Monday, December 05, 2011

Scene of the Crime with Author Earlene Fowler!

Earlene Fowler's Benni Harper mystery series was the first one I read that combined my love of mysteries and quilts. I came very close to not continuing on with the series due to my dislike of Benni's new husband and of her contrary grandmother, Dove. Benni and the quilts persuaded me to keep on reading, and I'm certainly glad I did. I now have a respect and a fondness for both Gabe and Dove-- although I'm not sure which of us mellowed, me or those two strong-willed characters!

Earlene Fowler
Earlene's character, Benni Harper, is an ex-rancher and a folk art museum curator in San Celina, California. Each book title is the name of a quilt pattern, and the series is now fifteen books strong. The books do follow a "cozy" type of format-- easy on the depiction of violence and language-- but it's easy to get emotionally involved in what's going on because Earlene is quite skillful at getting you to care for the people she has created. If you'd like to know more about Earlene Fowler, here are some links:

Let's get started with that interview!

What was the very first book you remember reading and loving? What makes that book so special?

It was definitely one of the Curious George books.  I seem to remember it being one about him going to the circus.  I got my first library card when I was five years old.  Where I lived you could get a library card when you could print your own name.  I'm sure I read before that, but that is the first book I checked out, I think.  

Outside of your writing and all associated commitments, what do you like to do in your free time?

I love to read more than I love to write.  If I had to give up one, I'd give up writing, for sure.  So, I'm always reading at least 3 to 4 books at a time.  Fiction and non-fiction.  I also subscribe to about 20 magazines.  One of my favorites is Garden and Gun, a Southern living magazine and Oxford American.  I just bought a beach cruiser bicycle so I'm now sort of into riding my bike.  I love to ride horses and I'm lucky enough to have friends who own horses.  I play with my dog and talk a lot with my friends.  Now that I look at it, my life kind of looks like I'm sixteen years old, doesn't it?  (Oh, and I have a husband, too, so I spend time with him...and he was my boyfriend in high school, we met 42 years ago!)

If I were to visit your hometown, where would you recommend that I go? (I like seeing and doing things that aren't in all the guide books.)

The Donut Hole
Here in Orange County I would take you to the original Wahoo's Fish Taco on Placentia Ave in Costa Mesa.  In La Puente, the town I grew up in, I'd suggest driving through the Donut Hole.  It's a great piece of old school 50's architecture where you literally drive through two giant donuts.  (The donuts are good too!)

You have total control over casting a movie based on your life. Which actor would you cast as you?

Amy Madigan
Amy Madigan.  I come from a working class background and she plays those kinds of parts perfectly.  It would be an honor to have her play me in a movie (which would be kind of boring, really, the average writer's life really is quite dull...)

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

I have an abiding and warm affection for James Lee Burke's Dave Robicheaux.

Name one book that you've read that you wish you had written. What is it about that book that made it come to mind?

Stones for Ibarra by Harriet Doerr.  The last two lines are killer.  I'd love to have written them.  The minute I read them, I knew I'd never forget them.

What did you do the first time you saw one of your books on a shelf in a bookstore? How did you celebrate when you first heard you were to be published?

By the time I saw an actual physical book in a bookstore, I was so exhausted mentally and emotionally from the publishing experience (which is grueling, especially the first time), I just froze.  I kind of felt nothing.  What was actually more exciting for me was the first time I saw my words typeset in loose galleys.  That's the first time my words looked like a real book (this was before computers were rampant and people could print out their own manuscripts to look like typeset books).  It's still a thrill for me with every book to see it typeset.  To celebrate, my husband went out to dinner and had fajitas at Chili's restaurant. 

I don't know if you've seen it, but I love Parnell Hall's video about book signings. What is the most unusual experience you've had at a book signing or author event?

