From Bookseller to Comedic Mystery Author:
Meet Elaine Munsch
Elaine Munsch should be an inspiration to any aspiring author who wonders if it’s too late to embark on a writing career. Elaine’s love affair with books, especially mysteries, began in childhood. Armed with a master’s degree in English literature from Ohio State, she pursued a career in bookselling and in l995, moved from Cleveland to Louisville to open Kentucky’s first Barnes and Noble. In Louisville, she joined the local chapter of Sisters in Crime and began her own mystery writing. Below, she shares her path to becoming a novelist and describes her humor-filled Dash Hammond series.
On January 12, 1976, newspapers around the world reported Agatha Christie’s passing. My mother noted the report, clipped it, and mailed it to me with the handwritten note: Now it’s your turn. My mom, ever the optimist.
It was 50 years, 2016, before I finished my first novel, THE PRICE OF BEING NEIGHBORLY. It is self-published (at 70, I figured I didn’t have time for the typical publishing route), not bad for a first book, but I was still operating on a learner’s permit.
I am a life-long reader and then stumbled into bookselling which became a life-long passion. Along the way I would scribble openings for any number of books, mainly romance and mystery. After moving to Louisville in 1995, I joined the local chapter of Sisters in Crime, thrilled to be among lovers of mysteries and accomplished as well as aspiring writers.
Fast forward many years, I am in my little garden trying to prune my overgrown knock-out rose, and grace not being part of my DNA, I stumbled and fell into the bush. I cannot tell you what I said, because it was and still is unprintable. But as I lay tangled among the thorns, I wondered how a writer would write this.
After slowly and painfully pulling myself out of the rose bush, I immediately went inside to see if the brain could tell the fingers what to type. Of course a hero came to rescue the heroine which didn’t happen to me since my hero had passed on, joining Dame Agatha and a host of others in my life.
I submitted the piece, several pages long, to the writers’ group at Sisters and surprise, they liked it (shades of Sally Fields). Several suggestions later, they asked what came next. “Nothing” said the aging might-be author, “I do beginnings, not endings.” But they persisted, nagging me to continue.
Back at the writing station once I started, I couldn’t stop since I also got into my head to get the book finished, published by the time I was 70. Patience, along with grace, is not in my DNA. The book was finished one month after I turned 70. Thank you, Mrs. Daniels.
I’ve heard authors say a door opens and in walks the person who becomes their main character. Pretty much happened to me. Instead of a door, I saw a window with a man watching his unknown new neighbor. Dash Hammond (yes, the name is a nod to Dashiell Hammett), a retired Army officer and a gentleman, figures he should at least ask if she needs help extracting herself from the many-thorned rose bush. He is 50, has been in an awful automobile accident which cut short his military career, so he winds up in his small hometown on the shore of Lake Erie. He’s 6’4’ (Magnum’s height), wavey black hair (Rockford) with brilliant blue eyes (all Mr. Munsch’s). He’s irreverent (Rockford/Munsch) and sarcastic (Archie Goodwin/Bernie Rhodenbarr/Munsch).
Bottom line, he’s fun to be around, at least for me.
Just like visiting Archie Goodwin in the brownstone or Bernie Rhodenbarr at his bookstore have provided me with hours of wonderful reading. Rex Stout and Lawrence Block are, in my estimation, two of the best authors ever. I hope readers enjoy visiting Clover Pointe, Ohio, with Dash and friends.
There are four books in the series, with three more in the writing. Crime here, a crime there, Dash in the middle. A bit of romance with his neighbor, a lot of conflict with his brother the sheriff. To add a bit of heat to the mixture, there is Doctor Maevis Summer, Dash’s ex-wife and soul mate. Will they or won’t they? The rest of the Hammond family join in the frays as well as small town characters.
As you might have guessed, I write in scenes, like visualizing the rose bush fiasco or more recently this: Dash sitting dazed on the porch steps of the county librarian. She calls 911 to report this and that he keeps repeating ‘They’re all dead’. Exactly who is dead? Why and when did this happen? So the search for answers begins not only for the characters but for this author as well. Once in a while I have the ending in mind. Then I have to link the various scenes to create a coherent cohesive story which I hope the reader will enjoy.
The Dash Hammond series includes, in order, THE PRICE OF BEING NEIGHBORLY, THE COST OF KINDNESS, THE EXPENSE OF FAMILY and the most recent book, A WEALTH OF WOMEN. All available from Amazon and as e-books.