Monday, February 3, 2014

Interview with Author Jean Erhardt

My guest today is Jean Erhardt.  Hello, Jean!  Welcome to Writing in the Modern Age!  It’s such a pleasure to have you here today.

Can you tell us a little bit about your book? When did it come out? Where can we get it? 


http://www.amazon.com/Small-Town-Trouble-Jean-Erhardt-ebook/dp/B00COEGW16/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391478969&sr=1-1&keywords=Jean+Erhardt
Small Town Trouble is the first in a mystery series.  We get acquainted with Kim Claypoole's irreverent and witty ways of dealing with the peculiar characters and events that she finds in her life.

Claypoole's adventure begins as she leaves her home in the Smoky Mountains to help save her kooky mother Evelyn from financial disaster. Setting off to assist Evelyn (i.e., "the other Scarlett O'Hara") with her newest personal crisis, Claypoole leaves in her wake her Gatlinburg doublewide, her restaurant, The Little Pigeon and her restaurant partner and sometimes best friend Mad Ted Weber as well as a budding secret love affair that's hotter than an Eskimo in July.

Claypoole's savior complex leads to more trouble when she bumps into an old flame in her hometown who asks for her help clearing her hapless brother of murder charges. In true Claypoole fashion, she gets more than she bargained for when she gets dragged into a complicated quest to find the true killer complete with topless tavern dancers, small town cops, a stream of backwater characters-even a meeting with the Grim Reaper.



Small Town Trouble is available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Untreed Reads and just about everywhere. 


Is there anything that prompted your latest book? Something that inspired you?

I have spent a lot of my lifetime in the Great Smoky Mountains and I knew that I wanted to set the series in and around Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  As far as the inspiration for my protagonist, Kim Claypoole, I gave her some of my attributes.  For example, we share a similar sense of humor and have a penchant for damsels in distress.  For years, I worked as a private investigator and personal protection specialist aka bodyguard. On one memorable occasion, I was holed up for two weeks in a high-end, high security hotel situation with a loaded .38 and a female client from a country which started with I. She was in the process of divorcing her crazed, psychopathic husband who was richer than God. She chain smoked long, rainbow colored cigarettes, drank gallons of Persian tea and carried on lengthy boisterous phone conversations in Farsi at all hours of the day and night. By the end of the two weeks, I was almost hoping that her husband would show up and shoot me. But things turned out well for both of us. I got a big paycheck and she is now living happily ever after under an alias enjoying her multi-million dollar divorce settlement in an exotic, sunny locale. 


Wow!  So, when did you know you wanted to write?  Or has it always been a pastime of yours? 

I wrote my first story in the fourth grade.  It was a ghost story with a very cheesy ending.  I have been writing seriously for about twenty-five years!

I got started early too.

Do you have any favorite authors?


I adore Kinky Friedman.  I enjoy and greatly admire Robert B. Parker, John D. MacDonald, James Crumley, Joy Williams, Jim Harrison, Ann Beattie, Hunter S. Thompson, Lee Smith, Carolyn Forche, Rita Mae Brown, Stephen King, Armistead Maupin and (yes!) Charles Portis.  Some of the writers I’ve more recently come to admire are Joyce Thompson, Mark Spencer, Josh Goldfaden, David Gates and Lily Gardner.

Do you write in a specific place?  Time of day?

Generally, I write in my study at home.  Mornings, always mornings, usually very early. 

Are there any words you'd like to impart to fellow writers?  Any advice?


Read great books.  Read outside of your genre.  I like to read great poetry from time to time.  And write whether you feel like it or not!

Here is the blurb for Small Town Trouble.


Meet Kim Claypoole, restaurateur, reluctant heroine and amateur sleuth with moxie galore. "I'd had a feeling all along that this wasn't going to be my day. But I hadn't been prepared for things to go this badly..."

In Small Town Trouble, the first in a series from mystery writer Jean Erhardt, we get acquainted with Kim Claypoole's irreverent and witty ways of dealing with the peculiar characters and events that she finds in her life.

Claypoole's adventure begins as she leaves her home in the Smoky Mountains to help save her kooky mother Evelyn from financial disaster. Setting off to assist Evelyn (i.e., "the other Scarlett O'Hara") with her newest personal crisis, Claypoole leaves in her wake her Gatlinburg doublewide, her restaurant, The Little Pigeon and her restaurant partner and sometimes best friend Mad Ted Weber as well as a budding secret love affair that's hotter than an Eskimo in July.

