Thursday, October 1, 2015



Check in for some Southern hospitality in Plantation Shudders, the Cajun Country series debut from Ellen Byron.

It's the end of the summer and Prodigal Daughter Maggie Crozat has returned home to her family's plantation-turned-bed-and-breakfast in Louisiana. The Crozats have an inn full of guests for the local food festival – elderly honeymooners, the Cajun Cuties, a mysterious stranger from Texas, a couple of hipster lovebirds, and a trio of Georgia frat boys. But when the elderly couple keels over dead within minutes of each other – one from very unnatural causes – Maggie and the others suddenly become suspects in a murder.


Ellen, how did you get started writing and when did you become an “author?”

I began my career as an actress. I got bored waiting around between roles and started writing plays. They got me way more attention than my acting did, so a writer was born! I became a freelance journalist to support myself, and eventually segued into television. Because I spent years doing improv comedy, I wound up writing mostly for sitcoms like Wings and Just Shoot Me.

What's your favorite thing about the writing process?
Finding a fresh way to say something familiar.

How long is your to-be-read list?

It’s not a list, it’s a bookcase! I buy books at stores and library sales and online, and I have a bookcase-ful. But I have a list, too. So maybe . . . a hundred?

Can you share some of your marketing strategies with us?
I’m really just finding my way as I go in that area. I’m guest-blogging – like here! – and running contests through my own website, and on Facebook through I tweet whenever possible, and grab any chance to do a signing or panel that I can. I’m lucky because CLB has a wonderful publicist who lined up some great blog stops for me.

How long have you been a writer?
Since I was twenty-seven. But I won’t tell you how old I am because no TV writer ever shares their age. There’s too much ageism in the business.

You have a day job . . . how do you find time to write?
Our daughter is a sophomore in high school and has a zero period class. I drop her at 7 a.m., and then come home, walk the dogs, and start writing until I have to leave for work around 10 a.m. Then I write after dinner and on weekends.

How often do you tweet?

Once or twice a day.

How do you feel about Facebook?
I’m a fan. I’ve been on Facebook since 2008. I love that it’s allowed me to re-connect with old friends that I thought I’d never be in contact with again. And lately I’ve gotten to FB-know all these great mystery writers I’m meeting through conferences and groups like Mystery Writers of America and Sisters in Crime. I recently started an author page, which has been a great way to connect with readers. I love when they touch base.

For what would you like to be remembered?

For being funny, warm, and giving.

What scares you the most?

Flying!! And death – especially death by flying! As I write this, I’m thinking, what if I die in a plane crash, and then someone reads this and thinks, oh, it’s so sad and ironic that she just told A Blue Million Books that was what she was most afraid of!

That's a writer's mind for you! What five things would you never want to live without?
My husband, daughter, dogs, laughter, and money. I know it’s a little crass to list money, but I’m being honest. There ain’t much laughter when you’re low on dough.

True. Who would you want to narrate a film about your life?
Tina Fey.

If you had a swear jar, would it be full?

No. It would be overflowing!

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Oh, definitely an extrovert.

What's your relationship with your TV remote?
Since I’m writing day and night, I hardly see it anymore.

Do you spend more on clothes or food?
Food. I barely attempt being stylish anymore. I found these great black cotton drawstring pants at Target. I went to buy another pair, but couldn’t find them in Juniors or Misses. A salesgirl checked, and told me that they were men’s pajama bottoms. Did that stop me? No. I have five pairs and wear them all the time.

What is the biggest lie you ever told?
When I was about five, I was using the bathroom and as I sat there, I absentmindedly pulled off a loose piece of wallpaper. When my furious parents asked if I’d done it, I said no. So they blamed my younger brother, who burst into tears. I still feel terrible about it. I apologized to him years ago, and he didn’t even remember the incident. But I’ve never forgotten it. I feel bad even writing this!

