New York Times  Bestselling Author

One of My Favorite Authors, Emilie Richards

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I miss Emilie! When I lived in Virginia, we got together regularly to talk and laugh, eat wonderful food (which Emilie usually made; she’s an amazing cook), and most importantly, brainstorm our works-in-progress. We knew each other’s books almost as well as we did our own. I left Virginia for North Carolina four years ago, and although Emilie and I are no longer able to break bread together on a regular basis, we stay in close touch via email and, of course, we read each other’s books. People often ask me something like “Help! I’ve read all your books! What author should I read while waiting for your next book to come out?” Invariably, I suggest Emilie, and not just because she’s my bud. You’ll see from my interview questions and her answers just how similar we are, both as writers and as women.

            Like me, Emilie has an active blog. She’s inventive at coming up with contests and here’s something you’re going to love: Mira Books, the publisher we both write for, is offering a coupon for $1.50 off Emilie’s new release, Happiness Key.  In addition, you have a chance to win a copy of Sister’s Choice, Emilie’s 2008 release, simply by commenting on this post. I’ll pick one of your comments at random on July 5th. In the meantime, I hope you’ll enjoy getting to know Emilie!

1.    I believe that our books are similar in many ways and that readers who love my books will also love yours. I know I can’t wait to get my hands on your new novel, Happiness Key. Can you tell my readers a bit about it?

 

I’ve always wanted to write a friendship novel.  Characters in other books I’ve written have had important friends, of course, but I’d never written a novel that focuses on the way women find and support each other, sometimes under the unlikeliest conditions.  Happiness Key is the story of four very different women thrown together in the same shabby beachfront community, then thrown even closer together to solve the mystery of an old man who died in the fifth house in their tiny “development.”   Each of them is confronting something momentous in her personal life and convinced that she is alone with her problem.   Those bleakest of moments, of course, are where friendship comes in, both in novels and in real life.

 

2.    What would you say is the central theme in Happiness Key? Do most of your books share the same thematic elements?

Happiness Key  is about preconceptions and the way we let them guide us when they shouldn’t.  The women of Happiness Key–which is the name of the development–are determined not to like each other, and there are other people in their lives that they’ve discounted or even accepted without question when they shouldn’t have.  Although this isn’t a new theme–Iron Lace, one of my first single titles, explored prejudice over a century in New Orleans–I’d say the major theme of most of my novels is family secrets and the way they infect and affect us until we acknowledge and deal with them.  Of course Happiness Key has a strong thread of this, as well.

3.    The role of friendship between women plays an important part of the story in Happiness Key, and I feel very fortunate to count you among my friends. Can you talk about the importance of friendship in your own life and how it influences your writing?

I feel fortunate to count you among my friends, as well, and fortunate, too, to have other writers who are important to me.  Sharing hopes and defeats with someone who really understands is a huge gift.  But it’s also been extremely valuable in another way.  Most of the friends I make in my church or neighborhood have similar attitudes and beliefs about the things that are important to me.  But my writer friends are all over the map on those issues, and that’s been eye-opening and broadening.   Like the characters in my story, it’s helped me learn what to really value and what to discount.

4.    What were the special challenges in writing about four women who are so different from one another? Do you relate to one of these women more than the others? Did you find it difficult to write from the point of view of the Indian character, Janya, since she comes from a culture so unlike your own?

Having very different characters and points of view is challenging, but it’s never boring.  I decided early in the book to give three of the major characters a point of view.  For a variety of reasons Alice, the fourth, is seen through the eyes of the others.  Although Janya is from India, I found I empathized with her struggles the most, so found her easiest to write.  My daughter is Indian and because of that, we’ve always had more than a casual interest in her country of birth.  That said, writing about a different culture is always a challenge.  At some point you have to let go of your fears and remember you’re writing about one person,  not an entire country, race or religion.

Although I expected Wanda, whose opinions are the most different from my own, to be the hardest, she was such a hoot I looked forward to her scenes the most.  Tracy, whose pampered life was probably the most foreign to me, turned out to be the most complex and in some ways the most interesting.   We were a match made in heaven.  She needed to grow and I was more than happy to help her. 

