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The Green LineBy Ian Walkley

KIRKUS REVIEWS describes E.C. Diskin’s debut mystery-thriller THE GREEN LINE as “a satisfying, suspenseful novel with an engaging heroine…well drawn characters, knotty and believable puzzles, and an easy, confident writing style.” After self-publishing the novel, successful sales and reviews on Amazon led to Thomas & Mercer approaching E.C. with an offer to publish under the Amazon imprint.

The story finds Chicago attorney Abby Donovan with her decade-long dream of partnership just months from fruition. But after a late-night train mishap leaves her stranded on Chicago’s west side where drugs, gangs, and violence fill the streets, everything changes. Abby is haunted by what she’s seen and the mysterious death of a kind stranger. Though her work suffers, deadlines are missed, and her promotion hangs in the balance, she’s compelled to investigate with the help of an unlikely new friend. But Abby’s investigation jeopardizes more than her career. Someone is watching. Someone willing to do anything to protect his secrets.

E.C. Diskin, a former Chicago attorney, spent several years in practice while fantasizing about chucking firm life for a more artistic one. After six years, and with a drawer full of story ideas and two toddlers at home, she finally did it. Diskin joined a writers group and began work on what became THE GREEN LINE. Though it took nearly a decade from start to publication, Diskin is now focused on a sequel and the completion of other works in progress.

Does the GREEN LINE really exist? Or is it fictionalized or symbolic in some way?

Oh, it’s real. Though I wouldn’t call it a uniformly “unsafe train”—it’s a busy commuter train during the day, filled with all kinds of people. The fear for the character, and the real danger for any woman in particular, is being alone late at night in a dangerous neighborhood.

Is the opening, where Abby finds herself stranded and exposed in a no-go area of Chicago, something you’ve experienced?

I never did exactly what Abby did, but I did board the Green Line once by accident. The culture inside the train is quite different than the culture inside a brown line train and I quickly realized my mistake and got off.  Though it was the middle of the day, I immediately thought how relieved I was that it wasn’t late at night.

Tell us more about Abby. Is she loosely based on your personality, or someone you’d aspire to be like?

Like Abby, I was an associate at a large firm in downtown Chicago, and like Abby, I wrote a law review article on civil forfeiture. But our similarities really end there.  I wouldn’t say I ever aspired to be like that character because she’s pretty unhappy. But there are aspects of my personality that I drew into the characters. For example, her ex, David, was someone I could relate to because he was a musician before he went to law school.  I aspired to be dancer when I was young and spent my early twenties working toward that in Chicago and New York before declaring myself “old” at twenty-five and heading off to law school so I could get a “real job.”

There are some pretty bad types who try to stop Abby or distract her from her goals. Were these drawn from your life?

I don’t want to say too much about the “bad guys” in the story because part of the fun for at least the first half of the story is that the reader is not sure who is good and who is bad. And the character who turns out to be the worst—that character was pretty fun to create. I must say, as much as I didn’t thrive as an attorney, I met and worked with some wonderful people. There was only one attorney in all my years who said and did some things that I found disturbing and just a tad of those experiences may have found their way into the story—but that’s all I’ll say!

What other novels and authors would THE GREEN LINE be sitting near in a bookstore?

My readers and reviewers have made comparisons to John Grisham, Gillian Flynn, Michael Connelly, James Baldacci and Dan Brown.  If my book sat near any of those authors’ titles, I’d be extremely flattered and pleased.

The first thing many readers will ask is—will there be a sequel, and when can we read it?

When I wrote the story I didn’t have a sequel or series in mind. When I first got an agent, she saw a great series potential and put that seed in my brain. Readers seem to agree that they’d like to see more from these characters and so I’ve put another story aside and I’m working on a new story for these characters. I don’t dare say when to expect it because although I’ve now prioritized writing and have become more disciplined about my time, I have no idea how long it will take me to finish. My stories tend to come from issues I get excited and interested in, and so I often need to do a lot of research before I can even begin plotting. But hopefully it won’t be too long!

E.C., can you tell us about what motivated you, and kept you motivated all those years while you dreamed of writing thrillers?

I joined a writers group back when I first began and I think if I hadn’t had them, I never would have finished. When I’d start to think I had no idea what to do, or time to write, or started thinking that what I was working on was worthless, they would lift me up. And when I’d read their work and we’d discuss books, I would always come home buzzing with energy and motivation.  I also read a lot of books about writing and writers—autobiographies and how-tos that I found really inspiring.

