A Visit with Elizabeth Eagan-Cox




(The photo with the two books together and the tea cup is from Joleen, Inkeeper of "Quite the Stir" B & B in Gettysburg, PA)

Marilyn: First, tell me a bit about your background.

Elizabeth: Once upon a time, in another life, I was a school librarian who moonlighted as a publicity writer. In addition to my librarian job and writing publicity I was a columnist, writing about the lesser-known aspects of California history and American history, mostly the 1800s and early 1900s. The columns were for two different publications, both of which are now defunct. I had fun doing that, being able to research and write about the quirky aspects of history. I also loved writing publicity for major corporations. Alas, that market went really soft, what with the major recession that California has been in for nearly the last decade. The magazines closed their doors and I switched to writing fiction in a genre I’ve loved my entire life: Cozy Mystery.

I grew up in the Inland Empire region of Southern California, mostly the Riverside and San Bernardino area. I still live here, but high in the San Bernardino Mountains, where there is a true four-season climate. Often, people are surprised when I remark about snow levels. For instance as I write this, we have a four-foot base of snow and a storm coming later tonight that is expected to bring another foot of the fluffy stuff. Along with the four seasons, we have an alpine forest complete with the usual critters one would expect to share the mountain with. Bears, cougar, black-tail deer, mountain sheep and coyote are my neighbors. And I do mean neighbors…we once had a large black bear sleeping on our front porch. Last summer three cougars were prowling the neighborhood. Sometimes, taking a walk on the wild side is simply a matter of hiking through the forest at the end of my street!

I have a family legacy, of sorts, in Southern California. About sixty miles west of my home, in Southeastern Los Angeles County there are two streets named for my great-grandparents: James Eagan and Elizabeth Corley. My father and grandfather owned a farm in what once was a rural area, and is now the city of Whittier, and when they sold the land in the 1940s, the powers that be at that time asked them to name two streets that would run through the property.

Marilyn: When did you first start writing?

Elizabeth: I remember writing and composing stories when I was in fourth or fifth grade. In sixth grade, the county school district had a contest, for which I entered and won, at my grade level. A local PBS radio station asked that kids write a radio play and the winning play for each grade section would be produced, live at the school the student attended. My play won and it was produced at my school. I loved it, having won of course, but more so, getting an inside peek of the radio production process. It was extremely exciting and I do believe that was when the writing bug bit me.

Professionally, my first paid article was not until 1995. And anyone who knew me was not the least surprised to discover I was writing short non-fiction, narrative style stories about the aforementioned quirky aspects of history for the wildly popular FEDCO Store Reporter. Well, that was just the beginning… from there I went into writing publicity for major corporations (I have college upper course work in Communications) and additional magazine articles and columns. The pay was exceptionally good, until about ten years ago when the recession hit.

I decided to use my expertise in history and write a cozy paranormal mystery series. The second publisher I queried offered me a contract. I should point out to anyone who thinks this is easy…getting published, being offered a contract, well it is not easy. Honestly, one of the best things I ever did for my career was to take a course in Communications with a focus on writing publicity. The Library Science course work was a real help, too. Knowing how to conduct research using primary resources and reference materials is critical to having a credible foundation of facts in my plots and is essential in preparing a book proposal to query a publisher.

Marilyn: You write about something I've been interested in all my life and have included in some of my books, the paranormal. What got you interested in the paranormal?

Elizabeth: Okay… my classic answer to this question is: Blood Memory. I talk about this in the many radio interviews I do and the one aspect I strive to get across is that: While the concept of blood memory is very Celtic (this is my ancestry) and intrinsic to the Celtic cultures, it is by no means unique to the Celtic cultures. We, the Celts do seem more open in regard to talking about it, and from a very early age it is simply part of the fabric of our lives. Anyway… my involvement in the paranormal, which by the way, I still refer to as the supernatural, is part of who I am, at least when it comes to spirit visitations, or more commonly, ghosts. So, since the term paranormal can describe myriad different topics, I should clarify that what I am referring to is in regard to ghosts and intuitive intelligence… that gift that many people have, but have ignored, or not paid much attention to.

