Charlotte and Aaron Elkins

Charlotte and Aaron Elkins

Married novelists mix passions for latest book: Hers is art, his is mystery, and theirs is a labor of love

SEQUIM — “My first love,” Charlotte Elkins says as her husband, Aaron, steps away to fetch coffee, “was the art world.”

Now a novelist, Charlotte once worked at the de Young Museum in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park.

She knows all about the “connoisseur’s eye,” a sixth sense an art appraiser employs to determine a work’s authenticity.

Happily, Charlotte has married her love of art, her love of writing and her love of Aaron, who also happens to be a novelist.

Together, they have released A Dangerous Talent, a murder mystery set in the art worlds of Seattle and Santa Fe, N.M.

The book, the 29th born in the Elkinses’ household, stars fictional young art consultant Alix London and the late, legendary artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

The couple sat down with a reporter Wednesday afternoon at a cafe in Sequim to muse about mixing love and work and to invite the public to their joint appearance Friday.

A Dangerous Talent will take center stage at 7 p.m. inside the Raymond Carver Room at the Port Angeles Library, 2210 S. Peabody St., as Charlotte and Aaron read from and discuss their book.

Admission is free, while copies of Dangerous will be available for purchase.

This writing business has worked out well for the Elkins pair.

Aaron is well-known for mysteries set in exotic places, from the Amazon rain forest to Teotitlan del Valle, Mexico, and with titles such as Little Tiny Teeth and Unnatural Selection.

He’s written 23 books on his own and six more with his wife.

As with many things marital, a “vive la difference” approach sweetens the proceedings.

It has, apparently, worked for Charlotte and Aaron, who will celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary in December.

Charlotte’s ideas

Charlotte, both Elkinses agree, is the idea source.

She gives Aaron about 10 pages of introductory prose.

Then he, being the hardworking wordsmith, writes the next section.

The spouses pass the parts of the book back and forth, she suggesting twists and turns of events while he puts in the hours at the keyboard.

Another thing that applies to novel-writing and marriage: sharing the same mission.

Both Charlotte and Aaron want to give their reader a good look beneath the surface, a cast of quirky characters and a juicy denouement — in other words, a ripping story.

To do this right, there must, of course, be research.

Two kinds of research

Charlotte is a former librarian, so she relishes the book-based kind, while Aaron adores the airplane variety.

He joyfully jets off to places like Italy and the French Riviera, the settings for his next two solo novels; she isn’t at all jealous of his long hours in transit.

Charlotte did, however, savor every step of the research trip for A Dangerous Talent.

She loves O’Keeffe country: Ghost Ranch, Santa Fe, Taos.

And Dangerous is a departure from everything Aaron and Charlotte have known.

Seventeen of Aaron’s books have Gideon Oliver, a mystery-solving anthropology professor, at their center, while the other novels he and Charlotte wrote together are golf mysteries — starting with A Wicked Slice — starring Lee Ofsted, a young female golf pro.

Completely new

It has been a pleasure, said Charlotte, to create something completely new with her husband.

“We were setting up a new character and a new milieu for her to move through,” the writer said of Alix London, the new novel’s heroine.

Charlotte likes being the one who provides the ideas, while Aaron is a tireless — well, almost — seeker of the right words.

“It’s wonderful: I give him a few pages and then, ‘I’m going off hiking,’” Charlotte said.

Aaron, it seems, also is good at embracing his mate’s imagination.

“The most fun is when you give me something and I hadn’t really expected things to go that way,” he told her.

Sequel in works

The couple has a contract for another in the Alix London series and plan to turn in the sequel to A Dangerous Talent by October for a March 2013 release.

In addition, Aaron’s next Gideon Oliver novel — Dying on the Vine, researched among the wineries of Tuscany — will come out in December.

Dying and Dangerous join a rich catalog of Elkins literature, much of which is back in print electronically, thanks to the advent of e-readers such as the Kindle.

A full list of titles and teasers from both authors is at

As their interview wound down and Charlotte sipped her coffee, Aaron spoke of how he looks forward to their next adventure.

“I’m kind of curious,” he said, “to see what happens next.”


Features Editor Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3550 or at

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