I'm delighted to interview Ellis Vidler about her new book, Cold Comfort. Let's start with a little background about your first two novels, Haunting Refrain and The Peeper.
My grandmother had a streak of psychic ability—she knew when something was wrong with a family member, so that sort of thing always interested me. I don't know how Haunting Refrain came to me, but that's what I wanted to write. After a writing class with Scott Regan, I decided I'd better get on with it.
Jim Christopher, a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) veteran, and he had an idea for a story. He asked if I'd like to write it with him. It was such fun, and I learned so much from him.
And you just published some short stories? Yes, Tea in the Afternoon, is a collection of three Southern stories, based on remembrances I heard and people I knew, but they're entirely fictitious.
You have a touching dedication to Tea. It's dedicated to my parents, who gave me a wonderful childhood. We lived in a small town in
where my friend and I rode double, barefoot and bareback, on her horse though fields and back roads. We stopped at farmhouses for water for us and the horse. Mississippi
Then my family moved to another small town in
, where I played outside all day, usually in the river bottom or woods. The rule was home by dark. It was a different world. Alabama
Can you tell us an early memory about your parents and books? My father read Tarzan of the Apes and the Oz books to me when I was very young. Tarzan remains one of my favorites. Mother read to me too. They said, "You'll learn to read for yourself when you go to school." I cried after my first day of kindergarten because they didn't teach me to read.
Now we can talk about Cold Comfort. Where is the book set? Claire, my protagonist, owns a Christmas shop in
There are also scenes on the Williamsburg, VA. South Carolina coast at McClellanville and Georgetown and some in . Washington, DC
How did you create your villain? I usually see the characters first, and he suited the crime I had in mind. He did evolve a little more as I wrote, but I saw him from the beginning. You identify aftershave and tobacco with him. Why? Both are unpleasant smells to me and seemed to fit in his character. I wanted Claire to have hints of trouble but nothing specific at first.
What about Claire Spencer, where did she come from? Claire’s strong sense of doing what she has to came from a friend I admired. The rest of her grew and developed as I wrote. My critique partners thought she was too ladylike and pushed me to make her tougher. They were right. She's not a kickass type, but she's strong and determined.
Your pace in Cold Comfort is fast. How do you help the reader mark how much time has passed? Goodness, I don't know. I guess I just tell when the scenes occur. You know, in the morning, by mid afternoon, at four o'clock, whatever it is. All my books take place in a short period of time. I like the sense of urgency that comes from time limits.
You are so prolific, what's next? I'm working on two books, one about Kate McGuire's friend Gwen, from Haunting Refrain, and a character from Cold Comfort. This one begins on Isla Mujeres in
Mexico and ends up in the southeastern . United States
The second one is about Kate's cousin, Alex Jenrette, who also has some inconvenient psychic ability. It's set on a fictitious island off the coast of
, SC. I love the bad guys in this one, but the good guy is giving me trouble. I think he needs a personality transplant. Charleston
Thank you for meeting with me, Cold Comfort sounds great.
Una, you're a dear to do this. I can't wait till your book, Judge vs Nuts, comes out. You're such a funny character yourself, I know it's going to be a fun read. I expect you back when it's released.
Here's Una's cover. Her book will be released soon.
Ellis's Book is available at
Ellis's Book is available at