Had a chance to have Kelly Blanchard sit down with one of the major characters from my Ellie Gooden mystery series a few weeks ago. Kelly offers writers a really amazing experience by conducting a unique style of interactive interviews with both authors and their characters. Thought you might find this fun, as well as giving you a peek into the head of one of my FAVORITE characters to write about. Please let me know what you think! Enjoy!
Kelly pushed open the door to her Muse Shop and found one of her best friends, Abby, keeping watch behind the counter. She smiled and approached with coffee in hand. “Coffee—as requested.” She handed Abby her drink.
“Thanks! It’s been quiet here. No crazy plot bunnies, and no characters bursting out of the mirror demanding to talk with you.”
This made Kelly chuckle. “Good. Hopefully it’ll stay that way. I have a guest coming. His name is Charlie—dark, curly hair. When he comes in, send him to my office upstairs.” With that, she headed past the shelves full of books, artifacts, and antiques toward the spiral staircase.
“Don’t forget, you have an interview at the coffee shop later today!” Abby hollered back at her, and Kelly raised her cup.
“Thanks for the reminder. I should be done before then!” Making her way up the stairs, she came to the sitting area in the loft but went past it to the door. Opening it, she smiled at the sunlight through the wide windows which greeted her. It overlooked the spacious lush garden of the Muse Shop—larger than most people expected, but Kelly noticed the clouds on the horizon—a coming storm.
Ignoring the view, Kelly went to her desk off to the left side of the room. This way any guests could walk to the window and stare out if they wanted to. In another corner of the room, she had a few chairs and even a couch for those who wished to be comfortable during their conversations, and throughout the room on shelves and end-tables were unusual trinkets she obtained from different worlds.
Going to her desk, she found a plate of her homemade chocolate chip cookies there as well as a folder. The cookies would wait for a bit, but for now she opened the file, turned her back on her desk and leaned against it as she flipped through the information she had on her guest: Full name: Charlie McCallum. Former police officer, mid-thirties. Freaking brilliant, but very down to earth. Kelly put down the folder. Well, this should be interesting.
A knock on the door brought her eyes up, and she pushed away from the desk with a smile. “Come in!”
Charlie poked his head through the door. He didn’t really understand why his sister-in-law Kate had made him come here. He didn’t need any counseling and besides, this place didn’t look like a doctor’s office. But he loved Kate – she was like the sister he’d never had. And he’d do anything for her. So here he was. Weird looking place, that was for sure. Like some place Kate’s best friend Ellie Gooden would hang around. He pushed her quickly out of his mind. Whatever feelings he had for her, they surely weren’t reciprocated. In fact, he was pretty sure she despised him, although he wasn’t sure why. Focus, he thought. Focus. He looked at the woman standing inside. Pretty, in a cerebral sort of way. Could she be a shrink? Or was she a witch, like Ellie? “Um, I was told I had an appointment here?
Kelly smiled. “Yes, you must be Charlie McCallum. I’m Kelly Blanchard. Please come in.” She motioned for him to come in. “I’m not a shrink if that’s what you’re wondering, and I’m totally not your traditional doctor. Cookies?” She turned picked up the plate and turned back to him. “Homemade–best ever.” She smiled at him warmly.
Charlie could smell the cookies – it was what had finally enticed him up the stairs. “Man. Yeah, thanks. I have a weakness for chocolate chip cookies.” He gave her what Kate called the patented Charlie grin scrubbed at his long curls, then snatched a cookie before she could rescind the offer. “Thanks!” Biting into it, he groaned. “Oh man. That’s good. Kate, my sister in law, is a wonderful woman, but she can’t bake for shit. Her cookies taste like saw dust” Jeez! Why had he said that? He glanced away. “But don’t tell her I said that. I wouldn’t want to hurt her feelings.”
Kelly chuckled. “Not to worry! Anything you say here won’t ever be repeated. Care to have a seat?” She motioned over to the chairs in the corner. “Or you’re welcome to pace around if you prefer, but tell me about yourself. What is it that you do?”
