IC Enger puts Homeland Security on Blue Ice
IC Enger lives and writes in the Seattle area. Her first book, Blue Ice, was published in July by Oak Tree Press. Blue Ice is the first of three mysteries set along the Washington/ Canadian border, involving Homeland Security Special Agent Jack Strickland and out-of-work Seattle city planner Brooke Breckenridge.
IC has lived in many different cities in the US including New York, San Francisco, Denver and Seattle, and has travelled over the world in her work. Part of her work kept her in close contact with former FBI agents and corporate security officers. “I quickly came to the understanding that although a crime might be solved outside of law enforcement by a smart, savvy civilian, it was highly unlikely. People who have been trained, who have the resources and experience, those are the people who solve mysteries.”
She currently lives in the Seattle area with her wonderful husband and two terrible cats.
Could you please start by telling us a little about yourself?
Sure, I started writing as a child, fairy tales, really bad fairy tales with no endings. I did win a writing contest in grade school and got to select any book out of the school library as a prize. I chose a big book of myths and legends with lots of color pictures, which I still have. That was the highlight until I was a young mother with two children and tried my hand at short stories. I finished one, about a baby blackbird, and submitted it to Ranger Rick Magazine. They bought it – success! Then both kids got the measles and life accelerated from there.
I finally got back to writing after I left my lucrative management job that started with a 4:30 AM and ended at 6:00 PM. I only remember seeing my children a few times during those years, much less write anything except reports. Now I write short stories and flash stories as time permits, but the thing I love the most is becoming completely captured by the characters and events in my books. I do miss the paychecks.
I have a very understanding husband who quietly goes upstairs to work on his programming or outside to work on projects while I write. Bless him! He even does the dishes. Double bless him! We’re going to spend the Christmas holidays on the Oregon coast, and I will take my laptop with me, and work on my current work in progress.
Please tell us your latest news!
Blue Ice has just been released! I’m writing a three part series that put the spotlight on Homeland Security ICE and a couple of very interesting special agents. The first book, Blue Ice, has been published and the second book, Green Ice, is in work. I believe that writing the book was easier than coordinating the web site, blog, Facebook, book signings, and all of the other promotional activities that go along with a book launch. Why did no one tell me this? Oh, right, they did – why didn’t I listen?
Please describe your writing environment.
I live in the Seattle area where I hang out at the lake as much as possible and often write on my little netbook while sitting in the middle of a bunch of ducks. Gaggle? That, of course, is during the warm, dry days of summer, approximately two weeks. The rest of the year I write at home where I have all the conveniences and no ducks.
How much research do you do for your books? Have you found any cool tidbits in your research?
I do tons of research since it’s possible that someday, someone from Homeland Security will read one of the books. I had better get it right. I haunt the agency sites and chat sites as well as speak in person to representatives of both civil and government law enforcement agencies. My experience has been that these folks are very happy to inform me, and the readers, about the real job they do. They spend hours of their precious time talking with me and answering questions on all sorts of topics that I might need in the story.
Here’s a cool tidbit – Homeland Security Special Agents are operating all over the US, not just at the borders, and they have a wide latitude in the types of crimes they can investigate. One of the quotes from one of the sites I visit says it all, “People don’t have any idea who we are or what we do, until we get interested in them.”
More on research, my husband and I are travelling up north to Okanagan county in a week to scope out the land and lakes in the fall, as opposed to the summer. The personality of the area changes with the seasons and Green Ice takes place in September and October. My books take place on the Canadian border, just a little farther north from Seattle, and just a little different.
What main genre do you write in?
I write mystery stories with a strong law enforcement element and a bit of romance. I believe the strict lines that delineated genres of the past are morphing into new ways of telling a compelling story. Readers have become more vocal in their preference for a multi-dimensional story, and writers are freed to let a story unfold, as it needs to, without worrying overly much about crossing the lines between mystery, romance, historical fiction, fantasy, and the other established genres.
I enjoy writing mystery stories because I love to create a puzzle that the reader will try to figure out, but will still be surprised by the solution if I’ve done my job well. Of course, there is also the Sisters in Crime organization’s saying, “Every good book deserves at least one dead body.” Without the crime, there is no puzzle. Without the romance, there is no sizzle. I like to have both.
If you had to choose one person to have dinner with, who would it be? And why?
I would like to have dinner with Alexander McCall Smith, the author of The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books. His writing, although prose, comes closer to poetry than many poets achieve. I read his books to relax and to become completely engrossed in the worlds and the mood he creates. They force you to slow down and feel the heat of the sun. I think he must also be a gentle soul, a genuinely nice person, a person who looks for the goodness in everyone he meets. There is no other way he would be able to write as he does. He is, what I like to call, “a soft place to fall.”
