Monday, June 8, 2015

An Interview with Ellis Vidler, Suspense Novelist


Dora Machado


Hi Ellis and welcome to MB4. It’s a pleasure to have you here. You are the author of six suspense crime novels. How did you become a writer and why did you decide to write in the crime/suspense genre?

I co-wrote The Peeper with Jim Christopher, a retired law enforcement officer. He was great to work with and I learned a lot—a terrific experience. Then I wrote Tea in the Afternoon, which is three Southern short stories, not crime fiction. They grew out of people I knew and stories I heard growing up. I have more. J Nancy Drew probably influenced my interest. I read (past tense) and read (present tense) many genres, but crime fiction of all sorts is my favorite. It’s what comes to me, so I write it.

In your opinion, what are the cornerstones of a successful crime/suspense novel?

Pacing and heart. I like page-turners with characters who can make my heart pound. If I bite my nails for fear of what will happen to them, if it’s 2 a.m. and my eyes are crossing over the words, I’m a happy reader. Two of my favorite characters are Robert Crais’s Joe Pike and Boyd Crowder from the TV series Justified. Both kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting for the ax to fall—or not.

Many of your novels have a romance component. How do the romance and the crime/suspense genre fit together in your novels? What kind of opportunities does romance bring to the crime story? What kind of challenges?

To me, love adds a human dimension to a story that might otherwise be only a problem to resolve. It seems unrealistic for my characters to live in isolation. I want the human contact for them. Romance also heightens the tension if one of the partners is in danger—our hearts race with theirs.

Since I’m primarily a suspense writer, proportion is important. I don’t want the romance to overwhelm the suspense, but it needs to fit the characters and circumstances.

How has living in the South shaped and/or influenced your stories?

Relationships—the second cousin/great uncle sort—and family are very important in the South. The right connections will help in any situation. Even in college, we’d get grilled by classmates’ parents until they found a connection (“your grandmother lived next door to my mother’s father’s brother”—that sort of thing). My characters have families or close ties that influence them, for good or ill. The characters in my books are all connected, either by blood (the McGuires) or by experience such as the strong bonds formed in war (the Maleantes & More books: Cold Comfort and Prime Target).

Your McGuire women novels feature members of a family with a psychic streak. How do you incorporate the paranormal into your crime plot lines? How many novels are there in the series? Are there other novels to come?

I use the McGuires’ psychic abilities to involve the character in the crime and to give hints and direction, but I don’t want that ability to solve the crime. That’s a bit like waving a magic wand. They have to use their wits and skills to find the bad guys and bring them to justice.

So far there are two books in the series, Haunting Refrain and Time of Death. I started Shallow Grave and completed the cover (I often design the cover very early in the process for inspiration—and it’s fun), but I kept getting caught up in backstory, so I gave in and am working on an earlier McGuire novel, a sort of prequel, tentatively titled Red Mountain Blues, that takes place in 1981. It’s the setup for Shallow Grave, so I have to keep thinking ahead to where this is all going.

I’d like to write one about Isobel, the glamorous aunt in Time of Death, but I’m not there yet. As long as the ideas come and I’m able to type, I’ll keep writing.

Which of your novels is your favorite and why?

It’s always the one I’m working on because I fall in love with the characters. Maybe that’s one reason I’m so slow—it’s hard to let one bunch go (Charlie Dance, from Prime Target, lingers still) and transfer to the next ones. Right now, Aurelia McGuire and Finn from Red Mountain Blues have my attention. It’s often difficult to come back to reality and stop thinking about them.

What kind of reader do you think will enjoy reading your novels?

It’s easier to say who won’t. Genre purists won’t like them: my novels don’t quite fit into suspense because of the love stories, and they don’t fit today’s definition of romantic suspense. More women read them than men, but men enjoy them too, mostly, I think, because of the action. They aren’t hard-boiled, but they’re far from cozy.

What’s next for Ellis Vidler?

I really want to do Will Porter’s story. He’s the owner of Maleantes & More, a former Marine who works with his own “band of brothers.” His character has been with me ever since I saw a beautiful, angry boy, Hispanic-looking but with vivid green eyes, maybe 12 years old, with a school group touring the United Nations building in New York. All the boys wore uniforms with a blazer and tie, and all the others were about 10 and had a similar preppie look. This boy, a head taller and definitely a misfit, was fuming. He seemed embarrassed, as if he wanted to be anywhere but with the group. I imagined him grown and knew I wanted to write about him.

Thank you so much for visiting with us, Ellis. Come back and see us soon.


About Ellis Vidler

Ellis Vidler writes the stories she likes to read--action, adventure, and heart. She falls in love with the characters, flawed but striving to do the right thing, and hates leaving them when the book is finished.

From early childhood she's loved reading and telling stories. She imagined herself as everyone from d’Artagnan to Anne of Green Gables and shared their adventures through long hours of reading by flashlight beneath the covers. Her career began with illustrating, moved into editing, and then writing. She also taught fiction writing.

Ellis’s novels are suspense stories with varying degrees of romance. All contain adult language and situations.


About Dora Machado

Dora Machado is the award-winning author of the epic fantasy Stonewiser series and her newest novel, The Curse Giver, available from Twilight Times Books. She is one only a few Hispanic women writing fantasy in the United States today. She grew up in the Dominican Republic, where she developed a fascination for writing and a taste for Merengue. After a lifetime of straddling such compelling but different worlds, fantasy is a natural fit to her stories.
When she is not writing fiction, Dora also writes features for the award-winning blog Murder By Four and Savvy Authors, where writers help writers. She lives in Florida with her indulgent husband and two very opinionated cats.

To learn more about Dora Machado and her award winning novels, visit her at , email her at, find her on Facebook, or follow her on Twitter.


Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Great interview, Dora and Ellis! I'm actually reading Prime Target right now and it's riveting! I love all of Ellis's books - they are outstanding. ;o)

Ellis Vidler said...

Thanks, Aaron. You're always a gentleman, and so good for my ego. :-)

Polly Iyer said...

Ellis's books are definitely page-turners. Great characters, riveting plots, and superb writing make them all come together. I'm always waiting for the next one because I know I'll have a great read. Good questions, Dora.

Ellis Vidler said...

Thanks, Polly. I'm working on one, but I'm slow. And so far, I haven't thought of a cover for Red Mountain Blues. But there's plenty of time to come up with it--or change the title. :-)

Unknown said...

Thanks Aaron! Talking to Ellis was a delight. Ellis, I hope we get to do it again very soon.

Ellis Vidler said...

You all were so nice to have me. I appreciate it. Dora, you asked good questions and I enjoyed answering.