For fun I put together a Facebook quiz that anybody can take to find out which character in Happiness Key they are most like.  I’ve taken it twice with two different answers, (Janya and Alice) which just goes to show that there’s always a little of the author in every character she writes. 

5.     Was it difficult to tear yourself away from Virginia to Florida in creating a setting for Happiness Key? What research, other than setting, did you need to do while writing this new book?

I don’t feel the Shenandoah Album series is complete, so it was tough at first to move to Florida–where I actually grew up.  But once I “moved” there, I had a ball.  There was indeed–as you know from your books–a ton of research, from detailing Florida laws on everything from conservation to driver’s licenses, research on India, Hinduism, arranged marriages, strokes, the Miami-Dade police force, shuffleboard and many etcs.  Luckily research is a little like solving a mystery and fun because of it.

6.    You’ve written five books in the extremely popular Shenandoah Album series, inspired by your love of quilting. Are you starting a new series of linked books with Happiness Key? If there are readers who wish you would continue the Shenandoah Album series, can you reassure them that they’ll find happiness in Happiness Key?

I hope to write a sixth book in the Shenandoah Album series someday, but that will depend on my publisher, who is very committed right now to Happiness Key and to Fortunate Harbor, the sequel, which I’m working on now.  In the meantime, though, I truly believe my Shenandoah Album readers will enjoy this new series, too, just the way I enjoyed writing it.  In the end, it’s an Emilie Richards novel, and if they like my writing, they’ll like these novels.

7.    You are incredibly prolific! Somehow, you manage to find time to write an entirely different series of books–mysteries–while working on your women’s fiction. Can you tell my readers a little about your Ministry is Murder mysteries, the most recent of which is A Lie for a Lie? Do you need to wear a different hat depending on the type of book you’re writing?

Writing the Ministry is Murder mysteries came down to giving into the voices in my head.  Aggie Sloan-Wilcox, an unconventional minister’s wife in a small Ohio town, just appeared one day and would not shut up.  After several years of trying to tune her out, I finally gave in.  Aggie is an unwilling sleuth, but she just can’t stay out of trouble–thank goodness.  I don’t find writing two books a year easy, but I love the variety, love the traditional mystery, and love Aggie and her world.  Sinking back into life in Emerald Springs  each time is like hanging out with old friends.  And though Aggie’s novels are a bit lighter and funnier than my women’s fiction, the change is such a delight, that it’s a plus, not a minus to write them. 

8.    I know that your marriage to a minister certainly influences your mystery series, but I wonder if it’s had an impact on your other fiction as well?

I wonder, too.  Our church is very accepting of diversity with very few lines drawn in the sand, so exploring values and not preaching specifics seems natural and right to me.  My work is not “inspirational” in the sense that the word is sometimes used in conjunction with novels, but I think it’s inspirational in a broader sense.  You can’t live with a minister all these years, not be an integral part of churches and the lives of parishioners, and not think about life’s biggest issues and passages.

9.    You’ve written more than sixty novels, an accomplishment I can’t even imagine. How do you think your writing has changed over the course of your career?

In the past decade I’ve been given freer rein to explore the subjects and themes that matter most to me, but even when I go back and read my older novels, so much is still the same.  The way I express myself, the issues I tackle.  Starting with say the sixth romance I wrote, I’m always pleasantly surprised that my name is on the cover.  One thing’s for sure, it hasn’t gotten any easier.

10. There are some exciting things happening for you right now. Your Shenandoah Album series has been released on audio this year, and a couple of your older books have been made into films in Germany. What is it like to see your books receive new life in this way?

It’s interesting.  I’ve learned to enjoy the process, and keep my expectations in check.   I’ve yet to see the movies, but I’m glad so many people in Germany enjoyed them.  I’m thrilled to have my novels in audio because so many people have requested them over the years.  Personally I’m a huge fan of audiobooks and listen to them when I walk, drive and quilt.

