Mystery Writers Key West Fest: Murder and Mayhem in Paradise!

Interview with Author Libby Fischer Hellmann

Chicago based bestselling and award-winning crime-fiction author Libby Fischer Hellmann joins the Mystery Writers Key West Fest August 14-16 as a guest panelist and moderator. Noted for crafting “compulsively readable thrillers,” her novels include the four-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” a grittier four-volume series starring Georgia Davis PI; and several stand-alone novels, Set the Night on Fire, A Bitter Veil and Havana Lost. Today she answers a few questions for readers of Paradise.


Q&A with Author Libby Fischer Hellmann

Q: You kicked off your professional career as a broadcast news editor, segued into PR, communications and video production, then in 2002 burst into the publishing limelight with An Eye for Murder, your first Ellie Forman mystery.  When did you become aware that you were incubating a writing career?

A: I never had any aspirations to be an author. It wasn’t even Plan B. I was going to be a film-maker (I have an MFA from NYU in film production). I intended to be the American Lina Wertmuller and waltz into the sunset with Ingmar Bergman.   Unfortunately, life had other plans. I had to decide whether to live in a garret, spending my days toiling over a screenplay that probably would never be sold… or… take a job in TV news where I would have a decent salary and some discretionary income. Guess which option I chose? 

Q: How many books had you produced before you realized that writing crime fiction had become your career?

A: It wasn’t until my 4th book, A Shot To Die For, that I knew I was hooked. I had come far enough in my career to realize that I wanted to write something different after that novel … a harder-edged, grittier story. So I wrote Easy Innocence. I’d been letting my day job (free lance writer and spokesperson trainer) lapse bit by bit… but it was then I realized I had a new mistress.

Q: With a bibliography that includes 11 novels and 20 short stories spanning an array of mystery genres - thrillers, suspense mysteries, historicals, Private Investigator, amateur sleuth, police procedurals, and a cozy mystery  – you are among the most diversified authors in the murder and misdeeds marketplace.  What personal quality or qualities would you say you possess that support your ability to create such a diversity of atmospheres?

A: It’s more stubbornness than anything else. And the fact that I love a challenge.   I feel the need to explore story-telling techniques, especially suspense, so that gives me a broad palette on which to work. As for the historicals, I was a history major in college, and I LOVE doing research.

Q: Can you see yourself ever writing a true-crime novel?

A: What a great question! I’ve never been asked that before. That actually is something to think about. The only problem I see is putting words into real-life individuals’ mouths. I’m a stickler for accuracy. Guess I need to read more true crime, huh?

Q: If you could chose any actress, from any era, living or non-living to portray your two series heroines Ellie Foreman and Georgia Davis, who would you chose and why?

A: I started out thinking Ellie Foreman should look like the young Grace Slick (Jefferson Airplane). Now I’m thinking Marissa Tomei would be fabulous. And Naomi Watts would make a perfect Georgia. But I’m flexible, in case there are any actress-producers reading this.
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