In Retrospect

Today I’m pleased to introduce Ellen Larson.


I met Ellen last spring at MWA’s one-day conference, “Sleuthfest in Sarasota,” and discovered she is also a Five Star/Gale/Cengage mystery writer. Her first book with Five Star, In Retrospect, was released December, 2013.

When the two of us are in Florida (escaping the cold winters up north), we don’t live too far from each other. Her book sounded interesting, so I asked if she’d like to visit my blog once the book was available.

And here she is:

Ellen, could you please tell us a little bit about yourself?

I grew up in northeastern New Jersey (the setting for my NJ Mysteries). I’ve traveled a lot in my life, living in London, England for three years, and in Cairo, Egypt for fifteen years. I returned to the States in 2005, and these days I live for three seasons in an off-grid cabin in upstate New York. There’s no denying that the many years spent living outside my own culture has affected my writing. I often explore different cultures and social norms in my books. But the truth is I’ve always been attracted to “the other” in fiction. So much so that if I had to write about, say, an average American girl, I wouldn’t know where to begin.

When did you start writing, and why did you picked this genre?

I started my first book when I was nine and have been at it ever since. My first short story was published by Yankee magazine in 1972. Since then I’ve published in various genres, notably mystery and science fiction (and, in the case of In Retrospect, both). I know that to have a career as a writer I should pick a popular genre and stick with it, but so far I have been unable to do that. The problem is I don’t actually think about genre when I write; I think about the characters and the story I want to tell, and I am drawn to interesting structures. Genre is just a function of the best way to tell the story. My publisher calls In Retrospect, my current book, “dystopian mystery.” Personally, I think of itas “female sleuth.”

What would your “elevator pitch” be for this book?

In Retrospect is a sci-fi murder mystery, set on Earth in the distant future. It tells the story of Merit, a forensic Retrospector—someone who solves crimes by traveling back in time and literally witnessing the event. Of course nothing is that simple! Merit’s world has been torn apart by war; her state has been occupied; and she herself has been imprisoned and forced to work for her enemies. As the book begins, she learns that General Zane, the man who betrayed her people with his premature surrender, has been murdered. Thus she is being forced to investigate a crime she would gladly have committed herself.

Complicating the issue we have Eric, a former lover in league with her enemies, and Lena, a fellow student in training to be a Retrospector, now a powerful anti-science mystic.

Here’s short flashback showing Merit as a child at school, and her first meeting with Lena:

Merit swiveled her eyes as far to the left as she could, taking exquisite care not to move her head. But still she could not quite see the clock tower through the open window. She inched her chin sideways.

“Merit,” said a gentle voice. “This is meditation time.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she said.

She turned face front and closed her eyes. I am never alone. I am one with the physical universe; I am one with the light. The universe and the light interweave with one other and with me. Or at least they will when I’m attuned—if I ever am attuned, which I hope I am. Boys can’t be attuned unless you practically kill them, because their metabolism is wrong and their cells would explode like a bug when you squish it. Only girls, the littlest girls with just the right specific absorption rate can be Prospectives. I am a prospective selective. Retrospect, respect, suspect, expect, inspect, prospect, insect, introspect. She hummed happily to herself, swaying on her mat.

“Merit. You’re disturbing the other girls. I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

Merit rolled up her mat, glancing around contritely. She hadn’t meant to disturb the others.

The pale girl on the far side of the room was watching her. Merit hadn’t spoken to her in the month she’d been at the Prospectives School, but she knew who she was: Lena Salim. She was two years older, and famous for her devotion to study and willingness to help new girls who had trouble keeping up. She had broken all the records for scholastic achievement, and everyone said she was the top prospect of her year. Merit met her gaze. Lena’s blue eyes overflowed with sympathy, concern, and something else. Pity. Merit didn’t like it.

In Retrospect

In Retrospect

Thank you, Ellen for taking the time to visit my blog. If someone wants your book, where is it available?

 In Retrospect is available on-line as a hard cover at all the major book retailers, and as a Kindle title. For more information about the book, including a magnificent trailer, reviews and an excerpt, please visit

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14 Responses to In Retrospect

  1. Pingback: Step Right Up: It’s My Virtual Book Tour | In Retrospect

  2. Ellen Larson says:

    Thank you for hosting me, Maris. Looking forward to seeing you at Sleuthfest. I’ll be in your neck of the woods soon!

  3. Hi, Maris and Ellen,

    Interesting finding out more about Ellen’s novel and also the fact that she has set mysteries in my area of NJ. Best wishes.

  4. Diane Burton says:

    This sounds so interesting!

    • Ellen Larson says:

      Thanks for reading, Diane. I guess we all hope that our books are as interesting as they sound!

  5. Lucy Kubash says:

    I can imagine that your interesting life is reflected in your work. Living in other cultures would certainly give you some different perspectives. The book sounds unique and compelling, for sure.

    • Ellen Larson says:

      Thank you commenting, Lucy. Living in Egypt as long as I did has affected every aspect of my life — you see the world differently if you have lived in another culture; you recognize that experiences you consider universal are in fact just cultural, and that there are many ways to be a good human being. And of course that gives me a lot of material for characterization!

  6. Elorise Holstad says:

    Thank you, Ellen. I enjoyed reading your comments, and definitely will be checking out the web address you gave. Sounds like a good read! No doubt your book will show up on my nightstand.
    Cheers, Elorise H.

  7. Melissa Keir says:

    The book sounds interesting. Thanks for sharing and congrats on your release. I hope you did something fun to celebrate.

    • Ellen Larson says:

      Thanks, Melissa! You know, I celebrate every day, as this is my first traditionally published book. I have a permanent grin. The reviewers have been mostly kind, and it is fun to walk into a library and see your book on the shelf. Now I must go celebrate by working on the sequel!