Titles from Hellmann's Ellie Foreman Series:
First title from Hellmann's new series featuring Georgia Davis:
Libby Fischer Hellman Interview:
1. Having received rave reviews for your previous titles featuring heroine Ellie Foreman, what made you decide to change course by featuring your new heroine, PI Georgia Davis?
Ellie is an amateur sleuth, not a professional, which means she has to have an authentic, credible reason for getting involved in a case. After four books, those reasons were beginning to wear thin, at least for me. It was just getting hard to come up with a plausible reason for a single mother and video producer to bump up against dead bodies. Having a PI is so much easier – it’s her job to solve cases. Which eliminates the need for a rationale.
The other factor was the story. I always knew (from the moment Georgia appeared in AN IMAGE OF DEATH) that I was going to write a book with her as the protagonist. I just had to wait for the right story. EASY INNOCENCE is that story.
2. Both of your heroines are women who are independent and face today’s challenges of being caretakers of one sort or another, of being both career and family oriented, as well as being driven and ambitious females with courage and temperance; has it ever been a challenge to balance their personalities between a somewhat Buffy the Vampire Slayer and June Cleaver?
Funny you should mention that. I used to describe the Ellie Foreman series as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24.” But Georgia is very different from Ellie. Where Ellie is fundamentally an optimist, who sees the world in terms of family, friends, and support systems, Georgia is different. She’s guarded, protective, and doesn’t want you to get to know her easily. She’s a loner, and she has baggage and secrets, which I’m just discovering. And she’s not sure the world is a welcoming place. Ellie has a broad sense of humor. Georgia does not. So their voices are quite different. Which makes balancing them somewhat tricky.
3. In your new title, you bring up some very disturbing issues that all parents of teenagers face, especially those of teen girls; do you think teens today face some of these contentious issues, such as sexuality, earlier than previous generations?
No question about it. And the issues they face are not simply their emerging sexuality, which is huge, in and by itself. They’re also dealing with acceptance by their peers, which is equally huge. And materialism, which, increasingly, is seen as a badge of acceptance for young girls, particularly in affluent areas.
4. How influential do you think the media’s role is in this, especially with role models like Brittney Spears being of the type that teens wish to emulate?
The media are an enormous influence. Their saturation coverage of young celebrities, who themselves are still trying to define their values, confers a tacit acceptance of outrageous behavior, which is then emulated by other young people, much to everyone’s detriment.
5. On the same note, most parents face the conflict of either sheltering their children too much, or allowing such exposure tempered with additional education. In your latest title, it seems that while the parents are loving and concerned, there’s still a high degree of innocent ignorance; do you think this is more the rule today, or the exception?
It depends on the parent, of course, and their relationship with their children. But I do think there’s added pressure on two-wage earning parents who move to the affluent suburbs to give their kids a better life than they had. They have to be super vigilant, which is difficult when you’re working long hours away from the home and your kids just to support the family. It can be a Catch-22.
6. If you could banish one teen product of today, what would it be?
Oh… where to start? Actually, I’d rather adapt current products than banish anything. For example, how do we get kids to listen to audio books on their i-Pods? Or, perish the thought, actually pick up a book instead of a video game? Another idea: turn video games, which are incredibly sophisticated these days, into mini-movies of books…
7. Okay, on to a lighter note, and a question no doubt you’ve been asked in 400 previous interviews; how difficult was it to send out your first completed novel? And how often did you want to take it back and re-write it?
That’s kind of a tricky question, because the first novel I wrote was not the first novel that got published. My fourth novel was what became AN EYE FOR MURDER. And I rewrote that about 4 times. But you’re definitely onto something about rewriting—I don’t usually re-read my novels after they’ve been published, because I see all the flaws and weaknesses and want to correct them.
8. Considering your strong female heroines, one has to ask, which fictional female heroine did you love most as a teen yourself? And how did that change as you grew, or did it?
I wasn’t terribly fond of Nancy Drew. I thought she was too much of a goody-two-shoes. Hated her roadster and her boyfriend Ned. I like the trouble-makers more. Her friend George, for example. Later, I loved Scarlett O’Hara. She’s my kind of woman. Determined, focused, and strong. Anything to protect her own.
9. What do you hope your audience walks away with most after reading your novels?
Mostly, I hope they walk away with no sleep – I want them to feel compelled to keep reading my books way past their bedtime just to see how they turn out. In the case of EASY INNOCENCE, though, I do hope they ask questions about their own families and value systems.
10. What’s the best part of the process for you personally, and what’s the most difficult?
Writing is the most difficult thing I’ve ever done. I’m constantly second guessing myself, editing, rewriting. And I’m my harshest critic. I’m always feeling unequal to the task. It’s much easier for me to do an interview, arrange an event, or even write non-fiction, than to write fiction. At the same time, the best part is having written. It’s pretty cool to think I have 5 novels and 14 short stories out there. It’s unbelievable, actually. If you had told me ten years ago that would be the case, I would have asked you what you’d been smoking.
11. And finally, what can your fans look forward to next?
I’ve just finished a stand alone thriller called SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE. With luck that will be out sometime in 2009. And I’m in the middle of a new Georgia Davis novel – and this time Ellie is in it as well.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “There’s a new no-nonsense detective in town…. Tough and smart enough to give even the legendary V.I. Warshawski a run for her money.” They were referring to Georgia Davis, Libby Hellmann’s protagonist in EASY INNOCENCE, her fifth crime fiction novel.
The second Ellie Foreman novel, A Picture Of Guilt won the Reader’s Choice award for Best Traditional Series at the 2004 Love is Murder conference, and was a finalist in the Benjamin Franklin Awards. An Image Of Death, the third book in the series was released in February, 2004. Publishers Weekly called it “a powerful tale,” and the Chicago Sun-Times “recommends it highly, even if you don’t live in Illinois.” Her fourth novel, A Shot To Die For, was released in September, 2005. The Chicago Sun Times raved, saying “Hellmann reaches next level with latest mystery novel.” It won the Readers Choice Award for Best Traditional Novel at the Love is Murder conference.
Libby also writes short stories. “House Rules” (Murder in Vegas, Forge) was nominated for an Agatha and Anthony Award in 2006. She has also edited a highly praised crime fiction anthology, “Chicago Blues,” which was released by Bleak House Books in October, 2007.
In 2005-2006 she was the National President of Sisters in Crime, a 3400 plus member organization committed to strengthening the voice of female mystery writers. The organization, founded by Sara Paretsky, just celebrated its 20th anniversary. She also blogs with “The Outfit Collective” at www.theoutfitcollective.com.
When not writing, Libby conducts speaker training programs in platform speaking, presentation skills, media training, and crisis communications. She also writes and produces videos. A transplant from Washington, D.C., Libby has lived in the Chicago area nearly thirty years. She has a Masters Degree in Film Production from New York University, and a BA in history from the U. of Pennsylvania.
Libby lives on the North Shore of Chicago with her family. She is represented by the Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency.