Happy Thursday! I’m the first stop on the Tying the Knot blog tour for E.C. Bell! As you may recall, I’m online friends with Rhonda Parrish, who is a great editor, writer, and generally wonderful person. She edited Tying the Knot and that’s how I was able to get an “in” with E.C. Bell for today’s interview. When you sign up for E.C. Bell’s email list, you get a free copy of “Saving Pookie” which gives a taste of what Marie Jenner’s life is like.
Other blog tour stops over the next few weeks include:
I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed reading E.C. Bell’s responses!
First off, I’d like to thank you so much for agreeing to have me on your blog. I appreciate it more than I can say!
And now, on to your questions:
Most of your books feature Marie Jenner, a woman who can see ghosts. If she suddenly lost her ability to see and interact with ghosts, what profession would she pick?
Marie is a classic underachiever, (mostly because of the ghost seeing thing, but also because of the way she was raised) so it’s a bit hard to say what she would have done if ghosts had never been a part of her life. I think that she would have still gone for the secretary gig, or something like it. Her family never pushed her towards higher education, and I don’t think she would have pursued it on her own.
But I don’t think she would have ever been satisfied with her employment choices, to be honest, and she probably would have job jumped most of her life. Poor dear. Good thing she has the seeing ghost problem. It really helped her focus!
In your mystery short, Saving Pookie, Marie is a cab dispatcher. It sounds like her boss is the worst part of the job. How many different jobs does she have over the course of the series? Is the Yellowhead Cab Company job the worst of them?
Saving Pookie takes place before Seeing the Light, the first book in the series, so, Marie starts the series as a cab dispatcher, with that bad boss. Then she takes the job of secretary/receptionist (full time!) and finds a boss who is even worse, if you can believe it! When that job blows up, she agrees to work with James Lavall as a receptionist at his private investigator’s office, which he had just inherited from his uncle. Then her job as receptionist morphs into a paranormal investigator over the rest of the series. So she becomes her own boss—and it’s hard to say how she feels about that! She can be pretty difficult, too!
But as far as I’m concerned, her worst boss, hands down, was Don Latterson, who hired her to be a secretary/receptionist in the first book, Seeing the Light.
What do you think is Marie’s best quality? And her worst?
Let’s start with the worst quality first. It’s her lack of trust. She has big emotional blindspots that are due, in part, to the abusive relationships she had to endure. Sometimes she can’t see a good person when they’re right in front of her. And the testing. Oh my, she does test people, over and over. Just to make sure that they mean it when they say they are her friend and ally.
Her best quality is probably her ability to learn from her mistakes. (Thank goodness!)
The Marie Jenner Mystery series takes place over a span of time so she obviously matures through her life experiences. Is there a specific decision process you use to keep things in her life moving along?
A a writer, the biggest problem I had with the series was the fact that usually there are only days between the end of one book and the beginning of the next. And the books themselves usually only cover (at the most) a month from beginning to end, so… chronologically, she doesn’t get too much older through this series.
However, she had to grow and mature, so I decided to use two things. Her growing into her power, and the romance. (hey, a little romance never hurts!)
Marie starts the series as someone who can see ghosts, but just wants to be “normal.” Through the series, she learns to accept her power, and then she learns how to use it. The easiest way for me to to show that was for her to build her own business, which she ends up running out of James Lavall’s office.
And then there’s the growing romance between her and James Lavall. She first had to learn to trust that he wouldn’t turn away from her when he found out that she wasn’t normal. And then, she had to learn to trust him as a man. (Abusive relationships sure can wreak havoc with trust, and she’d managed to get out of a doozie before the beginning of the series.)
There is only one break chronologically that’s more than a month long. It is after Book 3, Stalking the Dead. There are reasons why this happens story-wise, but the real reason I had an eight month break was—I’d decided that none of the books would be set in the winter. Most novels set in Edmonton are set in the winter, and I didn’t want to do that. So… an eight month break to get her back to summer!
Congratulations on the new book, Tying the Knot, to be released later this month! Who is your second favorite character in the series to write and why?
Thank you so much! My second favourite character… oh my. That almost feels like asking me to pick my favourite child!
But, if I had to choose, my second favourite ongoing character is Sylvia Worth, the police officer Marie meets in the first book. She’s a complicated character, and a lot of fun to write!
And my next to second? Millie, the little dog James Lavall adopts. I wrote one of my own dogs into the story and I think i really caught her essence. Love that little dog!
And then come the ghosts. I was determined, when I started this series, that my readers would be able to empathize with the ghosts, no matter how nasty they seemed at the beginning of each book. There were reasons why they ended up the way they did, and I wanted to make certain that everyone understood that. Most of them aren’t bad. They’re just misunderstood.
(Sorry.Couldn’t pick just one child!)
Marie lives in Edmonton in Alberta, Canada where most of the books are set. In the newest book, she travels to Las Vegas in the United States of America. Did you draw upon any personal experiences to bring the reader to the US?
Funny story! This book was the one I KNEW I was going to write after I started the series. I knew it would come somewhere near the end of the series, and I knew it would be set in Las Vegas.
I’d never been, but I figured researching a book was as good a reason as any to go. So, I was going to go before I wrote Tying the Knot. (Which I started writing in earnest about a year before the book was published.) That was the plan, until things went so sideways with the pandemic. So. I never quite made it.
However, I know lots of people who’ve been. And Rhonda Parrish, my editor LOVES the place and goes as often as she can, so the last time she went, I asked her to give me sensory impressions of the place. Not just what it looked like, but what it smelled like, what the heat and sun felt like, etc etc. So I could write those details into the story.
I also “borrowed” stories friends and family told me about things they’d done and places they’d gone when they visited.
Then I did the usual research, and then I wrote it. (Luckily Rhonda was able to gently let me know when things didn’t seem real, and when I was over describing places, or how to get to them, because I hadn’t actually seen them. I think, with her help, I was able to make it seem real.)
Maybe after the pandemic I’ll go.
The new ebook covers for the Marie Jenner Mystery series are simply fantastic. They’re really eye-catching. How much input did you have with the new covers?
I’m so glad you like them! I think they’re wonderful, too!
Originally the books had painted covers that are quite stunning when you see them in real life. However, they don’t work quite as well as a thumbnail sketch online. (It’s difficult to tell the genre just by looking at them.) So, my publisher found a great company that really understands what an ebook cover needs to look like, and they set to work.
I get the mock ups, and tell them which one I like, and then they go from there. And voila! Wonderful covers!
Any parting thoughts you’d like to share?
I’m working on the last book in the series right now, and it is a bittersweet experience. I’ve lived with these characters for over a decade all told, and I’m going to miss them. But I’m excited to see what the next book will be about. Shiny new characters, and a shiny new story.
Once I say good-bye to Marie and the gang, that is.
Here’s some contact info, if people would like to connect:
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