Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Jump Cut by Libby Fischer Hellmann @goddessfish @libbyhellmann


Tell us about a favorite character from a book.
My new release, Jump Cut, features Chicago video producer Ellie Foreman. She’s part of the sandwich generation – she has a daughter and a senior citizen father. Her father, Jake, is probably the most favorite character I’ve ever written. He’s the only character I’ve created who basically writes himself. Whenever he comes onto the page, he steals the scene. He’s funny in a Mel Brooks sort of way, wise, and adores Ellie, his daughter. At the same time, he’s not afraid to criticize her when he thinks she’s acting impulsively or sliding into danger. He’s a widower, and he lives in an assisted living apartment, but his health, apart from his advanced age, is pretty good. In fact, Jake preceded Ellie… he was featured in a short story I wrote called “The Day Miriam Hirsch Disappeared” set in 1938 Chicago. Jake is only 16 in that story, but it was that story that sparked the idea for my Ellie Foreman series in the first place.

Where do you dream of traveling to and why?
Where don’t I want to go? Well, probably to central Africa. And I have no big desire to go to Japan. But places I do want to go: The Amalfi Coast because of its beauty; Sicily because I want to see where the Mafia began. A Greek island or two; Eastern Europe, including Russia, Serbia, Rumania, the Ukraine, because of the history; Turkey and Iran, because of the history as well; Australia, because it’s so like us and yet so far away; North Africa, because the culture of morocco and Egypt and even Tunisia sounds fascinating; Montana and Idaho, because I’ve never been to those states. Is that enough?

Has someone been instrumental in inspiring you as a writer?
Interesting question. For years I didn’t know. I could always tell you how and when I started: it was February, 1996, just after my father passed away. We went to DC (that’s where I grew up) for the funeral, and after we came back, I went down into my basement. I emerged four months later with the worst mystery that’s ever been written. No really…. it was baaaad. But I had caught the writing virus. Three novels later my writing improved to the point where I was published for the first time.

Then, about eight years ago, I was watching the news. A story came on, and I experienced one of those smack-yourself-on-the-forehead, how-could-I-have-been-so-stupid moments. You probably remember the story—about O.J. Simpson and how he’d been arrested in Vegas for trying to steal his own memorabilia.

Back then I was free-lancing, and I had a flexible schedule. So I was able to watch a lot of the trial. I remember being glued to the TV, and what I remember most was the theater: a hideous crime, a compelling story, eccentric characters, drama, conflict—in other words, everything you could want in a crime novel.

Then there were the forensics. I knew nothing about police procedure --  and less about forensics. DNA tests, blood spatter, the bloody glove, the footprints. I was fascinated  that crimes could actually be investigated in a systematic way. And when the defense suggested that some of the evidence had been mishandled—maybe even manipulated—it played to all of my conspiracy theories.

Finally, of course, there was the denouement in October 1995. How absolutely noir an ending! The victims are denied justice. The bad guy goes free. Raymond Chandler or Ross McDonald couldn't have done it better. OJ was acquitted in October, 1995.

It doesn’t take much to connect the dots, does it? But it wasn’t until twelve years after that, in 2007, when O.J. was arrested in Vegas, that the light bulb flashed. THAT’s why I’m writing crime fiction. But   who wants to give the devil his due? Still, if I’m honest, thirteen novels later, I have to admit that this devil changed my life. 

Do you have critique partners or beta readers?
I’m in a writing group – have been for 16 years, and they’ll take me out of it feet first. In fact, they deserve most of the credit for the fact that I got published in the first place. That’s where I learned most of the craft of writing crime fiction, what works, and what doesn’t. And while there are certainly times I haven’t brought my best thinking to the group, it has become a good way for me to ‘give’ back to other members in the group.
Still, a writing group isn’t for everyone. The most important question to ask yourself honestly is whether you can take constructive criticism. If you have a chip on your shoulder, or you think your prose is perfect, don’t join a group. It won’t go well.
I also have beta readers. There are 3-4 writers I send my manuscript to, and they are very read it through and make suggestions. The more critiques I get, the better.

How do you describe your writing style?
Emerging. Even after 15 years, I’m still honing my writing. I try to make my prose more concise, find the perfect verb, and embed a kind of rhythm to a sentence. I’ve made progress, but I have so far to go. It doesn’t help that I second-guess myself constantly, ie, I’ll think “That’s okay… but does it sing?” Not to be trite, but I guess it’s the journey we’re all on. The destination is less important than the roadmap.

