What was your inspiration to start (and keep) writing?
Well, right now I’m very excited about a new shiny thing. I’ve just started a web serial, which is interactive fiction. There’s a new episode every week, and the readers vote on what happens the next week. It’s a real departure from my Mottley stories, because it’s contemporary Chick Lit. But there will be a mystery element that comes into play as the series progresses.
Keeping something new going all the time is important to sustain a creative life, and having different short projects is a great way to “cleanse the palate” during a long endeavor like writing a novel. That serial is called “Survivor’s Trust”, and it’s available on Serealities.com. Readers can vote on Episode 1 from 5/19-5/24, and Episode 2 goes live on 5/27. It’s a quick turnaround.
I’ve been writing for over 20 years – plays, comedy, script doctoring, short stories and essays – though I trained as an actor and always defined myself that way. About three years ago, I started experimenting with narrative fiction and found that writing books, though demanding, is far more workable for my lifestyle than pursuing an acting career. Nowadays, I like to be at home in bed by 9pm! When you’re used to a certain level of creative output, you crave that focus.
The idea for Mister Mottley literally came to me in a dream. I’d been bingeing on all my favorite detective stories and adaptations – Poirot, Campion, Lord Peter Wimsey, Inspector Alleyn, and I woke up one morning with a very vivid scene in my head. The problem was, when you’re dreaming you have this sense of completeness – you know all sorts of things about the characters in the scene. You have big emotions, but they aren’t based on the events you’re watching – they’re based on a subconscious context. That’s why dreams sound so lame when you tell them!
So from that point I had a mission – I had to write a world and a life for this character, so that scene would make sense when I got to it. At this point, it’s slated for Book 4, so I’ve got my work cut out for me.
Tell us a bit about the genre you write in and how it found you?
My books are “Golden Age” or “classic” detective stories, set in the 1930’s. Many people classify them with cozies, but it’s a bit different. Classics came out of a different era, so they’re not as steamy or gory as a lot of contemporary crime fiction. There are certain genre expectations for contemporary cozies that don’t match either – small town, unsympathetic victim, amateur sleuth who “just happens” to stumble into the case, bloodless deaths, etc. My Mister Mottley pursues detecting as a vocation, carries a gun, is unruffled by gore, and doesn’t mind a punch-up.
My stories do have a big dose of humor, though. I just can’t help it. Stuff comes out funny, so I might as well take advantage. I call Mister Mottley “soft-boiled and a bit cracked.”
I guess my particular genre-bending came out of my favorite novels – the first grown-up book I remember reading was Agatha Christie’s Murder On the Links, when I was maybe 11 or 12. My parents had very different tastes from each other, and my brother and I differed from them as well, but mysteries were a pleasure we all shared. We’d pass them around, or read them simultaneously. Sometimes a certain book would “live” in the bathroom or living room for a while, with four different book marks. Woe betide the culprit who removed the book or lost someone’s place!
Is there any author whom you’d admire and read every book they publish? Who and why?
I’m addicted to the original “Queens of Crime.” As far as I know, I’ve read every Agatha Christie, most several times. The same with Dorothy L. Sayers (the originals – I haven’t caught up on Jill Paton Walsh’s continuation.) I haven’t done the complete Margery Allingham or Ngaio Marsh yet, because some of their works were hard to come by before the eBook era. I’ll also read anything by P.G. Wodehouse, who’s been a huge influence on my sense of humor.
If you watch TV what are your shows right now?
I don’t have broadcast TV, but I do binge on Netflix from time to time. I’m a WhoLockian (Dr. Who/Sherlock), which is frustrating because we get the new episodes so long after they release in the UK! It’s like watching your sister eat the last cupcake, right in front of you.
I’m a sucker for re-watching most all the BBC mysteries – Poirot, Marple, Morse, Midsomer Murders, Foyle’s War, Lynley, Hetty Wainthrop.
When I get a yen for some derring-do, I enjoy quirky action shows like Chuck and Burn Notice.
Do you have any talents other than writing that your fans maybe don’t know about?
I was for many years a SAG and Equity actor. People occasionally ask me how I did, to which I reply, “Do you recognize my face? There’s your answer.”
I can pick up clutter with my toes, tie a cherry stem with my tongue, make ear-searing espresso, and throw sharp objects with disconcerting accuracy.
If you could go on vacation anywhere where would you choose and why?
Tuscany, because of A Room With a View.
Do you have any writing rituals we should all start doing?
Just this one: Stop “should-ing” on yourself. I’m working hard to banish that word from my vocabulary. Saying “should” tells yourself that you’re not actually going to do it. It also creates shame and kills creativity. There’s what you are doing, and what you did. Everything else is imaginary. Do whatever you need to do, to get the writing done.
What is your favorite movie? & then book to movie?
Wow. That’s hard. I don’t think I can do that. I just love movies so much.
Here’s one with special memories attached: when I started dating my husband, we wound up talking for hours, so excited that we geeked over the same stuff (lots of sci-fi and humor, like Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.) On our first “I’ll cook, you bring the movie” date, he brought The Fifth Element. It’s now a touchstone in our household. We and our kids unconsciously quote it all the time. There’s nothing like putting a recalcitrant toddler in time-out and snarling, “You wanna play it soft, we’ll play it soft. You wanna play it hard? We’ll play it hard.”
Sense and Sensibility has got to be my favorite adaptation. I mean, come on. Emma Thompson as screenwriter and star, Ang Lee directing, with Kate Winslet, Alan Rickman and Hugh Grant? You just can’t do better than that.
Though if we’re not being literal, I absolutely loved the movie Adaptation. It’s a brain-bender, and the Act III twist will either make you spit popcorn laughing, or make you think the people laughing are the most horrible sociopaths you’ve ever encountered. If you haven’t seen it, don’t Google it. Major spoilers.
What are three foods you can’t live without?
Chocolate. Blueberries. Fresh veggies from my garden.
What’s your biggest pet peeve?
People who are wrong on the Internet. They keep me up way past my bedtime, and I’m starting to think they’re doing it on purpose.
About the Author:
Ellen Seltz writes good old-fashioned mysteries with a big shot of humor, described by one reviewer as “Dorothy L. Sayers having drinks with P.G. Wodehouse.”
After working in the entertainment industry for twenty years as an actress, producer, comedy sketch writer, librettist and script doctor, she turned to fiction writing in the vain hope that the performers would do as they were told.
Joke’s on her.
You can find Ellen on her blog, EllenSeltz.com, and download the first chapter of her next book, Mister Mottley and the Dying Fall.
Ellen’s new contemporary web serial Survivor’s Trust is available now at Serealities.com. Sign up to vote, and get a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card!
“The Enigma Variations” is a series of classic Golden-Age detective stories with a big dose of humor. They feature aristocratic sleuth Edmund Mottley, a constitutionally incorrigible gadabout with a nose for murder.Book 1: Mister Mottley Gets His Man brings Mottley, who always works alone, together with aspiring “gentleman’s gentleman” Aloysius Baker, who just needs work. When an incompetent force meets an irascible object, everything’s gotta give.
This madcap adventure involves a priceless diamond, poison-pen letters, fast cars, hot jazz, and the dreadful misuse of truth serum.
#Win 5 copies of the ebook of Mister Mottley Gets His Man