11. What can we expect next from you? Do you have something in the works right now?

I’m working hard on Fortunate Harbor, then I’ll start A Truth for a Truth, my next mystery.  In between I’ll be taking some time off to read, think and relax.  That’s part of the writing process, too.

12. I know that, like me, you enjoy speaking to book clubs. Can you tell my readers how they can arrange to have you visit them, either in person or by speakerphone?

There’s a sign-up page on my website  or they can email me to make the arrangements.  I look forward to these sessions. 

Thanks, Diane, for the chance to tell you and your faithful followers about Happiness Key.  You know how much I love your blog, and now I can say I’ve loved being here.

23 Comments

  1. Ann on July 1, 2009 at 12:08 am

    I have pre-ordered Happiness Key on my kindle. It will be delivered tomorrow. After reading this interview I am more anxious than ever to get the book. I have enjoyed all of Emilie’s books and I am sure this book will be another good one.

  2. Margo on July 1, 2009 at 9:06 am

    Diane, what a great post this morning and a wonderful interview!!…Emilie, I’ve never read your books before but after reading your comments to Diane’s questions I can hardly wait to find your novels!!…I’m very intrigued with the book Diane is advertising this morning HAPPINESS KEY…is it available now??…I love anything that takes place by the sea and I can’t wait to find this book…this is my traditional BORDER’S BOOKSTORE DAY and I’m hoping it’s out…would LOVE to read it over the 4th.
    Diane, thanks so much for bringing Emilie Richards to our attention…in the past I’ve seen her name making comments on your blog but I didn’t realize she had so many books published…
    I hope to find this beach book today…(-O:

  3. Emilie Richards on July 1, 2009 at 1:09 pm

    Ann and Margo, thanks for your lovely support. Yes, HK is out right now, and Margo, before you go to Borders, do print out the coupon for a little savings. Diane gave the link above. It was a pleasure to be interviewed by one of my own favorite authors.

  4. Ashley on July 1, 2009 at 1:44 pm

    YAY, both my favorite authors back on the same page again! Now, I just have to find some money to add to my book collection- Happiness Key comes out today 😛 Keep up the awesome writing, both of you!

  5. Julie on July 1, 2009 at 4:29 pm

    Love your books! I count Iron Lace and the sequel among my all-time favorite books.
    And I have a daughter named Emilie (or Emil-i-e, as some of her friends call her, heh), so what’s not to love. 🙂
    New books sounds great. Can’t wait to get my hands o it!

  6. RobynL on July 2, 2009 at 1:54 am

    Hi and welcome Emilie!! Your friendship sounds wonderful.
    I haven’t read any books by you either and there are a lot from what I read in the interview. By the sounds of this book keep them coming.

  7. Margo on July 2, 2009 at 8:19 am

    Emilie, I printed out the coupon and bought HAPPINESS KEY at Borders…which by the way they had it displayed really nice and ‘face out’ on the shelf!!…I can hardly wait to start reading. (-O:

  8. Denise on July 2, 2009 at 9:02 am

    Emilie, it is so wonderful to have you as a guest blogger here! I definitely plan to read HAPPINESS KEY (love the cover, by the way). HAPPINESS KEY and a few of your other books are face-out at my Borders.

  9. Emilie Richards on July 2, 2009 at 10:32 am

    What a nice group of readers Diane has, and nice to see we share some of you, as well. Nice to see a new generation of Emilie’s coming up, too. Your daughter will have to spell it for everybody, Julie, but it’s a small price to pay. I’m the third generation in my family and my granddaughter is now the fifth.
    So glad to hear Borders had the book face out, too. Gotta love Borders. They also send out fabulous coupons if you get on their mailing list.
    Thanks to all for your great comments.

