Author of the Month
Elizabeth Eagan-Cox [NOVEMBER 2009]
Chosen by MyShelf.Com reviewer and HYH Co-columnist Sandie Vega


   I chose Elizabeth Eagan-Cox for Myshelf Author of the Month because I had the opportunity to review two of her eBooks and truly loved her writing style. The below interview was done via email, as both of us have a very busy and hectic lifestyle, but I wanted to get in-depth information from Elizabeth and felt this was the best way to do just that.

 

About the Author

Elizabeth Eagan-Cox enjoys digging up history through her own ancestry that is documented to the 1600s in America and to Patriots of the American Revolution of 1776. Elizabeth is a member of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, known as the D.A.R. She is equally proud to be a member of the Irish Clan Mac Aodhagain with headquarters at Redwood Castle, Ireland. The authentic spelling of her surname Eagan is Mac Aodhagain (“Mac Egan”). Elizabeth resides in California.

For her upcoming, A Ghost Meets an Angel, book 3 in the Shannon Delaney paranormal mystery series, Elizabeth used history of the early 1900s to weave together various elements, including the collecting of rare books, California's connection to the culture of the Southern states and the origin of jumping rope rhymes. And of course a little bit of magic as well as a nod and a wink to one of the world's foremost paranormal authors, Robert Louis Stevenson.

The Shannon Delaney Paranormal Mystery novels are available in e-book and paperback editions wherever books are sold. Visit Elizabeth Online for more information and to read free chapter excerpts of her novels:


Sandie: How did your writing career begin?

Elizabeth: When I was in sixth grade I wrote a radio play for a school-wide contest by a local PBS station. My play was chosen as the winner. The PBS station came to my school, staged, produced and broadcast the play. I was given an insider view of how it was done and allowed to express a few suggestions about the staging. Winning this contest was the seed of my writing and being passionate about it.

Throughout all levels of school I enjoyed writing and have always been a natural at taking essay questions and tests. And my college upper courses of study were in Communications and Library Science. As an adult I have tutored adults in taking the essay portion of the G.E.D. exam and the C.B.E.S.T. However, from a career point of view…I leaned toward the readership side of writing. I was a public school librarian and enjoyed that, too.

I began freelancing as a sideline in the 1980s. I combined my passion for history into being a columnist for a couple of hard-print periodicals. At that same time a friend of a friend suggested I should go into writing for public relations and knew of a company who needed part-timers. It was a good chance to earn extra income and to do so on a schedule that was not in conflict with my day job. I like writing PR and my Communications college studies were in PR, the softer side of it, at least. So, I took assignments to write corporate histories for some of America's most prestigious companies. I loved it, but was getting weary of the long commutes. I live in Southern California and everything that has ever been said about the horrible traffic problem is true.

About this same time, one of the magazines that I wrote for went of out of business. I filed against them for a return of my rights to all the columns I had written over a five-year period. The Los Angeles Superior Court judge awarded my request. Imagine that! Just little me, representing myself up against a panel of lawyers representing the magazine and the judge sides with me! I was the mouse who roared and the judge listened. The lesson learned here: Always Read the Fine Print, Know Your Rights!

Anyway, I took those dozens of stories I had my returned rights to and put together a book proposal. The fourth publisher I queried offered me a contract. From that contract two books were published that dealt with the narrative popular side of California history. These two books are now on backlist, so I do not actively promote them. Okay, so now we are up to 1999, and I was still working as a school librarian. I knew I could not write two books within a short period of two years and still work full-time. So I took the proverbial leap of faith. I turned in my library keys.

A Ghost of a Chance cover After the two non-fiction books the market went soft in that genre. I decided I could use my knowledge and passion for history and weave it into a fiction series. The year is 2006, I write a novel based on combining a cozy mystery genre with the supernatural element of having ghosts as real characters, not just a novelty device. The book is volume one in an uncapped series; I call it A Ghost of A Chance, book 1 in the Shannon Delaney paranormal mystery series. The second publisher likes it and offers me a contract. Well, Sandie you know the rest, because you have read all the books so far in my Shannon Delaney paranormal mystery series.

Sandie: What inspires the story lines that you write about?

Elizabeth: The supernatural element is the inspiration; I call this aspect of the creative process Blood Memory. Quite a common phrase in the Celtic culture, which is my culture. Though by no means is the concept of Blood Memory unique to the Celts, it's just that we are open to talking about it. Once, one of my sibs asked me why I was so driven to write. I told her, “I write to quiet the voices of my ancestors.”

