Monday, May 18, 2009

Liz Adair Interview

I met Liz Adair online. She is a fellow LDSStorymaker. And I was fortunate to meet her in person at the last conference, though it was only for a minute. I wished we'd had more time to chat. I was very excited when she graciously agreed to do an interview on my blog.

Have you always wanted to be a writer?
I think so, but the wish expressed itself in stories and letters rather than in a spoken goal that I worked toward. You know the saying about there are three kinds of people: those who watch things happen, those who make things happen, and those who don’t know anything happened? That’s me. Clueless. I had this yen to write, but didn’t know how to do something about it. The end result was that I began writing seriously when I was almost fifty years old.
Tell us a little bit about your new book.
It’s called Counting the Cost, and it’s based on family history. In fact, the pictures on the front are photos of the people whose lives are shadowed in the book: my Uncle Curtis (Heck Benham in the book) and the woman he married. Set in the depression, it’s about a New Mexico cowboy and a socialite from back east who fall in love, and marry. Their disparate backgrounds, along with some unwise choices, make for a bumpy road, and it is only when tragedy strikes that what is truly important becomes apparent. It’s a lot different from my first four novels. The book is available at or from the publisher at

Tell us about your other books.
My first three were part of the Spider Latham mystery series: The Lodger, After Goliath, and Snakewater Affair. The hero is Spider Latham, a fellow who worked as a millwright for twenty-five years before the mines closed and left him and most of the county unemployed. Feeling lucky to be offered the job of deputy sheriff, he takes it and must solve any mysteries without benefit of forensics because the county can’t afford much more than gas and oil for his cruiser. The Spider Latham books are out of print, but they can be bought used on line. My next book, The Mist of Quarry Harbor is a romance/intrigue. It’s set in Phoenix and the San Juan Islands off the coast of Washington and tells the story of Cassie Van Cleeve, a young woman who marries a charismatic stranger and then must travel far away to discover who he really is. This book is available at Deseret Book’s online store at The book I’m proudest of—besides Counting the Cost—is Lucy Shook’s Letters from Afghanistan. My mother lived in Afghanistan from 1965 to 1970, and while there, she ran a small hotel/restaurant for the Agency for International Development (AID). She had fifteen Afghan men who worked for her, and she became very involved in their lives and wrote long, descriptive letters home about her adventures. My daughters and I edited her letters and published this book, and revenues from book sales help fund microloans for poor women in Bolivia. You can learn about the book at and find a link there that will take you to the web site for Serving Women Across Nations (SWAN), .
What inspires you and motivates you to write the very most?
Do you know, I don’t think I can answer that. I write because I must. I’ve always been that way. As I go through old boxes of keepsakes, I’m constantly finding letters I wrote long ago—rambling, involved sagas—that never got mailed. I think communication with a friend wasn’t as important as putting words, any words, on paper.
Is there an established writer you admire and emulate in your writing? Do you have a writing mentor?
I don’t read a lot of contemporary fiction. In fact, I don’t read much fiction at all, because I have no will power. When I begin a story, everything else in my life goes on hold until I finish, so I limit myself to nonfiction, mostly. However, when I used to read fiction, I loved Georgette Heyer for her dialog. I appreciated C. S. Forester’s hero, Horatio Hornblower, because he was so human. I’m a Tony Hillerman fan, too. My mysteries have been compared to his, which I take as a great compliment.
Location and life experience can sprinkle their influence in your writing. Tell us about where you grew up and a little about where you live now - city? Suburb? Country? Farm?
I was born in the Southwest, and spent a lot of my childhood there, and I think that has had an influence on my work. Most of my books are set in the high desert, though I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest for the last thirty-odd years. I write about small town people, because, aside from six years in the Los Angeles area, I’ve lived in small towns and villages all my life. We moved to this area so we could have a small hobby farm and ended up in an ungainly-looking house that had a huge barn. We milked cows and raised pigs, chickens, horses and burros. We put up hay, and I made butter and cheese and canned anything that grew. What a great way to raise a family! I still smile when I think about it. If you could live anywhere you want to live, where would that be? Right where I am. We’ve downsized now and moved to the edge of a small town. The flood plain is a block away, so it’ll always be open to the south of us, to the river and the hills beyond. It’s quiet and peaceful, and I have grandkids nearby. It doesn’t get much better than that.
Bring us into your home and set the scene for us when you are writing. What does it look like? On the couch, laptop, desk? Music? Lighting, handwriting?
Bring you into my home? Are you kidding? I don’t know if you remember the comedienne Phyllis Diller, but she used to say that she cleans her oven when it gets down to where she can only bake one cupcake at a time. My office is like that, and I’d be embarrassed to have anyone come in and see it. Even my husband avoids the area, afraid he’ll get lost amid the crumpled up paper and stacks of books. However, I do have a system, and I can usually find any document I need.
Do you watch television or movies? If so, what are your favorites? Do they inspire your writing?
Currently, I’m a fan of Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and Castle. I watch The Closer when it comes on, and Sunday night we always watch Sixty Minutes and then Masterpiece, and we’ll often catch American Experience. That’s about the extent of TV. I’m pretty selective about the movies I watch. I read reviews and then try to remember them when the DVD comes out. I think the last movie I watched in a theatre was Master and Commander. TV and movies are completely entertainment. They don’t inspire me, but I find that as I become a better writer, I’m much more critical of the writing on TV and in the movies.
How has being published changed your life?
Not much. Writer is at least fifth down on the list of how I define myself: Child of God, Wife, Mother, and Member of Construction Management Team all come before Published Writer. Maybe there are a couple others stuck in before writer, too. Young Women’s Advisor and Choir Director? Probably.
Do you have any book signings, tours or special events planned to promote your book that readers might be interested in attending? If so, when and where? Also tell about your blog and website.
I’d like to talk about a special event where I’ll be handing out lunches. It’s on June 6 in Sedro Woolley, Washington. It’s a charity Century Ride to raise money for microloans to poor women in Bolivia. A Century Ride is a non-competitive 100 miles. This one runs a fairly flat course along the beautiful Skagit River and then out to Padilla Bay on the sea. There’s also a 60 mile ride and a 10 mile family fun ride. Go to to find out about it. As far as a special event to promote my new book, we’re in the middle of one right now. Because Counting the Cost is based on my cowboy Uncle’s life, we’re sponsoring a Roundup of Memories contest. It’s a win-win situation for everyone who enters, because even if you don’t win one of the prizes, you will have written down a memory for your posterity. Go to my blog at to read about the contest.
Thanks, Liz! You're an extraordinary woman!


  1. Thanks, Kathi, for the interview on your blog. I love the look of it--it's so cheery and inviting.

  2. Thank you for the interview, Kathi and Liz. I get to know you both better through your questions and answers.

  3. Great interview, Kathi. You drew out so many interesting facts about Liz. She is indeed much more than an author. I reviewed "Counting the Cost" and it is an excellent, very engaging book. As Liz said of herself, I got lost in it and everything else was set aside until I was finished.

  4. Thanks, Marsha and Laurie for stopping by. Liz is a fascinating person, who leads a most interesting life.

  5. I just read your interview with Liz Adair. I met Liz at the LDStorymakers conference. We were sitting next to each other on a panel. Didn't have much time to visit, but just by sitting next to her, I felt I already knew her, just not all the great things I read about her in your interview.



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