What are your favorite TV shows?
With all the choices from Netflix, cable, and Amazon these days, I’m binge-watching all the time! Here are my favs:

n  Homeland
n  A Place to Call Home: It’s an Australian series set in the 1950’s that you HAVE to watch. It’s just wonderful!
n  House of Cards: For the schadenfreude of it all
n  The Americans: It grows on you
n  Jane, The Virgin: I know… doesn’t really go with the others, but I just think it’s adorable
n  The Good Wife: this is the last season, so I’ll need something new soon.

What was the scariest moment of your life?

Actually, I have several experiences from which to draw:
— I was caught in a fire in my apartment building and had to run down a smoke-filled staircase
— I was mugged in downtown Chicago with my daughter at Maggiano’s (although the fear didn’t start until after it was over)
— I was in —um—an altered state in rural New Hampshire— and thought I was about to be locked in a closet that was part of the Underground Railway
But the absolutely positively scariest thing in my life happened over forty years ago in Washington, DC. Yeah, I know. The entire city is probably the scariest place on earth these days, but…
I had just gotten my drivers’ license and was driving my mother’s car. She had a blue ’65 Mustang convertible, btw, which, at the time, was one of the most awesome vehicles around. It looked a lot like this:

So, of course, I borrowed it as much as possible. It was October or November, and I was trying to get to a friend’s house in Rockville. It was after nine PM, dark, and I had been cruising around the Beltway. Now, you’ve got to remember this was just after the Beltway opened, and they were still working on some of the entrances and exits. Drivers too (well, okay, me) were still getting familiar with the road. Also remember, this was pre cell phones, texts, and GPS.
I’d only been on the Beltway once or twice before, but with a typical teenager’s arrogance, I was sure I knew where to go. Turned out I didn’t. Somehow I went in the wrong direction. I kept waiting for a sign for Bethesda or Rockville. Instead I started seeing signs for Virginia. After about ten miles I realized I was going the wrong way and decided to get off at the next exit, turn around, and backtrack.
However, I didn’t pay attention to the sign when I turned off. Suddenly I was on an empty road. It was well paved, but there were no other cars on the road besides me. In addition, there were no lights, no houses, no stores or shops, not even any farms. It was just a dark road with no signage. Worst of all, there were no exits OFF the road. It was like being on a road to nowhere. Like this

I kept going for another ten miles or so. Still no exits. No intersecting roads or highways. No lights. No one on the road but me. No signage. The only way to go was forward. By now it was about ten PM, and I started to shiver. Where the hell was I? Where was I going? I sped up to about 80 mph, thinking that would do something.
It didn’t.
I kept driving. By now, I was terrrifed. I decided I must have landed in the Twilight Zone, and that I was never going to get out. I sped up to ninety, and I panicked. In fact, that was probably my first panic attack. At that time of night, at that season, on that road, it was not impossible to imagine some monster, some evil villain out of a James Bond movie, or some malevolent alien was after me. Tears streamed down my face as I tried to find a car, a house, some symbol or artifact of civilization.
Finally in the distance up ahead, I saw a pair of red taillights. I raced toward them, (thank god for the Mustang) and honked frantically. The guy driving the car looked at me as though I was the monster, but eventually, he must have seen my terror and pulled over.
“Where am I?” I cried. ”I turned off the Beltway and I have no idea where I am.”
He looked at me, raised his eyebrows, and said, “You’re on the road to Dulles Airport.”
Now, what you need to know is that along with the Beltway, Dulles airport had just opened, and the Beltway engineers had built a special access road to the airport. But at that time, there were no exits off it yet, and there was no development along the way. Just that two lane highway. And me. And my mother’s Mustang.
Needless to say, I thanked the man profusely, drove all the way to the airport, turned around, and came home. But I was fried, and forty years later, I still don’t like driving at night on unfamiliar roads.


Jump Cut
by Libby Fischer Hellmann

GENRE: Mystery


Chicago video producer, Ellie Foreman, has been absent from thriller author Libby Fischer Hellmann’s repertoire for almost a decade. Now she’s back...and soon entangled in a web of espionage, murder and suspicion that threatens to destroy what she holds most dear. Hired to produce a candyfloss profile of Chicago-based aviation giant, Delcroft, Ellie is dismayed when company VP Charlotte Hollander, the architect of a new anti-drone system for Delcroft, trashes the production and cancels the project. Ellie believes Hollander was spooked by shots of a specific man in the video footage. But when Ellie arranges to meet the man to find out why, he’s killed by a subway train before they can talk. In the confusion, she finds a seemingly abandoned pack of cigarettes with a flash drive inside that belonged to the now dead man.

