Old friends can lead to new friends. I met writer/singer E. L. Kaminsky through Laura Sibson. And since this is El Space and she’s E. L. or El, it can’t get much cooler than that. Welcome to the blog, El!
El Space: Tell us a little bit about yourself.
El: I’m an enigma wrapped in a riddle—no wait, that was Kramer from Seinfeld. I’m a funny, smart, sassy worrywart with a generous, loyal heart.
El Space: Cool beans! What are you working on?
El: A cozy paranormal mystery.
El Space: Intriguing! Please walk me through it.
El: The storyline and the characters led me to the decision that the book was a cozy, more than a hard-boiled detective novel. It is set primarily in a small town where people know each other’s business. The main character has a history in that town, albeit a troubled one, and she’s back there a bit against her will. That felt like a cozy to me, in the descriptions I have read.
I do admit to a fair amount of genre confusion, as there seem to be new ones popping up every day. Because it is more comedic than thriller, I think that influenced my decision as well. I struggle with categorizations in general. To me, a good book is a good book. I don’t have to know if it’s a romance or a true crime. I read across many genres, because I find many different styles interesting and compelling. I don’t really like throwing in the paranormal label, but the main character is haunted by her grandmother’s ghost.
El Space: Wow! So, what book has influenced you recently? Why?
El: Taken by Robert Crais. I love Robert Crais, especially his Elvis Cole series, the early ones in particular. His books are the best of hard boiled, with a heart and some humor.
El Space: Are you a plotter or pantser?
El: A pantser who should be more of a plotter. I have written my entire career, essentially putting words in other people’s mouths. As a speech writer for executives or while writing annual reports to shareholders, my words always made other people sound good.
When I was having trouble concentrating on my work, I would doodle with made-up characters and imagine what they might say or do. I started my first novel that way—with a character, then two—then I had series of strange, horrible, and wonderful incidents that changed my life and gave me the time and the head space to write freely with intensity, humor, and passion.
In case you want to know about the “strange, horrible and wonderful,” here goes my long-winded answer:
The “strange”—My mother was terminally ill, although we didn’t know just how close to the end she really was. She had been chronically ill and disabled for most of my life. As a distraction from all of the hospital stays and care giving, I took a novel writing class with a guy from Philly who wrote for the Inquirer. I’d get coverage for my mom and go to the class once a week. It was the only thing that gave me a little escape during that time.
El’s mom, Betty
The “horrible”—The second to last week of class, my mother took a nosedive. In fact, the hospital called while I was there to say, “Get back here ASAP, she’s not going to make it through the night.” She did, but it was only for another day. About three weeks later, my job was eliminated after a decade of dedicated service and thousands of hours of uncompensated overtime. I had gone from a totally consumed, stressed-out workaholic to a woman alone on an island, with nary a basketball for company. It was scary as hell.
The “wonderful”—My goddaughter was born, ten days after my mother passed. Mom was the only one who predicted that the baby would be a girl. She was named for my mom and for me. I rented my house, packed a bag, and left to find joy with this new little bundle. It was a magical time, watching this little miracle and helping ease her new mother into life with baby. I journaled my way through sleepless nights, rocking her with one hand and writing with the other.
Toward the end of my first month there, tragedy struck once more. We were up late with the baby and got a call that changed my direction once again. A member of our “chosen” family had taken his life. I packed my things, moved to the desert to be with his loved ones, and stayed a year before I knew it. During that time, I took my notebook to Red Rock Canyon every chance I got, and started my first novel as a way to escape from reality.
El Space: Wow. I’m so sorry for your losses! Sometimes life takes some horrible turns.
El: Life does take horrible turns, but that is the price one pays for loving people and caring about them. When you love and care deeply, you grieve deeply, and you have to be there for the crappy stuff as well as the good.
I wouldn’t trade those experiences; they’ve molded me and given me rich places from which to draw emotions to write about. I wouldn’t trade all the years I took care of my mom, either. It snatched away part of my childhood, but I grew up capable of doing a lot of hard stuff that helped me later in life. Through it all, good and bad, writing has been the calm, balancing thread that seems to quell the scary and celebrate the fantastic. I feel like I want to preserve it all by writing it down.
That’s all we have time for today. El will return tomorrow to discuss music and mysteries. If you have questions for El about her process, please comment below. Meanwhile, check out El’s blog here.
Kramer from seinfeld-fan.net. Red Rock Canyon photo from sagarmatha.com.