But, to try and explain what blood memory is: Celtic culture honors the inherited gifts/attributes passed from one generation to the next and on down the genealogical dot-to-dot lineage. Of course, gifts/attributes are often physical, such as a grandfather’s gray eyes and a mom’s auburn hair… we are all familiar with family physical likeness. Then too, there are intrinsic gifts/attributes that a person inherits such as a talent for music or playing musical instruments, dance, sports or a love of cooking, a green thumb, or in my case, a knack for writing.

And, we have the gifts/attributes of the spirit… passed down through intuitive intelligence. A person might identify a gift of the spirit in a person’s sense of humor or maybe a person’s uncanny ability to establish an immediate friendly rapport with animals. Often a gift of spirit has no physical activity associated with it (whereas cooking, playing a piano, and hitting a home run have a physical element of movement) and the gift is not visible until a natural occurrence brings it out or highlights the need.

In my novels, the lead character is a young woman named Shannon, who discovers she has the gift of intuitive intelligence, in her case, she discovers she can talk to the past. Ghosts make her aware of their needs to solve a mystery, most often, mysteries from long ago, what we now refer to as cold-case files.

Having ghosts, or in particular one very important ghost who is Shannon’s guide, was a given when I began writing the series. Honestly, I never thought twice about it. In some ways it mirrors my own experiences of listening to my blood memory and paying homage to the intangible gifts passed along to me. Once, a sibling asked me why I was so driven. My answer: I write to quiet the voices of my ancestors, I write so they know I am listening.

Even more critical to the concept of blood memory is to understand and appreciate that in the life of here and now, the people we are in the flesh, well, we have many passions, the strongest of which is the ability to love beyond the fear of death. I wholehearted believe that as I love those near and dear to me in this life of here and now, that when I die, my love will continue. Love does not die; instead, love surpasses the life of the physical body to be a guiding spirit.

Marilyn: Since you write about ghosts, have you had any ghostly encounters?

Elizabeth: Yes…that is the easy answer. I rarely talk about the ghostly encounters. Let’s just say that my paranormal experiences have been positive. I pay heed to my inner voice. For instance, in the radio guest spots I do, because so many of them are with paranormal investigators, I often advise on research techniques for discovering/identifying a ghost, based on my genealogical expertise of having documented ancestors to the 1600s (I am a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution “D.A.R.” and conducted all the research, myself, in order to qualify). And I have been invited to go out on paranormal investigation cases. But I won’t. This is difficult to explain; I feel very strongly that if I were to participate in an investigation I could unwittingly put myself into a precarious and potentially negative situation. I am content to stay in the background and help in the research.

Marilyn: Tell me more about your series.

Elizabeth: My novel series is in the genre of cozy mystery with the paranormal element of having ghosts whom are characters critical to the plots. My ghosts are never mere novelties and often they have historic aspects to their identity and purpose in the story.

Shannon Delaney is the lead character. She’s a writer who moves from Chicago to San Diego after a fire burns her home to the ground. The move to California is the result of a job offer to write the publicity brochure for a Victorian mansion that is being turned into a Bed and Breakfast Inn. The move, in and of itself is symbolic of the portal Shannon cross over allowing her to discover her intuitive intelligence to speak to the past. At first (in book 1) she is hesitant and filled with feelings of trepidation about accepting her blood memory. With each consecutive book in the series, Shannon becomes more accepting and adept in her ability to sniff out and solve cold case files with the aid of her spirit guide, the very handsome and young Victorian-era magician, who is also a ghost. There are reoccurring characters that include a grandfatherly figure that is a retired police detective, his handsome grandson who is a restoration architect, and is Shannon’s age. And the modern-day descendant of the Victorian magician ghost, who also is a magician and has identical good looks to his ancestor.

Yet another aspect of the series that is extremely important to me, though not many people give it a second thought, is that the cultures represented echo historical and present day cultures of this region of California. Shannon, like me, has an Irish and Southern USA family background. The magicians are of Scottish and American cultures and the retired police detective and his grandson are California Hispanic. Because the entire series is set in locations throughout Southern California it is essential to me that the characters, their ancestry and background be authentic to California history and culture.


Marilyn: Describe the latest book and what sparked the idea for it.

