A Conversation with Ilsa Evans

Authors are sometimes asked if they’re interested in reading a manuscript and Nefarious-Doings_coverproviding a quote for the cover. This can be a fraught business, you can imagine! But last year I was asked to read Nefarious Doings by Ilsa Evans – the first instalment of her new Nell Forrest Mystery series – and I was sold from the very first page. I have since been telling anyone who would listen how much I enjoyed it.

So I am very excited that Ilsa agreed to join me for a conversation today!

Ilsa, you have managed to seamlessly blend what we love about contemporary women’s fiction – warm, relatable characters, everyday life, a good dash of humour, even a touch of romance – with murder, mystery and intrigue … So I have to ask, what made you veer into this territory?

Evans_IlsaI think that I’ve written across genre a little bit in the past, which may have been to my detriment. One minute I’ll write something quite light and then I’ll lurch into the story of an abused woman, or euthanasia or something like that. And I started thinking how nice it would be to identify – and be identified with – a certain genre. Then one evening I was watching the marvellous Phryne Fisher on the ABC, and had a bit of an epiphany. Murder mystery seemed like a marvellous challenge, plus it was a genre that allowed me to retain characters. I find it terribly difficult to say goodbye to characters at the end of my books. For weeks after I finish writing, I feel like I should be able to pick up the phone and invite them around for a drink. With murder mystery, I get to catch up with them every few months!

What a great answer! This happens to me too, and my readers are always asking for sequels, but my stories don’t really allow for that. Your Nell is such a wonderful character – I know I couldn’t wait to spend more time with her after I read Nefarious Doings, so I was thrilled when Ill-Gotten Gains was released soon after. I realise this could be one of those ‘Where do you get your ideas’ questions that are impossible to answer, but – how did you come up with Nell?


Most of my main characters are people I would like to know. I’m fine with having unpleasant or annoying or odd types in the background, but the main ones have to be someone I’d enjoy spending time with. Because that’s exactly what I have to do! In Nell’s case, I was busy with another project when I first came up with the murder mystery idea so she had to bide her time for a few months. By the time I finally put pen to paper, she was fully formed – and getting very impatient! I don’t actually recall making any definitive decisions about her personality or family or even her job; they all just seemed right. Incidentally, I recently read your The Right Time and I think Nell would get on very well with Ellen.

I think you’re absolutely right! They’re both that kind of no-nonsense woman, pulled in all directions by kids and work and all the other ephemera of life, and wondering where they fit into the mix. Nell did appear fully formed, I felt like I already knew her from the start – which is a great characteristic to have in your lead. And taking a character like that, and putting her on the scent of a mystery, was a stroke of genius. My dad is always asking me when I’ll write a crime into one of my books, but my head just doesn’t work that way, unfortunately! Did you have to plot out the entire mystery, so you knew where it was going? Or did you start with an idea, and let it unfold? 

It’s funny you should ask that because I’m getting towards the end of the third book in the series and have just realised I’ve tied myself in knots (figuratively speaking). And the knots have a lot of loose ends also, sticking out left, right and centre. It’s like a cross between macrame and writing. Not good. So no, generally I start with an idea and just let it unfold but perhaps I need to start rethinking that approach!

You may well have to! I’ve always been a little dubious about crime writers who claim they don’t know whodunnit until it comes out in the writing. However, it must be both exciting and daunting to stretch your author muscles.

You’ve kind of answered my next question: that you’re working on a third book in the series (Yay!). How many books do you think Nell has in her? Or do you have other plans after this?

The third book is called Forbidden Fruits and I’m just now finishing it off. I’d love for there to be more – and have ideas for at least another three! – but I really have to wait and see how they’re going. The reviews have been great but I’ve just heard that the print editions have been postponed so that’s not good. It’s all rather up in the air unfortunately. Although I do know that next I’ll spend some time on a project I started under contract a few years ago, but then the contract fell through so I shelved it. It’s a light, non-fiction exploration of middle-age for women, called ‘The Invisible Woman and other remarkable phenomena of middle-age.’ I’m actually looking forward to dragging it out and dusting it off!

And as an invisible middle-aged woman myself, I’ll look forward to reading it! If it’s executed with the same warmth and humour as your Nell Forrest series, then it will be a must-read. Thanks so much for the conversation, Ilsa!

And it doesn’t have to stop here! You can keep the conversation going below, I’m sure Ilsa will be happy to answer your questions. Or just say hi. Everyone who comments will go in the draw for one of THREE e-copies of Nefarious Doings. You will need an ereader, but it can be read on any format, including tablets. I honestly can’t recommend it highly enough, and I’m certain my readers will enjoy it as much as I did.

