HANK: Sometimes people ask me—did you always know you wanted to be a writer? Well, no, I always knew I wanted to be a—depending on when: cowboy, airline stewardess (this was the 50’s and that’s what they were called) waitress (they got to handle money, have whatever food they wanted and make people happy,) a geneticist, a rock star, a disc jockey, an actress, an English teacher, the lawyer for the mine workers...well, writer and author were never on the list.
However. You know those preference tests we all had to take in high school? When you had to fill in the little ovals and decide—would you rather twirl a fire baton or be a forest ranger?
When my scores came back, the guidance counselor told me-“according to this, you scored highest in literature and persuasion.”
I am not kidding!
And all these years later, I kind of...do.
But Elizabeth Heiter—Femmes, meet Elizabeth, Elizabeth, Femmes, (her debut suspense novel HUNTED is brand new)—says she didn’t have to take no stinkin’ test.
She always knew. And here’s how she still knows.
I’ve always known I wanted to be a writer. And so did everyone else.
The Early Years
Like most kids, I climbed trees, played bike tag, took extracurricular activities after school. Only I always had a notebook and pen with me. I’d climb up into a high branch of a tree and write a story. I’d bike as far and as fast as I could, find a good hiding spot and lay my bike down in the ditch and jot story ideas while the other kids searched for me. During ski club, when it was too icy or too cold, I’d sit in the lodge and work on my latest novel.
Everyone Is a Potential Character
It quickly became a regular pastime for me to write stories featuring my friends. Stories with aliens from made-up planets, stories with a friend’s latest crush, stories with side characters featuring truly ridiculous names (the stranger, the better – Bulldozer was one odd favorite of mine). And, of course, every story needed a good mystery.
Pretty soon, I was getting regular requests for stories, and I realized I should start bringing these characters together. So, I began writing short murder mysteries, featuring groups of my friends. It became tradition to read them aloud at the beginning of our Odyssey of the Mind meetings.
Each week, I’d bring a new story, starring a group of friends, and a brand new murder mystery. Much like my love of odd character names, I liked to find really bizarre ways to kill off a character (for example, being pushed off the roof into a pool of Jell-o, where the character drowned). I’d read these stories, complete with red herrings and clues, and then I’d have pre-determined spots where I’d pause and make everyone guess who the killer was.
Yep, even back in middle and high school, I was tricking people into giving me beta reads and critiques. To this day, I ask my early readers to tell me who they suspect at certain points in the story, and why.
It’s No Mystery
It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone I knew growing up that I’d become a novelist. I use fewer strange character names and I no longer feature people I know in my stories, but I’m still fond of the odd method of murder (the serial killer in my debut buries his victims up to their heads deep in the woods). I still read my books aloud – these days, to critique groups and to myself, as I’m polishing. And I still carry a pen and notebook everywhere I go.
These days, you might catch me standing in the middle of a grocery isle, frantically jotting notes for a new book, or at the coffee shop, typing like mad and looking like I’m having way too much fun to be working.
And I probably am! Writing HUNTED, my suspense about an FBI profiler who learns just how deadly it can be to get inside the heads of killers, was challenging and time-consuming. It required loads of research and rewrites and restless nights. But it was also fun, and like the stories before and those to come, it was something I always knew I wanted to do.
How about you? Were there early signs of the profession you chose?
ELIZABETH HEITER likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature, and she’s a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. You can visit her at http://www.elizabethheiter.com
HUNTED, Book 1 in the Profiler Series from MIRA Books:
Terror stalks a small Virginia town…
FBI rising star, criminal profiler Evelyn Baine, knows how to think like a serial killer. But she’s never chased anyone like the Bakersville Burier, who hunts young women and displays them, half-buried, deep in the woods. As the body count climbs, Evelyn’s relentless pursuit of the killer puts her career – and her life – at risk. And the evil lurking in the Burier’s mind may be more than even she can unravel.
Terror is closer than she thinks…
The Bakersville Burier knows he’s got an FBI profiler on his trail. He knows who she is and where to find her. And he’s biding his time, because he’s planned a special punishment for Evelyn. She may have tracked other killers, but he vows to make this her last chase. This time it’s her turn to be hunted!
Hunted Book Trailer:http://www.elizabethheiter.com/video/huntedtrailer.mp4