Q & A with Ellen LaCorte – author of ”The Perfect Fraud”

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Release Date: June 18, 2019

Harper

A Book Ending So Good, Even Psychics Can’t Guess It

A new domestic thriller, THE PERFECT FRAUD, by re-careering writer Ellen LaCorte is a hit with fiction readers. The story centers around a female psychic named Claire, who comes from a generation of gifted psychics. The problem is that Claire isn’t one of them. Although she’s trained in psychic trade craft such as reading Tarot cards, she mostly fakes it—that is until she encounters a sick child who needs help.

THE PERFECT FRAUD has received rave reviews – including from psychics. “The book is based on an actual psychic shop in Sedona, Arizona where I lived for 25 years,” said LaCorte. “The owner of the shop read the book and liked it a lot. She told me she couldn’t guess the ending. That’s quite a compliment coming from someone who can see into

THE PERFECT FRAUD was a Publishers Weekly staff pick for Best Books of Summer.

Two strong heroines are at the core of Ellen LaCorte’s gripping debut novel THE PERFECT FRAUD — two very different women but with equally powerful secrets who are thrown together by an unexpected meeting that plunges both their lives into chaos. But it’s a sick little girl whose fate hangs in the balance. LaCorte does a masterful job revealing secrets slowly and methodically so that readers are kept guessing until the very last page.

About The Book:

Medicine and the supernatural intertwine with dramatic consequences in Ellen LaCorte’s debut novel, The Perfect Fraud. Claire Hathaway comes from a family of professional psychics. But Claire hides a shocking truth: she doesn’t really have “the gift” like her mother and grandmother. The psychic readings she gives clients at Mystical Haven in Sedona, Arizona are complete frauds.

Her path soon collides with Rena Cole, a divorced mother and avid mommy blogger anxious to help her sick four-year-old daughter, Stephanie, who is plagued by a mysterious stomach ailment. When local doctors can’t seem to find what’s causing Stephanie’s distress, Rena packs up and moves across the country to consult a special doctor in Phoenix.

A seat change on an airplane brings Rena and Claire together. Neither of the two women think much of the other. But when Clair experiences real paranormal visions the two women become unlikely allies in a battle with evil that could determine young Stephanie’s fate.

About The Author:

Ellen LaCorte worked for many years in HR.  She now writes full time from her home where she lives with her husband in Titusville, New Jersey. They have two grown sons.

Becoming an author is a second career for LaCorte, or a re-career as she calls it. Her professional career–until landing a book deal–was as a human resources director for several universities including Rider University in New Jersey and Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

“I worked in HR while pursuing a master’s degree in English and an Ed.D in Higher and Adult Education Administration at Arizona State University and enjoyed a long and happy career in human resources. If there is a better field than HR to gather information for stories about human behavior, I don’t know what it is. People will do some amazing things and I’ll always be grateful for my time in the profession and have stored away memories to use in my writing for decades to come.”

Although many of LaCorte’s favorite books have other-worldly themes, it was the author’s husband who introduced her to the psychic world. “This was back in 1971 when we first met. I always find this funny since my husband, by profession, is a CPA accountant. He’s a levelheaded, reality-based kind of a guy but he’s always had a fascination with the things we can’t know for sure–like aliens and psychics. We’ve gone to many readings and some have been phenomenal. Others have been, well, pure hooey. It was a visit with a particularly opportunistic psychic that had me considering writing the novel.”

LaCorte says she worked hard to get her manuscript perfect before approaching agents. Her tips for aspiring writers: read in the genre you wish to write and participate in a writing group where you get honest feedback. Among her favorite books are those by Jane Austin. “I wrote my Master’s Thesis about her so all her books are at the top of my list.”  Other favorites include those with mystical underpinnings, such as The Time Traveler’s Wife, Dogs of Babel and Like Water for Chocolate.

Contact Ellen:

https://ellenlacorte.com/

Instagram https://instagram.com/ellen_lacorte_author

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EllenLaCorteAuthor/

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Ellen graciously took time out of her busy tour schedule to answer a few of my questions:

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How did you come up with the idea for the book?

I had an “interesting” experience with a psychic I visited about seven years ago.  After a sort of mediocre reading, she turned to me and said, “From the cards and my reading, I can see that you’re not giving enough to your marriage.”  

She must have seen the disappointment on my face because she continued, “But, don’t worry.  For $450 I can help you. I’ll be your soul sister and can not only fix what’s going on your marriage but also lift you to a higher spiritual plane.”  Fortunately, I gathered myself up and left.

