BLOOMFIELD HILLS — Ever since childhood, all Elizabeth Heiter wanted to do was become an novelist — even though it meant turning down a scholarship to law school to pursue her dream.
The Groves High School graduate recently fulfilled a lifelong goal with the publishing of her novel, “Hunted” — the first of five that will be published by Harlequin MIRA through 2015. Heiter will debut “Hunted” during a launch party at Books-a-Million in Beverly Hills Jan. 4.
“My family has been very supportive of me my entire life, even though I did not take the traditional path,” she said.
“A lot of writers get that: people telling them writing is just a hobby and they need something real to do. I’ve never heard that from my family.”
Heiter, who graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in English literature, said suspense has long been her favorite genre. Pair that with her appreciation of a strong female lead, and you have Evelyn Baine, a rising-star FBI criminal profiler and heroine of “Hunted.”
“I think there are too many suspense books where the man is the hero and the woman is just there to be a love interest,” she said.
“As a woman, I like reading books where women are strong and can take care of themselves — women who aren’t necessarily perfect, but who are strong and capable. Profiling really fascinates me, so I put (Baine) in the FBI.”
In “Hunted,” Baine is on the trail of a serial killer known as the Bakersville Burier, who hunts young women and displays them, half-buried, deep in the woods. As the murders continue, Baine’s relentless pursuit puts her career and her life in jeopardy.
As part of her research for “Hunted,” Heiter joined a writers organization for a trip to FBI Headquarters in Quantico, Va., where she was able to fire weapons on the range, see simulated arrest scenarios and investigations, and walk through actual FBI cases and proceedings.
“It was fascinating,” she said.
“I wanted the details to be accurate, so I talked to as many people as I could. They’re very willing to help. It was very enlightening.”
Heiter said that while she doesn’t necessarily have a favorite lead character, she appreciates them for different reasons.
“Baine is quiet and competent, but she’s not the greatest person, socially. Even though she can profile everyone in the room from just a short conversation, she’s kind of a loner. I identify with her and like her for her tenacity in situations where she is uncomfortable,” she said.
“The lead in my other book (“The Disarming Detective,” due out in March 2015) is a lot more outspoken — she’s a totally different character. She was a lot of fun and easier to write, because she said what she thought and she was a go-getter. But it’s hard to pick a favorite — for me, that would be like picking a favorite kid.”
And while Heiter credits her lifelong love of reading as the genesis of her writing career — “I’ve got four bookshelves that are jam-packed, and loads of books in my closests. I’ve run out of space!” — she finds it difficult to credit any one book or author as her inspiration.
“I love to read across genres, from Shakespeare to Tom Clancy. I just love getting lost in stories.”
Prior to signing with Harlequin, her manuscripts were finalists in the Golden Heart, Marlene, Daphne Du Maurier and Golden Gateway contests, and she was the 2010 winner of Suzanne Brockmann’s Haiku Contest.
New York Times bestselling author Brockmann praised “Hunted” in a statement as “an excellent thriller, fast-paced, with a memorable cast of characters.” Author and fellow Times bestselling romantic thriller author Allison Brennan also lauded the book as “a great read.”
“A gripping, page-turning debut by a talented new voice in suspense,” she wrote.
A member of International Thriller Writers and the Romance Writers of America, Heiter said she highly recommends joining a local writers organization.
“They have a lot of information on the craft and the business that can be hard to get elsewhere, and the camaraderie is very useful,” she said.
For other aspiring writers, she has this piece of advice: Keep at it.
“I was rejected hundreds of times before I signed with my agent, and even after that, there was a lot of interest in the novel, but it didn’t sell,” she recalled.
“I kept going and kept writing. Now, I’ve sold five novels, and only one is written. The biggest thing is perseverance. It is the difference between being published and unpublished. Just keep at it.”
Heiter’s launch party takes place at 2 p.m. Jan. 4 at Books-a-Million, 31150 Southfield Road in Beverly Hills.
For more information, visit www.elizabethheiter.com.
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