AUGUST 22, 2002

From all the books you have written, do you have a favorite?

Mariner's Compass

At what point in time did you realize that writing was "the thing for you"?

When I was 27 years old and took my first creative writing class at a local community college.

What advice would you give to someone interested in becoming a writer?

Read widely. Read continually. Study your craft. Expect to be rejected. Buy books. Support the industry you want to join.

What other authors do you enjoy reading?

Lee Smith, Bobbie Ann Mason, James Lee Burke, Philip Yancey, Fannie Flagg, Jo-Ann Mapson, Lorna Landvik, C.S. Lewis, Harper Lee, Flannery O'Connor, Wallace Stegner, John Steinbeck, Jessamyn West, Willa Cather

Do you normally do a lot of research when writing a book?

I probably spend about 20 30% of my time in research, reading and actually going out on "field trips." It's one of the really fun parts of my job, the interesting places it has taken me, the lives I am able to catch a glimpse of "close up." It's like living other people's lives for just a little while.

What other types of jobs have you had?

I really led a boring life before I became a writer. I've worked at a variety of clerical jobs, mail clerk, sold furniture, housekeeper, library clerk (which included doing storyhour for kids). None of my jobs were particularly interesting which is probably why I've always had a good imagination.

Do you attend conventions and signings?

I now make about 75 personal appearances a year between the booktour paid for by my publisher, booksignings I set up, conventions, quilt shows and library talks. In the last 10 years I've had some years where I've done as many as 100-125. I'm trying to cut back a little now because between writing the books and promoting, I'm working 7 days a week.
Is there anyone, in particular, who influenced you?

My friend, Ann Lee, whom I met in my first writing class was a big influence on me as a writer. She just recently passed away. I was 27 and she was 57 when we met. She was one of the purest, truest writers I've ever known. A real writer. She wrote because she loved to. She was a widely published poet who went through dry periods of being unpublished, but she never stopped writing. Her dedication was incredible and a real inspiration to me. She was the first person to see me as a writer. I miss her every day.

What led you to write mysteries?

I wrote short stories aimed toward literary magazines for 10 years. None were ever published. It's a very closed, inward world, the literary writing world. So much depends not only on your talent, but also what school you went to, who you know. So when I decided to write a novel, I realized that the literary world was not likely to care about me so since I'd always read mysteries, that seemed a logical place to go.

Do you read reviews of your books?

Yes, but they don't affect me. The good ones are nice, of course, and you always like hearing nice things said about your work, especially if the reviewer really "gets" what you are trying to accomplish. Bad ones are usually written by some bitter person who, for some unknown reason to the writer, has an ax to grind. I was told by one editor to keep in mind with reviews how political they are. Often the reviewer is a frustrated writer themselves and is just taking our their anger on you. The first bad review made me cry, then I said I'd never let one do that to me again. And I haven't.
How would you like to be remembered?

As someone with integrity. An honest person. A kind person. As someone who was grateful.
What do you believe is the highlight of your writing career so far?

The day I heard Fool's Puzzle, my first book, was going to be published. I don't think any moment will ever thrill me like that did.

Do you write on a fixed schedule or do you wait until thoughts come to you?

Yes, 5 days a week--9:00 am to about 2:00-3:00 pm. When I'm close to deadline I often work 7 days a week. I sometimes get up at night and write if some scene is particularly begging to be written.

How did you get started in writing?

Took an evening course in beginning creative writing at my local community college when I was 27. Never attempted or thought about writing before then but I always told stories to myself in my head. I thought everyone did that!

How do you come up with plots?

My imagination, personal experience, newspapers, magazine articles, other people's stories.

Did you take any classes on how to write?

A total of 10 or 11 evening classes in creative writing at about 5 different community colleges. No college other than that.
Do you ever get writer's block?

Yes, but I don't like to call it that. I call it thinking over a difficult problem while I'm watching bad television and eating Hershey bars. I've learned that, with patience, the problem in the writing usually resolves itself. It's like looking too hard for something you've lost...once you forget about it, you find it.
What are your hobbies and interests?

I like TV, it's relaxing. And I can do other things while it's on. I love studying maps. Travel and the planning of a trip is a lot of fun. I think I almost enjoy the planning as much as the trip. I love to read, of course. I still read 2-3 fiction books a week. It used to be more but writing cuts into my reading time! I ride horses when I can. I like going to the mall to people watch and eavesdrop. A writer never, ever stops writing.
How do you spend your free time?

I spend it with my husband of 29 years. And my friends and family. I love getting together with my girlfriends for 'craft nights.' I just got into scrapbooking and find it a lot of fun...and a good place to spend money!

Do you have a message you would like to give to all the readers out there?

Buy a book a week. That's all we ask.

                                          ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Earlene Fowler was raised in La Puente, California, by a Southern mother and a Western father which is probably why her Benni Harper series features quilts, cattle, smart-mouthed women, cowboys and a sexy Latino cop. She wrote literary and commercial short fiction for ten years with no publishing success when she decided to change gaits and write a mystery novel.

Her first novel
Fool's Puzzle and two sequels were sold within a week of submission to Putnam-Berkley Publishing Group as one of three lead titles for their new hardcover Prime Crime Line. Fool's Puzzle was nominated for an Agatha Award for Best First Mystery of 1994. Kansas Troubles, Goose in the Pond, and Dove in the Window were each nominated for an Agatha award for Best Novel. Earlene won the Agatha Award on her fifth nomination for Mariner's Compass.

The Benni Harper mystery series is set on the Central Coast of California in a town remarkably similar to San Luis Obispo. Earlene's seventh novel,
Seven Sisters, was published in April 2000. She finished book number eight, Arkansas Traveler, which will be published in April 2001. She is currently working on her ninth book, Steps to the Altar.

Earlene is an avid lover of quilts, folk art, horses, oral history, cowboy boots (she owns 25 pair), the Central California Coast and country/western music. She owns a purple Ford Ranger truck and lives in Southern California with her husband Allen.