Subject: E. V. Stephens
The opening credits of Remington Steele feature a voice over by Laura Holt explaining how she created her boss to get more work. With a few strategic substitutions, her monologue is my origin story: The mystery author,
E. V. Stephens…she doesn’t exist. I invented her.
I’m not a fugitive from justice. I’m not out to fool anyone. It’s just that my Eastern European bloodlines left me with a long and somewhat challenging last name. I’m very proud of that name and would’ve loved to display it prominently on a book cover, but I’m hoping to sell books, and in order to buy books, readers need to be able to spell---or at least pronounce---the author’s name, so a pen name seemed more expedient. Given my protagonist is a strong woman, my pseudonym honors three personal heroines, and while I changed my name to protect potential sales, this history is nothing but the truth.
I grew up in a time when it was actually safe for kids to play outside. We could run around like maniacs until the sun set---and we did. I also watched a lot of TV and witnessed the transition as female characters stopped fetching coffee and typing and began solving the crimes…as long as they looked pretty while doing it.
One summer when I was in grammar school, I was unhappy with the ending of a TV show I liked, so I wrote my own version of the story. Then I wrote another script with an original idea and my life changed when I realized I loved to write. This went on throughout high school, but I never did anything but file the scripts in a box until I was in college.
I’d read a story about the experiences of women who were in-country during the Vietnam War, and it inspired me to write a screenplay titled Deuce and a Quarter. I actually found an agent willing to represent me because her script advisor called my work “a powerful and sensitive story that’s a cross between All Quiet on the Western Front and Platoon.” She shopped the script to several production companies, but they passed because they knew ABC Studios had started a project with a similar premise…a little show called China Beach. Timing is everything.
I’ve always enjoyed police dramas and PI stories. I’m a fan of Sara Paretsky’s
V. I. Warshawski, and I loved Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series (and I was in love with Robert Urich when he portrayed the literate hero in Spenser for Hire). This affection served as the inspiration for Valerie Benchik and her circle of friends, and I began my own mystery novel, but a work-in-progress does not pay the bills, and I was forced to peruse the want ads. (For those of you born with a Smart Phone in your hand, these ads were printed paragraphs in a special section of the newspaper where employers described a job and provided a physical address to send a resume.)
I’d earned a Bachelor of Arts with Honors in Public Administration, so of course I accepted a job as a bank teller. The plan was to make some money while I wrote, but it turned out cashing checks and counting money was easier and less frustrating than writing. I got lazy and comfortable, and the higher up the ranks I moved at the bank, the more the book became a memory. I didn’t abandon writing entirely because once my supervisors found out I could write, they often drafted me to work on projects, and I edited employee newsletters, developed educational materials, and even created humorous rhymes for company events.
Thanks to my procrastination, the book languished in a folder on my computer for a quarter century. Then bankers became obsessed with sales, and the banking industry turned into a real life game of PacMan. My job was eliminated by an acquisition---for the second time---but it turned out to be the head slap I needed to finally get me to pursue my dream.
Moral of the story: Never give up because dreams can come true at any age.
So here I am. Guzzling caffeine and scarfing down chocolate as I spin my tales. Counting cash was certainly easier, but it was never this much fun.