Interview with mystery author Libby Fischer Hellmann

Today’s special guest is Libby Fischer Hellmann and we’re
chatting about her new mystery/thriller novel, Jump Cut.

During her virtual book tour, Libby will be awarding a $50 Amazon or Barnes and
Noble (winner’s choice) gift card to a lucky randomly drawn winner. To be
entered for a chance to win, use the
form below.
To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in
Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began
to write gritty crime fiction. Twelve novels and twenty short stories later,
she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. She has been
nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has
even won a few.
With the addition of Jump
in 2016, her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series,
which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the
hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical
thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her latest release, The Incidental Spy, is a historical
novella set during the early years of the Manhattan Project at the U of
Chicago. Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the
Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.

Welcome, Libby. Please tell us a little
bit about Jump Cut.
video producer Ellie Foreman has been “on vacation” for almost a decade, while
I wrote other novels, including a four-volume PI series and three stand-alone
historical thrillers. I brought her back for Jump Cut, but she’s soon entangled in a web of espionage, murder,
and suspicion that threatens to destroy what she holds most dear. Hired to
produce a candy-floss profile of Chicago-based aviation giant Delcroft, Ellie
is dismayed when company VP Charlotte Hollander trashes the production and cancels
the project. Ellie believes Hollander was spooked by shots of a specific man in
the video footage. But when Ellie arranges to meet the man to find out why, he
is killed by a subway train before they can talk. In the confusion, she finds a
seemingly abandoned pack of cigarettes with a flash drive inside that belonged
to the now-dead man. Ellie gets the drive s contents decrypted, but before long
discovers she s under surveillance. Suspecting Delcroft and the ambitious
Hollander are behind it, she s unconvinced when Hollander tells her the dead
man was a Chinese spy. Ellie and her boyfriend, Luke, try to find answers, but
they don t realize how far they have ventured into the dangerous echelons of
hidden power where more lives are on the line including their own.

What inspired you to write this book?
As I mentioned above, I wrote four Ellie Foreman novels – Ellie being a
Chicago video producer who gets involved in murder investigations, but I set
the series aside to write a number of other novels. Last summer I dipped my toe
into World War Two and spy literature with The Incidental Spy (which,
btw, is free at the moment.) I did a lot of research for it, and it turned out
well. So I decided to try a modern day espionage thriller set after the NSA
revelations and Edward Snowden’s actions. What brought me back to Ellie, aside
from fan requests, was the story itself. As soon as I knew I was going to write
a “post-Snowden” espionage thriller, it was clear Ellie would be the character
to anchor it. The fact that she could produce a video for a giant aviation
company in Chicago that also manufactures military attack drones and had close
ties to the US Defense community sealed the deal.

Excerpt from Jump Cut:
The sun winked off the
frozen surface of Lake Michigan the next morning as I drove south to McCormick
Place. During one of the most brutal Chicago winters in decades, the smudge of
purple clouds tinged with pink and gold hinted that the fury of winter
might—just might—have peaked. I parked in the overpriced lot, bought half a
dozen cups of overpriced coffee, and carried them into the massive exhibit
The crew was setting up
lights and shades, and Mac was behind the camera framing shots. MacArthur J.
Kendall III owns a production studio in Northbrook. He started out shooting
sweet sixteens, bar mitzvahs, and weddings, but parlayed that into corporate
videos. We’ve worked together for nearly twenty years, from the days of
two-inch video, to one-inch, three-quarter, and now digital.
Mac’s name, salt-and-pepper
hair, button-down shirts, and penny loafers scream WASP, but the nasty scar
running down his left cheek saves him from total Episcopalian infamy. He tells
people he was attacked by a Mexican drug lord and made me swear never to reveal
it was from a car accident.
I went up to him. “What do you need me to do?”
“You have the shot list?”
I nodded and pulled it out
of the canvas bag that doubles as my purse. We went over it. He gestured to the
main area of the Delcroft booth, which featured a large projection screen with
the company logo on both sides, and about twenty chairs arranged theater-style.
“What time’s the first presentation?”
Teresa Basso Gold, our
client contact, had told us to be prepared for a series of short remarks by
Delcroft executives touting the company’s latest innovations.
I checked my watch. Barely
six thirty. “The doors don’t open until nine, and Teresa said not to expect
anyone until ten. But you can get some establishing shots, if you want.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Mac
said and strolled over to confer with the crew.

