Meet Ellen

I was born in New York City. That was a mistake. Not that I was born but that I landed on the wrong coast. At 26, I came to San Francisco to visit my brother. As soon as my feet hit the tarmac, I was where I needed to be and have been ever since. I’ve had several careers – dancer, waitress, probation officer, social worker before I became a psychologist in my early forties. I was drawn to the excitement and gritty reality of working with first responders. It didn’t take long for me to see that it’s hard being a cop and even harder being married to one. That was the inspiration for my first book, I Love a Cop: What Police Families Need to Know. After 9/11, I followed up with I Love A Fire Fighter: What the Family Needs to Know. By the time I got to the third book, Counseling Cops: What Clinicians Need to Know, I was done with reality. I told myself it must be easier to make things up. It isn’t. It’s much harder, but way more therapeutic. Writing fiction has given me the chance to do a lot of things I couldn’t in my role as a psychologist. For one thing, I get to take pot shots at cops, my fellow psychologists and a few ex-husbands. My protagonist, Dr. Dot Meyerhoff – named after my mother and grandmother – gets to do things I wouldn’t dream of, like impersonating a public official, breaking and entering, and assault with a deadly weapon. She is a spunky fifty year-old who takes orders from no one, not even her chief, and persists in solving crimes when she should be counseling cops. Her love life is confined to an ambivalent relationship with Frank, who is modeled after my husband Steve, the photographer known as S. Hollis Johnson. I have shamelessly plagiarized his entire life to create this character and he still loves me. My other characters, like the bumbling, badge-heavy Eddie Rimbauer or Lupe Ochoa, the desperate wife of a troubled young investigator, are inspired by people I’ve worked with as a psychologist. My hope is that readers will enjoy a good mystery at the same time learn something new about the hidden complexities and emotional challenges of police work. When I’m not writing, teaching, or volunteering as a clinician at the First Responders Support Network (see the Resources page), I’m at the Y taking water wiggling classes, napping on the couch, reading, or going to conferences. I belong to Sisters-in-Crime, Mystery Writers of America (MWA), Public Safety Writers Association, International Thriller Writers (ITW),The American Psychological Association, The Society for the Study of Police and Criminal Psychology, The International Association of Women Police, and The Association of Chiefs of Police (psychological services sub-section). I love hearing from readers and talking to groups in person or via Skype. Stay in touch. And be sure to sign up for my newsletter.

Photo credit: S.Hollis Johnson

Be sure to check out Ellen’s blog here and at The Ladykillers!