Oh, and I’d like to have dinner with Tom Selleck, because – well just because he’s …. so …. darn …. sexy. Can I have two dinners? <wicked grin>
What is your writing process? Do you outline, fly by the seat of your pants or a combination of both?
I always start with an outline and good intentions. I take part, just a word or two, of that outline and grow it into a few sentences. There is no dialogue yet, just description – “They are out on the lake in a boat fishing. Jack’s phone rings.”
Those sentences are then worked into a paragraph, and at that point the story often takes off in a different direction. At the same time, I am developing a timeline, keeping the days of the week lined up with the action. By the time I get through the whole story with these descriptive paragraphs, bits of dialog have been creeping into my mind. I capture these on any piece of paper that’s handy at the time. You can imagine what the house looks like at this point.
By the time I’m ready to actually begin writing the book using my scene paragraphs as a guide, I already know what the bones of the story line are; the story goal, the villain, the red herring, the black moment, and the climax. My research is also mostly complete at this point, and I am ready to populate the story with color and personalities – this is the fun part. During this process I can be very caught up in the book to the exclusion of almost everything else, and if a story element doesn’t hold together, I change it on the fly.
I like this method, it works for me, and with it there is no such thing as writer’s block. I always know what part of the story needs to be worked on any given day, and the timeline keeps me from wandering too far afield. I think each writer has his or her own method, one that works well for him. The key is, discover what works for you. How do you know when you’ve found it? It will feel natural and the words will flow.
What do you do on a typical writing day?
I usually warm up with correspondence from my e-mail and web site, and then do any bit of research that needs to be completed for the portion of the book I am working that day. I start writing by ten or eleven o’clock and write straight through to dinner, about six o’clock. Actually, I take numerous little breaks to see what my husband is up to, look outside, wander around the house and otherwise give my brain a break. I always have music on while I write, and have it loaded onto my laptop in case I’m away from home. It helps the words flow and distracts the part of my brain that tends to censor each word or scene.
I am worthless after seven, unable to put a good sentence together. Anything I do after seven results in re-work in the morning. I usually flop on the couch after dinner and surf the TV channels looking for a Tom Selleck show.
Can you please give us a sneak peek at any of your upcoming books?
Green Ice is the next in the series, and it focuses on the US and Canadian border once again. This time the focus is on chemical terrorism and human smuggling. Interestingly, there is a large problem with human smuggling across that border, but not a lot of publicity. Most of the attention is directed at the Southwest border.
The main characters from Blue Ice will also be in this next one; Special Agent Jack Strickland, Shadow Wolf Ed Red Wind, Brooke Breckenridge and Sheriff Callahan. A new element will be the local Catholic Church with a couple of Priests and Sisters. Victims, heroes, or a bit of both? The people who are falling prey to the smuggling operation are Ukrainian women and men, so I have had to learn the customs and accent for that community. As always, the action takes place at Three Cranes Lake, and the Makkapitew mountains. The neighbors and town people from Blue Ice will also be in this next book, except for those I have killed off or sent to federal prison in the previous book. So yes, there will be some new neighbors.
What would be the best way for readers contact you? Do you have a website? Email address? MySpace site? Blog? Message Board? Group?
I have a website, http://www.thelakehousemysteries.com/ which also has my blog as a selection on the site. I’m also on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/IC.Enger.Author and I can be e-mailed at email@example.com.
Also check out my blog at http://www.thelakehousemysteries.com/blog.html
When did you first decide to submit your work? Please, tell us what or who encouraged you to take this big step.
I was attending a Police Writer’s Conference in Las Vegas last year, my first time attending, and I didn’t know anyone. A woman came and sat at my little table and asked me if I had written anything. I told her the story line for Blue Ice, and how it approaches bio-terrorism from a different angle. She invited another woman to sit down, introduced her as a publisher, and had me repeat the story line to her. It turns out that the first woman was Marilyn Olsen, an editor, and the second was Billie Johnson, publisher for Oak Tree Press. I submitted the story and Oak Tree agreed to publish. Whew! I call that just plain luck. I don’t win things like raffles or door prizes, and I never play the lottery, but that conference made up for all the Thanksgiving turkeys I never won.
A much anticipated new start for Brooke Breckenridge erupts into an explosion of murder and international intrigue when she travels from Seattle to an isolated lake on the Canadian border to find seclusion and healing. Strange and dangerous things begin to happen, soon events at the lake house attract the attention of Homeland Security Special Agent Jack Strickland and she finds herself entangled in suspicion, crime and dangerous attraction.