What exciting story are you working on

I’m in the middle of another World War Two novella at the moment. It’s about
German POWs who were imprisoned in the United States in 1943-1944, and an
American farm girl who falls in love with one of them. That, hopefully, will be
out in the fall. In fact, I’ll probably package it with Incidental Spy and title both of them with something like “Homefront”
in the title. After that, I plan to write a (hopefully funny) caper novel with
two women who are being chased all over the world by the mafia.

When did you first consider yourself a

I’m in a writers’ group – have been for twenty years
(They’ll take me out of there feet first). When I first started, I didn’t know
what I didn’t know. In fact, I knew very little. For example, before I was
published, I wrote three novels. None have seen the light of day, and they
never will– they weren’t ready. I had to learn the craft of fiction. To wit,
in one of those novels, two male police officers were the protagonists. One of
them walked into a house to question a witness, and the first thing he noticed
were the curtains in the window. “Um…
said my writing group. A solid, beefy cop would NOT notice curtains
when he walked into a house. “You need to learn the difference between
a man and a woman’s point of view”
, they said. Looking back, it seems
obvious now. But at the time it felt like a revelation.
Two years after that, I finally discovered Ellie Foreman and brought in
the first chapter of what would become An
Eye for Murder
. I read it out loud. Afterwards there was absolute silence.
I was sure I’d done something wrong. This was it, I was thinking. They’re going
to kick me out. Instead, as I looked around, the woman who’d been hardest on
me, said, “That was amazing. You found your voice.” Her comment is
still the most flattering thing anyone has ever said to me about my writing,
and I knew at that point, I was a writer.

Do you write full-time? If so, what’s
your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find
time to write?

I used to be very disciplined. When my kids were still at home I’d get them up,
take them to school, work out, then come home and write. Now, though, I seem to
have lost that discipline. I write at all hours, and I do so much promotion
that I’m actually not sure how I finished my last three novels. Besides writing
and promoting and exercise, I volunteer at a Chicago high school to help kids
write, I listen to Blues, go to movies… (although more and more I don’t have to
“go out” – I can get them on Demand right at home). I used to free lance
writing video scripts and teaching executives how to be better communicators,
but I let that go to write full time.

What would you say is your interesting
writing quirk?

Probably the fact that I HAVE to write “chronologically,”
that is from beginning to end. I know writers who write whatever scene or
chapter they want and just fit them in afterwards, but I can’t do that. I don’t
outline, so I have to go in a very linear fashion so I understand the story,
and make sure my characters are behaving authentically.

As a child, what did you want to be when
you grew up?

Hmm… I started out wanting to be a famous
journalist based in Paris. That segued to broadcast news producer, and then
film-maker a la Lina Wertmuller (who used to work with Fellini but then
directed several great films on her own including “Swept Away.” Curiously, I
NEVER had any plans to become a writer. It wasn’t even Plan B. Funny how life
interferes with your plans.

Anything additional you want to share
with the readers?

