Of Elections and Influences: How the 2016 Election Inspired Libby Fischer Hellmann’s HIGH CRIMES

High Crimes CoverSR: What’s HIGH CRIMES about? What inspired you to write it?

LFH: How do you solve a murder when there are 42,000 suspects? 
That’s the task facing Chicago PI Georgia Davis, hired to hunt down those behind the assassination of Resistance leader Dena Baldwin at a demonstration fourteen months after the 2016 election.

I took the 2016 hard. I felt paralyzed: I couldn’t write, and I couldn’t talk about anything except the state of our nation. I probably drove away many people who previously thought I was a nice person. For a year I let my rage control me. Then I realized I was giving him too much power over me. I had joined a Resistance Facebook group a few days after the election, and one night I had the eureka moment: What if the leader of a FB group is killed? Who would have done it and why? That was enough to get me going. High Crimes was the result.

SR: Practice pitching: tell us what your book is about in 30 words or less.

LFH: A Chicago PI investigates the assassination of a Resistance leader 14 months after the 2016 election.

SR: How do you think Georgia Davis would respond if aliens landed in the center of town on page 57?

LFH: She would tell you it wouldn’t happen on page 57. It would have happened on page 23.

SR:  Georgia has to flee the country. Where are they headed to and why that location?

LFH: Canada. She can deal with frigid weather.

SR:  What conspiracy theory is Georgia most likely to believe in? Roswell? JFK? Princess Diana? What about you? Any conspiracy theories that you think might have some truth to them?

LFH: Georgia is not a conspiracy theorist, except for the JFK conspiracy, which we know was indeed a  conspiracy. On the other hand, I do believe in JFK, RKF, Martin Luther King, jr, and Roswell. Diana? No. Flimsy at best.

SR:  Is Georgia more likely to go insane or end up in prison?

LFH: Neither is an option.

SR:  Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Katniss Everdeen or Arya Stark? If your protagonist could be any fictional character for a day who would it be and why?

LFH: Katniss. She’s a loner and has serious baggage.

SR: What’s Georgia’s greatest fear? Why?

LFH: She’s already faced it – being abandoned.

SR: Was there a specific issue that really motivated you to write this particular story?

LFH: The 2016 election.

SR: Is there something you hope the reader carries away with them after they’re done reading? An insight or philosophy that you wanted to come through in your work?

LFH: That our civilized, democratic way of life is fragile and can collapse quickly when corrupt people are leading it.

SR: What’s one thing that you and your protagonist have in common?

LFH: We are both introverts at heart.

SR: If you were in an arm wrestle with Georgia who would win? What is Georgia better at than you? What are you better than your protagonist at?

LFH: She would win at arm wrestling, working out, boxing, shooting a weapon, solving an intractable case. I’m a better reader and writer – she’s slightly dyslexic.

SR:  If hell was watching one movie over and over and over again, or listening to one song over and over again, what would the movie or song be for you? For Georgia?

LFH: Me: It’s a Small World After All (song)

Her: It’s a Small World After All (song)

SR: Carpool karaoke. What would be Georgia’s song? Yours?

LFH: Mine: Al Stewart’s Year of the Cat

Hers: Landslide by Fleetwood Mac

SR:  Cage match between you and Georgia. It’s a fight to the death. Which one of you will be left standing, and why.

LFH: She would. She boxes when she works out and she’s in great shape.

SR: What’s the first book you remember reading that had a huge impact on you? How did that story affect you? How do you think it shaped your desire to be a writer?

LFH: Gone With The Wind; I don’t think it had much effect. I never wanted to be a writer.

SR:  Did you try your hand at poetry as a teenager or use stick figures to illustrate your comic books? Tell us about your early writing efforts.

LFH: I wrote a play.

SR: What do you think the hardest emotion to elicit from a reader is? Why?

LFH: Compassion – because a reader typically wants a winner and a loser, good vs evil, and compassion demands you see the humanity in everyone.

SR:  What’s the best thing about writing?

LFH: Having written

SR:  What’s the worst thing about writing?

LFH: Writing. But I love editing.

SR: What detail in your writing do you obsess over the most? Character names? Locations? Description? Dialogue? Research?

LFH: Narrative, which includes description, tone, sentence structure, and observational skill.

SR: Did you set yourself a specific writing challenge with this book? What was it, and what was the reason?

LFH: Not in HIGH CRIMES. This was personal. I had to write it to control my rage.

SR: What was your journey to publication like? What kind of obstacles did you have to overcome?

LFH: I was a Cinderella 5 years in the making. The biggest obstacle came when my first agent fired me and told me to write something completely different. I followed his advice and was published two years later.

SR: Are you drawn to things that are really popular or wary of them? Do you find it helps you to market your work if you’re familiar with what’s currently selling or do you ignore all of that and focus on what you’re interested in?

LFH: I pretty much ignore the market. I write what interests me.

SR: Do you relate more to Sherlock Holmes or Professor Moriarty? Why?

LFH: Moriarty. Definitely. I’m drawn to the dark. And I don’t think Holmes plays fair with the reader.

SR: What’s your personal life motto?

LFH: Remember the dummy.

SR: Tell us something about you that isn’t common knowledge.

LFH: I once stuck a piece of chewing gum behind a door jam on a tour of the White House. When I returned on another tour a few years later, the gum was still there.

 

Libby Fischer Hellmann - Photo Credit Michael Candee, First Light Creative

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago over 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Fifteen novels and twenty-five short stories later, she claims they’ll take her out of the Windy City feet first. 

She has been nominated for many awards in the mystery and crime writing community and has even won a few. She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony and three times for Foreword Magazine’s Book of the Year. She has also been nominated for the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne, and has won the IPPY and the Readers Choice Award multiple times. Libby hosts both a TV interview show and conducts writing workshops at libraries and other venues. She was the national president of Sisters In Crime, a 3500-member organization dedicated to the advancement of female crime fiction authors. Her books have been translated into Spanish, German, Italian, and Chinese. All her books are available in print, e-book, and audiobook formats. More information can be found online at libbyhellmann.com