Thursday, 31 March 2011

Dancing With Myself: LIBBY HELLMANN interviews LIBBY HELLMANN

Another of those 'pinch me' moments today as I have the honour of having April slot at All Due Respect. It's a story called Hoodwinked and I loved writing it. is where you'll find it. I'd be delighted to hear your opinions (good, bad and indifferent) if you go over, so leave a comment or a hello.

All Due Respect have Matthew Funk's story up in the Spinetingler Best Story On The Web category, so you know it's a place you should get to every once in a while.

Brilliant work by everyone at Spinetingler. They deserve to get a huge turn out their awards and there are so many interesting choices to be made.

Don't be an April fool, get on over to

And today, the lovely Libby Hellmann....


A: Hey, I’m a little nervous – I’ve never interviewed myself before.

Q: Don’t worry. It will be fine.

A: That’s what you say. How do I know your questions will be fair?

Q: You don’t. That’s the great thing about being inside your head. I know all your secrets.

A: (Groan)…. Maybe I should reconsider… um… Nigel? Nigel? Where are --

Q: Too late. Here we go.

Q: What are three adjectives you’d use to describe yourself?

A: Curious, insecure, relentless.

Q: Care to expand?

A: No.

Q: OK, Tell us a fact that no one knows about you.

A: Does it have to be true?

Q: Don’t be a smart-ass.

A: OK. George Harrison said 5 words to me.

Q: Really? How did that happen?

A: The Beatles came to Washington DC for their first (I think) American concert in February, 1964. It snowed that day and we got out early. The hotel they were staying at was only a block from my house, so my friend and I went down to see them enter the hotel. Then my friend told me her parents had a friend who lived on the 7th floor of the hotel. We went up to visit, and when we stepped out of the elevator, there were several policemen. That’s when we knew the Beatles were on that floor. I tore down the hall to another set of elevators… the doors opened… and the Beatles got out. I rushed up to George, and asked…

Q: What? What did you say?

A: Suspenseful interlude here…

Q: Well, the whole world is waiting…

A: Okay, Okay. I asked him for his autograph.

Q: What? An autograph? Are you lame?

A: Evidently.

Q: (Long sigh…) OK. Well? What did he say?

A: “Do-you-have-a-pencil?”

Q: You’re kidding. (long pause) Well, did you?

A: No. Never got the autograph either.

Q: What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to you as an author?

A: I wouldn’t call it embarrassing… but it was sad, perhaps even tragic…

Q: Well?

A: My first agent dropped me after trying unsuccessfully to sell my second manuscript.

Q: Ouch.

A: He said he thought I needed to change my plots, change my characters, change my voice, and while we were at it, change agents too.

Q: What did you do?

A: What any curious, insecure, relentless person would. I cried and drank a lot of wine. Then I picked myself up off the floor and started to think about what he said.

Q: What’s the most wonderful thing that’s happened to you as an author?

A: Taking the agent’s advice. I actually started writing a new novel with a new voice, et al. I’m in a writer’s group so I read the first chapter to my group. At that point I was still the newbie in the group and everyone loved to critique my work. (I still remember thumbing through the pages I’d read after they critiqued me one week, saying, “I don’t think you guys missed a single line…”) At any rate, after I read the chapter, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I thought I was screwed. Royally. Then the person who’d been the hardest on me said, “You found your voice. This is wonderful.” That is still the most awesome moment I can think of. Btw, that book became my first published novel, An Eye For Murder.

Q: You’ve gone to the dark side recently with your short stories and novels. Why?

A. I wrote four amateur sleuth crime novels about a video producer and single mother in the Chicago area who solves mysteries. By the fourth one, I was turning backflips trying to find a credible reason for her to get involved in a nurder investigation. I keep thinking “this just wouldn’t happen.” At the same time, I started to reflect on what I was writing. Murder, actually taking a life in a willful, premeditated way, is probably the most heinous crime I can imagine. I couldn’t justify trivializing it, however gently, with an amateur sleuth. Happily, one of the characters in those books was a female cop. She was very different from my protagonist – where Ellie will go out to lunch with you and tell you more than you wanted to know about herself, Georgia is the opposite. She’s cautious, guarded, and doesn’t want to tell you anything. So I turned her into a PI (What a relief) and started writing darker stories with her as my protagonist. I’ve written two, and am 60 pages into a third. However, I have been sidetracked recently by writing stand-alone thrillers. SET THE NIGHT ON FIRE was the first – it was released in December, 2010. But I have two more, one of which is finished and the other half written. All three are partly or totally historical. So I guess you could say I’m writing my way around the genre, although suspense is always at the heart of what I do.

Q: Why did you start writing in the first place?

A. It was O.J. Simpson’s fault. Really. For years I could tell you when I started – in 1996 after my father died – and how – I went into my basement and emerged 4 months later with arguably the worst written mystery in the world. But I never quite figured out what was the “spark,” you know? Q: You forget… I’m in your head. I certainly do. A: When OJ was arrested in Vegas a few years ago, it suddenly came to me. I had been glued to the TV when his murder trial was broadcast. I would throw things at Marcia Clark and scream that she was screwing it up. At the same time, however, I was introduced to a world I’d never known before: Forensics. There were shoeprints, blood spatter, DNA, fingerprints, a bloody glove, broken eye glasses – it was a forensic investigator’s dream. I soaked it up, fascinated. Six months later, it was all regurgitated in that manuscript, which I realized, after the fact, was a police procedural. (Kinda, sorta.) But by then I was addicted and proceeded to learn the craft of fiction.

Q: Which of your books do you like best?

A. Whichever one I’m working on at the time. Trying to choose is like choosing which of your children you love the most.

Q: Oh go ahead, be a lousy mother. You know you want to.

A: Okay. I do have a soft spot – or spots – in my heart for An Image Of Death, the 3rd Ellie Foreman book. Also Easy Innocence , and Set The Night On Fire.

Q: Why those?

A: Image ended up saying things about women and the choices they make when they’ve run out of options. Easy Innocence was about teenagers and the lengths high school girls will go to win approval from their peers, and Set The Night On Fire was a personal exorcism of sorts.

Q: You also write short stories, don’t you?

A. I do. I have two collections of stories on Kindle: Nice Girl Does Noir, Vol. 1 and Volume 2. I also have several more in the pipeline. I love writing short stories. Actually, I could talk about that for another few pages. I see short stories as a ….

Q: Sorry. You only have thirty seconds left to say something pithy and memorable… Twenty-nine… twenty-eight…

A: Um. Well. In that case, I guess it’s a wrap.

Q: All right. We’re done. You see? You survived.

A: In a manner of speaking. This was definitely strange. But fun. In a narcissistic kind of way. Thank you, Nigel.

Q: Yes, Nigel. Thank you!

For those who’d like to read excerpts of everything I’ve written, check out my website at .

Or follow me on Twitter at


  1. Great fun, I enjoyed that. Thanks, Libby and Nigel!

  2. You're welcome, says Libby.
    You're welcome, says the voice inside her head.

  3. Very cool. Some great stories there.

  4. Thanks da both of yez. (Well, counting Nigel, all tree of yez.) Sometimes those damn agents do know what they're talking about, huh? Lots of good stuff in dis one, sage advice ya might say. Tanks.