What is the most daring thing you've done?
Two things I swore I’d never do were ride on a motorcycle or in a helicopter. Then on a vacation, I got trapped in a snowstorm in Zermatt, Switzerland. I was supposed to meet my parents and brother in Venice, Italy, the next day. I kept checking at the hotel desk to see if there was any way out of Zermatt, and they finally said that the only way was by helicopter. I hesitated for maybe a second, and then said, “Sign me up!” It was like the fall of Saigon at the helicopter pad. They were throwing people on the copters and waving them off. It was actually a really gorgeous ride. We didn’t fly that high up due to the storm, and there were forests of snow-laden pine trees below us. I made it onto a train to Italy, thank God. I heard that my helicopter was the last one out that day.

What is the stupidest thing you've ever done?
Opened my big mouth to the wrong person about something that was none of my business.

What is your most embarrassing moment?

Um . . . wearing men’s pajama bottoms as pants everywhere?

What choices in life would you like to have a redo on (besides wearing men's pajama bottoms everywhere)?

See “what’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done.” And I wouldn’t mind taking another crack at some business opportunities I passed on.

What’s one of your favorite quotes?

“Forward ever, backward never.” It’s from The Year of Janie’s Diary, a book I read in 7th grade. When I go to that “shoulda, woulda, coulda” place, I recall that quote and get back on track.

Where is your favorite library, and what do you love about it?

I love all libraries, but my favorite might have to be the Scarsdale Public Library. My parents moved to the town when I was ten, and the library was only a few blocks from our house. It was old and made of fieldstone, and it had the most beautiful reading room (or maybe it was the children’s library) with a giant bay window.

You can be any fictional character for one day. Who would you be?
A guest at one of Jay Gatsby’s incredible Jazz age parties.

Who would you invite to a dinner party if you could invite anyone in the world?

Tina Fey, Agatha Christie, Charles Dickens, and Emily Bronte.

What's your relationship with your cell phone?
Way too tight. My excuse is that as a working mom, I need it to keep in touch with my daughter, which is totally true. But really, I could do that with a flip phone. So who am I kidding?

How many hours of sleep do you get a night?

Usually about five. Which sucks. I want more, I really do. I just always wake up way before I need to. It’s nuts because when I lived in New York City, I was a total night owl.

What is your favorite movie?
I have three: Amarcord, The Haunting (original version), and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.

Do you have a favorite book?
Oh, yes. Wuthering Heights.

How about a favorite book that was turned into a movie? Did the movie stink?

I love Great Expectations, and I’ve actually enjoyed every version of that I’ve seen. And I’ve seen a lot.

Do you sweat the small stuff?

Honest to God, I’m not even sure what the small stuff is anymore. Remember, I only get five hours of sleep.

If you had to choose a cliché about life, what would it be?
“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”

How long is your to-do list?
I add to it every day, so . .  endless.

What are you working on now?
Book two in my Cajun Country series, Body on the Bayou.

Lightning round:
Cake or frosting? Frosting, fo sho!
Laptop or desktop? Both.
Chevy Chase or Bill Murray? Oh, no contest, Bill Murray.
Emailing or texting? Email. I have to text, but I hate it. I think it’s giving me Carpal Tunnel.
Indoors or outdoors?
Indoors. But I like to look at the outdoors from my indoor window.
Tea: sweet or unsweet?
I live on tea and it must be unsweetened. I love nothing more than a pure cup of green jasmine or Earl Grey.
Plane, train, or automobile?
My husband and I are train fiends. I’d go everywhere by train if I could. We took an Amtrak route called The Pioneer from Portland to Denver before it was discontinued. I have two embossed wine glasses from the trip that I’ve saved as mementoes.


Ellen Byron is a native New Yorker who loves the rain, lives in bone-dry Los Angeles, and spends lots of time writing about Louisiana. She attributes this obsession to her college years at New Orleans’ Tulane University. Her debut novel, Plantation Shudders: A Cajun Country Mystery, was chosen by the Library Journal as Debut Mystery of the Month. Her TV credits include Wings, Just Shoot Me, and many network pilots. She’s written over 200 magazine articles, her published plays include the award-winning, Graceland, and she’s the recipient of a William F. Deeck-Malice Domestic Grant.

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