Friday, July 17, 2015

Interview with Author Elizabeth Varadan

Today, I have an interview with Author Elizabeth Varadan. Elizabeth has written a Middle Grade mystery ‘Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls.’ After I had read and reviewed Elizabeth’s previous book ‘The Fourth Wish’ I had become a huge fan of her writing. Her latest book didn’t disappoint.

Q. Tell us something about yourself?
A. I’ve loved to read and write from an early age, but I only had time to write full time once I took early retirement from teaching. All through college and teaching, I scribbled mainly short stories for adults. But after teaching eight-to-twelve-year-olds for several years, that age range seemed imbedded in my mind, and I started writing middle grade fiction.

Q. What was the inspiration behind Imogene and the case of the Missing Pearls?
A.  I’ve loved mysteries since I was a kid. When I was ten (and an avid Nancy Drew fan) I had a favorite fantasy of being a detective named Imogene and even started a detective club with friends. So, when I decided to write this story, the sleuth was ten, and named Imogene. I wanted Sherlock to be in the story, so it had to happen in Victorian London. And because  Victorian girls couldn’t go out on their own, the mystery had to happen at home. Thus, her mother’s pearls were stolen, but by whom?

Q. What made you incorporate Sherlock Holmes into the story?
A.  I discovered the original Sherlock Holmes stories in my twenties. I’ve always liked fiction set in England, especially during the Victorian Era. After I went through all of Doyle’s stories and novels, I started finding books starring Sherlock Holmes, but written by other authors as if the author were an editor publishing a new work by Doyle. (I have since learned that these are “pastiches”.) After my brother and his wife took me to the Sherlock Holmes Museum in London, I began to think, “Hmmm, maybe I’d like to write a story about Sherlock Holmes.”

Q. How did you go about doing research for this book?
A. It helps that I love research. I started out googling historical sites on the Internet, and then started writing agencies on an “as needed” basis. By the time I was well into it, I was writing letters to museum departments, shipping companies, railroad companies (for timetables in a certain year, and that sort of thing). I read more fiction and nonfiction set in the Victorian era to get a feel for the language, as well as the logistics and place names of the day, and then I looked at their bibliographies to get more sources. I have quite a library of my own, now, for future books, and a nice network of consultants, I’m happy to say.

Q. Are you a plotter or a panster?
A. Panster. I usually start out with a character that grabs me, and a problem, and I work from there. Sometimes I do have an end in mind, but that usually changes once the story is underway. About halfway through, I start “mini-plotting”, figuring out what needs to happen for something else to happen. But I have never successfully started with a plot in advance. I did plot two books once, and they are still in my filing cabinet, unwritten, because the thrill was gone. A finished plot left me feeling the book was finished. Irrational, I know, but that seems to be the way my psyche works.

Q. Any chance of turning this into a series?
A. Yes, I do have rough sketches for two sequels. (Rough sketches are as “plotty” as I get.)

Q. Any tips for writing a mystery?
A. Be flexible, and don’t get too attached to your original plan. The person you thought “dunnit” might not be the culprit after all. It also pays to read mysteries that grab you, because that’s the best way to learn what works. I do have several books on writing mysteries that I have found helpful, but one thing I notice is that they don’t all have the same approach, which is strangely encouraging.

Q. What are you writing now?
A. I’m in the rewrite of a “cozy” mystery for adults. And, as I said, I have sketches for two more Imogene books. I also have a historical YA involving a ghost that I’ve been working on for about ten years. Some books are like that. Between other books, I pick it up and work on it some more. It’s coming along, although I hope it doesn’t take another ten years.

Elizabeth Varadan is a former elementary school teacher. She taught most elementary grades, but her favorites were the middle grades, and she now writes middle grade fiction. She and her husband live in Midtown Sacramento, California, a beautiful tree-lined neighborhood with bookshops and art stores nearby. Her children’s fiction and poetry have appeared in Ladybug, Friends, and Skipping Stones Magazine. Her adult flash fiction has appeared in several online and print magazines, and her poetry has been anthologized in Vine Leaves Journal and The Stray Branch.

Elizabeth blogs at:
Elizabeth Varadan’s Fourth Wish:

Imogene and the Case of the Missing Pearls is available at:

Thank you Elizabeth for agreeing to do the Interview. We all wish you loads of luck with your latest book.


  1. Great interview. That's so cool how Elizabeth drew on her fantasy as a kid in getting her story idea.

  2. I'd love to write cozy mystery. Or just plain humor. I just admire people who write humor as IMO it's quite difficult. Wishing the author all the very best :)

    Destination Infinity

  3. I love how Elizabeth drew on her childhood and her love of Holmes to create a new story. :-D

  4. Thanks for this interview, Rachna. I enjoyed the questions. And I always enjoy your blog.

  5. Nice interview! I'm a pantser, too. Plotting and outlining have never worked for me. "Be flexible, and don't get too attached to your original plan." Great advice!

  6. I loved mysteries as a kid too! I devoured Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys novels! I love your tip about being flexible. Although I write horror, my novels always have a mystery about who the killer is, and things often change as I work my way through the story. Great interview, and wishing you both a lovely weekend. :)

  7. A very nice interview Rachna. Interesting how writers work. Differently, yet all towards the same goal: A book!

  8. Lovely interview. Thanks for posting it.

  9. Thanks for sharing Elizabeth's work with us Rachna. Sounds like she will be busy developing sequel ideas...

    I can relate to an author inspired by Nancy Drew. My love of mysteries started with the Encyclopedia Brown and then the Hardy Boys.

  10. I'm happy to Elizabeth here. She'll be on my blog next month. :) I love how she incorporated Sherlock Holmes into her story. And she's planning two sequels? Go, Elizabeth! :D

  11. That's wonderful you finally get to write now. I admire anyone who can write mysteries. Weaving one together is just beyond what I can do.

  12. Hi Rachna and Elizabeth! Great interview. I love Sherlock, too. Sounds like a cute story :)

  13. Enjoyed the interview! Thanks, Rachna, for the intro. Wishing Elizabeth all the best with her books!

  14. I love doing research. I've taught mostly middle grade and that voice and energy is unforgettable. Great interview.

  15. i love mystery, this sounds like a great mg! and way to go making it into a series! enjoyed the interview!