  10. Margo on July 2, 2009 at 11:25 am

    Denise, next week when I go to Border’s I’ll checkout Emilie’s shelf in literature and I’ll make sure some of her others are ‘face out’ if they aren’t already…I do this with Diane’s too…her newest HAPPINESS KEY was already ‘face out’…(-O:

  11. Diane Chamberlain on July 2, 2009 at 11:38 am

    Thanks, all, for giving Emilie such a warm welcome! I know you’re going to eat up her books. Julie, I read Iron Lace even before I knew Emilie and fell in love with it, too. That was my first of her books, and I loved that we then became friends. Emilie’s one of those people who seems to have more hours in her day than I do!

  12. Margo on July 2, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Since I’m new to Emilie’s books I’m going to start with HAPPINESS KEY after buying it yesterday…Diane and Julie, thx for telling me about IRON LACE…I wonder if it’s still in print?…I’ll try to find it at Border’s next Wed…must be a good one…

  13. Ingrid King on July 2, 2009 at 4:51 pm

    What a treat to have two favorite authors on one blog! I just picked up “Happiness Key” today and can’t wait to get started.

  14. Ann on July 2, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    Iron Lace is one of my favorite books!!!! Those of you who haven’t read it have a real treat awaiting you.

  15. Margo on July 3, 2009 at 10:51 am

    Does anyone know if IRON LACE is still available and in print?…sounds like I need to get it!!…Ann and Ingrid, you must be familiar with all E Richards books too…I don’t know how I’ve missed her all these years but I’m so grateful to Diane for introducing her to us…I bought HAPPINESS KEY the other day and can hardly wait to read a new author who also happens to be a good friend of Diane’s.

  16. Ann on July 4, 2009 at 1:49 pm

    Margo, you can find Iron Lace on Amazon.com. It is a very good book!!

  17. Emilie Richards on July 4, 2009 at 8:12 pm

    Hi gang,
    I’m very happy to tell you that Iron Lace will be back in print next year, although I don’t yet have the date. It’s been re-released several times, but as yet, is not in ebook edition. The sequel, Rising Tides, is.
    Such nice comments. Thanks to all of you for your support and enthusiasm.

  18. Diane Chamberlain on July 5, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Emilie, it’s been so much fun having you on my blog this week! Thanks for being such a super guest. I’m pleased I had this opportunity to introduce my readers to your books.
    I used a random number generator to pick the winner of Emilie’s book, Sister’s Choice. RobynL, you’re it! Please email me with your snail mail address ([email protected]) and I’ll pass the information along to Emilie.

  19. brenda on July 6, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I read all of Emilie’s books-just reread a couple before my trip…

  20. RobynL on July 11, 2009 at 7:13 pm

    I have sent an e-mail and am looking forward to receiving the book. Thanks so much.

  21. Joyce Whitley on July 12, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Diane, I am so glad you included this on your blog. I have always wondered what to do when I finish your book. (I don’t think I’ve taken more than three days to finish one) I am always left feeling like “what am I supposed to do now?” I had a working vacation this week, evaluating textbooks, and searched high and low for something to fill my enjoyable reading void. I bought a few books that I thought might work, but, nothing came close to what I enjoy in your writing so I put all but one down to read at a different time. I decided to force myself to finish one because I just didn’t want to give up. It actually turned out to be in a similar format to some of your more recent books and I have begun to enjoy it (Where the River Ends by Charles Martin). I definately will try Emilie’s books now. The new one sounds wonderful. I just finished “The Red Tent” which is also about female bonding and friendships and it opened my eyes to the importance of female relationships. I guess I am off to a new start in my life this summer. Please Hurry with Lady Alice, I can’t wait!!! I have never enjoyed an author as much as I do you! Please don’t ever stop. Thank you so very much.

  22. Diane Chamberlain on July 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Joyce, I’m so glad you’re enjoying my books! I loved THE RED TENT. Probably goes on my list as one of my all-time favorites. Lady Alice is quickly turning into one of my favorite characters.

  23. Susan McIntyre on July 13, 2009 at 12:13 am

    Thanks for the intro to Emilie Richards. I had not read her books. I just read Whiskey Island and loved it. I have ordered the sequel and can’t wait to get started on it.

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