An Interview with Eva Gates
By Pamela James
MM2: Eva, let's start with how and when you became an author?
Way back in the mists of time, I was working full time (I’m a computer programmer/systems analyst) with three children, and I thought I’d like to try writing for children. I signed up for some creative writing courses at the local community college. I quickly found I didn’t want to write for kids after all, but I was enjoying the courses so much, I decided to switch and try to write what I like to read. Which is mysteries.
MM2: Take us through your writing day?
When it comes to my writing, I am a total creature of routine. I get up every morning, seven days a week. I go to my main computer in my office, and read e-mails, read the papers online, spend a bit of time on Facebook or Twitter. Then it’s time to start to write. I walk into the dining room and stand at my Netbook computer which is on the half-wall between the kitchen and the dining room and boot it up. (In the summer I might sit outside on the deck) As I pass through the kitchen, I put one egg on to boil.
I always write, standing up, on the Netbook. I read over everything I did the previous day, doing a light edit as I go. I then take my egg into the study and eat it while checking email. Then back to the small computer for several writing hours, usually finishing around one. And that’s pretty much it. I can’t write in small chunks. I can’t write as the spirit moves me. If I didn’t have a strict routine, I wouldn’t get anything done.
MM2: I adore your title series and cover. Let's talk about your books?
Happy to! The Lighthouse Library books are published by Penguin Obsidian, set in the real-life Bodie Island Lighthouse near Nags Head, North Carolina. The lighthouse is exactly as described, except for the minor fact about there being no library inside, nor is the interior big enough for one. I sort of think of it as my own Tardis or Hermione Granger’s beaded handbag. The books are about the lives and characters of the people who work in the library, and their families and friends. They are very cozy, and intended to be a light read. The first is By Book or By Crook, and concerns the theft of first edition Jane Austen novels and the murder of the chair of the library board; in the second (to be released September 1st), Booked for Trouble, Lucy’s mother comes to the Outer Banks to try and convince Lucy to return to Boston and marry the man the family approves of. When an old school friend of her mother is found murdered, Mom is the chief suspect. Lucy runs a classic novel reading club at the library and a trace of what the club is reading runs though the books.
MM2: Do you ever re-read books? If so what genre and titles?
I very rarely re-read, even favourite books. I read crime fiction most of all, I particularly love the English-style police procedurals. I am the current president of Crime Writers of Canada, and I try to read a lot of what’s being produced in Canada these days. Some, I might add, very good stuff.
MM2: Where is your favorite place to write?
I described it above. I stand at the counter between the dining room and kitchen. It’s not the location that’s important, but the standing up part. It’s not only better for your health, but I find it much more conductive to slipping into that occasional ‘creative space’ we are always searching for. In the summer, I will often sit at a table out on the deck though.
MM2: Fun questions: What are your favorite movies? Dessert, place to read, place to vacation and your favorite meal?
I don’t go to movies much, but perhaps my all time favourite is “Murder by Decree” with Christopher Plummer as Sherlock Holmes and James Mason as Dr. Watson. Love that movie. I also really loved the “Lord of the Rings” movies, although I didn’t care for the “Hobbit” ones at all.
Dessert? Probably my world-famous (as I modestly call it) hummingbird cake. I like to bake, but rarely get the chance to do it.
Place to read: On the beach or out on the deck at my house. In the winter, I just like to curl up in my wing-back chair, next to the wood-burning stove, while the snow falls outside.
Vacation: Best vacations I have ever had were the two safaris I went on in Africa in 2011 and 2013. First to Kenya, and second to Uganda. Perfect in every way. I am hoping to go back to South Africa next year.
Favourite Meal: Probably the traditional turkey and all the trimmings with my family at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
MM2: Tell us about where you live and a little about your family life?
I live in Prince Edward County, Ontario, which is almost due north of Rochester NY. It’s an island in Lake Ontario. I have a little place in the country. My three daughters are all grown up now and have moved away. Two live not too far from me, but one is out in British Columbia.
MM2: What is the best writing advice you ever received?
Stephen King says: if you want to be a writer you have to do two things. You have to write, and you have to read. I’d add, read a lot and read widely. How else do you expect to learn and improve your craft?
MM2: Do you have a hobby?
I do jig-saw puzzles. Lots of them. I read, I work in my garden. When I’m not travelling, I lead a very quiet life.
MM2: What comes first the plot, characters or setting?
In the lighthouse library series, it was definitely the setting. A library in a lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Then the characters began to form, and only then the plot.
MM2: What advice do you have for mystery authors?
Read. Read a lot and read widely. I’d also advise taking a creative writing course. You can’t learn talent, but you can learn the craft of writing.
MM2: What would Lucy tell us about her creator?
That she’s a diabolical task-mistress. Here I’ve come to the Outer Banks looking for a nice quiet life, and what do I get? Murder and mayhem, that’s what. Although she has arranged to have two extremely eligible men paying attention to me.
MM2: What are your future writing plans?
The third Lighthouse Library mystery, Reading up a Storm, is finished and will be out in April. After that, hopefully if the series does well (hint, hint) Penguin will offer me a contract for more. Under my real name of Vicki Delany, I am writing the Year Round Christmas mysteries for Berkley Prime Crime, and the first in that series, Rest Ye Murdered Gentlemen, will be released November 3rd. AND, Vicki Delany has just finished the eighth in the Constable Molly Smith series from Poisoned Pen Press. Titled Unreasonable Doubt, it will be out in February. So I am kept busy!
MM2: Lastly leave us with a favorite writing memory.
Too many to mention, really. I love all the friends I have made and the people I have met since I’ve been doing this. I travel a lot on book tours and to conferences, because I really enjoy it. In September, I’m going down to the Outer Banks for some book signings. Hope I can meet some of your readers there.
Eva Gates is the author of the National Bestselling Lighthouse Library cozy series from Penguin Obsidian, set in a historic lighthouse on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. The first in the series is By Book or By Crook, and Booked for Trouble will be released September 2015. Eva is the pen name of bestselling author Vicki Delany, one of Canada’s most prolific and varied crime writers. Eva can be found at www.lighthouselibrarymysteries.com and Vicki at www.vickidelany.comFacebook at evagatesauthor and twitter: @evagatesauthor