Friday, January 29, 2010

Helen Macie Osterman's Notes in a Mirror

Helen Macie Osterman lives in Homer Glen, a suburb of Chicago. She has five children and nine grandchildren. Osterman received a Bachelor of Nursing degree from Mercy Hospital-St. Xavier College and later earned a Master’s Degree from Northern Illinois University. Throughout her forty-five year nursing career, she wrote articles for both nursing and medical journals. Helen is the author of The Emma Winberry Mystery Series: The Accidental Sleuth, The Stranger in the Opera House, and Notes in a Mirror.  She is a member of American Association of University Women, Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters in Crime.

Helen, welcome to the blog.When did the writing bug bite, and in what genre(s)?
When I had children and began telling them stories. I wrote them down and decided to do my own illustrations. Nothing came of this endeavor.

When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?
Stories and plots simply found their way into my consciousness. I did it for fun. But, when I began the Emma Winberry cozy mystery series, I decided to instill a social problem into each book. Of course, Emma addresses these problems as well as solving the mystery.

Briefly tell us about your latest book. Series or stand-alone? If you have written both, which one do you prefer?
My latest book is Notes in a Mirror, a story of two student nurses during their three- month psychiatric rotation at a state mental hospital in 1950. This is approximately the time I did mine as a student and it was pre-tranquilizer days. Though the work is fiction, it actually portrays the care of the mentally ill at that time. I enjoy the series because my characters become like part of my family and I’m eager to know what their next adventure will be. They always tell me.

What’s the hook for the book?
The hook for Notes in a Mirror is mirror image writing. The ghost contacts my protagonist by this means.

How do you develop characters? Setting?
In Notes in a Mirror the character of Mary Lou Hammond is somewhat like I was a young girl. I accentuated her fears to increase the tension in the book. The setting is real, just as I remember it.

What are your protagonist’s strengths? Flaws?
Mary Lou grows through the three-month experience. She begins as a timid, easily influenced, young girl and becomes strong and independent at the end of the story.

How does your environment/upbringing color your writing?
I began my life as a protected member of a close-knit family. Through years of nursing, marriage, child-rearing and divorce, I experienced many of the situations that appear in my stories.

After hours of intense writing, how do you unwind?
I unwind by attending water aerobics classes three times a week, tending to my many houseplants, playing the piano, and reading.

What are your current projects?
I am writing about a new character, an older woman living in a retirement community. Haven’t decided yet if it will become a series.

Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

On my web site:

Helen, continued success.


Sue Durkin said...

Thank you, Susan, for allowing Helen to be a part of your blog. I really enjoyed the interview.

Susan Whitfield said...

You bet. Sorry she didn't have any traffic.