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Mister Mottley and the Dying Fall
by Ellen Seltz
The only way out is a long way down.
Edmund Mottley, Specialist in Discreet Enquiries, is in a precarious position: his old flame Susan needs his help. Her new fiance is accused of murder, and she wants Mottley to clear his name.
Mottley would rather jump off a cliff than get involved, but when Susan is threatened by a shadowy crime syndicate, Mottley leaps to her aid.
Mottley and Baker, his intrepid valet, pursue the case to an island of otherworldly beauty. But the island is haunted by secrets, treachery, madness, and … something more.
Every clue crumbles under their feet, pushing Mottley’s powers of deduction — and Baker’s loyalty — to the limit. With his own life on the line, can Mottley save Susan before time runs out?
The Mottley & Baker Mysteries are classic whodunnits set in the Golden Age of 1930’s traditional detectives. If you like Miss Marple’s pastoral puzzles or Albert Campion’s rollicking adventures, you’ll fall hard for this cozy historical mystery.
Interview with the Author
What initially got you interested in writing?
I dabbled in poetry and stories as a child, as I think many children do. But I didn’t start putting my writing “out there” for other people until I started performing in comedy troupes and experimental theater in my 20’s. I discovered a knack for improv and writing comedy sketches. That led to some script-doctoring work, then to a children’s musical.
After I had children, it became clear that the lifestyle of pursuing an acting career was not a good fit for our family. My creative “itch” built up for a few years, and I started exploring writing again. When Mister Mottley showed up and wanted to be in a book, everything came together.
What genres do you write in?
My primary focus right now is mystery. I always have multiple projects going, though. I’ve done some contemporary chick-lit and sci-fi comedy for different web platforms. I have a romantic suspense, a time-travel story, a literary women’s fiction, and a Victorian story that will either be historical mystery or steampunk (can’t decide yet), all in various stages of development. I’m also working on a family devotional and some other nonfiction.
What drew you to writing these specific genres?
Curiosity! I’ll see a phrase, hear a comment, have a dream, or read about a real event that just sticks with me. I have to keep picking at it until I find out what it is and what it means. Then I play with it and see what sort of clothes it needs to wear.
Also, to be vulgarly honest, money. Particularly with the web series, I look at the opportunity and figure out if I can write something the boss wants. It’s always got some mystery and some humor in it though – I think those are just basic aspects of life that I can’t get away from.
How did you break into the field?
I’ve told this story before, but after I’d spent years and years in New York pounding the pavement for acting jobs, I finally went to the “other side of the table” and produced a couple of shows. I hadn’t planned on it, but a group I was very close with had some grant money on the table, and the producer had to back out because of life circumstances. They had a deadline to produce a show, or give the money back.
You don’t give grant money back. Just…no.
So I stepped up and did the producing work. It was a revelation. There wasn’t any magic or mystery to it, it’s just a lot of hard work.
I asked a lot of stupid questions and I asked a lot of favors. We did fundraising, and planned things, and put on a show, and people bought tickets and clapped and liked it, and we ended the season in the black. There was no invisible line between me and “real” producers. There was nothing to break into. I just did it.
So when I had my first book written, I looked at the state of the publishing industry and realized that the economics and time scale of traditional publishing weren’t a great fit for my book. So I became an indie author. I asked a lot of stupid questions and asked a lot of favors and just did it.
What do you want readers to take away from reading your works?
Enjoyment, primarily. Fiction is entertainment, and entertainment is a form of hospitality. I want my readers to leave refreshed, like they spent a fun time with good friends.
What do you find most rewarding about writing?
Getting feedback from readers – either when I read something aloud to my loved ones and see their response, or when readers leave reviews or email notes to me with reactions and questions. I love that connection!
What do you find most challenging about writing?
The discipline of getting it done. I’m a member of what they used to call the “sandwich generation.” I have young children and elderly relatives who need my care and attention on both sides. I also have some health issues that flare up from time to time and derail my best-laid plans.
