Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Today's Mystery Author Guest: Kathleen Ernst


As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst is visiting my blog today. To read her bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post.

The photo above is the cover for her October 8th release, The Light Keeper's Legacy, the third book in her Chloe Ellefson series. Hoping for solitude at last, museum curator Chloe Ellefson leaps at the opportunity to be a consultant for the historic lighthouse restoration project on Rock Island, a state park in Wisconsin’s scenic Door County. Hoping to leave her personal and professional problems at home, Chloe’s tranquility is suddenly spoiled when a dead woman washes ashore. Determined to find answers behind the mystery, Chloe dives into research about the island’s history and discovers the amazing, resilient women who once lived there. But will the link between the past and present turn out to be a beacon of hope or a portent of doom?

Sounds like a great read to me! Below is Kathleen's guest article about Location, Location, Location. Please feel free to respond to Kathleen's questions or to ask her a question of your own in the comments. Doing so will enter you into her contest for a copy of one of her Chloe Ellefson mysteries.

Location, Location, Location
by Kathleen Ernst

When I began creating the Chloe Ellefson Historic Sites mystery series, I had the setting nailed down long before I developed my protagonist.  I conceptualized the series because I missed the historic site where I once worked as an interpreter and curator of interpretation and collections.

In 1981 I was fresh out of college and looking for seasonal work.  I’d studied environmental education at West Virginia University, with a whole lot of history and creative writing classes tossed in, too.  To me, the mix made perfect sense.  I love nature; I love history.  And how can we begin to understand the past without understanding the relationship between people and their natural environment?


I moved from the Atlantic coast to the Midwest in order to take a job at Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor ethnic museum.  Historians had chosen almost six hundred acres within Wisconsin’s Kettle Moraine State Forest to create a sprawling historic site featuring dozens of historic structures moved from all over the state.  No one can truly reconstruct an historic environment, of course, but this site comes close.  Wooded land, glacial ponds, and prairie remnants surround the living history museum’s homes, gardens, and fields.


I left OWW in the mid-1990s.  However, I really missed the place!  So in time, Chloe Ellefson developed in my imagination as curator of collections there.  In Old World Murder, Chloe is trying to settle into her new job at the site.  The second book, The Heirloom Murders, takes Chloe a bit farther afield by featuring a nearby Swiss-American community, but the story is still firmly rooted at OWW.

The Light Keeper’s Legacy, just out from Midnight Ink, is set entirely elsewhere.  Chloe accepts a temporary consulting assignment that takes her to Rock Island State Park, just off the tip of Wisconsin’s Door County peninsula in Lake Michigan.  She’s charged with doing research and developing a furnishings plan for Pottawatomie Lighthouse, a real structure that was magnificently restored by The Friends of Rock Island and the Department of Natural Resources.

My husband and I have served as live-in docents at Pottawatomie, a magnificent 1858 building perched on a cliff on the roadless island.  I knew it would provide the perfect setting for a Chloe mystery.  The island is remote and ruggedly beautiful, and the lighthouse has a fascinating human history.  What could be better?


This area is beloved vacation spot for many Midwesterners, so I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback about the setting.  However, I’ve also heard from a few people who—while looking forward to reading The Light Keeper’s Legacy—mention that they’ll miss the Old World Wisconsin setting.  Readers who know and love the real historic site enjoy imagining each scene while reading.

I’ve long been a fan of Nevada Barr’s Anna Pigeon mysteries, and a large part of my reading pleasure comes from knowing that I’ll be immersed in a new national park with almost every volume.  I’d like to do something similar by getting Chloe to different historic sites and museums as the series progresses.

But I also understand that knowing the setting for any series can be quite enjoyable for readers who feel as if they’re revisiting a favorite place with each new book.  I’m choosing to straddle the issue by keeping Chloe employed at Old World Wisconsin, but letting her visit other locations by taking consulting jobs, attending conferences, etc.

How about you?  Is the familiar setting in your favorite series something you particularly look forward to, or are the human stories more important than the setting?  I’d love to know your thoughts!

