Leonie Gant is the author of the Not in Hollywood series; here is a link to her website:
Q: What is the Not in Hollywood series about?
A: The Not in Hollywood series are cozy mysteries which follow the assignments of Trudie Eyre. Trudie works in Hollywood as a personal assistant/disaster prevention specialist. She is hired for celebrities, by their management, to not only be their assistant, but to also try to head off any public relation disasters that these people may get involved in. During the course of some of these assignments, Trudie has discovered that she has a tendency to find dead bodies, much to the dismay of her boss and her friends.
Q: What inspired you to write the series?
A: I have written stories since I was a child, but have always put them aside. I started reading ebooks several years ago and I found myself gravitating to self-published authors. It was during this time that I read about Liliana Hart and Jana Deleon, two authors whose books I read, and their stories about self-publishing. It inspired me to go back to writing. The story about Trudie came to me when I read an article about personal assistants for celebrities. The stories just flowed and before I knew it I had written three books. It took me a while to gather the courage to self-publish but when I did it was an amazing feeling of accomplishment. I had always wanted to be an author and when people actually started reading and enjoying my books it fulfilled a childhood dream.
Q: What makes Trudie Eyre worth reading about?
A: Trudie Eyre is a small town girl from Australia who had her life mapped out for her until one incident turned it upside down. She had to look inside herself to find the strength to start again. She needed to find new dreams and follow them. I think that’s important. It is great to have dreams and goals but life rarely works out as planned. Trudie is adaptable to new situations. She works in an industry where there are many temptations but she never allows that to distract from her strong sense of self. She has a firm belief in who she is and how she was brought up and doesn’t let the world she is working in change that. She has a job that is perceived as glamourous, but rarely is. She has to deal with people who do not treat her pleasantly, as so many of us do, but she manages it with patience and tolerance. She is fiercely loyal to those she cares about and in return she inspires the same kind of loyalty in the people around her. She has a sharp sense of humor and can see the ridiculousness in so many of the situations she gets into.
Q: What personal experiences did you draw from when writing the books?
A: In my younger years I took any job I could find. One of the major ones was working for an agency that helped families when they needed assistance. I found that my willingness to take on any job meant that I was being assigned the more challenging ones. It seemed the more difficult the job I was willing to take on, the harder the next one would be. When I started writing about Trudie, the feeling I remember most from those days was wondering how on Earth I was going to tackle the job I was presented with but, as with most things, you just get through it.
Q: Why do you think people are so fascinated by Hollywood?
A: Who doesn’t love the idea of Hollywood? The glamour and excitement appeals to everyone. Hollywood has always been concerned with its image and it has created a version of a reality show that a good proportion of the world follows avidly. It doesn’t matter how much of it is real or not, it’s entertaining.
Q: Who are some of your writing influences?
A: When I was a child I loved Agatha Christie. She turned me towards mysteries and although I have wandered into other genres I always felt most at home with a good mystery. James Herriot managed to take anecdotes of a relatively simple life and transform them into true storytelling that kept my interest and made me want to read the stories again. For me as a writer, that is key. It is relatively easy to entertain with action and gore but to take a simple situation and still keep a reader enthralled is true talent. Robert McCammon led me into thrillers and I enjoyed the way he terrified me and drew me into the world he was describing. I am also inspired by science fiction and fantasy writers like Anne McCaffrey and J.R.R. Tolkein with their ability to create a whole new world and describe it so it feels real to the reader.
Q: You say you have not been to Los Angeles. What made you choose LA as a setting for your series?
A: The city of Los Angeles has been used as a backdrop for so many movies and television series over the years that it has become familiar to people all over the world. When people are asked to picture LA they immediately talk about the Hollywood sign, Rodeo Drive, Beverly Hills and Venice Beach. These locations are iconic throughout the world. I chose to set my Not in Hollywood series in Los Angeles for that very reason. Just by saying the name of the city, people will get a picture in their mind and it is almost as familiar to them as their own home towns.
Q: What is your favorite book in the series ?
A: As would be expected of any author, asking me to pick my favorite of the books I’ve written is like asking me to choose between my children. But, as my grandmother would say to each of her grandchildren, ‘I don’t have a favorite but if I did…’ The answer would change depending on which grandchild she was speaking to. So, for this interview, I think my favorite would be Not Talented in Hollywood, just because I had fun with writing some of the characters. I was trying to make someone, who was essentially supposed to be a bad guy, a likeable character. The anti-hero has always appealed to me.
Q: Who plays Trudie in the movie?
A: It’s really difficult to pick an actor to play a character that you’ve written. When I write, it is like a video playing in my head and I just write down what I see, so I have a definite picture of who Trudie Eyre is. Finding an actor that matches that picture is a challenge. If I had to choose, I think I would look towards Emilia Clarke. When you see her being interviewed she seems to have a wicked sense of humor and an irrepressible optimism which I’ve always felt that Trudie had. Of course, she would need to work on a subtle Australian accent.
Q: If you could be personal assistant to anyone in Hollywood, who would you pick and why?
A: I would want to be Betty White’s personal assistant. I think if anyone had the really good stories about Hollywood, it would be her.
Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)