After, I was crying and telling my husband about it, apologizing for what a rotten wife I was.  He assured me that I was giving plenty to the marriage and after I calmed down, I thought, wow, what better way is there to get to a woman (and her wallet) than by telling her she’s not giving enough.  It got me thinking about psychics and how some of them do what they do and that led me to developing one of the two main characters in the book, Claire Hathaway. For the other character, Rena, without giving anything away, let’s just say I’d been collecting articles for years about stories I found interesting, squirreling them away for possible use in a book.

What was the process like to get “The Perfect Fraud” published?

I’d actually written two books before TPF.  The first one was like the first pancake – you, know, it didn’t come out quite right.  But I did get a call from a great agent who praised the writing and the fact that I had switched careers from Human Resources to Author but then said, “Don’t go out with this one.  Shelve it and start another one.” So I did. With the second one, which is actually a precursor to The Perfect Fraud, I did secure an agent who did a great job marketing it to the large and mid-size NY publishing houses but it didn’t sell.  It’s disappointing but that’s the reality: many agented books do not sell. Part of the difficulty was that I don’t think that this book was as good as it needed to be to get traction and also that this agent was a children’s books agent who didn’t have the best targeted contacts in the market.

I was ready to give up.  After all, I’d had a wonderful 30 year career already and as you probably know, the writing/agenting/publishing route can be positively soul-sucking.  But I decided to try one more time and using everything I learned from writing and marketing the first two, I started on TPF.

I knew this one was a whole different thing from the beginning.  I was getting a lot of requests for full manuscripts. Informed by my business background, I had a methodical way of approaching the submissions process (documented research into agents who represented my genre, spread sheets, etc.).  At the last minute I decided to also send query letters to those agents who had seen the second book, liked it, but ultimately passed. One of these was the magnificent Molly Friedrich. By the time she and I met in NYC (she first took my manuscript with her to her daughter’s wedding in Italy!), I had had two other offers for representation but there was no doubt in my mind that Molly was the person to shepherd this book on its way.  

We became partners in May of 2018 and by the first week in July, she had The Perfect Fraud sold to HarperCollins!

What has been your favorite part of “The Perfect Fraud”  book journey from inception to release?

What’s amazed me the most is how collaborative the whole process has been.  You hear horror stories of books that are submitted and by the time all the editing is done, they come out completely different from the original story.  Molly and Lucy of The Friedrich Agency and I worked together for a month or so making some edits and there was never a sense of a forced march where they demanded and I acquiesced.  Same with Sara Nelson, my editor at Harper. She and I met for lunch shortly after I signed with the publisher and had an open and FUN conversation about sections of the book that she felt needed work before publishing.  She made suggestions, I countered. I floated ideas and she added to them. It’s been a wonderful back and forth all the way and a process that, I truly believe, only made the book better than it was.

The second part is how fantastic it’s been to go on this ride with my family and friends who have been so supportive and enthusiastic and loving through all the stages.   

The cover of your book is striking! Did you have input into the final decision?

As with the editing, this was truly a collaborative event as well.  And we got incredibly lucky. The graphics department submitted the stock photo to us based on what they perceived as Claire’s character and “look.”  They were right on target and all of us (Sara, Molly, Lucy, Harper’s marketing team, and I) agreed and we never needed to look at another picture. I’m so pleased with it and have received multiple favorable comments.  Really stands out on a shelf too!

Is there a new writing project that you are working on?

I have some ideas but this has been a summer of full time marketing.  Hopefully, by the fall, I’ll begin the next book. Sara and Harper would like for me to continue to include some kind of psychic element and I’m all in favor of that.

What do you think makes for a good thriller novel?

I would consider The Perfect Fraud in the category of domestic suspense but I think all genres within the thriller category can best be served by fully developed characters.  I recently wrote an article for Suspense Magazine http://suspensemagazine.com/blog2/2019/06/30/summer-2019-issue/  discussing this.  I believe that in order for readers to become fully invested in what is happening (a murder, a missing person, espionage in the Capitol), they need to really know the characters.  It’s important as I read that I get a sense of the human behind the action, the likes and dislikes, a personal history so that I can better understand what motivates them. What might make someone who seems so docile suddenly decide to exact revenge in a particularly heinous way on some dark and stormy night?   That’s what fascinates me.

 

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