Ellen Mansoor Collier
About the book:
During Prohibition in 1920s Galveston, the Island was called the “Free State of Galveston” due to its lax laws and laissez faire attitude toward gambling, girls and bootlegging. Young society reporter Jasmine (Jazz) Cross longs to cover hard news, but she’s stuck between two clashing cultures: the world of gossip and glamour vs. gangsters and gamblers.
After Downtown Gang leader Johnny Jack Nounes is released from jail, all hell breaks loose: Prohibition Agent James Burton’s life is threatened and he must go into hiding for his own safety. But when he’s framed for murder, he and Jazz must work together to prove his innocence. Johnny Jack blames Jasmine’s half-brother Sammy Cook, owner of the Oasis speakeasy, for his arrest and forces him to work overtime in a variety of dangerous mob jobs as punishment.
When a bookie is murdered, Jazz looks for clues linking the two murders and delves deeper into the underworld of gambling: poker games, slot machines and horse-racing. Meanwhile, Jazz tries to keep both Burton and her brother safe, and alive, while they face off against a common enemy.
Interview with Ellen Mansoor Collier:
What is your writing routine like – your daily routine and the process?
**I only write when I’m inspired which helps beat writer’s block. Sitting and staring at the computer doesn’t work at allsince I tend to be rather hyper. Too much caffeine?
I find that walking or running errands or doing anything physical helps stimulate my brain and I often come up with newideas on the go. Then I’m eager to sit down and write, instead of dreading it and trying to meet a quota. I usually write in the morning or late at night when it’s quiet. No set hours or word count but I do aim for a chapter at a time.
Luckily, my chapters are short!
Did anyone influence you / encourage you to become a writer?
**My mother was a World History teacher and wrote short stories and poetry on the side, and also has written two historicalliterary novels. In high school, I was on the school newspaper and won a couple of writing awards so decided to major in journalism @ UT/Austin—specifically Magazine Journalism since the emphasis was more on creative writing than on news reporting.
Turns out my grandfather, who was a doctor and surgeon, also liked to write, and wrote his memoirs about his life practicing medicine in the Middle East.
What has inspired you to write about this particular time? Was it difficult to write a female lead role for that time and place?
**Between magazine jobs, I worked for two antiques dealers/designers and loved Art Deco style—fashion, accessories and furniture.
The 1920s was such a liberating, exciting time for women after they gained the right to vote. Still, I wanted to show Jazz as a feisty, ambitious flapper—not a spoiled, rich heiress, society dame or gun moll—struggling to make her way in an era filled with temptation, chauvinism and decadence.
I didn’t find it difficult to write Jazz’s character since I can relate to her in many ways, especially when I first started working in journalism jobs in my early 20s. Sadly, women still face many of the same prejudices and uphill battles in the workplace today.
Are you like Jazz?
**I’m a lot like Jazz in that I don’t like being bossed around or controlled—who does? Ask my mother, my teachers and my former employers! Like Jazz, I tend to be restless, impatient, impulsive and opinionated, and that often gets me into trouble.
But I’m not at all interested in covering crime or murders—I’m too queasy!
Though in another life, I’d love to cover hard news and become an investigative reporter or a foreign correspondent, perhaps like Christiane Amanpour. In my novels, Jazz aspires to follow in the footsteps of her idol, Nellie Bly, who was a fearless female reporter, remarkable for her time.
What would you do if you did not write, so you have any other ambitions and creative outlets?
**I sell antiques on the side and love getting old items restored to their former glory. I’ve always wanted to open up a combination bookshop/coffee shop and antiques store—and hire someone else to run the day-to-day business. LOL
Also I’d love to foster animals if I had a big spread of land. Like Jazz, I do feed stray cats and dogs whenever possible, and have always adopted SPCA or shelter dogs. Mutts make great pets!
What is the easiest about writing and what is the hardest?
**While I enjoy writing, I had no idea there’d be so much bias against independent books, especially when it comes to marketing and reviews. I’m a magazine writer and editor in real life, but people still find it hard to believe that indie books can be enjoyable and professional. Bloggers seem surprised when they say my books are “well-written” even though they’re self-published.
The fact is, I tried to get an agent for over two years, and came very close, but at the time they told me “the 1920s don’t sell” and “New Adult” isn’t a category. Finally I charged ahead and decided to do it all myself, including the editing and designing the covers, with some help from family and friends, of course. I may start over with a new series and see what happens, though I hate to leave the Jazz Age!
Who would play the characters in a film?
**What a fun question! Burton is a toss-up between actor Ryan Gosling and Greg Hurst, a local CBS news anchor who I met in person and is simply charming (and handsome). I love the vintage photo I found for my print book cover—she’s definitely got the right look for Jazz—but beyond that, it’s all wishful thinking…If I get any offers to option my books for film or TV, I’ll let you know!
What has been the biggest help in writing your novels?
**I had no idea of the importance of beta readers when I first started writing FLAPPERS. At first, I mainly relied on editor friends to help me dot the I’s and cross the T’s. But every reader has their own strengths—some are better at storyboarding, while others are good at line editing. I only use a small circle of friends/bloggers and family for edits—otherwise it becomes too cumbersome.
My husband Gary is great at seeing the big picture and often catches repetitions or contradictions. Who knew a chemical engineer could be such an excellent editor?
About the author:
Ellen Mansoor Collier is a Houston-based freelance magazine writer and editor whose articles, essays and short stories have been published in a variety of national magazines. During college summers, she worked as a reporter (intern) for a Houston community newspaper and as a cocktail waitress, both jobs providing background experience for her Jazz Age mysteries.
A flapper at heart, she’s worked as a magazine editor/writer, and in advertising and public relations (plus endured a hectic semester as a substitute teacher). She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in Magazine Journalism and served on UTmost, the college magazine, and was active in WICI (Women in Communications), acting as president her senior year.
Flappers, Flasks and Foul Play is her first novel, published in 2012, followed by the sequel, Bathing Beauties, Booze and Bullets, released in May 2013. Gold Diggers, Gamblers and Guns is the last novel in her Jazz Age Mystery series, published in May, 2014. She lives in Houston with her husband and Chow mutts, and visits Galveston whenever possible.
Connect with Ellen:
Barnes & Noble (all books): http://www.barnesandnoble.com/s/ellen-mansoor-collier?store=allproducts&keyword=ellen+mansoor+collier