Inspiration for a story comes from anywhere and everywhere, as my guest author today will make clear. Please help me welcome Mim Eichmann to my interview hot seat! A quick peek at her background and then we’ll find out more about her and her writing process.
A graduate from the Jordan College of Music at Butler University in Indianapolis, IN, Chicago-based author Mim Eichmann has found that her creative journey has taken her down many exciting, interwoven pathways as an award-winning published lyricist, short story author and songwriter, professional folk musician, choreographer, by-lined journalist, and now, author. Her debut historical fiction novel, A Sparrow Alone, published by Living Springs Publishers in April 2020, has met with extremely enthusiastic reviews and was a semi-finalist in the 2020 Illinois Library Association’s Soon-to-be-Famous Project. Its much-anticipated sequel, Muskrat Ramble, was published by LSP in March 2021 and has garnered equally enthusiastic high ratings. Both novels are bestsellers. Her thriller, Whatever Happened to Cathy Martin, was published Aug. 9, 2022.
Betty: What inspired you to write the story you’re sharing with us today?
Mim: When I attended my high school reunion back in Washington, D.C., after many decades of having lived in the Midwest, I had a chance to talk with classmates I hadn’t seen since our graduation. Without the advantage of the internet, most of us had gradually lost touch with one another over the years and drifted far apart. Inevitably, there were those few classmates about whom none of us had heard anything, and for whatever reason, the question crept into my mind: what if they’d met with a foul end? Whatever happened to those friends with whom we’d secretly shared our first breathtaking romantic encounters or complained bitterly about a totally unfair grade on a history midterm by slipping a cryptic note through the slats of one another’s hall lockers? Would we ever know?
Betty: What, if any, new writing skill did you develop while working on this story?
Mim: Since I’d lived through this time period¾1968-78¾and I was not writing about an actual crime or historic characters as was the case in my first two historical fiction novels, this definitely gave me the liberty to develop all the characters in the direction they took themselves, allowing them to play out their idiosyncrasies through the confines of the plot which was a nice breath of fresh air! This was my first book where I could go back and reorder sequences and/or characterizations as the characters and plot dictated while I moved along.
I can’t say that I ever felt I was writing as a “pantser” (i.e., writing from the seat of my pants), but I was able to step away slightly from being a “plotter” (i.e., writing from a strict plot) as was dictated from my first two books. In reality, I’ve always been something of a “plodder,” which is my own definition of my writing style, lol… I’ve been known to spend an entire day writing one paragraph or dialogue sequence before I think I’ve gotten it right. I’m completely in awe of those authors who diligently fulfill their NaNoWriMo quotas every November¾I’d fail miserably!
Betty: Did you struggle with any part of this story? What and how?
Mim: Yes. There’s a violent rape scene at the end of the book. I felt it definitely needed to be included but was afraid how it would be perceived by the average reader. Thus far, no early reviewers have called me out on it. Also, in general, the story takes a young married woman infuriated by her husband’s infidelity down an ever-darkening, murky rabbit hole as the book progresses. I’ve made every attempt to make my main characters as three-dimensional and interesting as possible keeping within the framework of that era without resorting to obvious stereotypes. Sometimes that was also a struggle and I had to adjust accordingly.
Betty: Which character(s) were the easiest to get to know? Why do you think?
Mim: Well, my main protagonist, Denise Prescott, is very loosely based on me all those years back, since I worked as a journalist at that time for The South Bend Tribune in South Bend, Indiana, and dealt with many of Denise’s same problems. Historically, so much was shaping our world during the decade of ’68-’78 and often we forget how long it took for mainstream society to truly embrace many of these social reforms.
Betty: What kind of research did you need to do to write this story?
Mim: Typically, my h.f. research involves delving into lots of letters, diaries, journals, photographs and non-fiction works from the time period. In this case, however, I enjoyed going back through newspaper archives, reviewing all the Sherlock Holmes movies that featured Basil Rathbone to acquire the quotes at the top of each chapter, streaming all the Columbo and Rockford Files episodes available, as well as watching countless hours of Forensic Files, a show that often discussed murders that had been cold cases for decades. DNA research was still in its infancy back then and had not yet been used for criminal investigations. The extraordinary movie The Conversation (1974) starring Gene Hackman and John Cazale reveals the moral dilemma a surveillance expert faces when his recordings reveal a potential murder. This movie gave me terrific insight into the security surveillance equipment available and its usage at that time.