He glanced at the couch, knew it was the proper thing to do to sit. But he’d never been very good at sitting. “Um, mind if I just sort of walk around?” He moved to stand in front of the book shelf, quickly scanning the titles. “I’m, uh sort of between things at the moment. I’m trying to get my PI business off the ground, but clients are hard to find. At least, the paying kind. Ellie says I need to have a marketing plan but…” He shrugged, grinned sheepishly. “Business stuff isn’t really what I’m good at.”
“Yeah, tell me about it. Being a business owner too, I totally know what that’s like.” Kelly leaned back against her desk as she watched him pace. “So how did you get into the PI business? Read a lot of mysteries as a kid?” She smiled with her question but then snatched up a cookie off the plate and tore off a piece to eat it while she observed him.
He glanced at her. “As a kid, I just read a lot period. Mysteries, science, history, you name it, I read it. Still read a lot. I don’t sleep much so reading is what I do to fill the time while everyone else sleeps.” He smiled. “You tend to lose friends when you call them at 3 in the morning just to chat.” He plucked a copy of Dante’s Inferno off the shelf, skimmed the pages, put it back. “The PI stuff, well, I like to solve puzzles. I used to be a cop but when that didn’t work out, I thought being a PI was a decent way to play to my strengths.”
“Why wasn’t being a cop your thing?” Kelly furrowed her brows as she tilted her head.
He didn’t want to go there. He really didn’t. Anger boiled up inside him, and he clenched his jaw before forcing himself to relax. “Let’s just say that the whole “Protect and Serve” thing is misleading.” He scrubbed at his head, picked up a small ancient Egyptian ushabti and ran his long fingers over the glazed turquoise-colored faience. He could almost hear the whisper of the prayers for the dead. “Politics shouldn’t get in the way of justice. No one should be above the law.”
Kelly nodded, but she also sensed his answer, so she pushed away from her desk and went to the chairs to sit down. If he joined her, that was fine. If not, he could remain standing or pacing–whichever way he felt comfortable. “I completely understand that, and does your current job allow you to do what you feel must be done?”
He let out a breath, thankful she hadn’t pushed. “Sometimes. But sometimes even with the freedom to pursue things, you don’t get to the answers you’re looking for. There’s this case… a cold case. I managed to get my hands on the file – I won’t say how – and even though I’ve been pushing on it for almost a year, I still can’t get anywhere. I suppose I should just let it go – but it means something to a friend of mine. Well, not really a friend of mine. A friend of my sister-in-law. But, still, even if she weren’t a friend, this is a case that deserves closure.” He flopped down on the couch, took another cookie. The gooey sweetness was comforting. “It’s frustrating.”
“Just a total random guess, but is this friend Ellie?” Kelly raised her brows as she watched him.
He snapped his head up. How had she known that? “Um. It’s an open case. I really can’t discuss it.”
She knew by his response that she was right, so she gave a nod. “Okay, don’t talk about the case.” She sat back in her chair. “Tell me about Ellie. Who is she to you? Or who *was* she to you?”
He rubbed the back of his neck. Who was this woman? “Ellie is… Ellie’s just… she’s a friend of my sister-in-law. They’ve known each other since college. Last year, she left her marketing job here in the city and moved out to some podunk cow town in Wisconsin. She runs a little coffee shop up there… when she’s not stumbling onto dead bodies and throwing herself in the way of murderers.” He chuckled. “Jeez. Sounds like a TV show, doesn’t it?”
“A bit, yeah.” Kelly smiled but then scooted to the edge of the seat as she leaned forward, setting her elbows on her knees and clasped her hands together to watch him closely. “But who is Ellie to you?” She could tell by his reaction and body language this was more than a mere friend of his sister-in-law, so she added gently, “You can trust me. Remember, I’m not going to tell anyone anything you say–ever, and after today, you may never see me again, so you don’t need to worry about anything. Here, you can say whatever you want. Anything and everything.” She say back in her seat. “I offer a listening ear.”
