Name: Erika Mitchell
Where are you from: I grew up in southern California, but I’ve lived in the Seattle area for the past sixteen years.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc:
I hold a Bachelors degree in Psychology and I have two children. I’ve been married to my husband for ten years. We met at a Red Robin (I prefer my true love with a side of fries). I play clarinet in my spare time, would eat chocolate for every meal if I could, and love animals. If I could have any super power, I would read minds.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
Bai Tide came out earlier this year. It’s the first book of an espionage series featuring CIA case officer Bai Hsu. He’s a second-generation Chinese American with a law degree and sarcastic streak. Bai Tide is the kind of book I’ve always wanted to read and I’ve been pleased with the reactions I’m getting to it. It’s always exciting to take a gamble on something different and have it work out!
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I was born into writing, I guess you could say. My mother is a writer so perfect grammar and spelling were a requirement for me growing up! I’ve always enjoyed telling stories (including stories that, uh, weren’t exactly true when I was a kid), but lost the knack for it when I was in high school and college. Thankfully, I found my way back to it after I graduated.
Fiona: When did you first consider yourself a writer?
That’s an interesting question. To me, I think a writer is anyone who writes. I didn’t feel like a writer until I wrote my first novel in 2008, and I didn’t feel like an author until my first book was published by Champagne Books. It felt so good to see it on digital bookshelves after all those endless rounds of revisions and edits!
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
NaNoWriMo. I have a friend who’d been reading my blog and he invited me to do NaNoWriMo with him. It was such a blast! The novel is terrible of course (I had no idea what I was doing), but that feeling of accomplishment when I finished it is something I’ll never forget.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
I feel like my writing is very conversational. It’s definitely meant to be, “Of this age.” I’m not trying to write the Great American Novel, I’m trying to entertain. I love research, but my main gaol with every scene is, Is this interesting? If a character, bit of research, plot point, etc. isn’t interesting, it gets cut right away. Life’s too short for boring books.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I originally titled my manuscript Bai Tide as a bit of a joke, actually, but the title felt so right my publisher and I agreed it should stay. All the titles in the series will be a play on words like that. The next one will be called, Take the Bai Road.
Fiona: Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?
Not really. As I said, my main goal is to entertain. If I can help someone pass some pleasant hours in my novel, I will consider my job well done. If pressed, however, I would say that it was a pleasure getting to share some of the realities of life in North Korea with readers.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic?
The sections set in North Korea are as realistic as I can possibly make them from here in the United States. I’ve read every memoir and article and watched every documentary on North Korea as I can. As for the espionage stuff, I researched it as well as I could but ultimately I am a layman and I’m sure I got things wrong. Again, my goal wasn’t perfect realism. As far as I can tell, real life espionage can be quite boring and monotonous. I wanted the fun and repartee of a James Bond movie with the explosions of a Michael Bay movie, and I think I accomplished that.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
Nothing is ever written in a vacuum, and my writing is not immune. Bai is similar to me in many ways, as well as being inspired by one of my favorite friends, but he’s his own man in the ways that count. When I came up with Bai, what interested me in him as a character was the idea of a guy who gets into espionage for the right reasons and finds himself changed by it over the years. A good man who lies, cheats, steals, and kills for a living. Who might he turn into?
Fiona: What books have most influenced your life most? a mentor?
The Poisonwood Bible changed my life, as well as my understanding of many of the things I’d assumed to be true. Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files opened my eyes to the possibilities of sarcasm in the written word, and his writing advice kept me going when things seemed impossible at first. My writing mentor is KSR Burns, whose novel The Paris Effect has been out for about a year. She’s an excellent writer as well as an excellent editing partner. I’m lucky to know her.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I’m reading The October List by Jeffrey Deaver. It’s a suspense novel written in reverse! A really interesting approach, I’m confused by it but enjoying it quite a bit.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
I just read B.J. Novak’s collection of short stories, One More Thing, not too long ago and really enjoyed it. Ted Kosmatka is not exactly new (he’s three books in), but I read his first novel right after it came out and was hooked immediately.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Honestly? Right now I’m just trying to keep up with my kids and my recovery from surgery earlier this year. I hope to return to book two of my Bai Hsu series soon, however, so we can keep the spy fun going.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
The Pacific Northwest Writers Association has been an incredible source of support! They taught me how to write a novel, connected me to my publisher, and are kind enough to invite me back to give seminars on pitching your novels. I can’t praise them enough!
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It depends. If you want to be published, you absolutely have to look at it as a career. Writing, however, can be a hobby for sure.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
No! No, no, if I ever had any doubts I would’ve changed them during the thousands of rounds of revisions we went through before it came out!
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I had this great group of friends in elementary school and we would take turns writing parts of a story together. The more random the better. It was so much fun, I looked forward to my turn every time. I was hooked!
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
In book two of the Bai Hsu series, Bai finds himself embroiled in the deadly world of Mexican drug cartels. He’s assigned an off-the-books mission to investigate a ghostly new cartel who’s making waves even though no one’s even heard of them. It’s undoubtedly his most insidious, dangerous mission yet.
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Revision and edits. Ugh, they drag on forever and are such a challenge! I love writing first drafts. Revising them, however, is a massive pain.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite author right now is Jonathan Kellerman. I’ve been reading his work for years and I love how he paces a story. He worked as a therapist for years and his insights into the human mind are such a fun addition to his thrillers.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Not so far. I’ve been to New York City for a writers conference, and I occasionally drive to other cities to teach classes, but other than that I stay pretty close to home.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
Two different artists who work with my publisher designed my covers.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Trying to figure out how to escape from North Korea. Oh my gosh, that literally kept me up for a few nights.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
It was a privilege to learn more about what the people of North Korea live with in that backwards country. It made me infinitely more grateful for the freedom and safety we live with here in America.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Just have fun. Seriously. Write what you want to write, don’t worry about whether it’s publishable. If you like explosions? Blow stuff up. If you think grocery store clerks are overlooked, make one a hero. Enjoy your writing, tell the stories you enjoy telling, and worry about the rest later.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Truly. It is no small thing to support someone’s dream. I hope you enjoy!
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I remember loving Dr. Seuss as a kid. That, and the Serendipity books. I loved them!
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Almost everything makes me laugh. I love to laugh! Seeing other people cry makes me cry, and I always tear up at emotional movies. I have a rule: Do not, under any circumstances, ruin my cry at the end of a movie.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I feel like Mark Twain and I would’ve gotten along well. I would also love to meet Joss Whedon someday. He’s one of my favorite modern storytellers and it would be incredible to have a chat with him one day.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
No headstone for me, thanks. I’d like my ashes spread off the coast of Catalina Island, so they can hang out with my Dad’s ashes. If for nothing else, I’d like to be remembered for my laugh. I want my friends and family to remember how much fun we had laughing together.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I enjoy exercising, playing my clarinet, and would ride horses more often if I could. I’ve been known to knit, I quite enjoy coloring, and I love taking my gun to the shooting range.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
I’m a huge fan of Firefly, Scrubs, 30 Rock, Arrested Development, Parks and Rec, and Mad Men. I love a good disaster movie, abhor most Rom Coms, and have yet to watch a spy movie I haven’t loved.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
I live for chocolate, my favorite color is yellow, and my favorite music is Radiohead and Elliott Smith.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would’ve made a great band teacher! I loved high school band and would love to pass that enjoyment on to the younger generation.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?