There’s a mythology of the professional writer who just bangs out the words, eight hours or ten pages a day, every day, forever. And some writers are able to do that. That’s not the reality I have. Frankly, it’s not the reality I want because it would require cutting off all the best things in my life!
So I stay in the struggle of getting it done, and it’s so very worth it.
What advice would you give to people wanting to enter the field?
Cultivate marathon thinking, not magical thinking. If you’re going to write anything worth reading, you have to learn and practice and write a lot of words and throw even more of them away. You have to make space for that process in your life in a sustainable way. Flaubert said, “Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”
You also have to put your writing out there, let strangers read it, and ask them for money. It takes chutzpah. There is no magic system to make it not be intimidating. There is no fairy godmother who will send your book to the ball and land you a prince of a contract. Whether you go indie or traditional, getting published is a lot of work. You’ll have to deal with rejection, and frustration, and delays, and a huge amount of detail.
But that’s all it is. It’s just learning skills and doing hard work. Nothing to be afraid of.
What type of books do you enjoy reading?
Well, classic mysteries are number one for me, always. I love the Golden-Age Queens of Crime – Christie, Marsh, Sayers, and Allingham. One of the motivations for writing Mister Mottley was that I’d read all of their books I could get my hands on, and wanted more!
For contemporary writers, I’m a sucker for beautiful prose and I like books with humor and/or a twist. Steve Hockinsmith’s Holmes on the Range series is delightful – a cowboy Sherlock Holmes. I also really enjoy Alexander McCall Smith – 44 Scotland Street just makes you feel good to read, and the Portugese Irregular Verbs series is hilarious. I laughed so hard reading it, my husband nearly fell out of bed.
For something a little more substantial, I’ve had wonderful experiences with Ann Patchett, Haruki Murakami, and David Mitchell. I read Mitchell’s Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet straight through in a weekend, barely came up for air. It was incredible.
Is there anything else besides writing you think people would find interesting about you?
Erm, hard to say. I’m always surprised by the things people find surprising or unusual, and tend to bore people when I get on my hobby-horse about my latest shiny thing.
I’m a Shakespeare buff. Some of my best memories are of playing Beatrice in Much Ado, Mrs. Ford in Merry Wives, and Kate in Shrew. Another was learning to fight with broadswords in drama school. I got to do the final duel from MacBeth with one of my best girlfriends. That was a huge thrill.
What are the best ways to connect with you, or find out more about your work?
I’m a terrible Facebook addict, so you will find me there more often than you should! My author page is https://www.facebook.com/EllenSeltzAuthor/, and I’m always happy to answer questions or have a chat. You can find my personal profile there if you want, but I do have some opinions about some things, and the personal profile is where I put them. Fair warning.
I also blog at http://ellenseltz.com, and if you sign up there to join my Reader’s Circle you’ll get a free Mottley story. Sometimes it’s Book One for free, but by the time this interview goes live it might be my Christmas story collection. Depends on if anyone gets sick in the next week or so!
If you Tweet, I’m @EllenSeltz, and if you Instagram, I’m @mottleyfool. I also answer reader questions by email at Ellen@ellenseltz.com
Thanks for hosting me, Shannon! It’s a pleasure.
Ellen Seltz worked in the entertainment industry for twenty years, from Miami to New York and points in between. Her primary roles were actress and producer, but she also served as a comedy sketch writer, librettist, voice artist, propmaster, costumer, production assistant, camera operator and general dogsbody.
She turned to fiction writing in the vain hope that the performers would do as they were told. Joke’s on her.
Ellen is a native of Birmingham, Alabama, where she now lives with her husband and two daughters. She enjoys vegetable gardening and vintage-style sewing.
Website & blog: ellenseltz.com/meet. Join my mailing list and receive a free copy of Book 1, Mister Mottley Gets His Man.
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