He sighed, rested his elbows on his knees, and looked down at his worn red Converses. “God. Ellie is possibly the most infuriating woman I’ve ever met. I guess I’ve had a crush on her since… since I first met her. That was at Dan and Kate’s wedding rehearsal.” He couldn’t help grinning. “She has an edge. In her circle of friends, she was known as Hit and Run Gooden. No guy ever managed to get more than two dates. I’m pretty sure she’s incapable of committing. Well, not to her work, she’s totally dedicated to that. But to another human being? Other than Katie? I don’t think it’ll happen.” He grinned. “So in addition to the fact that for whatever reason, I think she’s hot, she’s like this enormous challenge. A puzzle to be solved.” He chuckled, sat back and rested his hands on his knees. “I like puzzles, did I mention that?”
A warm smile spread across Kelly’s lips. “Well, that makes perfect sense! Have you even tried to approach her about how you feel?”
He laughed. “Are you nuts? I like all my parts exactly where they are, thanks.” He shook his head. “She once threatened to cut off my privates and feed them to her neighbor’s piranhas.” He winced at the thought. “And she’d do it too. Plus, she’s a witch. Well, Wiccan. She can probably turn me into a newt.”
“So?” Kelly raised her brows “I’m a Muse, got magic of my own.” She motioned to their surroundings. “And I terrify any guy who ever even tries to approach me, but there’s a trick. Don’t act on feelings. Yeah, you might have feelings, but don’t act on them. Approach her as a professional, work together, don’t try anything funny, but be sincere. It may be eventually she will see how much she needs and wants you in her life, and then you’ll be past all the danger she could present. Otherwise…” Kelly shrugged. “You’ll be just like all the other guys, not one who stands firm and challenges her even if she can literally turn him into a frog. And that would be disappointing. So tell me, are you better than all the other average guys out there? Or are you just like them?”
Damn, but this woman made sense. “That was kind of my plan. I just keep showing up. It pisses her off, but lately, she has been able to actually be civil to me for a minute or two at a time. And once, she actually called me Charlie, instead of ‘McCallum’.” He grinned. “And to answer your question, I AM better than all the average guys. I don’t bail on people. I don’t disappear when the going gets tough.” He frowned, thinking about his father. “I’m not that kind of guy.”
“So, she’s being civil with you a little more and called you by your actual name. You’re doing something right. Her anger is her defense. She’s probably flabbergasted that a guy would really be interested in her, so she doesn’t know how to respond. Usually she manages to scare them away, but she hasn’t been able to do that to you, so she’s not sure what to do. Whatever you’re doing, just keep doing it. Be patient with her, be reassuring. Don’t ever expect anything from her and let her know that, but do try to be there for her.” Kelly then smiled as she sat back in her seat and nodded at him. “I think you might be surprised.”
Then she glanced at the clock on the wall. An hour had already passed, and she sighed, shaking her head. “Unfortunately, our hour is up.” She rose to her feet. “I’m sorry if you didn’t get to talk about what you wanted to talk about, but…I think we discussed something very important, don’t you?” She tilted her head as she observed him.
He gave a little laugh, grinned. “Um, yeah. Although… frankly, I still don’t know why I’m here. I thought maybe Katie might have wanted me to talk about what happened on the Force, but…” He shrugged, then climbed to his feet and stuck out his hand to her. “Thanks. What you said… it makes a lot of sense.”
She shook his hand. “I never know what these conversations will be about, and if you ever want to come back and talk about what happened on the Force, I’d be happy to listen. In the meanwhile though, good luck with Ellie.” She offered him a warm smile. “And take the cookies.”
He gave a little fist pump. “I was gonna ask if I could take one more. This is even better. And hey, if you’re ever in Chicago, I can hook you up with a table at one of the best jazz clubs in the city. Just give me a holler!” He picked up the remaining cookies and shoved them in his jacket pocket. “Thanks, Kelly! You’re alright.”
She grinned at him. “Thank you.” With that she escorted him to the door and watched him leave. The conversation likely covered nothing either of them had expected, but Kelly could never predict the direction of these conversations. She merely hoped he’d walked away with something worthwhile.
Hope you enjoyed that! It was so much fun to do. And be sure to check out Restless Natives – An Ellie Gooden Mystery on Amazon. Plus… coming soon (end of May) will be Book 2 in the series, Office Heretics! Thanks!