sometimes).  If you could, would you take her place?

Yes. How cool would that be? The crime solving and mortuary aspects intrigue me most. That sounds morbid, doesn’t it, but I found mortuary science fascinating when I did my research. Spend a day with a funeral director and you’ll agree! I have a new-found respect for that profession.

A lot of people truly believe in the paranormal, and don’t tell anyone, but so do I.  Are you a believer or a disbeliever, and how much do your viewpoints play into your stories?

I touched on the paranormal in one of the above questions. My viewpoints come into play when I detail the emotional or therapeutic avenues the characters take to make their death declarations or help Sadie solve crimes. Realization and acceptance are difficult for those who failed to cross over. However, both are healing.

Do you have any plans on another series of books besides Sadie?  If you do, would you stick to paranormal mystery?

Outwitted, the second in the Sadie Witt mystery series will be released in January 2011 by Echelon Press. Sadie takes on two new crossers who arrive with, shall we say, problems. Big problems. The third in the series is written and I’m working on the edits at this time.

I often toy with a non-cozy mystery and have ideas down on paper.

What was your favorite part to write in any of the Sadie Witt Mysteries?  What part did you take the greatest part in seeing completed?

I enjoyed, actually loved, writing Sadie’s flamboyant personality into the story.  She’s a hoot and doesn’t give a rip what people think. She’s the opposite of her anal, do-it-by-the-book twin sister and the two banter and bicker constantly.

Researching mortuary science and building that experience into the story was the most satisfying as it was something I knew nothing about. I walked into the mortuary just as the funeral director was unloading the hearse. I said, “I need to know how to embalm someone. Without blinking, he said, “Sure. Come on in. I’ll show you.” He called my bluff, but later verbally walked me through the procedure, explained the professional side of the business, the tools of the trade, etc. What a learning experience. It helped calm my fear of the unknown. Because the funeral home functions as a major setting in my stories, I had to learn the business. Realism is important without being ghoulish.

Want to see more of this amazing author?  Check out her blogs!

http://mysteriesandchitchat.blogspot.com

http://readingminnesota.blogspot.com

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  1. August 6, 2010 at 1:33 am

    I find the paranormal both fascinating and a little bit frightening – almost as if by believing in ghosts I might be inviting them into my life. By writing paranormal mysteries, do you ever feel you are inviting ghostly forces into your life? What about seances? Have you ever attended any as part of your research/experience gathering to use in your novels? Do you believe the living can receive communication from the dead?

  2. August 6, 2010 at 1:40 pm

    Great interview! The concept reminds me a lot of the show Ghost Whisperer. I will go out on a limb here and say that I absolutely believe there is a lot more out there than what our eyes perceive. This topic fascinates me.

    At Witt’s End was already on my to-read list. I need to move it up to the top!

  3. August 6, 2010 at 3:48 pm

    JF – I don’t necessarily believe in ghosts, but always keep an open mind. I’ve had a few odd experiences, though. One where a car door slammed firmly when I was unloading my car when moving into a house. No breeze, not parked on a slant–so was it a ghost telling me he wasn’t happy with my moving in on his old homestead? Maybe.

    Another was a visit from a beloved deceased cat. This makes me wacko, I agree, but nevertheless, it happened!

    Writing paranormal doesn’t frighten me, nor have I participated in any seances. But with my two unique experiences, yes–it’s possible that we can receive messages from the departed!!

    • August 7, 2010 at 5:44 pm

      I had to laugh at the wacko cat comment. I don’t believe in ghosts, but I do believe in spirits. The slamming door would have scared the witts out of me (pun intended).

  4. August 6, 2010 at 3:50 pm

    Darcia,

    Thanks for adding me to your TBR list. I appreciate that. You’ll enjoy Sadie’s shenanigans. She’s quite the character.

    Ghost Whisperer is a favorite and I drew on that program to create the Sadie Witt Mystery Series. I chose humor, though, instead of such weighty issue.

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