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Author Q & A!

Ellie Alexander talks about her new cozy mystery series launching today

Colleen from @ilikeoldbooks1213 and I are excited to add a new element to our #cozyscenesandthemes posts over on Instagram: the Author Chat! Ellie graciously answered our questions about her new series and her writing experiences. Please also see our reviews of these fun new mysteries here! Ellie is an established author AND a writing coach, so we are grateful she was willing to share her insights! Thank you, Ellie!

What motivates you to start a new series? 

I moved to California a fews years ago when my husband’s job was relocated. We joked that everywhere I go, I end up finding inspiration for murder. But at the time I had no thoughts of starting a new series. I took my time getting settled and getting to know the area. As fate would have it, an opportunity to start thinking about a new series arose with my new publisher—Storm. I was excited about their publishing model and how they’re bridging the traditional and indie publishing worlds and they asked if I would develop a series with them. My neighbor invited me to Filoli, a stunning English estate and garden as I was starting to brainstorm ideas and I knew immediately I had the perfect setting for a new series. I went home and immediately starting sketching out ideas for the first book.


What inspired the premise of this series? Did you take anything from your personal experiences or interests?

In addition to landing on the setting and creating the fictional world of Redwood Grove based on some of my favorite places in the Bay Area, I wanted to center the series around the idea of secret bookcases, hence the name of the bookshop—The Secret Bookcase. I was obsessed with secret passageways, tunnels, and hidden rooms when I was young because my childhood home was rumored to have a secret room. I spent hours making maps of the house and convincing my friends to join me in my obsession. We’d knock on walls and search for secret levers. We did discover an old blueprint in the attic with missing square footage in the basement and a hidden door in the back my sister’s closet, but it was sealed shut so if there was ever a passage it reminded locked. This was also about the time when I spent every summer reading Agatha Christie’s books. Both of these experiences meshed in Annie’s story.

Since you are a pro with other series under your belt, are there any “must-dos” that you make sure to incorporate in the first book of a new series? 

That’s such a good question. Of course you need a body! That’s paramount. Honestly, I think the first book in a series is always the most fun to write and perhaps the most challenging because you have to do so much world building. It’s important to introduce the main cast of characters who readers will get to know in future books, give your sleuth a personal quest or journey that sends them down the path of immersing themselves in a murder investigation, and create a charming, cozy village that wraps readers in a warm hug.

How do you juggle writing multiple series? 

I finding writing more than one series helpful. I only work on one book at a time. When I’m writing a first draft my office becomes an extension of that world. For example I planted my walls with pictures of English estates, lavish gardens, and the best bookstores when I was working on The Body in the Bookstore. I created a playlist for Annie and would light library scented candles to set the tone. Once I finish a first draft it needs time to simmer and rest. I set it aside and turn my attention to another series which gets me out of my head and gives me a break from the story so that where I go back to the draft months later I can edit it with fresh eyes. 

What are the biggest lessons you learned thus far in your writing career? 

Readers are the best people on the planet. I know that sounds cliché but it’s true. I’ve met the most incredible readers over the years who have become dear friends and future writers. It’s a real gift and I’m not sure if that’s true in other professions. We’re lucky.

Also, take the work seriously. But don’t takes yourself too seriously. 

If you could discuss the writing process with any author, living or dead, who would you choose and why?

This is so hard. I’m going to go with Sue Grafton. Her Kinsey Millhone series was one of the first series I read and fell in love with. She mastered the ability to create characters who felt like friends while still writing compelling plots and page-turners book after book. I’d pepper her with so many questions and commend her for setting the series before everyone had cell phones. She never had to worry about Kinsey “forgetting” her phone at home or being in a dead zone.

How did you decide to publish book 1 and 2 on the same day? What platforms will ebooks/audiobooks/paperbacks be available on?


The idea came from my publisher. They’re very innovative. When I first signed a contract with them we discussed having books release on a tighter timeline. Originally the books were going to publish a few months. My editor asked if I’d be open to a double release and as a Taylor Swift fan I jumped at the chance for a secret double release. Both books will be available in ebook, audio, and paperback on publication day.

Visit Ellie's website

Visit Storm Publishing

Publisher's Synopsis The Body In The Bookstore:

Welcome to The Secret Bookcase, a quirky bookstore in a grand, converted manor house, where the selection of crime fiction is dangerously good. The store has been bookseller and events manager Annie Murray’s sanctuary ever since her dreams of starting a detective agency with her best friend died, literally, when Scarlet was murdered.

Annie has never stopped trying to solve the mystery of her friend’s death, but her quiet life in leafy Redwood Grove, with its warm community of like minded local business-owners and book-lovers, has provided the solace she needed. Until now.

Publisher's Synopsis A Murder At The Movies:

When bookseller and events organizer Annie Murray invites the glamorous world of Hollywood along to her small-town film festival, she finds herself entangled in a sinister plot as twisted as any big-screen thriller…

After the success of her first event, which revived the fortunes of the bookstore she loves so dearly, Annie is excited to launch Redwood Grove’s first film festival. But when an infamous film critic plunges to his death during the premiere of a Hitchcock-inspired thriller, Annie’s instincts tell her that this was no accident. She soon discovers that many of the cast, crew and guests are harboring dark secrets; from the lead actress with a scandalous past, to a film historian obsessed with protecting his vintage reel collection.

Determined to unravel the mystery, Annie must sift through a tangled web of hidden agendas and deception to expose the killer before they strike again. Can she crack the case and save her film festival – or will she find herself in the spotlight?

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