Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Guest Blogger, Elaine Viets

Please join me in welcoming bestselling author Elaine Viets as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Elaine’s latest book is HALF-PRICE HOMICIDE, A DEAD-END JOB MYSTERY. Elaine puts herself into the jobs she has her protagonist, Helen Hawthorne, doing in the series. Elaine stopped by today to talk about “which came first….”

Which comes first when I write a novel: the research or the story?

For my Dead-End Job mysteries, the research comes first. The story grows out of what I learn while working the job. I don’t have a plot or a victim or a killer in mind when I start researching the job.

For “Half-Price Homicide,” my ninth Dead-End Job mystery, Helen and I worked at Hibiscus Place in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Hibiscus Place sells designer duds on consignment, along with purses, shoes and fancy knickknacks.

I spent a lot of time buttoning shirts (I swear they unbuttoned themselves at night) and dusting decorators’ delights at the store.

Most customers were men and women who appreciated fine clothes and shoes. A few were women married to rich, controlling men. These men let their wives to shop at the finest stores in South Florida, but wouldn’t give them spending money. Their wives would bring in  expensive clothes for resale. That was the only way they could get cash.

If a woman brought in a $3,000 designer purse, it could be sold on consignment for about $500. She would get half that.

Many of these designer items still had the store tags. The cash-strapped women were desperate for their own money, not more designer clothes. They reminded me of my German-American grandmother. She used to wait until Grandpa fell asleep after his bowling night, then take his pocket change. Grandpa thought he’d spent the money on beer.

My grandparents were on a tight budget. These women were not. They were married to men to kept them under their thumbs.

In “Half-Price Homicide,” Helen works at Snapdragon’s Second Thoughts. A trophy wife named Chrissy brings in a Prada purse that cost more than my first car. Chrissy is frantic to sell the purse for cash, but her husband tracks her down.

Poor Chrissy is found dead in a Snapdragon’s dressing room. But I wasn’t cruel. She died in style, strangled by a Gucci scarf.

“Half-Price Homicide” is the ninth Dead-End Job mystery and a turning point in the series. Helen is still on the run from the court after an unfair divorce judgement. Her awful ex husband, Rob, tracks her down and demands the month he’s entitled to – thirty-thousand dollars cash.

Helen has many wants:
    She wants to clear her name with the court.
    She wants her terrible ex to go away.
    And she wants to marry Phil, the man she loves.

In “Half-Price Homicide,” Helen will get everything she wants – and regret she gets what she wants most.

Elaine, thanks so much for guest blogging here today. Your extensive research definitely pays off in the Dead-End Job series. With Helen getting what she wanted so badly, I can’t wait to see what job she takes next.

For more information on Elaine and the Dead-End Job series, check out her website and Elaine also blogs on The Lipstick Chronicles.


  1. Elaine, you really put some research in! It never would have occurred to me that these wealthy women would have needed money--that's amazing that their husbands would be so controlling about their wardrobes. Clearly, the research you did paid off very well.

    Mason, thanks for having Elaine here today!

  2. Mason - thanks for hosting Elaine - great post. I love this idea for a series and will definitely look them up! I, like Elaine, have had a gazillion jobs and find it is very helpful in my writing life! I also love the vicariousness of writing. yay. what fun.

  3. Sounds like a fun series!! I love the last line! :)

  4. Mason - Thanks so much for hosting Elaine.

    Elaine - I like your idea of doing research before you write. I do some of that, too, and I think it makes a book that much more realistic; I really do. I also do research while I'm writing, especially if I run into something in my plot where I need more information. I wish you the best as you continue your series.

  5. I've found research to be such a valuable part of writing fiction. It gives an authenticity to the story, and helps to add layers to characters and situations. Thanks for sharing this today!

  6. Hi everyone, thanks so much for stopping by and checking out the newest book in Elaine's series.

    Elaine, thanks so much for posting here today. The Dead-End series is great. Looking forward to Helen's next 'job.'

  7. Waving hi to Elaine from Colorado! Your research system sounds a lot more interesting than spending Google time.

  8. I tend to research as I write, but I like that you research first. Call me dull, but that's a brilliant idea. You learn and you immerse yourself in the place or job or whatever you're researching.

    Straight From Hel

  9. Hi, all and thanks to Mason for letting me join the party.
    I really didn't think wives who were so dependent on men for money existed any more. I guess I live in another world -- and one I like better.

  10. Now that's some interesting research!

  11. That's a great way to research a role of a character. I do use real establishments like restaurants and pubs in my books. I visist them and eat the food and drink the beer the characters do. Tough job, but someone has to do it.

    Stephen Tremp

  12. I think this is the first time that I’ve heard an author say the research comes before the story. I think that's fascinating. The book sounds excellent. I’m definitely adding it to my want-to-read list.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.