Ellen LaCorte is the author of The Perfect Fraud. Let’s get to know her more!
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. She is the mother of two grown sons. The Perfect Fraud is her debut novel (be sure to check out my review and discussion questions).
Ellen discusses below her transition from HR to full-time writer, her experiences with psychics, her TBR list and much more!
What are some of your favorite novels?
I’m particularly drawn to novels with otherworldly themes, like Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst, The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger and Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel. I always like a little bit of mysticism in my reading.
Can you discuss your journey of working in human resources to becoming a published author? Did you always want to become an author?
I’ve always read and as I became an adult reader, I started to realize how amazing the experience of reading a good book was. How it leaves you not only satisfied but could teach you something or introduce you to a world you never knew or have you experience an emotion that you’d kept hidden, even from yourself. And I thought, “what a gift that is.” To write something that will affect a reader in such an immense way. It seemed like one of the best things I could ever do. But it was a long transition from that sentiment to actually writing.
I always told stories to our children and to our friends’ kids. We’d go on long car rides together and the kids would be bored so I’d craft a story that always involved clues they’d have to solve before the story could continue. I think I realized there was some kind of a book in me at that time but I was very much immersed in my career. I’d been in the HR field for almost 30 years and truly enjoyed it but toward the end of that time, I was increasingly becoming drawn to my “extracurricular” activities. I was taking ballet, acting, and singing classes, performing in community college shows and also painting. And I realized that there was really where my heart was! I could have stayed in HR until the inevitable retirement but I felt I needed to shake things up a bit. I started to write while still working part time as my employer searched for my replacement. It was a scary, challenging, wonderfully fulfilling transition.
How did you come up with the story idea for The Perfect Fraud?
I’d had an intriguing experienced with a psychic once. Well, actually, many intriguing experiences, some where the psychic was amazingly on the mark with comments and some where it was pure hooey. This one time, after the session was over, the psychic turned to me and said, “I can see, through this reading, that you’re not giving enough to your marriage. But, don’t worry,” she said, “I can help. For $450, I can be your spiritual sister and guide you through the process so that you’ll not only be fully contributing to the marriage but also reaching a higher spiritual plane.” Fortunately, I took a breath and did not give her any money and left. My husband, Mike, who had been to another psychic at the same time was waiting for me on a bench and told me how wonderful his reading was, how his psychic said our marriage was great, our kids were wonderful and everything in the future looked perfectly rosy. He then asked me about my reading and I started to sob. I told him what she said and he assured me that I was giving plenty to our marriage. But it got me thinking — what better way for someone to get to a woman (and to her wallet) than telling her that she’s not giving enough. This became the basis for one of the characters in the book, Claire, who comes from a long line of psychics but has been faking her psychic skills to make a living.
I’m curious why you decided to set the story primarily in Arizona (Sedona and Phoenix) and how do you feel the setting helps add an interesting layer to your story?
After college, my husband and I moved to AZ and although we were planning to stay there only a couple of years, twenty-five years later, with kids, jobs and friends, we were still there. During that time, we would often escape the heat of the valley and travel to Sedona, which is one of the psychic hubs in the United States. Lots of tourists come for readings, to go on vortex hikes and to generally soak up the beautiful vibes. There is a great store there, The Center for New Age, which we would visit frequently to get psychic readings. I based the novel and the character, Claire, on this store. The other protagonist in the story, Rena, has a critically ill daughter and is determined to get her help through a well-respected pediatric gastronenterologist who is based in Phoenix. Rena and Stephanie, her four year old, travel to Phoenix and we get much of Rena’s perspective about the heat, the people and the lack of natural foods and medicine there. It’s was the ideal backdrop for what happens when Rena and Claire finally meet–with poor Stephanie’s fate in the balance.
There’s lots of vivid details about psychics—did you meet with psychics as you worked on the story? Do you believe that psychics and mediums really do have those kinds of skills?
My husband actually introduced me to psychics, which is kind of funny, since by trade and profession, he’s a CPA and financial analyst, a very solid and level kind of guy. But he had these other interests, including the psychic arts. Over the years, we’ve visited psychics, more frequently as I was completing research for the book. Some of the experiences were amazing, where the reading was astonishingly on the mark and others felt like the psychic was giving me the same information she gave the four customers before me — general stuff, which could apply to anyone. So, I guess I’d have to say that I’ve experienced enough to lead me to believe there’s something there to believe, if that makes sense.
What are you most excited about regarding your book tour?
This is a whole new experience for me and new experiences are always both scary and exciting! I did a pre-book tour book club meeting where I was able to meet with 15 women to whom I gave galleys of the novel to read and it was fascinating to find out the things they saw in the book that I hadn’t. It was like reading/writing it all over again. In most of the tour locations, especially early on, the audience will not have read the novel so I’m eager to hear their questions for me, which may have more to do with what inspired the novel and maybe what inspired me to change my whole life to do what I really wanted to do. I guess we’ll see!
Can you give a sneak peek into your next novel?
Yes, I don’t usually talk about what I’m writing while I’m writing it but I know that there will also be a psychic in this one.
What are you currently reading and what’s on your TBR (to be read) list?
I’ve read some truly wonderful books so far this year. An American Marriage by Tayari Jones was terrific as was The Woman in the Window by AJ Finn (despite the controversy surrounding this author, his book was amazing). I’m currently reading Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner and look forward to diving into the many books on my list: Trust Exercise by Susan Choi, Wunderland by Jennifer Cody Epstein and Alternate Side by the incredible Anna Quindlen. I keep a huge file with tear-outs of reviews of those books I want to read and it is just bursting with terrific titles. You know how it goes: so many books, so little time — especially for me this summer!
Thank you to Ellen for talking with me! You can order The Perfect Fraud on Amazon here.