**
I’m grateful to Beth for allowing me to be a guest on her blog.  And I’m grateful to readers!  I love my work, and I’d be nowhere without you.  Leave a comment here, and your name will go into a drawing; the winner may choose any of my Chloe Ellefson mysteries:  Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, or The Light Keeper’s Legacy.  For more information see my website or my blog


Okay readers, I'm expecting a lot of comments and contest entries for Kathleen. Fire away!

36 comments:

Barb Goffman said...

I love lighthouses, so it'll be nice to go there vicariously.

I'll admit I'm behind in the series. I've only read book one so far. I liked the romantic set-up in that book. Without giving anything away, is there any romance in this newest book, Kathleen, or is that part of Chloe's life on hold during this book?

tambra gunter said...

I love Lighthouses and it sounds like a great story. I have never read anything by Kathleen before. I will have to find her other books. This book was released on a perfect day Oct 8 which happens to be my Birthday. I would love to win a copy to read.

Ally Shields said...

I couldn't agree more with the importance of setting. I've filled my website with my fictional setting, and I enjoy going back there almost as much as seeing the characters again!

Nancy said...

Have only read the first in this series and loved it. No matter where the action takes place it's great.

Helen Ginger said...

Setting is so important that sometimes it's called the third character in a book. As a reader, I often get attached to the locale, but I agree with you that it's fun to venture out to other places. And lighthouses can be so interesting!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Barb - there is indeed romance! The question that was presented at the end of Book 1 is answered in Book 2, and now in the new book Chloe makes more progress in the personal relationship arena. And I'm happy to say that in Book 4, which is underway, things progress even more.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Tambra - happy birthday! And good luck.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Ally and Helen - As a reader, I gravitate to books with a strong sense of place. Sounds like I'm not the only one! The island gave me a great opportunity to showcase the local environment.

Kathleen Ernst said...

Nancy - So glad you enjoyed Old World Murder! I'm having a lot of fun with the series and hope to get Chloe to many more interesting places.

Alice Trego said...

Location in a story is my chance to get away, to be with the characters on their own turf. It's a grand feeling to be there with them throughout the book and long after in my memory.

The setting is most important to an author as well as the reader, and I'm excited that Chloe will be at a lighthouse in her next adventure!

Acemommy said...

I can't wait to read this!

Sean Little said...

It was great seeing you at Booked For Murder last night, Kathleen. Congratulations on the new book.

Irene Bennett Brown said...

I've read the first two Chloe Ellefson novels and enjoyed them tremendously. I'll be ordering The Lighthouse Legacy to read on my Nook. Thanks Kathleen, thanks Beth.

jenny milchman said...

Beautiful photos, and I can understand how setting would drive this story.

Sue said...

Setting showcases the jewels that are character and plot and all are interdependent. I've enjoyed following Choloe thus far. I've never been to Wisconsin but consider myself a historical dilettante and so appreciate her background! I'll be glad to follow her wherever she goes, and the lighthouse setting is intriguing. My kids still talk about the vacation we took that included a guest stint at the Rose island Lighthouse in Newport RI! Best wishes for the new entry in Chloe's series.

Gloria Alden said...

It sounds like a great series. I love visiting historical sites and listening to the docents telling about the place. Every vacation, my sisters and I make sure we visit at least one of them.

Like you, I love the Nevada Barr books set in National Parks both because I love nature and because I enjoy camping in the National Parks I've been able to visit.

Alicia said...

It looks like another series to add to the TBR list. Lighthouses hold a special fascination for me.
I would love to win a copy!

Kari Wainwright said...

Changing the setting occasionally also helps keep the original community from developing a Jessica Fletcher syndrome. It's like taking a vacation only to return to the home you love in the next book.

Jeannie said...

I just received my copy of your latest book, and am excited about the concept of a new location. Even more than that, I'm so happy that you wrote another novel. I hope that you will continue to write as I feel that I'm on location with you in them. I loved the pictures in this column also.

cyn209 said...

i've yet to read this series, but have been on my WishList for a long time!!!
thank you for the giveaway!!!

cyn209 at juno dot com

Kathleen Ernst said...

Thanks for all the comments and good wishes! I'm delighted to hear that some of you are already enjoying the series.

Sean - it was lovely to see you. Thanks so much for coming out.

Kari - I couldn't agree more. Poor Cabot Cove...

Jeannie - I sure appreciate your remark about feeling as if you're on location when you read a Chloe mystery. Music to my ears!