When I begin a book, I have a basic plot in mind and it stems from my knowledge of history. Even though each book takes place in present-day time, there is a cold-case mystery involving some element of California and American history involved. From there… well, I dream the story and get up in the morning and write it.

Different influences have painted an ambiance for each novel. For example, in Book 2: A Ghost from the Shadows, the entire time I was writing it, I had a song in my mind going round and round. It is the song “Conquistatdor” by Procol Harum, it was a huge hit on the radio in early 1970 (I had to research that date) and every once in a while I hear it on the radio. It tells as story, of sorts, about the Spanish Exploration of the 1500s. And it got me to pondering about how we remember certain centuries and events in history by how we classify them, from the vantage point of looking back on history. The Spanish Explorers did not call themselves conquistadors…that label was applied to the Spanish Exploration a century after it happened. There is a scene in book two, Chapter 39, where main character Shannon Delaney says good-bye to her conquistador/ghost and to quote Shannon: “I would say that how the living remember their dead and knowledge of any one person's death does not, cannot, define that person's life.” This scene is poignant to me because although it is well toward the end of the book, it was the first scene I wrote, long before chapter one was tapped out on my keyboard.

A little-known influence that is in all my Shannon Delaney novels is a reference to my own heritage, via the Celtic roots, predominantly Irish and Scottish and my American Southern ancestors. In Ireland I am a member of the Irish Clann Mac Aodhagain (Mac Aodhagain is the authentic spelling of my name EAGAN), still very active at our headquarters of Castle Redwood in Ireland. And in the USA, I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution, known as The D.A.R.. Quite literally, name any state below the Mason-Dixon Line and I have skeletons rattling around there.

Sandie: What's next for you?

Elizabeth: I just finished book 3: A Ghost Meets an Angel. By the time this interview is posted, my editor will have the final manuscript. I do not call the shots on the publication schedule, but based on the previous two books in my series, I imagine book 3 will be out in e-book version in very early 2010 and the paperback version follows in about 6 to 8 months.

In book 3, I draw upon my Scottish and Welsh roots, I even use a name from my own ancestry in its original form: Morghan, and I pay homage to one of the greatest Scottish authors, Robert Louis Stevenson, whom I count among the foremost paranormal authors. And keeping true to a California location as a setting, book 3 takes place in the historic mountain town of Julian. Of course, as with the other books in this series, there is a bit of performance magic.

I will spend the holidays working with my editor to get the book 3 manuscript ready for published book format. About January I'll begin research for book 4… though in all truthfulness, I've already begun to dream it. Right now, I am thinking about using Los Angeles, or nearby, as the setting. Oh, and in book 4, Zach will be back as a leading influence in Shannon's life.

Through November I have appearances scheduled in print and on the Radio. The dates and times are posted on my web site.

Sandie: How do you juggle your other responsibilities with your writing?

Elizabeth: I keep a tight work schedule. When I am actively writing a novel, which is from March 1st to October 15th, I work four days a week 10 to 12 hours each day. I write two chapters a week. Midway through this process, in summer, I stop and go over the first half of the book. Take extensive notes and plot, plot, plot. In between and outside the parameters of the writing, I schedule personal appearances, and this is done on the schedule of the interviewer or radio host.

A Ghost from the Shadows cover Believe me, whatever fits their schedule, I am delighted to do my best to accommodate them. Working nights and weekends in addition to the 40 to 48-hour workweek is the norm. From March through October I don't have a moment of free time. Free time comes when I turn in the book manuscript to my editor in mid-October. Then I go on a Halloween vacation and when I come back in November, I wait for my editor to contact me. Last year, she, (my editor) and I worked on Christmas Eve in order to have book 2 out by New Year's Eve.

Honestly, any person who wants to be an author and do so professionally must learn how to politely decline offers to go out to lunch. Also, I fit in volunteer work, as my schedule allows. I write PR for the D.A.R. chapter I am a member of and I help out with PR at my church for their annual Ministry Fair.

Sandie: What are your other hobbies and interests?

Elizabeth: Genealogy, because it is a wonderful hobby, and I can do it on my time. I'm also a culinary cultural junkie. My dad was a world-class chef and restaurant owner and world traveler. I traveled with him and learned that food is the universal language. And from my Texas Grandmother I learned how to 'put up' jams and pickles. I love making my own jam, and have always done so. Making jam when the seasonal fruit is ripe for the picking is the one luxury I allow myself during my writing season. I will take time to make jam, and in doing so, live close to the bone of my grandmother's spirit.