What was the hardest part of this story to write?

The middle!  Like most writers, I knew where I wanted the story to start, and I wrote the ending scene years before I finished the book. I had some ideas about the climactic scenes, but it was all the stuff in between—all the real meat, that was the hardest part—to keep it moving, to keep it interesting.

Was the self-publishing experience much different than you anticipated it would be when you chose that route?

I’m extremely thankful that the self-publishing option is available and that it’s become a more accepted avenue for writers. But because of the mega-success of a few self-publishers, it seems that millions of people have decided to write a book.  So standing out from the crowd is harder than ever, and if you’re determined to put out a quality product that can hold its own against traditionally published books, there’s nothing easy about it. So I’d say, yes, it was liberating and it was incredibly rewarding to hold my paperback in my hand and know that I had been responsible for its creation—but it was also a really exhausting experience—both the production and the marketing.  The marketing part never ends, but I feel some relief to now have a team invested in my success.

It must have been flattering to hear from Thomas and Mercer so soon after you’d self-published?

It was extremely flattering. I really felt like I was building some good buzz and reviews but the book was not yet flying off the virtual shelves. And I’d been successful only at getting it on the shelves of my local bookstore. (Anyone can order an indie title from any store, but they’ll rarely carry copies.)  It was slow, but steady. So when I got that message from Thomas & Mercer, I was over the moon. It didn’t mean that I was sure I wanted to jump aboard, but I felt validated.  I didn’t know much about T & M at that time, and for all the hard work of self-publishing, there are benefits to being an indie. I had total control of my “product.” I determined its price, how to market it, when to run specials, what the cover would look like, etc. And of course, as my own publisher, my take-home per book is greater than an author’s typical royalty.  But, the reality is that I was also the only one invested in the book and its success. I’d spent double what I had budgeted in getting the book out, and even though I was recouping my investment at a fairly steady pace, there was always more to do and more potential expenses—more author copies needed, more advertising to consider. It is extremely hard to get a book—whether e- or physical—in front of vast numbers of people. And the book business is really about numbers. No one makes a dime unless they’re selling tons and tons of books and I knew the chance to get the book in front of larger numbers of people was greater with them. So I then reached out to several of T & M’s authors and heard some great feedback about the company and I soon realized that I wanted to jump at the opportunity. It’s impossible yet to know how it will go, but they want to put out an audio version as soon as possible, and there’s a marketing team that’s ready to support me. That’s really exciting.

Do you continue to work as an attorney? How difficult is it to find time and energy to write with your children commitments? What tips can you give others?

I’ve always kept my license because frankly, the bar exam was a nightmare and I’d never want to sit through that again!  I don’t know if I’ll ever practice again, but it’s nice to know it’s possible. My husband has always been incredibly supportive of my desire to be at home with the kids and if I’m lucky, I’ll spend the rest of my days writing stories and being around for my family. As far as finding the time, it’s easier now that my kids are older. When they were young, my time was more fragmented, but they’re both now gone from 8-3 and so there is time. I have other commitments—laundry, bills, grocery, school volunteer stuff, like anyone else, but I figure if I can’t find the time to write now, then I really shouldn’t be a writer.  As far as tips? I’d say, take your time and have patience. This is not a good way to make a living, so if that’s the motivation, you might want to re-think it, but if it’s not, then who cares how long it takes. If you love it, just do it. (And find a writers group.)

What is your writing process, and what does your writing room look like?

I’ve always worked on a laptop and my “room” has moved all over the house. I’ve been trying to find a spot with the least distractions for years and one that wasn’t too close to the kitchen (and fridge!—I tend to munch when anxious or excited about a scene). These days, I head to the local library each day for a few hours to write. I’ll still work at home, but it’s usually related to marketing and promotion.


EC DiskinE.C. Diskin, a former Chicago attorney, spent several years in practice while fantasizing about chucking firm life for a more artistic one. After six years, and with a drawer full of story ideas and two toddlers at home, she finally did it. Diskin joined a writers group and began work on what became THE GREEN LINE. Though it took nearly a decade from start to publication, Diskin is now focused on a sequel and the completion of other works in progress.

To learn more about E.C Diskin, please visit her website.