Interview with Elise Kuder


How did you become a writer?

While I’ve always enjoyed writing, I never dabbled in fiction. Four years ago, my partner and I adopted a feral cat with Cerebellar Hypoplasia from the streets of Queens. Her determination and spirit inspired me to imagine what her life might’ve been like before meeting us. What was her story? As she became more comfortable with the other adopted cats at our house, they formed quite the mischievous gang, their escapades providing the perfect playground for my creative writing. I remain grateful to them always—Alvin, Wiley, and Yuki. 😻


What inspires you to write?

I adore reading. Growing up in a small town, it was a safe place for me to escape, travel, and learn; it still is. My favorite books often involve mysteries and historical fiction, especially secrets from the past. I hope I can create a little of this mystery and magic for young readers today. I also like to draw connections from pieces of history to relevant current issues; readers can consider what has changed and what further work must be done toward equality, justice, and preservation of the planet.


How do you develop your plot and characters?

Intensifying the conflict and stakes in my plot lines is an ongoing lesson for me. I use the Save the Cat beats as guidelines, spending a lot of time mulling over twists. I live for a good twist. As for characters, people-watching is wonderful. I also compose letters/emails from the POV of each character. What are their secrets, fears, hurts, desires, deceits? Be specific! Lastly, I go for walks in the woods. An idea usually pops out from behind an old, maple tree. As might bears…


Could you share some of your challenges as a writer?

First drafts. Sigh. While I love the magic of unexpected surprises on the page, my favorite part of writing is revising. When not writing, I play in a professional string quartet and have similar issues. The older I get, the more ‘meh’ I grow regarding sight-reading/improvisation, preferring the moment we dig deep and figure out our motivation for every note—what kind of vibrato to use, bow stroke, dynamic, emotion, texture, structure, pacing, timing, etc. That’s when I feel the most free and alive. It’s been satisfying discovering analogous tools in writing. However, I’d love to allow myself more joy during messy first drafts. Live a little.


Tell me about your protagonist. What's your favorite trait and/or weakness?

12-year-old Eliza is curious about everything, not wanting to be tied down. Also, she’s got a nice snarky, stubborn sense of humor. She’s fun to hang out with. I wish I’d had her sass when I was younger.


How does your antagonist create conflict?

I’d say my main antagonist is time: the 100+ years since a girl disappeared mysteriously from Alderlay Manor with seemingly no trace, and the dwindling amount of time Eliza has to solve the case and save the Manor, present day. There may also be a menacing ghost lurking…


What are your current/future projects?

A fun, diverse, multigenerational cast of small town detectives emerged from my first mystery, with Eliza as the lead. They enjoyed themselves so much, they’ve demanded another caper! Also with a dramatic secret from the past. While centered (again) in their cozy, quirky New England town, this adventure takes them on a historic ride to 18th and 19th century Sri Lanka, Mongolia, and the Trans-Siberian Railroad. I’m excited!


Do you have a routine you follow when writing?

I used to love writing in coffee shops, pre-pandemic. I miss the people-watching, hubbub, and elaborate specialty drinks! Currently, I try to write most days at home or outside. If I feel uninspired, I read for about 20 minutes and drink a lot of coffee. That usually does the trick—I’m compelled to compose. If not, I just keep reading. And drinking coffee.


Do you have any advice for aspiring writers?

That would include me! Keep reading! Read your faves and analyze how they do the things you like. Craft books/writing classes are great resources for this kind of research. Also, expand your trusted community of writers—you will be a lifeline/support for each other. And, of course, keep experimenting and playing. I look forward to reading all of your books!


What is your preferred method for readers to get in touch with you?

Twitter and Instagram @EliseKuder or my website www.elisekuder.org

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