An Interview with Eileen Magill


Eileen’s curiosity has gotten her into hot water by asking the wrong people the wrong questions at the wrong times. All in the name of research, she has spent time in jail, taken a tumble down a hydroelectric penstock, survived a wilderness survival camp, and spent a day in an evidence lockup. She has lived in a haunted house, been the volunteer victim of a dog attack – while wearing a protective suit (Eileen wore the suit, not the dog) and even mucked out a bear habitat. Eileen lives on the west coast with her family and equally adventurous dogs.

Eileen Magill

BMH: Of the many sub-categories of mysteries, such as cozies, police procedurals, amateur detective, what sub-genre describes your book and why?

EM:     HOUSE OF HOMICIDE falls squarely into the suspense sub-genre, but it is also based on paranormal events. The protagonist, Cindy, is a young widow and is thrust into a terrible situation. She needs to find out the truth before she and her family are the next victims.

BMH:  Do you write to entertain or is there something more you want the readers to take away from your work?

EM:     HOUSE OF HOMICIDE is primarily to entertain, but there is a darker warning. Many homes have the entrance to the crawl space accessible from the outside of the house. Most of these entrances are not secured. Why is this important? There are numerous accounts of strangers hiding under peoples’ homes. Sometimes the stranger is hiding from the police, other times the person is looking for shelter, but other times, the predator has a more nefarious reason for being down there…

BMH:  What is something you wish someone would have told you before you became an author?

EM:     If I’d known that the path to publication was such a long and frustrating road, I would have started writing when I was four.

BMH: Tell us about your hometown as a child. What influence did your upbringing have on your writing?

EM:     I grew up in Santa Clara, California, which is where HOUSE OF HOMICIDE takes place. When I was young, the area was transitioning from orchards to a sprawling city. I was the youngest victim…umm, I mean sibling…in a large family. To entertain ourselves, we played a lot of pranks on each other. I suppose that’s why I look at life with a more critical eye of “what could go wrong here” or “what’s wrong with this picture”…We also loved to scare each other with stories. I spent many nights huddled under my blankets afraid of what was under my bed.

BMH: Pick five words to describe your writing style/voice… then tell us why you chose each word.

EM:           Varies: Maybe it’s because of the storytelling that I did with my siblings, and later with my son, but I choose a different voice depending on the type of story. And within a story, the voice needs to change to match the intensity of the situation and the characters.

Frenzied: I get into a writing zone and it all bubbles out. This is especially true with the more intense scenes. I want the reader to feel that frenzy, too. Don’t bother me when I’m in that phase, or you will be the next victim…

Angry: Writing allows me to vent my frustrations from a very stressful job. I’ve noticed a direct correlation between how tough my day has been and how much trouble my characters face.

Hopeful: I believe that good will beat out evil…or at least that there will be people who will try to make that happen.

Happy: While there is an underlying vein of anger in my stories, there is also a contrasting stream of happiness, the latter of which is a true representative of me.

BMH:  What would you do with a long weekend?

EM:     Wish it was longer… I love adventure and travel. For example, over the 4th of July, I went to New York City with two of my sisters to see the fireworks, see the city from a helicopter, and visit the FBI. But at home, there are always projects waiting to be completed and dogs to interfere with said projects.

BMH:  Who influenced your writing the most?

EM:     That’s a tough question because there have been so many writers who inspired me and family and friends who influenced me in a variety of ways. It’s hard to pick out the one who had the most impact.

BMH: You’re going to a desert island and can only take three things, what are they and why did you choose them?

EM:     I would never, ever go to a desert island––I hate being hot. However, I might go to a deserted island. After having been to survival school, the first item I’d have with me is a good, sturdy, sharp knife. With that, I could make the pieces I need to start a friction fire, build a shelter, have protection, and food. The second item would be my dog, Flynn. The third is an absolute essential for all travelers: duct tape.

BMH:  How did you celebrate when you signed your first book contract?

EM:     I did the happy dance with my sister…and my dogs who joined in on the fun.

