Ellen Hart

Ellen Hart Photo: Amber Procaccini Photography

ELLEN HART, “a top novelist in the cultishly popular gay mystery genre” (Entertainment Weekly), is also a Lambda and Minnesota Book Award winner. The author of twenty previous mysteries featuring Jane Lawless, she lives in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Q & A

If you won the lottery, what would you do with your newfound wealth?
Well, let’s say it’s a lot.  Say, twenty million.  That’s a nice round number.  I suppose, first, I’d make sure my kids were comfortable.  I’d also invest a significant portion for each of them.  With the rest, I’d set up trusts for my five grandkids, buy a summer home up on the north shore of Lake Superior that we could all enjoy -- including my friends. My partner could quit her job, if she wanted to, and continue with her fine art career.  I’d invest some of the money for a rainy day, but I’d also try to do some good in the world.  I’d give money to humane societies, and maybe establish some kind of grant for young writers.  But I’d continue writing.  That’s the one thing I know for sure.

Who's your favorite fictional character?
Oh, wow. I don’t think I can pick just one.  Here are two, but from the same book.  First, Sebastian Flyte in Brideshead Revisited.  The novel is perhaps one of the most beautifully written in the English language.  I was drawn in by Sebastian’s struggle with religion -- in his case, Catholicism.  The character resonated so deeply with me.  I was also taken by one of the other characters, Charles Ryder. We see the book through his eyes.  He doesn’t entirely understand the hold the church has over the entire Flyte family because he grew up within a secular family, but he is compassionate, even as Sebastian’s guilt ultimately leads to his destruction.

What was the worst job you’ve ever had?
There are so many.  When I was in my late twenties, I worked for a private employment agency.  I remember that one afternoon, I called up my partner and told her that the job totally sucked.  She said, if it was that awful, why didn’t I quit?  I sat at my desk for about ten minutes and thought about it, and then I grabbed my coat and left.  It felt triumphant.   One of the best moves I ever made.

Who is your favorite pet?
Rufess.  A white, female terrier/poodle.  Early in her life, she was the kind of dog that someone, with a less charitable bent of mind, would have taken out behind the garage and shot.  She bit everyone in the family.  She was imperious -- ruled all the other dogs with an iron paw.  But she was hilarious.  We’d all sit at the dinner table and howl with her.  Everyone adored her, including me.  The day she died, we fed her a pork chop in the backyard and then took her to be put down.  She was old very ill.  The “feeding of the pork chop” in my family has thus taken on a specific meaning.

Do you enjoy cooking? If so, is there any particular dish that you've mastered and would like to share?
I spent thirteen years as a chef.  (Have a cheffing degree).  So, yes, I love to cook.  It’s always been a major passion, so here’s one of my favorites.

Italian Torta

1 stick soft butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup ricotta
4 eggs, separated
4 T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
1 and 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup ground almonds
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/2 cup chopped apricots (or cherries, citron, dried cranberries)

Cream the butter and sugar.  Add egg yolks, one at a time.  Beat until fluffy.  Add ricotta and ground almonds, then lemon juice.  Mix flour, baking powder and salt in separate bowl.  Add to mixture.  Beat egg whites in another bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into mixture.  Stir in fruit.  Pour into an eight or nine inch springform pan that’s been greased and floured.  Bake at 350 degrees until toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean -- about 45 minutes.  Cool.  Invert onto plate and cover thickly with powered sugar.  This cake is even better the second and third day -- if it lasts that long.



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