 You can find out more about Ilsa here, and about the Nell Forrest series here and here, where you can even read a sample chapter.

 So leave a comment below and be in the running for a copy of Nefarious Doings!


34 thoughts on “A Conversation with Ilsa Evans

  1. I also read Ilsa many years ago, I think it’s exciting to see authors slip outside their comfort zone and have a go at a new genre!!!

  2. I love Ilsa’s books!

    I rarely read fiction but I’ve got every book she’s written on my book shelf.

    Broken had me holding my breath and heart racing then the sequel had my blood pressure through the roof then crying my eyes out but they were such amazing books that I believe ALL women should read!!

    Of course there are her awesome others, The Laundry series were too funny, Flying The Coop had me wanting to buy a chicken farm and changed how I looked at my eggs forever lol

  3. And PPS

    I’m not entering because I already own her awesome Ebooks, I’m just waiting on the paperbacks to add to my shelves 🙂

  4. Now i feel badly because i have never read any of her books…I will look out for one after reading all the positive comments! Dianne, I have read all of yours from when the very first was published and have loved them all. i have also recommended you to all of my girlfriends who love a good read. My daughter and i both liked that you had Hurstville Grove, Oatley and St George Hospital in “The Best Man”, as we live in the area and I work at the hospital….and that you set one in Annandale where I grew up and my mum still lives! She also reads you by the way. Keep up the great work and I am looking forward to reading an Ilsa very soon.

    • No need to feel bad, Leonie, there’s plenty of time to rectify that! I really wanted to introduce Ilsa to my readers, because I’m so sure they’ll love her books.

      And thank you SO much for the lovely feedback about my books, and for recommending them to your friends – word of mouth is the best publicity by far, I really appreciate it. I’m tickled you enjoyed the local references in ‘The Best Man’ – my editor was a little unsure about Oatley, thought people wouldn’t know where it was! Well, I dug my heels in! I grew up in the St George area, and my dad worked at St George Hospital for 37 years, and no one ever writes about our neck of the woods!

      • You are right Dianne about Oatley…no one knows where it is unless they live in the St George/Sutherland areas…let alone writes about it! And we all love to do the Como bridge walk on a beautiful day. I did it in the last few weeks…the park is looking beautiful and has been developed so nicely. As for your Dad, 37 years at St George Hospital…what a champ!

  5. Thank-you for the lovely compliments everybody – I’m currently housebound after some minor (just really rather annoying actually) surgery and you’ve all made my day! And a massive thanks to Dianne for inviting me to take part in one of her conversations, and for saying such nice things about the books.

  6. How wonderful Dianne that you can share Ilsa with us. I have all of your books on my shelf (e readers are handy, but you can’t beat the smell and feel of a book) and I am excited to read some of Ilsa’s.
    Her reference to Kerry Greenwood’s Phryne Fisher series hit home with me as I love those as well.
    Looking forward to “Nefarious Doings”

  7. “exploration of middle-age for women, called ‘The Invisible Woman and other remarkable phenomena of middle-age.” I’m in!!!! Start dusting off.Sounds fab – as do your fiction – mysteries. If Di loves them, I’ll love them.

    • Ha, Jenn! Yes, I’m looking forward to ‘The Invisible Woman’ too! Hope you saw the comment below from Sally, a longtime reader of mine, who is reading and loving ‘House’ after our conversation. Yay!

  8. Just wanted to say thanks to Dianne for hosting our conversation – very enjoyable (personally, I think you’d make a wonderful talk-show host!). And to all those who are going to give Nefarious Doings a try, I hope you enjoy it – and if so, do please drop me a line and let me know!

  9. Hi Di, thanks again for suggesting another author for me to look out for. Ilsa Evans book sounds fabulous. So off the the bookhshop for me!!! I wanted to tell you, that I am nearly at the end of Jenn J McLeod’s “House for all Seasons” and am loving it. Can’t wait for her next book. So I think with your recommendation about Ilsa’s books the same will happen. I also look forward to another book from you to add to my collection. Sally xx

  10. Thanks so much for introducing Ilsa to me. I am looking forward to reading Nefarious Doings and her other books as well. Reading is such a wonderful pasttime. I am constantly meeting new authors and wonderful stories. Well done dianne for a great conversation.

  11. I am looking forward to reading Ilsa’s book ‘Nefarious Doings’, it sounds great and thank you to Dianne for introducing Ilsa to your readers, it was a great chat and a terrific way to hear about authors .

    • Thanks – for both your comments, Dee! I bet I know what happened, you posted one, and it didn’t look like it went through? Happens all the time! Thank you for persisting, and it has been my absolute pleasure to introduce Ilsa to my readers, so glad you enjoyed it!

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