Author recruits friend to publish first book
May 21, 2013
By Joe Grove
Issaquah resident Brenda Elser and her friend Kristin Loehrmann, of Renton, recently published their first novel, “The Case of the Halloween Heist,” a joint effort.
The book, a “whodunnit” mystery, appeals mostly to second- through fourth-graders. It seems all of the kids in the story got up the morning after Halloween and found their Halloween candy missing, replaced by dental floss. What could be more evil?
“We were working together at the time and we had gone on some long walks together, and we had some joint ideas,” Elser said of when they started writing the book. “I started the first chapter and then passed it over to Kristin.”
They didn’t pass it back and forth chapter by chapter.
“We would write whatever inspired us and usually pass it to the other with a cliff hanger,” she said.
Loehrmann said the story is Halloween based, and there are three main characters — Ava, Robert and Lauren. Ava and her mother have a special connection and a mysterious background, as Mom is magical.
“What she does for the kids is to nudge them in areas rather than giving them all the answers,” Loehrman said. “She sends them outdoors to talk to Jack O’ Lantern, who opens their eyes to a fairy trail, and that is when they realize the tooth fairy is in on it.”
Elser said they thought they were very clever with the first draft until they sent it to the editor.
“She is a fabulous editor and her name is Pamela Greenwood,” Elser said. “She did a write up for us and asked a lot of questions. Where is this going, or have you thought of this? Mostly all the questions she asked made us think more expansively and made us think in the line of a series. The story changed a lot.”
Loehrmann said they have taken the book into classrooms to read it aloud and find that it works best with second- to fourth-graders.
“There is a particular chapter I thought was the best chapter, that kind of launched the kids into the mystery without giving too many details, and of course there was a fantastic cliff hanger at the end that left the kids wanting more.”
She said the kids would ask them for their autographs and their business cards, and ask, “When is the next one coming out?”
Elser said she goes with Loehrmann to read in classrooms.
“So far, Kristin has done the reading,” Elser said. “While she is reading, I am dramatic with my facial expressions and my exclamations, and at the end, we’ll do pictures with the kids showing what they might look like if they saw a ghost.”
Loehrmann said the kids see her around the school where she volunteers for various things, so when they show up to read, the kids say, “You wrote that? How long did it take to write something so long?
“I try to reinforce what the teachers teach, so I say we first came up with a bubble map (a type of graphic organizer for brainstorming) and then we had to revise it again, and again, and again.” She said the kids roll their eyes over the revise comments. “I tell the kids I love commas. ‘Let’s eat Grandmother.’ Or, ‘Let’s eat, Grandmother.’ My father taught me early on that the comma is a big deal.”
Both authors say they are thrilled to be writing. Loehrmann said she took to writing as a 5-year-old after she showed her artist father a drawing of a human face. Instead of telling her how wonderful it was, he pointed out everything wrong with it. At that point, she was done with art and took to writing. She wrote her first novel, “In the Way of Boys,” in the sixth grade.
“I am horrified to read it. It was a thinly veiled diary,” she said.
Elser said she, too, was writing very young.
“I was writing plays, and I would gather all the neighborhood kids together and assign them parts in my plays,” she said.
Both authors said, “You dedicate time and plug away at it if you want to do this. You put the time in.”
Their effort paid off as is evident by the reviews being posted on Amazon.com. One reviewer said, “My 8-year-old son read this book … and he loved it.” Another one said, “It’s a great book for young readers. Looking forward to the next Magical Mystery book.”
The illustrations add a comedic excitement to the book. They were done by New York illustrator Rose Mary Berlin.
“We were very lucky to find her,” the authors said. She is an experienced illustrator, and the authors located her through the Internet.
“She is fabulous,” they said. “She holds your hand and leads you along the way, and she is very enthusiastic about our concept.”
“The Case of the Halloween Heist” is the first in the “Magical Mystery Series.” The authors have two more manuscripts in the works with one ready to send to their editor.