Laura Elvebak – The Story Behind the Fiction

The DancerI always wanted to be a writer but first I was a dreamer and a reader. My taste tended toward great adventures and romance. War and Peace, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Nancy Drew mysteries. I fell in love with the heroes in the Frank Yerby and Sidney Sheldon books. I yearned to escape into those worlds and live with adventure and romance. I wanted to write big stories like those. Every night when I went to bed, I dreamed up a story to be continued the next night. There would be previews first, a taste of what was to come.

I read books on writing, attended university classes, and attended workshops. One lesson declared, “write what you know.” Great. I didn’t know anything. Like most teenagers I didn’t want to grow up to be normal like my almost invisible and boring parents and their friends. To be a writer, I must experience adventure and romance so I could write about them.

That’s how I met my six husbands. That’s how I got to ride on the back of a motorcycle and participate in a documentary with the Hell’s Angels. It’s why I chose a bus ride to Canada to see a motorcycle race instead of staying in college. It’s why I became a go-go dancer to support myself and my daughter.

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Philadelphia in the Sixties (As I remember it)

I am the author of the Niki Alexander mysteries, Less Dead and Lost Witness, whose protagonist is an ex-cop turned counselor for a teen shelter in the Montrose District of Houston, Texas.

Writing my latest book, The Flawed Dance, I journeyed  back in time to the late sixties when I lived in Philadelphia, and relived those years. Certainly not everything ison the page. I’m not writing a memoir. I decided this book was definitely going to be noir and let my imagination flow free.  Noir is defined by most as starting out dark and getting darker. Erin Matthews, my lovely young protagonist, makes some bad choices. They seem to make life easier at the time and be more likely to get her want she wants, but it doesn’t do her any good. Most of all she needs to survive. She is constantly looking over her shoulder expecting danger at every corner. 

When she first arrived, she had few clothes and ten dollars in her pocket. This was also true of me, with the addition of a baby who I did not include in the book for obvious reasons.  Erin was escaping from her lover, a man thirty years her senior and on the run from the mob since she met him. Before she leaves him, she tries to kill him. Luckily, she doesn’t succeed. But guilt is a formidable opponent and won’t let go easily, if ever.

She moves in with a man of color, the older brother of a co-worker in the New Jersey restaurant where they were both employed. The co-worker braves fate to drive her to Philadelphia in the hopes of getting a physical reward from her. That was not forecoming and he leaves on a sour note. It is November and the weather is cold and windy and she has only her white plastic go-go boots and some summer clothes. She’s never lived where it snowed.

Her second roommate is a flighty hippy who leaves in the middle of the night with her boyfriend to move to Alaska, taking everything in the apartment except the furniture. Erin’s new boyfriend has a solution – a credit card that he says she could use. She is arrested after trying to buy a few supplies with the card. Faced with rent, living expenses and lawyer fees, Erin becomes a go-go dancer in addition to the other jobs she has. She gets involved with the mob which really complicates her life.

Living those years again with Erin brought a new awareness to the life I am living now. Married six times, I have been divorced for over fifteen years. Those years have been busy with my children and the writing life. I am the past president of the Southwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America and serve as Treasurer and Editor of the Sleuth Sayer, the chapter’s newsletter. I am also the President of The Final Twist Writers and a member of Sisters-In-Crime and the International Thriller Writers. So I am active and life is crammed full.  I am in my sixties, but have not accepted that fact. Not physically or mentally.  I’m not near dead yet in any aspect of living or feeling.

But more about such an existence and the complications that follow in my next post.