After almost twenty years of book signings, they kind of run into each other.  I remember one book signing where an elderly lady dressed in a beautiful lavender suit with a matching hat came up to me.  She was carrying an elegant cane with a fancy nob.  I was sitting at a table and she took the cane, raised it up and slammed it down on the table.  I jumped a foot out of my chair.   "I could just kill that Benni Harper," she said.  (That's the main character in my series.)  The woman went on to rant about how badly she felt Benni treated Gabe (her husband) and how she didn't deserve a man as wonderful as him.  That was the first (though not last) time I encountered a reader who had a bit of a problem with recognizing that my characters weren't real people.

The way some people talk, the only way to read now or in the future is with some sort of electronic device, like my husband's Nook. What is your opinion of eBooks, and how will they affect you as a published author?  

I have a Kindle and I like it okay.  It's convenient when you travel and I like being able to buy a book in 30 seconds.  But, it somehow isn't as satisfying to me to read a book electronically.  I'm not sure why.  I've often bought an ebook, read it and then bought the physical book so I could reread it.  I like my Kindle for books I'm only going to read once.  Ebooks are the future, I think.  I'm old school, raised on paper books. But the new generations are so comfortable with electronics, I think ebooks will eventually take over publishing.  I think that paper books will always be published, but more for collectors.  As for how it will affect me as an author, it will definitely cut into my income.  There was an article in Wall Street Journal recently that showed that the two groups who will lose money will be authors (who don't make as much for an ebook) and, obviously, the people who produce and distribute paper books.  Publishers make basically the same amount of money on an ebook.  So, I think a lot of authors will decide it's not worth the money to continue writing, or at least writing as much.  I have colleagues who have gone back to receiving the same (or less) advances than twenty years ago.  Each author will have to decide what they are willing to do to keep publishing.  But, who really knows what will happen?  It's interesting, anyway, to watch an industry change so rapidly.  Interesting, but kind of sad, too.

On Sale Now!
I agree with you, Earlene, about the lack of "afterglow" when you finish reading an eBook. I recently received a Nook, and although I do love the backlit screen, being able to insert notes, and the ease of buying and transport, when I "turn" that last page, it's just not the same. I don't know if I need to commune with the book cover or the author photo or what!

As for your author signing with the elderly lady bearing a cane... I think it would have been interesting if I'd shown up at the same time. I could've brought my large walking stick, and since I had a strong dislike of Gabe at one time... there could've been some fun fireworks!

Thank you so much for spending this time with us. We certainly do appreciate the opportunity to get to know you a little better. May your book sales do nothing but increase!


  1. Great interview! Lucky me - I have a new author to check out. The Benni Harper series sounds like one I'd enjoy. Thanks Cathy and Earlene!

  2. Mary-- You're very welcome! I think it's a series you'll enjoy!

  3. I love Fowler's series. And I love the story about the older woman and her anger at Benni. I know I'm a book or two behind in the series, but I've never had a problem with Benni -- she's always true to herself.

    Every time I read one of Fowler's books, I want to pull out some of my half-done quilts and get sewing.

  4. Candace-- I've never had a problem with Benni; she's a treasure. And I know what you mean about reading Fowler's books and wanting to get quilting-- although in my case, I pick up my needlepoint!

  5. I loved Benni & the quilts, too, Cathy, but only read tow of the series....Perhaps I should pick it up again.

    It's was delightful getting to know Earlene a little!

  6. Debbie-- I've probably got a few more series on the burner than you, but I do know that after the first two books, Gabe redeemed himself, and I was a happy camper. I did fall behind a few books, but now I'm caught up again.

  7. I'm just re-reading the Benni books and enjoyed reading your posting, thanks. I still love the book that ends with a flashback to Jack meeting Gabe and saving his life - a real tearjerker

  8. Anne-- Yes, Earlene's writing does have the power of making me laugh and cry.

  9. What a fun interview. Thanks for posting it.
    I'm a huge fan of Earlene.... Top 5 authors for me.
    I've read (and reread) all the Benni series as well as the stand alone novels. "Love Mercy" is wonderful & so is "The Saddlemakers Wife".
    I met Earlene at a book signing & she is a sweet heart.

  10. Regina-- Glad you liked the interview. Thanks for stopping by!


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!