Interview with Rachel Howzell Hall, Author of Skies of Ash

08 Jun 2015

Rachel Howzell Hall writes gritty, captivating mysteries starring Elouise “Lou” Norton, the only African American, and only Female, LA homicide detective in her detail. An LA native, Rachel decided to write the hero that she felt her hometown needs. Her new release, Skies of Ash (May 2015, Macmillan) delves deep into the darkness of the human heart as Lou investigates a fatal house fire, while navigating an unraveling marriage. Intrigued by Rachel’s plots and protagonists, we reached out to learn more:


Tell us a little bit about your new release, Skies of Ash.

Skies of Ash is the second in my LAPD Homicide Detective Elouise Norton. In this story, she’s investigating a tragic house fire. A mom and her two children die in the fire. The man of the house tried to rescue his family but couldn’t. She’s trying to figure out who started the fire while trying to figure out her own marriage.

What has been inspiring you lately?

Unfortunately, horrible things happen to people every day. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to dig for a story, for a crime for Lou to solve — and to avenge for the victims. And those readers who enjoy my stories and Lou — they inspire me and remind me that my writing is resonating with some. In those down times, I remember that and pick up the pen again.

How do you like to spend a rainy day?

I love rainy days — when I’m not driving in it. Living in L.A., you don’t wanna drive in the rain. So, if I’m home and it’s a Sunday, I like playing video-games. RPGs are my favorites — I like finding treasure chests and making potions and weapons. Right now, I’m playing the new Witcher game. If I have to do laundry on a rainy day, then I catch up on all my DVRed shows. I don’t read because I’ll fall asleep.

Which fictional literary world would you most like to visit?

Hmm… well… Let me think about that and come back…. I’m back. So… it’s hard to answer knowing that my station in life in many of the worlds I escape to in my reading are often misogynistic and racist, and being a black woman… It’s hard. BUT! Eliminate those things (at least to today’s level) and I’d say Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles back in the 40s and 50s. The style, the cynicism and men in hats and the women in great dresses and Hepburn-esque pantsuits. Big cars. Good music.

What’s on your writing desk right now?

Two Cuties, a cup of coffee, tissue, three pens, pictures of my daughter and husband (editor’s note: does that mean there are four cuties on your desk?), and the legal pad filled with the fourth in the series CITY OF SAVIORS.

What makes your world go round?

Finding joy in as much as I can. Love and acceptance from my family. Good pens, smooth paper, and great books.

What’s the best advice that you’ve ever received?

Eat the elephant one bite at a time.

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As intrigued by Elouise “Lou” Norton as we were? Buy Skies of Ash today!

Read more about Rachel’s inspiration for the Lou Norton Novels, and her additional pursuits, in this fantastic NPR Code Switch Segment.

Connect with Rachel on her Website, Facebook, and Twitter!

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Taylor loves books with a heavy dose of absurdity, hilarity, and beautiful prose. She is a marketer, adventurer, nature-lover, Hufflepuff, wannabe world traveler, and advocate of laughter.