Kimberlee said...

Hi. I just stumbled across your blog and I LOVE it! We share a love of historical fiction and the classics. Stop by and visit my blog if you get a chance.

girllostinabook.blogspot.com

Hope to see you there. Happy Reading!
Kimberlee

Stacie said...

I love the historical element of this series. I think it adds interest to have Chloe do consulting work. I look forward to many new adventures in the future. Thank you so much for the giveaway! Fingers crossed :)

Scouts579(at)aol(dot)com

Lexie said...

Looks like an awesome series! Would love the chance to read it! (:

s h a k e s p e a r e a n l o v e r 1215 AT yahoo DOT com

Margaret said...

Loved the first two books in the series, and just got the Lighthouse book from the library. It is on top of my TBR pile. Your books remind me of the Leslie Wheeler books, which have been set at Plymouth Plantation, Gettysburg, and Mystic Seaport. I really enjoy the historical site settings for mysteries. So, please send Chloe to various locations, so we can be virtual visitors. Margaret

Jane B said...

The characters are more important than the setting, but not by much! A new setting can be a challenge for the characters, so tht's fun.

However,a really well-done setting (especially historical) will keep me coming back for awhile even when the dramatic tension isn't so evident.

Judy said...

You don't always think of location as a "character" but it happens. I read a series of five or so books that visited the same places. By the end of it, I felt I knew the areas personally. Actually I worked in one particular area, so it made an even more interesting revisit to familiar landmarks.
I'm sure a lot of us enjoy reading about places we know and love. Currently, though, I'm reading about a state I've never entered. I notice that I've been drawn to other books from this same region.
Count me in for the drawing, please.

Beth Groundwater said...

Thanks so much, everyone, for your comments! And, thanks for visiting, Kathleen. You are welcome any time!

Heidiwriter said...

What a beautiful setting! And you're so right, setting is such a huge part of any story, so much that it becomes a character itself sometimes. Congratulations on your newest book!

KarenM said...

I am intrigued enough that I joined your email list.

I was a docent at Filoli in Woodside California for many years.

I also love lighthouses.

Would it spoil anything to read the series out of sequence?

Best of luck to you!

Karen

Arletta Dawdy said...

Hi Kathleen and Beth,
The Chloe mysteries are delightful and I like the parallel you draw, Kathleen, to Nevada Barr's work. It will be great to see Chloe at the Lighthouse after reading your blogs about being there with your husband!
I'm writing from the Huachuca Mntns in SE Arizona where I set my work..It is good to be "Home" for however short a time but I'll return, emotionally, as I write #3 in the trilogy from No CA! Arletta57 veriEdu

Lori Orser said...

I loved the first two books at OWW(and I owe you two reviews, Kathleen; I'm so far behind! Trying to get my ms ready to send to editor), and while in some series, such as Tony Hillerman's books, I do like having the same setting, more or lesss (the Navajo nation is huge, so he used many different places), or Sarah Graves set in Eastport, Maine. But I love Nevada Barr, moving to different parks each time, and making me really want to visit most of them! Setting can be a major part of a book (it is in mine) but, sometimes the characters and stories are more important. So, I can't say which I like more, series that stay in one place, or those that move around. I'm looking forward to seeing Chloe at the lighthouse; it's on my to-be-read list! Lori Orser

Lori Orser said...

I love both types of series. Nevada Barr, as you point out, always takes me to a new park, and I almost always end up wanting to go there. Sarah Graves plants me firmly in Eastport, Maine, so i know what to expect. I'll be glad to read about Chloe alone at a lighthouse! (And I owe you two reviews; I'm sorry, I'm SO behind! I'll get to it in November). Now, if I can just get past Captcha; I NEVER get those darn letters right! I think I do, but no. Over and Over and OVER! There has to be an easier way! Lori Orser

Kathleen Ernst said...

And the Chloe book winner is...Helen Ginger! Thanks for all the great comments, everyone!

Kathleen Ernst said...

PS to Karen, and anyone else who's thinking about sampling the series - while each book works as a stand-alone, there is an over-arching plot arc that begins in #1, Old World Murder, and moves on from there.

Anonymous said...

A good book should work anywhere it's planted.


boots9k at wowway dot com2