Ellie has the drive’s contents decrypted, but before long she discovers she’s under surveillance. Suspecting Delcroft and the ambitious Hollander are behind it, she’s unconvinced when Hollander tells her the dead man was a Chinese spy. Ellie and her boyfriend Luke try to find answers, but they don’t realize how far into the dangerous echelons of hidden power they have ventured. When Ellie’s daughter is kidnapped and Charlotte Hollander disappears, it becomes terrifyingly clear that Ellie is in way over her head, and more lives are on the line, including her own.


The sun winked off the frozen surface of Lake Michigan the next morning as I drove south to McCormick Place. During one of the most brutal Chicago winters in decades, the smudge of purple clouds tinged with pink and gold hinted that the fury of winter might—just might—have peaked. I parked in the overpriced lot, bought half a dozen cups of overpriced coffee, and carried them into the massive exhibit hall.

The crew was setting up lights and shades, and Mac was behind the camera framing shots. MacArthur J. Kendall III owns a production studio in Northbrook. He started out shooting sweet sixteens, bar mitzvahs, and weddings, but parlayed that into corporate videos. We’ve worked together for nearly twenty years, from the days of two-inch video, to one-inch, three-quarter, and now digital.

Mac’s name, salt-and-pepper hair, button-down shirts, and penny loafers scream WASP, but the nasty scar running down his left cheek saves him from total Episcopalian infamy. He tells people he was attacked by a Mexican drug lord and made me swear never to reveal it was from a car accident.

I went up to him. “What do you need me to do?”

“You have the shot list?”

I nodded and pulled it out of the canvas bag that doubles as my purse. We went over it. He gestured to the main area of the Delcroft booth, which featured a large projection screen with the company logo on both sides, and about twenty chairs arranged theater-style.

“What time’s the first presentation?”

Teresa Basso Gold, our client contact, had told us to be prepared for a series of short remarks by Delcroft executives touting the company’s latest innovations.

I checked my watch. Barely six thirty. “The doors don’t open until nine, and Teresa said not to expect anyone until ten. But you can get some establishing shots, if you want.”

“Sounds like a plan,” Mac said and strolled over to confer with the crew.

AUTHOR Bio and Links:

Libby Fischer Hellmann left a career in broadcast news in Washington, DC and moved to Chicago 35 years ago, where she, naturally, began to write gritty crime fiction. Twelve novels and twenty 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. *

With the addition of Jump Cut in 2016, her novels include the now five-volume Ellie Foreman series, which she describes as a cross between “Desperate Housewives” and “24;” the hard-boiled 4-volume Georgia Davis PI series, and three stand-alone historical thrillers that Libby calls her “Revolution Trilogy.” Her latest release, The Incidental Spy, is a historical novella set during the early years of the Manhattan Project at the U of Chicago. Her short stories have been published in a dozen anthologies, the Saturday Evening Post, and Ed Gorman’s “25 Criminally Good Short Stories” collection.

More at http://libbyhellmann.com.

* She has been a finalist twice for the Anthony, twice for Foreword Magazines Book of the Year, the Agatha, the Shamus, the Daphne and has won the Lovey multiple times.


Early reviews for "Jump Cut":

"Exceptional... As Hellman’s convincing, conflicted characters face impossible choices, the tension is real and memorable."
Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Hellmann's writing sparkles...plenty of suspense in this richly detailed thriller, but Hellmann’s characteristic wit and warmth are evident, too."

"From spies to drones and hackers, Jump Cut is a heart-stopping tale of corporate espionage that will have you snapping on your seatbelt. The tangled web of international intrigue is riveting. Hellmann is a renowned master of suspense, and her great talent shows in the story’s many rich characters, the beautifully honed paragraphs, and the sweep of her provocative story. A keeper!"
Gayle Lynds, New York Times best-selling author of The Assassins

"With spooks, spies, sudden death and double-crosses, Jump Cut hits all the right notes for a top-notch action thriller. Once again Ellie Foreman is a thoroughly likeable real-world heroine, fiercely protective of those she loves, thrown in at the deep end and swimming for her life. Don’t miss it!"
ZoĆ« Sharp, author of the Charlie Fox series and The Blood Whisperer

"Welcome back Ellie Foreman! Jump Cut rockets to a stunning but thrilling climax… Another winner from the standout Chicago novelist Libby Hellmann."
Paul Levine, author of Bum Rap

"After a long hiatus, Hellmann returns to her Chicago-based sleuth with a chilling tale that may be all too close to the truth."
Kirkus Reviews

Author of Compulsively Readable Thrillers

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