Interview: Elaine Viets

Please welcome Elaine Viets, author of the Dead-End Job series and the Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper series.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
Breakfast in bed, long walk on the beach, lunch by the water with friends, a good mystery to read icar-photo1n the afternoon and dinner at a favorite restaurant with my husband, Don Crinklaw.

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Does a black ’86 Jaguar with a red leather interior count? Black Beauty is the other love of my life.

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
Mark Twain, the best humorist America ever produced, and a Missourian. His writing is still graceful and timely.

Sister St. Bernard, a nun at St. Thomas Aquinas High School, who let me writer a column for the school paper called “Under the Influence of Brandy.” Brandy was a school mascot — a St. Bernard. It was a god awful column, but I was bitten by the writing bug.

Agatha Christie. Still the Queen of Mystery.

Do you listen to music when you write?
No, just the sounds of the boats and the water. I live on the Intracoastal Waterway.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
Dark chocolate, with nuts. I savor the deliciously dark craziness of South Florida.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?
I wanted to boardstiff2write about Florida’s tourist industry. Not the big beach hotels that look like the tombs of the pharaohs, but the small companies that rent the jet skis, the parasails, and the paddleboards. I saw a story in the Sun-Sentinel about how the competition is so cutthroat some of these companies sabotage one another, especially before spring break. It was just a show step from cutthroat to murder in my book.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
Adultery, blackmail and betrayal.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Helen Hawthorne made six figures in human resources at a corporation. She was a corporate nun who worked long hours. One day she came home early and her husband, who was supposed to be working on their back deck, nailing their neighbor, Sandy.

Helen trashed his Land Cruiser with a crow bar, then divorced him. The judge awarded him half of her future income. Helen vowed the man who betrayed her would never see another nickel and took off for South Florida, where she worked low-paying jobs for cash under the table.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
Janet Evanovich meets “The Fugitive”

If you could host a mystery-author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?

  • Agatha Christie
  • Conan Doyle
  • Michael Connelly
  • Harlan Coben
  • Harley Jane Kozak
  • Charlaine Harris

What’s next for you?
More of the work I love. I signed a contract with Penguin for two more Dead-End Job mysteries and two more Josie Marcus Mystery Shopper mysteries.

I also host a weekly half-hour talk show — the Dead-End Jobs Show — on Radio Ear Network ( REN is Internet radio in 148 countries.


Board Stiff, Elaine Viets’ new hardcover mystery, is the ultimate beach book, set in the cutthroat world of catering to tourists. The New York Times Review of Books praises her “quick-witted mysteries.” Elaine’s bestselling Dead-End Job series is a satiric look at a serious subject – the minimum-wage world. Her character, Helen Hawthorne, works a different low-paying job each book. Elaine’s second series features mystery shopper Josie Marcus. Elaine won the Agatha, Anthony and Lefty Awards.

Twitter: @evmysterywriter
Book trailer: BOARD STIFF
Dead-End Jobs Radio Show archives:


8 thoughts on “Interview: Elaine Viets”

  1. HI Elaine! I think a Jaguar can definitely count as a signature accessory. =) I would love to live on the water – if I wasn’t completely paranoid about flooding. And I think we all have those “god-awful” writing experiences in our past, don’t we?

    Thanks for stopping!


  2. Your book sounds great. Can’t wait. Plus a radio show. Cool. We have a friend who lives on the Intracoastal, too. I love to visit. In Denver, I get lonely for water.


  3. I have enjoyed both series and look forward to reading the next in each! Thanks for the wonderful interview. Your dinner party sounds fabulous…and your car is so pretty.


  4. Hi Elaine…I want a Jaguar for a signature accessory! Congratulations on the new book deals.

    Glad you mentioned Agatha Christie. Her books were my first adult reading experiences (starting in sixth grade), and to say they influenced me would be an understatement!


  5. Elaine, that car is so you! (clearly we’re all drawn to the car…) How much do I love “big beach hotels that look like the tombs of the pharaohs” — so so much. You’re a crack up. LOVING your BOARD STIFF, and happy to hear many more are in the works!


  6. What a fun interview! Thanks for visiting. I’m so curious to read this series–I love the main character’s motivation leading her to such a major life change. And yes, I like the car, too.


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