10 Questions with Ellen Crosby
1. Ms. Crosby, thank you for this opportunity to be interviewed for my blog. Your new thriller, MULTIPLE EXPOSURE, came out today. Tell us a bit more about this book.
MULTIPLE EXPOSURE is a departure from my Virginia wine country mysteries, but actually it is the book I expected to write after THE MERLOT MURDERS. So far all the reviews have been terrific, which has been especially gratifying because it’s always scary for an author to go down a different road.
When I sat down to write MULTIPLE EXPOSURE, I blew dust off notes from 2003. As a former journalist, I’ve worked with some amazing, talented photographers whose pictures added so much to my stories. Gradually, I realized I wanted to write about a woman who approached a news story thinking about images rather than words–and that was the inspiration for Sophie Medina. But between 2003 and 2013 much had changed: fewer newspapers, the era of digital photography, “citizen journalists” capturing news on mobile phones, so I had to make some significant changes to Sophie’s career and background.
MULTIPLE EXPOSURE begins when Sophie returns to her London home from an overseas assignment to find a bloodbath and no trace of her husband, Nick Canning. A few months later, a British diplomat tells Sophie that Nick was spotted in Moscow and his disappearance may be tied to a lucrative oil discovery in a remote part of Russia.
With nothing to keep her in London, Sophie moves home to Washington, D.C. to be with her family and takes a new job with a small photo agency. But her first assignment—photographing two previously unknown Fabergé Imperial eggs at the National Gallery of Art—lands her right back in the middle of her husband’s intrigue when a Russian oil tycoon demands to know Nick’s whereabouts. Now on the run from Nick’s enemies, Sophie plays a high-stakes game of Russian roulette as she tries to determine friend from foe and prove her husband’s innocence.
2. Who is Sophie Medina, and how did you go about creating her character?
Sophie is an adventurous, smart, savvy, and somewhat restless woman, a bit of an amalgamation of many journalists and photographers I’ve met over the years. She is half-Spanish, half-American—she was born in Madrid but grew up in America. When she was young, her mother—now a single parent—used to send Sophie to Connecticut to stay with her grandfather, one of the original photographers of the legendary Magnum photo agency, so Sophie’s boss in MULTIPLE EXPOSURE refers to her as “photographic royalty.”
3. What was it like living in Moscow during the Cold War?
My husband’s job brought us to Moscow in August 1989, which turned out to be the waning days of the Soviet Union—though no one knew it at the time. It was fascinating, exhilarating, frustrating, and an adventure because you never knew what to expect from one day to the next. My most vivid and enduring memory, though, is of the poverty. The most basic necessities of life in the west—I’m talking about things like toilet paper and butter—were luxuries to the Russians we knew. I have never forgotten it.
In my first book, MOSCOW NIGHTS, much of what happened to Clare Brennan, a young journalist who arrived in Russia after a former colleague died under mysterious circumstances, was lifted straight from my diaries.
4. What are your writing habits? How long does it take you to research and write a novel?
I write every day—it’s my job—and get my best work done in the morning. I’m very disciplined, but I’m a slow writer. It takes me every bit of a year to write a novel (it’s in my contract), but I often wish I had more time.
5. A word of advice for new writers?
Three words: finish the book.
6. Why do you write?
Because I’m miserable if I don’t.
7. What are your favorite pastimes?
Spending time with family and friends (a high priority), reading, travel, learning something new.
8. What do you like to read, and what are you reading at the moment?
I like to read anything with a strong narrative voice and, perhaps because of my previous careers in journalism and on Capitol Hill, I read a lot of nonfiction. I just finished two books—both mysteries–that I was asked to blurb (they’ll be out this fall). I’m in the middle of The Mystery Box, a collection of short stories from Mystery Writers of America edited by Brad Meltzer. Also on my bedside table is Mary Stewart’s The Crystal Cave and two excellent books which are research reading for my next Sophie Medina mystery: The Brother Gardeners by Andrea Wulf and Monument Wars: Washington, D.C., the National Mall, and the Transformation of the National Landscape by Kirk Savage.
9. What other book(s) are you working on?
I’m writing the next Sophie Medina mystery and having a fabulous time because of the fascinating research involved in this book. The inspiration came from a book review I heard on NPR one morning . . . I’ve since had coffee with the author in London . . . and an article in Smithsonian magazine. That’s all I’m saying for now!
10. What can readers expect to find in MULTIPLE EXPOSURE?
If I’m lucky, a really good read that keeps them up all night because they can’t put the book down. Then the next day, I’ll get an e-mail from a fan who is both laudatory in praise and a bit cranky from lack of sleep.