NWS Author Next Door Spotlight: Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli  — she murders for a living and is an expert on poisons, hangings, fingerprints, and DNA.

Elizabeth is a mystery writer and journalist with six published novels that include Gift of Evil, Dead Dancing Women, Dead Floating Lovers, Dead Sleeping Shaman, and Dead Dogs and Englishmen (Midnight Ink). She reviews for the Northern Express, was a reporter for the Romeo Observer, and has written for the Detroit News, Traverse Magazine, the British Literary Journal: Women’s Quality Fiction, and many others.

Dead Little Dolly by Elizabeth Kane BuzzelliDead Little Dolly is her current mystery and is the fifth in her Emily Kincaid mystery series laid in northern Michigan. Sometimes playful, sometimes deadly serious, her books reflect a wide interest in women’s lives and futures.

Buzzelli has a new series coming out from Berkley Publishers beginning this March, and is currently working on another series where murders take place in and around an Arizona Polygamist town.

How did you become a writer?
It wasn’t a question of ‘becoming.’ I must always have been a writer because my most vivid memories of childhood are of making up characters, writing and putting on garage plays, imagining myself into the lives of others, and having words come alive on the page. The rest was having the audacity to call myself a WRITER, and then having the guts to accept years of rejection, then being saved by other writers who never allowed me to quit even though I was tired and wanted to, and finally the true ‘becoming’: selling stories and articles and being accepted by good publishers and now a wonderful agent.

Elizabeth Kane BuzzelliHow do you write? What is your process?
Every day.  If I’m not at my desk I’m out driving and making notes-to-self on my iPhone. At parties, at dull moments in movies, washing dishes—I’m writing. That small part of my brain which has developed the ability to tell stories constantly demands times and if I don’t honor those demands it will get me.

Every novel is different.  One begins with place.  One begins with a character.  One begins with parts of the plot.  I almost always have an ending in mind—some idea of my ultimate goal whether that will be the true ending or not.

My process begins with trying to avoid writing altogether.  I make copious notes, then try to outline—which never works, then comes my synopsis—I always hate these, and finally it is a pants-to-seat thing and I’m off.

What authors have inspired you?
P.D. James, master of the mystery.  A quiet and thoughtful woman capable of going to the darkest places. Barbara Kingsolver, for her wide reaching interests and depth of understanding.  I was left awed by her novel, Flight Behavior. Stephen King, not so much for his horror stories as for his masterful book, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Anne Tyler, for her deeply understood and finely drawn characters. Emily Dickinson, for her chosen life—to avoid the strictures of Amherst society and live a life in art instead. Critics still call this choice ‘agoraphobia.’ I call it a sensible decision. John Gardner, particularly, On Moral Fiction, which argues that “True art is by its nature moral.”

Who are your favorite authors?
Probably all of those who also inspired me, along with local authors, Aaron Stander and Mardi Link and Doug Stanton for simply being in my life.

What books are on your bedside table?
Hmmm—right now I’m reading Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, also the work of Joseph Smith, founder of the Mormon religion, and just finishing 12 books written by women and men who have escaped polygamist cults.  Waiting to be read are Jodi Picoult’s The Storyteller, Linda Castillo’s Sworn to Silence, and P.D. James’ Talking About Detective Fiction.  I’m just finishing Death in a Summer Colony by Aaron Stander. On the other bedside table, waiting and waiting for spare time are: Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth and Anne Tyler’s The Beginner’s Goodbye.

What writing projects do you have planned next?
I have a lighter series coming out from Berkley Publishers beginning in March, 2014. The first in this series, which takes place in Texas and centers around a family of pecan ranchers, is called A Tough Nut to Kill. The other two in the series will be published in 2014. At the moment I am working on a book proposal called Written in their Blood, which centers on murders happening in Utah polygamist towns.

What advice do you have for young writers?
Read. Read. Read. Then write, write, write. Don’t go into the business of writing novels to make money—you will fail. Go into the art of writing novels because your mind and heart and soul won’t let you do anything else as well.

Study with everyone you can. Go to writers’ conferences. Read about the business of writing and don’t miss a lecture or workshop by any writer you read and appreciate. Join writers’ groups and learn to critique the work of others as well as how to be critiqued.

Never let anyone tell you to stop writing. This profession isn’t for the faint of heart, the timid, or the easily crushed so be ready for thoughtless and ignorant criticisms—don’t take them to heart. Be ready for the praise—believe only half of it.

The best books for young writers are all of John Gardner’s (he was the founder of the Iowa Workshop. I met him when I was in graduate school at U of M and was struck by his slow smile and brilliant mind.)  Read On Becoming a Novelist, written with Raymond Carver; The Art of Fiction: Notes on Craft for Young Writers; and, of course, On Moral Fiction.

Her latest book
The latest is Dead Little Dolly (Beyond the Page Publishing, $14.99, paperback) the sixth installment in the series featuring mystery novelist Emily Kincaid and her cranky protagonist friend Deputy Dolly Wakowski. It is available on-line or through northern Michigan’s local bookstores.