Monday, November 25, 2013

Mysterious Time Travel with Guest Author Ellen Larson

My guests have been exploring time and space all month, and today Ellen Larson takes on the topic from a new angle, talking about her dystopian murder mystery involving forensic time travel. Cool! Ellen is offering a signed first edition hard cover of her book In Retrospect, and for a mysterious number of other winners, sets of seven postcards featuring art from the very cool trailer. You can check them out here. Leave a comment - you just might be a winner!  ~ Sheila

In Retrospect: Time Traveling Mystery

by Ellen Larson

Sheila’s blog is the first stop on a virtual book tour in celebration of the publication of In Retrospect, my dystopian murder mystery. It’s a deeply rewarding moment for me, and has me thinking about beginnings, and about where this book began.

Every book starts out with the germ of an idea, one that is often invisible or wholly absent from the end result. A germ can be a situation, a character trait, a plot twist, or even a clever structure. With In Retrospect, it was a rather annoyed determination to create a character—a very negative character—who could in no way ever in a million years be confused with me.

Thus was born Merit Rafi, protagonist of In Retrospect, whom we meet at the rocky bottom of a long and painful fall from her former high status as an elite Forensic Retrospector, one of a handful of investigators who can travel through time. Merit has lost her family, her colleagues, and her country. But most of all, Merit has lost her self-respect. She has been broken by her enemies an become the thing she most detests—a traitor to her beliefs—and is now faced with the ultimate choice: whether or not to time travel for her enemies.

Curiously, as I developed Merit’s sharp-tongued personality and tested her character as she struggled to find a way out of her dilemma, I learned something about myself. Digging into Merit’s desperation, searching for the essence of what made her tick, I found a spark of hope that would not be extinguished. The truth was she had never really given up. Which led me to realize there was no point in trying to deny my own positive inner belief in the value fighting the good fight; it is what I write about and who I am.

In this way, though Merit is indeed very different from me, she is perhaps at her core more like me than any other character I have ever created. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

A stately room. Black-lacquered cabinets flank a massive desk. Maps and oil paintings hang on pale green walls. Burgundy woodwork. Globe, grandfather clock, and fireplace with brass andirons cast in the shape of lions, teeth bared. A room steeped in the past. Except in the sunny east bay, where a closet-sized polyhedron floats a handsbreadth above the carpet. Three men in sage-green uniforms will stare at the Vessel. One, a sneering rat of a man, will peer through the open hatch and see the sole of a boot. “Is she dead?” he will ask, hopping closer to get a better look. “Back off, snitch!” The man with the sentry’s insignia on sleeve of his beefy arm will step in front of the hatch and shove him back. The snitch will stagger against the clock, but he has seen enough. He will grin as he straightens the curved blue half-shield that covers his forehead and eyes. “I knew she’d botch it. I told her—I warned her! Skank. Who’s a heap of dung now?”
See the trailer for In Retrospect here.  

Related links:

Ellen Larson’s first story appeared in Yankee Magazine in 1971. More recently, she has sold stories to Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine (Barry Award finalist) and Big Pulp. She is the author of the NJ Mysteries and a sci-fi novella, The Measure of the Universe (“Engaging read for language lovers” -Booklist). Her current book is In Retrospect, a dystopian mystery (“Carefully crafted whodunit” -Starred PW). Larson lived for seventeen years in Egypt, where she worked as a substantive editor in the field of economic development and developed a love of cultures not her own. These days she lives in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York, enjoying the solitude.


Are you shopping for gifts yet? 
Dogs, cats, birds, murder - and money for animals!
From now through Dec. 20. my local Indie bookstore will donate 
10% of sales of autographed copies of my mysteries, 
and my nonfiction books, including RESCUE MATTERS. to support 

Australian Shepherd Rescue & Placement Helpline
(which I have supported for many years)
Golden Retriever Rescue Club of Charlotte
(where we adopted our lovely Sunny, shown above)


another group of your choice
(which a few limitations)

Please share. Woof! Meow! Squawk!

And Happy Thanksgiving!

~~ Sheila


  1. Glad you discovered Merit's strength, Ellen. Sheila, thanks for hosting this!

  2. I love what Ellen has to say about the evolution of her character, connecting the end result to her own personality and beliefs. To me, self discovery is what writing is truly about. You go, Ellen. Can't wait to read this book. jd

  3. I love how you discovered that in Merit, and within yourself. Well done! I'm so glad Sheila had you stop by on your blog tour.

  4. Glad you folks are enjoying my observations. Thank you, Sheila! You've made me feel very much at home.

  5. Hi, Ellen,

    I know how thrilling it is to see one's writing in a hardcover edition. Congrats on receiving such excellent early reviews for your sci-fi mystery. It sounds like a most intriguing novel.

  6. Ellen, IN RETROSPECT looks so appealing, both the trailer and the excerpt I read on Amazon. I'm really looking forward to reading it.

  7. As my writing partner has often told me, we reveal a lot about ourselves through our writing. I think it's very difficult to keep our core values out of our characters because it's what feels most comfortable to us and it's the POV that is most the natural. But I agree with you - there's nothing wrong with putting a piece of yourself into your own writing.

    Looking forward to the 1st! :)

  8. I'm for an autographed copy! :D ... It is hard for a writer to separate her core values from her characters, no matter how hard we try, a little bit seeps through from the fourth wall.

  9. Thanks, all. Enjoyable as it is to write a book, it's always fun to read what other people think about the result (even when it pinches).