Monday, December 03, 2012

Scene of the Crime with Author Kathleen Ernst!

When I finished reading The Light Keeper's Legacy, the third book in the Chloe Ellefson series, I knew I wanted to ask author Kathleen Ernst if she'd be willing to be interviewed. When I did a little research, I became increasingly grateful that she said yes.

Kathleen's parents were avid readers, and Kathleen grew up in a house filled with books. Before they traveled to a new area, her librarian mother would bring home historical novels set in that place, which I think is such a cool way to get young people excited about history. Kathleen's never had a job she didn't love, and some of those jobs have been writer, reader, historical interpreter, curator, reenactor, naturalist, and educator. Her American Girl books featuring Caroline Abbott are just one example of what she's written outside the mystery genre.

Kathleen Ernst
Kathleen's every bit as interesting as the books she writes, and I encourage all you crime fiction readers to treat yourself to one of her Chloe Ellefson novels! Just in case you'd like to learn more about this talented writer, here are a few links that I found for you:

Now let's get to that interview!

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

I'm not sure if Little House on the Prairie or Misty of Chincoteague came first, but those were two absolute favorites of my childhood.  Both of them transported me to another place and time, created characters I loved spending time with, told great stories, and described setting so vividly it became real in my imagination.

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

I enjoy handwork (knitting, rosemaling, etc.), although those do sometimes appear in my writing.  Since I write about things I love the boundaries between work time and play time sometimes get muddy!  But I always enjoy traveling to new places, working in my gardens, going for hikes, birdwatching.

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.)

Pheasant Branch Conservancy
I live in Middleton WI, and the first place I'd recommend is Pheasant Branch, a wonderful nature preserve.  My husband and I often walk a 4-mile loop that winds through woods and prairie.  Despite it being very close to suburbia, we almost always see wildlife there.  Once we saw over a hundred sandhill cranes come in for the evening!

[Once seen, that's a sight-- and sound-- that's never forgotten. In January each year my husband and I go down to southeastern Arizona where over 20,000 sandhill cranes winter.]

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

I've circled back to this question several times, and honestly, I'm at a complete loss.  Any suggestions?

[How about it? Does anyone want to help Kathleen out?]

Who is your favorite recurring character in crime fiction?

Ooh, hard to choose just one!  Favorites include Kate Shugak (Dana Stabenow), Clare Fergusson (Julia Spencer-Fleming),  Anna Pigeon (Nevada Barr), and Deborah Knott (Margaret Maron).

If you could have in your possession one signed first edition of any book in the world, which book would that be? Why that particular book?

Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  I'm in the middle of re-reading the series, and also visiting every historic site relevant to her life.  Her work is as lovely to me as an adult as it was to me as a child.

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

I wrote novels for twenty years before selling one, so it was huge to see a book of mine in print!  I don't recall jumping up and down when that first box of books arrived; it was more a sense of "I can hardly believe it's true."  I got no advance for my first book, and my husband framed my first royalty check (I believe it was for the grand sum of twenty-three dollars.)

Name one thing on your Bucket List.

Traveling to Norway.

You've just received a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. Which bookstore are you making a bee-line for?

My local independent mystery bookstore, Booked For Murder, in Madison Wisconsin.

[They're definitely doing something right-- this is the second time Booked For Murder's been mentioned since I started asking this question!]


Thank you so much for spending this time with us, Kathleen. We loved having the opportunity to get to know you a little better.

May your book sales do nothing but increase!


  1. I too loved Misty of Chincoteague and when Dave and I went there years ago we learned that the vast majority of female visitors to the island were there because of Misty. Beautiful place to visit. Kathleen is so lovely, maybe she should play herself in that movie.

    1. I am a Misty lover, too, and Kathleen isn't the first author to choose that particular book either.

      I like your choice of actress, Barbara! :-)

  2. Thanks for such a lovely post, and Barbara, thanks for the kind thoughts! I'm more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of a camera, so I guess it's OK that Steven Spielberg hasn't called yet.

    Warm holiday wishes to all!

    1. The very same to you, Kathleen! Thank you so much for taking the time to be with us.


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