Sandie: Did you have another career before you began to write, or did you know this was what you were meant to do all along?

Elizabeth: I mentioned briefly I was a school librarian and I loved it. During the twenty years I worked in the county schools I worked with all ages. But teens are my favorite age group to work with and when I was asked to be the librarian at a middle school I jumped at the chance. I sincerely believe that only people who can remember what it was like to be a teenager should be working with them. You see, my dad died when I was 14 years old and in the few years after, so did my grandparents. Having had a teen-age life that was filled with grief impacted my life in a profound way… I never forgot those times. And I knew I could not change my life's history, but at least in working with kids I could help them in some small way. I always considered it an honor when my middle school students would come back to visit after they went on to high school.

Along these lines, I remember my last day at the school library. I called in each and every one of my student helpers to make sure they didn't leave personal belongings in the library. One 8th grade girl, “Kathy” had kept a savings in a file folder envelope that I would lock up in my desk drawer. This was Kathy's method of saving money for something special. We had the agreement that if she gave me money to put in her 'account' and then she wanted to make a withdrawal, she had to write an essay explaining why she wanted the money. Kathy hated writing, and this was her idea. So, I called her in on my last day and handed the savings envelope to her. She looked inside and there was a dollar left (previously she had saved enough for her original goal). Kathy smiled and said to me, “I want you to have this dollar, please keep it and you'll always remember me and you'll be richer for it.” We both laughed and cried. I still have that dollar.

Sandie: What do you see in the future for yourself? Will you continue to write, or are there other interests that you would like to explore?

Elizabeth: The Shannon Delaney series is uncapped at this point in time. And I hope the publisher won't cap it any time soon. I enjoy Shannon and I have several more novel ideas on the back burner. So, I hope to continue to write, but that depends on readers. Writers need readers. So, please buy my books!

I do have another concept for a paranormal mystery series, but that is down the road and for now Shannon Delaney comes first.

Sandie: What can you tell the rest of us about the life of an author? I have heard it's a very rigorous lifestyle and not much free time, is this correct?

Elizabeth: If a person wants to be a professional writer…that means you make a living at it… then yes, it is hard work and to be truthful it is more of a lifestyle than it is work. My office is the third floor loft of my home. I never punch a time clock or lock the office door. I eat, sleep and live my books. Even when I am on vacation, I am thinking about writing.

For instance, the photo that became book 2's cover…the pirate shadow? Well that was taken while on vacation last year in Vicksburg, Mississippi. My husband, Christopher and I were touring the Vicksburg Civil War Battlefield. It was my second trip, that week, onto the battlegrounds, and I was disappointed. I had dreamt I would find my pirate there and on the first tour of the battlegrounds I came away discouraged. Well, this time, we entered from the back road of the battlefield and came upon the larger than life statue of Major General Frederick Steele. The point of view was entirely different and I saw in him my pirate shadow!

Not much free time? Oh, so true. And my time, as a writer is not my own. This is, perhaps, the biggest misconception from people who do not understand. I can't just turn off and on the creative juices. I need to keep a strict schedule to condition myself, to have a routine is all-important in allowing my creativity the time and space it needs to ebb and flow.

Sandie: Can you give us a sneak preview of your next book or storyline? or would you like to keep it a Mystery?

Elizabeth: Book 3: A Ghost Meets an Angel was inspired in part from the same vacation I mention above. It was Halloween night of 2008 and we were in Natchez, MS, just south of Vicksburg, along the Mississippi River. Christopher and I took a haunted tour operated by Natchez historian Eric Williams. During the tour there is a stop at the historic Natchez Cemetery. While at the cemetery I saw the infamous statue of the Turning Angel and asked Christopher to take a few photos of it as I framed it with my outstretched hands.

I can't even begin to explain how excited I was by the Turning Angel and the story of it. You see, this very same angel statuary is also in a historic cemetery in County Cork, Ireland… an area that my ancestry is in. I knew I would have to weave the Natchez story into my next Shannon Delaney novel, include the story in the background of a plot. As I mentioned before, there is always some reference to my Southern ancestry that is in my novels. I just never know when or how I will come across it. Given the incredible diversity of California history, book 3 was a natural tie-in to a Southern connection because after the Civil War, Southerners founded the mountain town of Julian (in San Diego's eastern county area) So, Julian is the setting for book 3.


Reviews:

Read Sandie's reviews for Myshelf on both of Elizabeth's previous books in this wonderful series:

 


Websites:

ElizabethEaganCox.net

2009's Honorary List

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