Location: La Quinta, CA
Age: “I’m certainly old enough to be on the site.”
Marital Status: Married
Education: University of Leeds
Elizabeth Adler could be a character in an Elizabeth Adler book. In her best-selling novels, celebrities and detectives fall in love and solve mysteries across multiple continents. In real life, Adler met her husband while living abroad in London just before he was whisked to Rio for a big job. With the help of a powerful stranger, he soon sent for her, and Elizabeth arrived sitting next to the First Lady of Brazil. It’s not hard to see where she gets her inspiration.
In the years since, Elizabeth and her husband have lived all over the world, raised a daughter, and Adler has published over 20 books. Her goal: Taking her readers along for a romantic, scenic ride.
Tell us about your courtship with your husband. It’s practically out of a romance novel.
Richard and I met in London and fell madly in love after three months. We were very young and very broke. Richard was offered a job in Rio. I thought I would never see him again. We wrote to each other; telephone then was very difficult. And then one day he called me in the middle of the night. He said he’d been to a party and he was talking to a guy who asked him if he had a girl, and Richard said yes, he did. And the man asked, “Well where is she?” Richard said, “She’s in London, I can’t afford to bring her over here.” So the man said, “Well do you really want her here? My family owns the airline.” It was Panair do Brasil, which is Varig Airlines. “And I’ll send her a ticket.”
And it gets better, so to speak.
There I was, swept off in the middle of a terrible winter in London. I was the only first-class passenger. The stewardess said, “We have to make an unscheduled stop in Paris, somebody is getting on.” On swept a woman in a black taffeta evening gown with a huge neck of emeralds—absolutely dazzling. Of course I said, “Well who is that?” And someone said, “That’s the president’s wife.”
All true? You are an author, after all.
My life’s been like that. We’ve lived in so many places and done so many things. But it all comes out in my books, I guess. I must have stored it all in the computer in my mind, and bits of it emerge, I’m quite sure.
How much of your books is made up, and how much is inspired by your life?
Well, I don’t use real people. They’re all figments of imagination. My first book was completely away from my life. First of all, it took place in the fin de siècle.
Where do you get your ideas?
It’s just something that happens. I usually start with characters. Usually a female character, because I’m a female, I guess. I draw somebody with circumstances that might be intriguing—with a mystery attached to her, or an event that happened that was destructive, and she has to find her way out. Always a murder mystery.
What interests you about murder mysteries?
A nice girl like me? I grew up loving detective novels. Now when I write, I create the mystery first and I think, “Okay, this is a great mystery.” Then I have to figure out how and why it happened, and who did it. I don’t always know at the beginning.
So the plot carries you along.
I do an outline of three or four pages because I need to know basically where I’m at. But it does take over. It changes by the day.
How did you know you had become a professional author?
Publishing your first book is always exciting. It was published in England originally. Seeing your book in the windows.
Did you always want to be an author?
My goodness, I couldn’t think that far, no! I How can you? I know people do say, ‘Well, I’m going to be a writer.’ But I never said that. I said, ‘I think I want to write a book.’ But then you have to sit there and do it. And some days you’d rather clean out the refrigerator. I’d never thought of myself as having a career—I just thought about that book I was writing.
What’s a typical workday like for you?
I write a book a year, so I have to be very disciplined. I don’t get up at a particular time, but I’ll have my cup of coffee. I’ll read the newspaper. Then I’ll sit in front of the computer and re-edit the pages I’ve done before. Then I’ll start on the new pages—sometimes I’ll work on an idea I had the night before. It’s a strange thing, but when you are in this creative mode, some of your best thoughts come when you’re in bed at night. You wake up and think, “Oh my god, that’s the answer to that.” I discovered the hard way that if you don’t get up and write it immediately, you can’t remember it the next morning.
When does your husband get to take a look at a book you’re working on?
I print out my pages and I edit them in pen and he very nicely puts all the corrections on the computer, and gives me the printouts, and I do the whole thing again. Editing is a major part of writing. You have to self-edit always, always, always. I must edit each page ten times.
Your upcoming book is called From Barcelona, with Love. Can you tell me about it?
It’s about a young woman who’s a singer/actress/celebrity—the hottest ticket in town. But she’s arrested on suspicion of murdering her lover and his girlfriendd. They never prove anything, but she’s forced to give up her young daughter and disappears to Barcelona. A private detective meets the daughter when she’s seven years old, and she tells him what happened. He goes to Barcelona and has to solve the mystery. It involves romance, bad guys, good guys and children—who I like writing about. And hopefully a happy ending. I think it’s a happy ending.
Do you like happy endings?
I like satisfactory endings. I think you have to have the arc there, you know? I don’t like leaving people unsettled.
What attracts you to writing about foreign locales?
I like the emotional quality of a city. The way it feels on the streets—the cafes, the restaurants, the stores, the food. I want you to take you there with me. I think that’s what my readers enjoy. They say to me, “I could never get to Paris, but I was there.” I love that about writing.
Who do you read?
I love Pat Conroy. There’s an opening passage in The Prince of Tides that I must have read ten times for the sheer beauty of his prose. I read a lot of biographies and autobiographies.
Which was the last?
The Ducchess of Devonshire, by Deborah Mittford. About her childhood and her life when she became Ducchess. Wonderfully written. Very anecdotal. Great fun.
Favorite place in Southern California?
The beach. It’s like getting to the edge of the world. I suppose having been brought up in a small country like England, it’s just incredible to stand there and see this great rolling ocean.
The Ivy at the shore. It’s still Old Hollywood in a certain way. There’s another one called Giorgio’s—a tiny, tiny place a little further down the coast towards Santa Monica. A funky, low-key, very showbiz place. You could be sitting next to Tom Cruise, but it’s easy, not flashy.
Who is your favorite doctor?
He’s an internist. I think he’s a genius: Michael Brousseau. UCLA.
How do you rejuvenate?
I go to France. Give me Paris every time. I’m quite happy to sit, do my journal, drink a glass of champagne and watch the world go by.