Claypoole's savior complex leads to more trouble when she bumps into an old flame in her hometown who asks for her help clearing her hapless brother of murder charges. In true Claypoole fashion, she gets more than she bargained for when she gets dragged into a complicated quest to find the true killer complete with topless tavern dancers, small town cops, a stream of backwater characters-even a meeting with the Grim Reaper. Can Claypoole muddle her way through the murky depths of this bizarre murder mystery before it's too late?

With biting humor and wit, Small Town Trouble will leave you guessing what's around the next corner in the quirky life of Kim Claypoole.
 
Here is an excerpt.

"Gimme," I said, snatching the binocs from Amy. After all, I was the professional. Charlene was out the front door all right, headed like a high wind for a compact white car. She looked agitated. I couldn't tell which form of agitation it was. Maybe she was twerked off at somebody, maybe she looked scared. Maybe she was just excited about getting off work.

            Charlene wore short cutoff jeans, an ultra-tight T-shirt and sneakers. Her white-blond hair was pulled into a huge, floppy bun.

            "What's she doing now?" Amy wanted to know.

            "Looks like she's punching out for the night."
            In the weird blue light of Jimmy's Place, I watched Charlene unlock her car door. She jumped in and promptly fired up a cigarette, then started the engine. Before I could say booballabies, Charlene sped out of the lot.
            I cranked up the Toyota. "Let's roll."
            The rainstorm that had been threatening all evening picked an inopportune time to let go. I flicked the Toyota's wipers into high gear as the huge splotches came harder and faster, all the while trying to keep Charlene's car in my view finder. I laid well off her tail, a little too well, actually, and we lost sight of her completely for a few minutes, caught back up, then I lost her again. I was definitely rusty in the tailing department.
            I was also a bit distracted by a persistent pair of headlights in my rearview, but decided that I was just suffering from a slight case of the paranoids.
            "Damn," Amy said, binoculars once again pressed into action. "Can't this car go any faster?"
            Amy was right. Faster was the way to go. I put my foot to the pedal, passed a pickup truck which had turned onto the highway, and closed the gap. I was counting on the rain to make it tough on Charlene to notice us if she was inclined to check her rearview. The pavement was slick in spots from oil and from being dry too long, and the dang Toyota was having trouble holding the curves. Maybe I'd trade it in next time for whatever Charlene was driving. At least get myself a new set of tires.
            "Aha," Amy said, as Charlene's car came back into view.
            I clocked her. Charlene was doing a cool eighty on the straightaway.
            "Hold up," Amy said. "I think she's turning off."
            Charlene made a hard right, headed out route 132. I let her make the turn, then followed her lead. The rain wasn't letting up and, at this point, neither was I.
            We went on like this for a couple miles, us on her tail and the rain beating the car like a platoon of angry little drummer boys. Then, without warning, Charlene jammed on her brakes and swerved off to the side of the road. I made a quick decision and, just short of her, cut a sharp right, and we bumped hard down an old rutted lane. I rolled just far enough down the road to get out of sight, then I cut the lights, spun us around and pulled off on the shoulder. I killed the engine and hoped we hadn't attracted attention.
            We were close enough to hear Charlene's car humming.
            "Now what?" Amy said.
            I shrugged. "I don't know yet." I tried the binoculars again, but they weren't much help. The trees were thick and clumped in all the wrong places. "What is she up to?"
            "Maybe she lost a contact lens.”
            "Maybe not." A car coming up the highway from the opposite direction slowed and pulled in behind Charlene. There was the sound of a car door opening and slamming. Charlene's lights and engine died. Then I heard a man's deep voice. Hadn't I heard that voice before? Charlene and the man spoke briefly, then it sounded like Charlene was getting into his car. More door slamming.
            "Whoa," Amy said, "a low-rent rendezvous?"
             After a moment, his car pulled out of the turnoff, the headlights sweeping the trees, and headed quickly back up the highway. It looked like Amy and I were back in the tailing business.
             The car was a dark, late-model sedan, nothing fancy, and Charlene was definitely on the passenger side.
            The rain had let up a hair and Amy was working the binoculars again. "I think they might be arguing," Amy said. "She's waving her hands around."
            "You get a look at the guy?"
            "Just the back of his head. He doesn't appear to be wearing a hat, if that's helpful."
            Amy was getting good at this. "Can you read the plate?" Maybe I'd get lucky later and find someone to run it.
            Amy refocused. "Nope. Can't quite make it out. Get closer."
            I knew it was risky, but I was working for Amy now. I gave the Toyota more gas and moved in on them.
            "Oh, for chrissake," Amy said, "I think they're kissing."
            "Well, are they arguing or kissing?" I had seldom done these simultaneously with much success and figured no one else did either.
            "Get closer."
            I was practically driving up his tailpipe now. I took a good look, mentally noted the plate and backed off a bit. Amy was right the second time. They were making out. Charlene had her arms around the guy's neck and, in between road checks, she'd suck on his face.
            "Well, this is interesting," Amy said.
 