Yes… I thought it might be helpful to give you a little background on Ellie,
for readers who are new to her. Ellie is a Chicago video producer and single
mother. She lives on the North Shore about 20 miles from the Loop. Born and
raised in Chicago, she married, had a daughter, then got divorced. Her mother
passed when Ellie was in her twenties, but her father is still around, and
plays a vital role in all the books. Ellie is outgoing and has a
self-deprecating sense of humor as well as a strong sense of fairness and
justice, so when she sees situations that aren’t, she is apt to get involved. Those
situations usually (but not always) arise from the corporate or industrial
videos she produces. She used to be rather impulsive, but as she’s matured,
she’s more thoughtful. Still, she tends to end up in trouble and needs to get
herself out of it. She’s had two serious relationships since her divorce – and
now has settled in rather comfortably with Luke Sutton, who lives most of the
week in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Unlike Georgia Davis, who is a loner, Ellie has
a support system of friends and family around her. I like to describe the Ellie
books as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24,” but Jump Cut is much
more “24’ (and raises serious issues) than the others.


Thank you for being a guest on my blog
today, Libby!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Early reviews for “Jump Cut”:
As Hellman’s convincing, conflicted characters face impossible choices, the
tension is real and memorable.”
Publishers Weekly, starred review
writing sparkles…plenty of suspense in this richly detailed thriller, but
Hellmann’s characteristic wit and warmth are evident, too.”
spies to drones and hackers, Jump Cut is a
heart-stopping tale of corporate espionage that will have you snapping on your
seatbelt. The tangled web of international intrigue is riveting. Hellmann is a
renowned master of suspense, and her great talent shows in the story’s many
rich characters, the beautifully honed paragraphs, and the sweep of her
provocative story. A keeper!”
Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author
of The Assassins
spooks, spies, sudden death and double-crosses, Jump Cut hits
all the right notes for a top-notch action thriller. Once again Ellie Foreman
is a thoroughly likeable real-world heroine, fiercely protective of those she
loves, thrown in at the deep end and swimming for her life. Don’t miss
Zoë Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series and The Blood Whisperer
back Ellie Foreman! Jump Cut rockets
to a stunning but thrilling climax… Another winner from the standout Chicago
novelist Libby Hellmann.”
Paul Levine, author of Bum Rap

a long hiatus, Hellmann returns to her Chicago-based sleuth with a chilling
tale that may be all too close to the truth.”
Kirkus Reviews

16 thoughts on “Interview with mystery author Libby Fischer Hellmann

  1. Libby Hellmann says:

    Thanks for hosting me, Lisa! I hope your readers will write in with questions… I'm around all afternoon.

  2. Libby Hellmann says:

    Thanks, Becky and Rita. I had a good time writing Ellie — it was the first time in 10 years, but it only took about a page before I got back into her voice. It was like having lunch with an old friend. 🙂

  3. Victoria Alexander says:

    Really great post, I enjoyed reading it! I always love learning about authors and how the ideas for their books form in their heads 🙂

  4. Libby Hellmann says:

    Birdie.. that's a hard question to answer. I used to say (forgive the snark) that I buy them at the Idea Store. But, truly, ideas are all around us. It could be a news story, an overheard conversation, another book I'm reading, a conversation with a friend… something I'm watching on TV or a movie… the key is to ask "What if?"… what if my character thought this… or that.. or did this or that… would it be believable? WOuld it be true to their character? How would other characters react to it? If I can imagine all sorts of possibilities, then I'll run with it. If not, I'll just wait for the next one.

    For example, in the novella I'm writing, I needed one of the bad guys to be released from jail so he could commit a murder… I couldnt figure out how to do that… Then I realized, wait a minute… he doesnt have to be in jail at all! What if the woman who loves him lies for him and he is released from jail right away? It was perfect… and it opened up all sorts of possibilities about HER character. What kind of woman would do that? Why? What will she get out of it? Will she be caught in her lie?

    Sorry to go on and on.. I got carried away… hope that answers the question, Birdie.

    Thanks Victoria for your kind words… and thanks again, Lisa, for hosting me. I hope you all will check out Jump Cut…

  5. Ally Swanson says:

    Excellent post! I really enjoyed reading the excerpt, the interview, and the reviews. This book sounds like such an interesting and intriguing read! Totally can't wait to read this book!

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