BMH: Tell us how you write…do you edit as you go, wait until the first draft is finished…etc?

EM:     A little of both. I get into a zone when I’m writing. It’s like I’m in a movie. I see the action, I hear the voices (don’t tell my doctor, please), I feel and sense the scene like I’m there. To do that, I have to have a big chunk of time. But because I work full time, I can’t do it on the average day. So I take my lunch time and breaks to edit. I will also go back and write down pertinent details about the characters so that the neighbor down the street doesn’t have blonde hair the first time my protagonist meets her and have brown hair the next time.

BMH: Are you a plotter or do you write by the seat of your pants?

EM:     HOUSE OF HOMICIDE was definitely written by the seat of my pants. The idea had been fermenting in my brain for a couple years. When the time came to write it, I fell into that zone, and it came out over a few weeks. Of course, the rewrites took a few years. The story I just finished writing is the first in a series, so I have worked out the characters’ arcs over a longer period of time. Also, because it is more of a detective story, I outlined the basic scenes and clues. After I finished it and made the chapter by chapter synopsis, I compared it to the outline, they were only superficially similar.

BMH: Tell us about your first public appearance as an author. What is a convention or conference? A book signing? A library event? How did you feel before you did it, and more importantly, how did you feel after?

EM:     I had a book launch party at the Mission City Grill restaurant in Santa Clara. It was amazing. Friends that I hadn’t seen for over 20 years were there…even a boyfriend from high school that I hadn’t seen in…wait…I’m not admitting how long ago that was. My biggest fear going into it was that I would be so nervous that I would forget peoples’ names. My only regret was that I didn’t have time to visit with everyone for more than a few seconds at a time. Afterwards––besides needing to sleep––I was humbled and appreciative of everyone who came and offered support.

BMH:  What is a trick you use to develop your characters?

EM:     I like to people-watch at places like airports, where people are under stress––sometimes good stress, other times not so good. I make up secret lives for them, and then they end up in a story.

BMH: What have you never written about, but want to some day?

EM:     Someday I will make up my own fantasy world with magic and dragons. Especially dragons. But because I need to get immersed in story, to create that world would take a huge amount of time. I will have to wait until I retire for that one.

BMH: Which comes first the characters or the plot?

EM:     In HOUSE OF HOMICIDE, the house could be considered a prime character. In that respect, the character came first. Then my protagonist, Cindy, joined me, and I put her through hell. She reacted to the scenes I gave her and then went off on her own, going places I never expected. In my new story, the plot was definitely the center of my universe, and Sierra, my protagonist, spun out of its orbit.

BMH: What do you think is the greatest story ever written?

EM:     Richard Adam’s Watership Down. It is a fascinating tale of societal norms being destructed and reconstructed, survival, love, family, suspense, adventure, good, and evil…all told from the viewpoint of rabbits. Awesome!

BMH: Respond to these pairings

BMH: Ocean or mountains?

EM:     Definitely mountains. Trees––especially pine––give me the ultimate feeling of peace. I love everything about the mountains…well, except for the spiders.

BMH: Carnivore or vegan?

EM:     I’m an Irish girl…gimme me my meat.

BMH: Waltz or Jitterbug?

EM:     Hmm tough one. Love the elegance of the waltz movements, but am drawn towards the up tempo music for the jitterbug.

BMH: Would you rather live without music or television?

EM:     I don’t know that it would be possible to live without music. There is a rhythm to everything we do, starting with the heart. I would find a way to have music, even if it was just tapping out a beat. Without television I would go through withdrawals if I didn’t get my dose of Shemar Moore and Nathan Fillion, but I’d survive. Wait…can I change my previous answer about what I would bring to the island? Can I bring Shemar and Nathan?

BMH: What are you working on now?

EM:     I’m excited about my next project. Fifteen-year-old Sierra overhears her parents talking about a case dealing with a former schoolmate of hers. He’s been convicted of murdering his stepfather, and Sierra is certain that he could not have done it. Unable to let it go, Sierra steps in and does an investigation on her own and finds herself in the middle of a conspiracy that might just kill her.

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