Betty: How many drafts of the story did you write before you felt the story was complete?
Mim: Since I tend to move along at a glacial pace as a writer, one of the advantages is that not too much of the manuscript needs major tweaking¾that’s not to say that everything was perfect! There were definitely plot holes that needed serious attention! Also, there were a few scenes I dumped completely, reversed in order and/or expanded or condensed. For example, my protagonist Denise has a romantic encounter with a detective in a trucker’s hotel. When I first wrote this section, Denise was attracted to the man but what might have ensued by way of actual romance was interrupted by a phone call. Later I decided this ‘encounter’ needed to actually occur, otherwise this section seemed too much like some kind of cutesy, cozy mystery device (which this book is not), so I rewrote that entire section, lengthening it considerably, and the phone call¾actually the detective’s pager buzzing¾occurred several hours later.
Betty: How long did it take for you to write the story you’re sharing with us? Is that a typical length of time for you? Why or why not?
Mim: Since the book was written almost entirely throughout the Covid isolation during the winter into spring of 2020-2021, it was something of an escape for me, so not typical of any time frame in my opinion.
Betty: What rituals or habits do you have while writing?
Mim: Even though I’m a morning person, I’ve found that I’m almost always writing from mid to late afternoon until about 9 or 10 p.m. when I’d stop to check in with the local news, then sometimes continue writing. I need a sense of creative space around me¾clutter drives me to distraction¾so dishes, laundry baskets, mail, other random projects, etc., have all been dealt with earlier in the day. Yeah, I’m one of those people … also, I need silence¾no surprise, eh?
Betty: Every author has a tendency to overuse certain words or phrases in drafts, such as just, once, smile, nod, etc. What are yours?
Mim: My short list of offenders would be: eh? Uh. So. Replied. Commented.
Betty: Do you have any role models? If so, why do you look up to them?
Mim: My blurb includes a comparison of sorts to Kathy Reichs, who is a forensic anthropologist in real life. I’m thoroughly enamored with her in-depth knowledge in forensic crime solving. Sometimes her plots seem to have a lot of coincidence, but overall, they’re unique. She also employs a terrific set of secondary characters sprinkled throughout. Other contemporary mystery authors I enjoy reading include Stieg Larsson, Faye Kellerman, and Elizabeth George along with the non-fiction work of Erik Larson. My favorite fiction authors are Edith Wharton and Kate Chopin.
Betty: Do you have a special place to write? Revise? Read?
Mim: I have a designated office but almost always end up writing on my laptop on my dining room table. If we’re talking about reading books in general, just about anywhere.
Betty: Many authors have a day job. Do you? If so, what is it and do you enjoy it?
Mim: I retired from my full-time job about five years ago but am also a folk musician playing gigs with my acoustic folk quartet Trillium – www.trilliumtheband.com. I play hammered dulcimer and also sing.
Betty: As an author, what do you feel is your greatest achievement?
Mim: I’ve now written and published three books in just over four years… I only expected to write the first one. I guess I’m surprised how much I enjoy this process, even though at times it’s been extremely tedious and frustrating. I look forward to continuing to research and write novels for as long as possible.
Betty: What is your favorite genre to read?
Mim: Historical fiction, literary non-fiction, mysteries, thrillers
Betty: Success looks different to different people. It could be wealth, or fame, or an inner joy at reaching a certain level. How do you define success in terms of your writing career?
Mim: That’s an interesting question. Certainly not wealth or fame and I doubt that I’ll ever reach a measurable level of literary satisfaction. But to quote my protagonist Denise Prescott’s last line in Whatever Happened to Cathy Martin, “wherever we ended up, I was looking forward to the journey.”
Kathy Reichs meets Sherlock Holmes in this Gothic thriller set in rural southern Indiana in 1978 that seeks to unravel a deadly tangled web of lies surrounding three former high school friends, one of whom has been missing for over a decade… but which one? And why?
I love a good Gothic tale! Thanks for sharing yours with us, Mim!
Happy Halloween and happy reading!
Award-winning Author of Historical Fiction with Heart, and Haunting, Bewitching Love Stories
Visit www.bettybolte.com for a complete list of my books and appearances.
Subscribe to My Newsletter to learn the inside scoop about releases and more!