We're very excited to be hosting this Anchor Group Spotlight 7, not only because of the amazing authors and team that make up the publishing group, but because of the publishing group's ethos: 'the simple goal of launching quality literary works meant to engage, inspire and transport readers to exciting new horizons.'
Reading, writing and of course supporting authors it what we, at Bex 'n' Books, are all about. Yes, we have full-time jobs, in addition to caring, supporting and loving our families, but supporting authors is an additional pleasure that we feel so very passionately about. Hence the creation of our blog and Facebook page, and of course our hosting these amazing 7 authors.
1. Tell me a bit about yourself and your work.
Well, in addition to being a writer; I love gardening, animals, baking, and crafting. I currently live with my new husband and our pet turtle. I used to work at George Washington’s estate. I was one of those nutjobs who dresses up and walks around like it’s 1799. Even though my (so far) only published book, More than Magic: Semester Aboard, takes place in 2010, I was able to pull a bit from that job into it.
My aforementioned novel is an urban fantasy. Fantasy, both high and urban, is my favorite genre to write. I have a number of WIPs and all but one, which is scifi, have some element of fantasy in them.
2. Out of all of your work, which is your favourite character and why?
Boy, that’s a tough one. They’re all my babies and I love them all! That said (who didn’t see this coming?) my favorite character to write is probably Dani. I wrote pages upon pages of back story for him while I was working on Semester Aboard. I ended up with a veritable encyclopedia of his life and know more about him than any of my other characters.
His back story is a long, complicated roller coaster ride of angst. And that makes it really fun and challenging (and a bit depressing) to get into his head and write about him. I also get a kick out of leaving little easter eggs in his actions/dialogue for the observant readers to catch and ponder. It’s partially because I love finding things like that when I read - Lynsay Sands shout-out here for foreshadowing the main character of Book 12 with a single line in Book 1! - and partially because his back story is so solid I know how he’d respond to certain things, and it would be out of character to change it!
3. What are your current projects?
I’m working on the sequel to Semester Aboard. It’s called Snow Bound - this is among the first few places I’ve announced that title by the way - and it takes place a few months after the first book. I’m also compiling and editing my ramblings about Dani into a collection of short stories. I’m hoping to release both of those in early 2013, if not late 2012.
I have several old chapters from a high fantasy about elves that keeps calling my name and a number of scattered ‘first chapters’ of various ideas.
4. Do you have a specific writing style?
It really depends. For the More than Magic universe first person just works. I’ve tried to do some of it in third and it just doesn’t speak to me the same way. So, I suppose that’s a bit of a style. I also tend to write like I speak. In fact, I just talk out loud as I write, both narration and dialogue. I also, especially for first person, try to write the way the narrator would speak. A 21-year-old girl’s narrative is significantly different than an 82-year-old guy’s and I hope that readers get a feel for different voices as they read.
5. Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
I think it started as an interest in art. When I was little I wanted to be an artist when I grew up. Somewhere along the way - still quite young - that turned into author. I’ve always made up stories and complicated worlds.
But, I can probably credit a lot of that to my parents for reading to me and encouraging me to read more advanced stuff. I remember memorizing and reciting the opening passage of Dune for class when I was in third grade.
6. Did you learn anything from writing your book(s) and what was it?
I learned a lot of little facts and tidbits. I did a lot of research and fact checking as I wrote. I don’t want to be one of those authors (if anyone ever loves my work enough to analyze it that is) who has people say “Well, that isn’t true, she should have taken the time to google it.”
I also learned confidence. A lot of people say that one of the biggest hurdles of writing a book is finishing it. It’s a great feeling to be done with a book. Being able to say “I did it.” gives me the confidence to know that I can do it again.
And, as some readers will tell you, I also learned that I am very evil and do awful things to my characters. I heard a bit of advice to writers once that said, “Write something that scares you.” That doesn’t mean to write about evil clowns or creepy crawlies, it means to reach out of your comfort zone. Write something dark, write something angsty. Write something that makes you step back and go “Whoa, did I write that? How did my brain come up with that?” You can’t grow as a writer, or a person, if you don’t stretch your boundaries once in a while.
7. Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
Funny you should ask. I actually traveled before my book! Semester Aboard was inspired by a semester that I spend aboard a ship doing, well, exactly what my protagonist is doing. Other than, of course, the magical parts. All of the places that are visited in that book are places that I went on that trip. See also, Question 10.
8. Where do you get your information or ideas for your books?
Oops, sort of answered this one already. I got the idea for Semester Aboard while on a cruise. In a really boring, lengthy post on my blog, I explain how (long story short!) I came up with the characters and basic plot years before my cruise. It wasn’t until I got on the ship that I realized the perfect setting to go along with it. Then, the sequel just sort of fell into place.
Other than that, a lot of information comes from things I know and enjoy. I’ve held a lot of random, odd jobs and they all fall together to round out my characters and plots.
9. How do you cope with writer’s block?
I write something else. The backstory for Dani, and the other characters, all got written when I was stuck on Semester Aboard. If I just couldn’t get past a chapter, I would come up with a random moment like, when so-and-so met this other character, and I’d sit back and write a scene where they met. As I said earlier, first person always works better for me for this world, so I’d pick a character and write from their POV instead of Jen’s. Jen is the narrator in Semester Aboard, by the way. And changing settings and getting out of Jen’s head was usually enough to keep me writing and beat writer’s block.
As an added bonus, the fact that I was still writing in the More than Magic universe gave me a chance to flesh out backstory and really make complex characters. I also got a better feel for magic and how it all worked, since I was writing from the POV of someone who was more familiar with it than Jen. I think that my characters and the entire book would have been very different without all of the extra knowledge I gained from doing that. I highly recommend it.
10. If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
One of the answers that comes to mind in this, as I mentioned in Question 7, is the travel. I have a few slower, touristy scenes as the characters sightsee throughout the book. I did it with the intent of breaking up the action and also to let the reader travel a bit. I wanted the readers to get a little taste of the world as they read. A few people have said that some of those scenes drag a bit, even though they all have some plot advancement. They also made the book a tad longer than necessary. If I could go back I’d probably cut a lot of that out.
Other than that, everything! I kid.
Seriously though, one of the hardest parts of writing is knowing when to stop. You have to be able to say “Enough, no more changes, no more editing, my book is done.” I still, almost a year after publishing, find things I want to change when I flip through it. None of them are major changes, but I think, “Oh, I wish he had said this instead” or “I repeated that word a lot on that page, I wish I could throw in some synonyms.” But, a lot of that is just learning how to let go. Your kids have to grow up sometime.
1. Other than writing, what special or unusual talent(s) do you have?
All credited to my time at Mount Vernon: I can take just about any concept and relate it back to George Washington. I know how to mill, distill, blacksmith, and process wool from sheep to blanket. I also have a bunch of other sundry 18th century talents/knowledge. Most of it is probably quite useless, but I enjoy it nonetheless.
2. Favourite TV shows at the moment?
Deadliest Catch, Worlds’ Worst Tenants, How I Met Your Mother, and Family Guy.
3. If your house was attacked by feral zombies, and they were tearing apart your house with their Über super strength, what five items would you save?
My turtle, my first proof of Semester Aboard, my thumb drive, an African spear from my brother-in-law (to fight back zombies of course), and my 18th century antique bed warmer. That’s assuming my husband is saving himself - otherwise I’d save him instead of the bed warmer.
4. Dangerous this one: Five words a loved one would use to describe you?
Whimsical (my husband’s favorite), bratty (his second favorite - but only if I’m bored!), creative, dorky, loving.
5. If someone wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
Case Study: Kirke, Elizabeth
Notes: believes the voices in her head are ‘her characters’
Jen is looking forward to spending an entire summer studying abroad on a cruise ship and she knows the experience will change her life. Then she sees something she wasn't supposed to see, something she can't explain. Jen finds herself thrust into a world she never knew existed and her life will change more than she imagined. That is, if she can survive the dangers lurking on the ship.
Bex 'n' Books would like to thank Elizabeth for joining us on our blog. An amazing interview - thank you!