Interview: Elizabeth Heiter

Please welcome Elizabeth Heiter, author of Hunted, Vanished and other works.

What’s your idea of a perfect day?
A perfect day to me is sitting out in the sun, by the pool, with a cup of coffee and my computer. I like to go for a swim, Vanished_Front Coverthen sit under an umbrella and work on my book. I was actually visiting my mom at her house, doing this very thing, when I got the original call from my agent that I’d sold my first two books a few years ago!

Do you have a signature accessory, color, fragrance, phrase, or meal?
Hmmm…I’m not sure that I do. However, I love the color red, and I love Chanel Chance perfume, which I wear somewhat regularly. As for a meal, does chocolate count? If you asked my friends and family, they’d probably tell you that I have some unusual phrases, but I don’t have a “catch phrase” per se. I think I should create one! Since I write suspense, perhaps something along the lines of “I know the best ways to dispose of a body. But it’s just for a novel, I promise.” It’s a little long, though, so I’ll take suggestions!

Excluding family, name three people who either inspired you or influenced your creativity.
There are so many! Okay, just three… Suzanne Brockmann is an inspiration to me. Years before I sold, when I met her at a book signing, she gave me some advice about persevering that stuck with me very strongly. Another inspiration is Ruth Ryan Langan – she belongs to my local writer’s organization and has just passed her 100th book, yet she’s one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth authors I know. A third is Tom Clancy. I discovered his books in high school and plowed through them – I had always been a huge reader, but I found his mix of research and suspense fascinating.

Do you listen to music when you write?
I do listen to music. I put my 2,000 or so songs on shuffle and start writing. A few paragraphs in, I’ve usually tuned it out completely, but it gets me started. It’s definitely become part of my process.

If your latest book were chocolate, what kind would it be and why?
My latest book would be a dark chocolate truffle, with a layer of deeper chocolate inside, and a raspberry center. It’s got a lot of layers to it, and it’s dark, but it has hope.

What made you interested in writing this particular story?

When I was creating my FBI profiler heroine Evelyn Baine for my debut novel, Hunted, I really delved deeply into the research. The more I learned about her job, the more I realized what a difficult thing it would be to do every single day. So, I wanted her to have a very personal motivation that drove her forward. I decided her best friend Cassie had been abducted when Evelyn was twelve and was never found. And also that Evelyn was supposed to have been taken, too, and no one knows why she wasn’t. That gave Evelyn the motivation to be a profiler, and for book 2 in the series, Vanished, I wanted her to have the chance to finally discover what had happened when the Nursery Rhyme Killer returns.

What themes do you regularly (re)visit in your writing?
I’m fascinated by the theme of redemption. Evelyn has survivor’s guilt, and she’s a tiny, biracial woman in a predominantly male profession, so she’s constantly trying to prove herself – to others, but deep down, to herself. I play with that theme in my romantic suspense trilogy as well (The Lawmen series, which comes out back-to-back-to-back in February, March, and April). It’s about three friends who made a pact to join the FBI after one of them was attacked by the Fishhook Rapist. Ten years later, they might have the chance to bring him down for good.

Tell us about your main character’s psyche or personality. What led her (or him) to be the person s/he is today?
Evelyn was deeply impacted by her friend’s disappearance – something that led her to become a profiler for the FBI. When she was ten, she moved in with her grandparents and met Cassie – bittersweet, but something that really formed the person she became. Her grandparents were the stabilizing influence in Evelyn’s life, and although her grandpa is gone now and her grandma has dementia, Evelyn takes care of her now. It’s one of Evelyn’s few immediately obvious soft spots, because she’s very driven, very work-focused, and some of the events in the first two books force her to open up to people more.

Describe your protagonist as a mash-up of three famous people or characters.
She’s got a little of Clarice Starling’s natural profiling skill, some of Temperance Brennan’s social awkwardness, and a lot of Maura Isles’s grit (despite a difficult past).

If you could host an author dinner party, who are the six writers (living or otherwise) you’d include?
Wow, this one is hard! Although it would require some serious smelling salts, I think I’d include Emily Bronte, William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, the Grimm brothers, and Daphne Du Maurier.

What’s next for you?
Vanished, in which Evelyn Baine finally gets the chance to find out what happened to the best friend who disappeared eighteen years ago – or become the next to vanish – releases Dec. 30th. After that, I’ll have three books in a row in my Lawmen series (a romantic suspense series from Harlequin Intrigue) in February, March and April. And sometime in fall 2015, the third suspense book in my Profiler series will release. In it, what looks like a typical investigation for Evelyn lands her on the wrong side of a hostage situation and in the middle of an emerging terrorist threat.


Elizabeth Heiter likes her suspense to feature strong heroines, chilling villains, psychological twists, and a little bit (or a lot!) of romance. Her research has taken her into the minds of serial killers, through murder investigations, and onto the FBI Academy’s shooting range.

Elizabeth graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English Literature.  She’s a member of International Thriller Writers and Romance Writers of America. Fresh Fiction called the heroine of her Profiler series “…one of the most amazing characters created in print…”


12 thoughts on “Interview: Elizabeth Heiter”

  1. Thanks for visiting! I love that you give the character an answer to the original question–what happened to her friend. As a reader, I hate when questions remain unanswered too long. She sounds complex enough to have LOTS of great stories to come.


  2. Thank you so much, Mary & Pamela – and thanks for having me here to visit! I love writing about Evelyn – so far, I know there will be at least 4 books with her. I’m working on the third in the series now!


  3. Thanks, Theresa! It’s funny to have such an iconic profiler figure in Clarice – who wasn’t even an agent yet! Eveyln actually does work for the FBI’s BAU and she doesn’t seek help from a serial killer, but she’s a natural profiler because of her own demons. And the research? So, so fascinating!


  4. Love the truffle with all the dark and enticing layers! Your books sound very interesting with the mix of suspense and romance, and I look forward to checking them out!


  5. Great interview! I’m excited to read your books (any protagonist with a touch of Clarice Starling is someone I’d like to meet). Am impressed that you can juggle different series at the same time. Do you write one book at a time or have different ones going simultaneously?


  6. Thanks very much, Cynthia! It ends up being a bit of both…I try to only be actually writing one book at a time, but I’m always editing the previous one and plotting the next one while I write the current book! Going back and forth between the series has kept them feeling fresh! 🙂


  7. Thank you, Kait! When I was doing the research about what it took to be a profiler – and really digging into those details – it occurred to me what a difficult job it was and how easy it would be to burn out. So, I wanted Evelyn to have a deeply personal motivation for the way she did her job. I loved letting Evelyn finally solve the case!!!


  8. Just finished Vanished. Couldn’t wait to read it after having read Hunted. Great work! My head is filled with thoughts from the stories. Love your writing


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