Author Bio

I was raised in the small rural town of Amelia, Ohio, about twenty five miles out of Cincinnati. My younger brother and sister and I had a pony, a horse, many great dogs and a couple of motorcycles. We raised a lot of hell. My father served in The Big One at 17 and, after riding a motorcycle around Europe, became a lawyer and later a judge. My mother worked as a homemaker and nurse, a skill she had to use a lot with all of the injuries my siblings and I subjected ourselves and one another to.


I wrote my first mystery story when I was in fourth grade. It was about a kid a lot like me who heard strange noises coming from the attic and became convinced that the attic was haunted. Eventually, the mystery was solved when she investigated and found a squirrel eating nuts in a dark corner. It wasn't a terribly exciting conclusion, but my teacher gave me an A anyway.


As a teenager I worked at a lot of different jobs. I worked at a gift shop in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, which is a frequent locale in my books. I was a swimming instructor and a lifeguard where my primary goal was to never get wet. I did a stint in a stuffed animal gift shop at the Kings Island amusement park where I actually sort of met the Partridge Family when they shot an episode there. After graduating from high school, I went on to attend Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee, a stone's throw from the Great Smoky Mountains. There was some more hell raising at college and I made some very good friends and occasionally we have our own private reunions.

In high school and college I played basketball and I graduated from Maryville College with a degree in Phys Ed. I went on to teach at Amelia Junior High, the same junior high that I had attended. There was something a little weird about passing by my old school locker every day when I walked down the hall as a teacher. Plus, some of the teachers I'd had back when I was in junior high were still working when I started to teach. Some of them had been none too fond of me as a student and I don't think they were much fonder of me as a teacher! I coached the girls' basketball and volleyball teams which was the best part of my job.

In my late 20's I moved to the West Coast to get a broader perspective on life or something like that. I ended up working in retail security, or loss prevention, as it is now known, at an upscale Northwest retailer. I kept getting promoted and with each promotion, the job became less and less fun. It was a lot more fun catching shoplifters than sitting in endless meetings and crunching budgets. After ten years of that, I quit to try my hand at some serious writing. I wrote two books of fiction (not mysteries), Benny's World and Kippo's World, as well as a book of not-especially-reverent poetry called A Girl's Guide to God and numerous short stories, articles and poems which have appeared in The Sonora Review, The Quarterly, Word of Mouth, Blue Stocking and 8-Track Mind.

After that, it was time to go back to work. I got my private investigator's license and hung out my shingle. At first, I took a lot of the cheaters cases. It seemed to me that if a guy thought his woman was cheating, he was usually wrong. On the other hand, if a woman thought her guy was cheating, she was almost always right. Eventually, I moved on to take mostly criminal defense investigation work which often involved trying to figure out what the client did and didn't do and then minimize the damage of what they usually did do. There were so many crazy ways that people could get themselves in trouble. In one case, the attorney I was working for represented a wife who had gotten so enraged about all of the time and affection her husband lavished on his pet iguana that she shot the poor iguana and killed it. The husband was furious and wanted the district attorney to press charges. The wife was eventually charged with reckless endangerment and took a pretty sweet deal because even the DA felt sorry for the fact that she was married to such a schmuck.


It was an interesting ten years. Somewhere in this time period I began to write the Kim Claypoole Mystery Series, which was a great distraction and a lot of fun. I liked the idea of having many of the same characters appear in each book. So here I am now, working on the fifth book in the series. I hope you’ll come along for the adventures of Kim Claypoole. 
 



Book: 
 
http://www.amazon.com/Small-Town-Trouble-Jean-Erhardt-ebook/dp/B00COEGW16/ref=la_B005IDH1YC_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1391453521&sr=1-1



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