I am very pleased to host today’s guest. I had the pleasure of editing this fabulous book, and of meeting the author face to face at a conference in Seattle. He’s funny and personable and very talented. Please help me welcome ML Erdahl.
Please tell us a little about yourself, where are you from? Where do you live now? Family? Pets?
My family were early homesteaders of Gig Harbor, WA. They witnessed the city go from dirt roads and pristine forests, to the medium sized city that it is today. I grew up there and attended college at the University of Washington in Seattle. Today, I live in Renton with my wife and a houseful of neurotic rescue pets.
Where did you get the idea for Winter Takes All?
My writing story for Winter Takes All began with a genre swap suggested by my wife. Her favorite fiction genres are Mysteries and Thrillers, while mine is Fantasy. She gave me Nevada Barr, Janet Evanovich, and Mary Daheim novels to read, and I gave her Robert Jordan. I loved the stories I was given, which were so different from the long epic adventures I was used to. I enjoyed the wit of the genre, as well as the concept of a ordinary person being forced out of their comfort zone to the point where they find themselves investigating a crime.
During the long bus rides to-and-fro work, I must have been inspired, because an idea for a cozy mystery percolated in my head. I began writing it down over the next year. After I’d finished my book, I read it back. I’m not going to lie, it was pretty mediocre, but I could see the elements of a great story. I began to study how to write fiction, and applying what I’d learned, re-wrote the entire book to its present incarnation.
The moral of this particular story for aspiring writers is to learn how to write, and then begin writing. I still believe that the best learning tool is to practice, but having an idea where you’re going will help you get there faster. Trust me on this.
Do you have another occupation, other than writer? If so, what is it and do you like it?
By day, I’m an environmental chemist. My company specializes in analyzing fuel spills. We’ve received samples from the Exxon Valdez to the Deepwater Horizon gulf spill. It’s a satisfying job in that I know I leave the world a cleaner place with my work.
What do you dislike that most people wouldn’t understand?
Being from the Pacific Northwest and of Norwegian descent, you’d think I’d like seafood, but I can’t stand the stuff. Whenever I eat it, my wife accuses me of “making the face.”
What was your first job?
Mowing lawns. I still like yard work, but I remember one old lady’s yard I mowed had so very many snakes. Harmless garter snakes, but they still gave me the heebie-jeebies.
What’s your favorite book of all time and why? What’s your favorite childhood book?
A favorite book is a tough one since I love two genres, cozy mystery and fantasy. Therefore I’m going to cheat and pick two, Janet Evanovich’s “One for the Money”, and Brandon Sanderson’s “Mistborn”. Both of those authors know how to write the most memorable characters. My favorite childhood book was Shel Silverstein’s delightful poetry in “Where the Sidewalk Ends”.
What do you want readers to come away with after they read Winter Takes All?
I want people to read my novel and feel like they escaped on a wild ride. I want a reader to turn the last page and immediately download my next book to continue the adventure.
What genre have you never written that you’d like to write?
Someday I’d like to take a crack at my other favorite genre, Fantasy. All of the advice to authors is to stay in your lane and not switch genres, because you’ll lose your audience. However, I don’t think I want to let life pass me by without taking a shot at it.
Are your characters based off real people or did they all come entirely from your imagination?
For the most part, they are made up, but after I was done writing, I discovered my brain had also frankensteined bits and pieces of various people in my life. I recognized different attributes of friends and family in my characters.
What do your friends and family think of your writing?
They are my biggest cheerleaders. My wife spends hours every day either helping me directly or doing more around the house to give me more time to write. Furthermore, many of my family and friends were my beta-readers, who took time to not only read the earlier drafts, but give me valuable feedback. I couldn’t ask for a better support system.
How did your interest in writing originate?
In middle school, our English teacher had us free write for an hour once a week and I was hooked. After moving on from that grade, I continued writing short stories to amuse myself and my friends. However, it wasn’t until the last few years that I began to take writing seriously. Reading books on writing from KM Weiland, Jane Friedman, and Stephen King has shown me how much effort needs to go into each and every sentence to make a compelling story. Instead of being intimidating, it has inspired me.
Movie Shawshank Redemption
Place you’ve visited Venice
Place you’d like to visit Greece
TV show from childhood Night Court
TV show from adulthood Game of Thrones
Food Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese
Sports team Seahawks
Which do you prefer: Board games/card games or television? Board Games/Card games
Great interview, it was fun getting to know more about you, ML. Now, please tell us about your book…
Crystal Rainey is aghast when she realizes her new year’s resolutions haven’t changed one whit from the previous year. Wanting to escape a future as dreary as a Pacific Northwest winter, she walks out on her dead-end office job, despite her tenuous savings account.
Stumbling across a job opening posted by a wilderness guide outfit, an intrigued Crystal bluffs her way into the position. With handsome fellow guide, the stalwart Conner Oakes, she leads a corporate retreat on a snowshoe hike to a majestic alpine chalet.
But when the company’s detestable owner turns up dead in the snow, she fears her new life and budding romance slipping away. She finally has something worth fighting for and is determined to solve the murder and grab her chance at happiness before it’s too late.
Not the most auspicious start to my guiding career, Crystal admitted to herself.
Conner sat back down, took a grateful swig of the coffee and sighed. “This could have gone better,” he said stating the obvious.
“What happens next?” Crystal asked.
“We wait until dawn, see if he turns up, and escort everyone out of here. Hopefully, Philip is waiting for us at the lodge, and we can drive this whole miserable lot back to the city a day early. In the meantime, I suggest we follow everyone’s lead and try to get a little shuteye.”
Conner’s radio crackled with Sam’s voice, “We’ve found the missing man from your group, Conner. He’s at the bottom of a cliff. I’m sorry to say this search and rescue operation has become a search and recover.”
Conner paled at the news.
“What does ‘search and recover’ mean?” Crystal asked.
“It means he’s dead.”
ML Erdahl lives amidst the trees of the Pacific Northwest, where he pens humorous cozy mystery novels set in the wilderness he has spent his lifetime exploring. The only thing slowing him down is when his adorable rescue dogs, Skip and Daisy, demand to be petted and cuddled on his lap while he types. When he’s not wandering the mountains, you can find him gardening, reading, or searching for the best coffee in Seattle with his wife, Emily.
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