We spent two hours on the phone, and just as I expected, she was witty and intelligent, warm and friendly and generous with writing and publishing advice. I pulled out the article and in her honor, thought I'd share parts of it today. It starts out . . .
Barbara Mertz has been known to say that anyone without at least two distinct personalities is a bore. She ought to know.
Mertz, with a PhD in Egyptology, is the author of nonfiction classics in ancient archaeology. But Mertz the scholar is also Barbara Michaels, the author of books that use paranormal bumps in the night and thoroughly modern heroines to put a new slant on the old Gothic formula. Barbara Michaels is also Elizabeth Peters, the best-selling mystery author and Grand Master of Mystery Writers of America.
"Certain plots require a certain telling," EP explained. "Some of my ideas are obviously meant to be Michaels' books. Others are Peters' material. Changing names as I change the kinds of books I write is a chance for me to do my Jekyll and Hyde bit. I don't have to limit myself to a certain state of mind and the chance to solidify each of those personalities is fun."
In the article she goes on to talk about her newest book (this was back when "The Ape Who Guards the Balance" was published). It was book #10 in the amazing Amelia Peabody series and one of the things we talked about was Amelia's age. Since EP mentioned how old Amelia was in "Crocodile on the Sandbank," the first book in the series, and since she added historic details that place each book in a certain year, it was obvious that her heroine was getting older. I aksed her how she planned to handle that.
"They (Amelia and her husband, Emerson) will go on doing exactly what they want to do," she said. "That's one of the things that makes them endearing. They refuse to be limited by age. People shouldn't."
Elizabeth Peters didn't. She was 85 when she died last week.
When I pulled out the old newspaper article so I could write this blog, I also found a handwritten note from EP. "We are all thrilled by the interview," she said, "including moi. What a great job!"
I can certainly echo the sentiments. Thanks, Barbara Mertz, Barbara Michaels and Elizabeth Peters for the many hours of reading pleasure you've given me. What a great job!