As promised yesterday, fellow Midnight Ink mystery author Kathleen Ernst is visiting my blog today, with an article about her protagonist Chloe Ellefson's boyfriend. To read Kathleen's bio and see her photo, please page down to yesterday's post. Also, Kathleen is running a contest for a free autographed copy of the latest release in her Historic Sites mystery series, Heritage of Darkness, the cover art for which appears above, or one of the other books in the series. Kathleen will select the winner tomorrow evening from among those who leave a comment today or tomorrow and will announce the name in a comment on this post.
In the book, for curator Chloe Ellefson, a family bonding trip to Decorah, Iowa, for rosemaling classes seems like a great idea—until the drive begins. Chloe’s cop friend Roelke takes her mother’s talk of romantic customs good-naturedly, but it inflates Chloe’s emotional distress higher with each passing mile. After finally reaching Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum, Chloe’s resolve to remain positive is squashed when she and Roelke find Petra Lekstrom’s body in one of the antique immigrant trunks. Everyone is shaken by the instructor’s murder, and when Mom volunteers to take over the beginners’ class, Chloe is put in the hot seat of motherly criticism. As she investigates, Chloe uncovers dark family secrets that could be deadly for Mom . . . and even herself.
Sounds like an exciting read to me! Below is Kathleen's article.
Chloe Ellefson, the protagonist of my Historic Sites mystery series, is a museum curator. She is also thirty-two years old, single, and in the process of leaving behind an old relationship that failed in a particularly colossal way. I knew from the start that I wanted Chloe to have a man in her life. Enter Roelke McKenna, local cop.
I also want the series to continue indefinitely. That means sustaining a believable relationship over a long arc. It means letting Chloe and Roelke grow and change in each book, both singly and as a twosome. And it means finding the right pace—not rushing things, but also not drawing things out to the point of annoyance for readers. I want people to feel satisfied at the end of each volume, but still eager to see what comes next. Based on mail from readers, the complicated interactions between these two is one of the most enjoyable aspects of the series.
Chloe and Roelke spend most of the first book in the series, Old World Murder, getting to know each other. He’s interested; she’s wary. They seem to have nothing in common. She’s made mistakes in the past. She doesn’t want to make any more. He comes up with a pretty cool plan to help her move forward.
Fast forward to the fourth (and brand new!) book, Heritage of Darkness. Chloe and her mom travel to Decorah, Iowa, to take concurrent painting classes at Vesterheim Norwegian-American Museum. When Roelke sees that a woodcarving class is being held at the same time, he signs up and comes along. Chloe and Mom have a sometimes-prickly relationship, and he’s pretty sure he can help smooth out the tension.
Things don’t go as planned, of course. Mom takes a shine to Roelke, which is great! But when she bombards him with hints about traditional courtship and marriage customs, Chloe is mortified.
Then there’s the whole problem of how Chloe should introduce him to her mother’s friends. Here’s how Roelke handles the conversation:
“Listen,” Chloe said, “this will probably sound stupid, but I need to ask you something. How do you want me to introduce you to people? What should I call you?”
“How about your boyfriend? That works for me.” It worked quite well, actually.
“That would make me feel like we’re in junior high.”
He considered. “Is there some historical term you’d like?”
“Beau? Suitor? Gentleman caller?”
OK, that idea wasn’t as clever as he’d hoped. “Those would make me feel like we’re living in some PBS show.” And if one of his friends ever heard Chloe refer to him as her “gentleman caller,” he’d never live it down.
Despite the awkward moments, it was time for Roelke and Chloe’s relationship to make a real step forward. By the end of Heritage of Darkness, it does. (Right after they manage to prevent a killer from striking again. This is a murder mystery, after all.)
While launching Heritage of Darkness into the world I’m also feverishly working on the fifth Chloe Ellefson mystery, so I’ve been giving this topic renewed thought. How can Chloe and Roelke keep growing? What new challenges will they, and their relationship, face? I’ve still got a lot of ideas about that. In real life, even the strongest partnerships require attention and care.
What do you think about relationships in long-running series? Do you have a favorite fictional couple? Do you look for peaceful equilibrium, or ever-evolving growth? It’s a topic most mystery authors confront, and I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for your choice of Chloe Ellefson mysteries: Old World Murder, The Heirloom Murders, The Light Keeper’s Legacy, or Heritage of Darkness.
Thanks, Kathleen! Now, who has an answer, comment or question for Kathleen Ernst? Good luck in the contest!