Elizabeth: Book 3: A Ghost Meets an Angel was inspired by a vacation to Mississippi. I take my annual vacation each Halloween. One year I was in Vicksburg, Mississippi and on Halloween night moseyed on down to Natchez for a ghost tour. The tour made a stop and the Natchez Cemetery where a larger than life grave statue of a young girl caught my imagination. The statue is called the Turning Angel and the story behind it, which I will not go into, was one that I knew I had to incorporate into the background of a mystery for Shannon to solve. The same likeness of a turning angel statue is in a graveyard in County Cork, Ireland and I recognized this quirk in circumstances right away because my ancestry goes back to County Cork. Having happened into this connection, I felt a plot highlighting the Turning Angel was begging to be created.

For sometime now I had wanted to use the mountain town of Julian (in the eastern San Diego County) for a book’s location and I needed a Southern connection because Southerners founded Julian after the War Between the States. The Turning Angel in Natchez and the Turning Angel known to me to be in County Cork, was the ‘sign’ I was open to seeing. My County Cork ancestors are Southerners out of the colonial state of North Carolina, and pioneering into Tennessee and northeastern Mississippi. By the way, the book cover for book 3 is a photo of the Turning Angel from the Natchez Cemetery, taken on the night of the ghost tour.

And for those who might wonder. I do not go on vacation looking for plots to my next novel. In fact, my annual Halloween vacation comes at the end of having written one novel and is the time before I get down to the grind and discipline of writing the next. I had another plot in mind that was to be book 3, but after seeing the Turning Angel, I put that plot on the back burner.

Marilyn: Where can we find you books?

Elizabeth: Every place that books are sold, including the monster sellers such as Amazon and Fictionwise. I have a few retail links on my web site:
http://www.ElizabethEaganCox.net
for convenience, or just take the necessary info (Title, Author, ISBN) that’s on the web site and a reader can give it to their favorite bookseller to order a book. My books are available in paperback and all digital e-book formats. I have retail links for e-books and paperback on my web site.

By the way, book 3: A Ghost Meets an Angel recently came out in e-book and will follow in paperback in a little while. Good reason for a reader to check my web site now and then!

Marilyn: Is there anything else you'd like to tell my blog readers?

Elizabeth: If you are sincerely interested in the paranormal, especially ghosts, try tuning in to one of my upcoming guest appearances on Web radio. Doing so is free because it is through Internet. I always take questions and you’ll get of the moment honest live answers. Many of the radio spots feature my expertise in genealogical research and you don’t have to be interested in ghost hunting to make use of the free Online sources I give out during a radio appearance. After all, you might be curious about one of the most popular topics I am asked to explain: Are Your Ancestors Your Ghosts? If you can’t listen in to a live radio show, try going to the radio show’s web site (often there is a link on my web site under Author’s Appearances) and you can listen to the archived radio program of my appearance on the Web, remember, it is free.

Oh… please read one or all of the free chapter excerpts of my novels, they are on my web site. Hopefully, you will like the excerpts enough to buy a book! Each book is a stand-alone mystery novel in and of itself, you need not read them as a series. And along with media reviews of my books, I publish reader’s reviews. So, if you read my book(s) and care to write a review, take a look-see on my web site then e-mail me (via my web site) with your review, I’ll post it!

I’ve just begun writing book 4 in my Shannon Delaney cozy paranormal mystery series.

I also would like to shout out a big THANK YOU to readers and to let you know I sincerely appreciate your support.

And Marilyn, a big THANK YOU to you, too, for being a Web hostess of incredible insight and hospitality.

Sincerely, Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
http://www.ElizabethEaganCox.net

Marilyn: Thank you so much for your indepth answers to all my questions. I finished reading A Ghost of a Chance by Elizabeth and thoroughly enjoyed it. She has a way of telling a story that also gives you insight into the actual settings. Reminded me of a modern Victoria Holt tale.

Comments

Hi Marilyn,

Just wanted to say Thank You for the in-depth interview. Just goes to show what two women who plot murders can chat about ;-)

Sincerely,
Elizabeth Eagan-Cox
Adriana said…
Hello Elizabeth, I found this blog from the EPIC social loop and clicked immediately when I saw the words "blood memory." I love how you've explained it, and that you're open to talking about how it manifests in your life and your writing.

I suspect it's something common to all our cultures, if we can go back far enough. My husband has some native blood and from time to time encounters a guide who helps in the writing process.

Now I've got more books to add to the TBR list - these sound very enticing!

Adriana

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