Would you like to get to know more about how the inner book brain of an Indie Author works?
This is the place!
Periodically, we'll invite an Indie Author to open up their brain, and show us inside. We'll have a conversation that deals a little bit with writing craft, reading influences, and some other fun stuff.
Today, we thumb through the pages of Indie Author Elizabeth Thomas' grey matter...
Discover More About Elizabeth Thomas HERE!
What literary pilgrimages have you gone on?I have two basic types of literary pilgrimages. Though I am no longer married, I went to London on my honeymoon. I toured Westminster Abbey, saw Poet’s Corner. Greats like Chaucer, Spenser, Tennyson, Browning, and Dickens are buried there. John Dryden, Charles II’s poet laureate (King Charles plays a large part in my historical romance, Arden’s Act), and William Davenant—who’s actually a character in Arden’s Act, and married a distant relative of mine, Henriette Tromblé—rest there as well. I hope in time to return to England and go to Stratford, where Shakespeare lived and is buried, and also to Dublin, to where Jonathan Swift is interred. I also want to visit Key West and tour Ernest Hemingway’s house. I was never all that excited about Hemingway, but I want to see all the descendants of his polydactyl cats!
But I have another type of literary pilgrimage that is more lighthearted and fun. I love to go and meet my favorite authors when they do book signings. First and foremost among these are Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, the writing team that created the Pendergast series. They are wonderful, kind gentlemen who allowed me to bring out a work of literary criticism--Apologia Diogenes--on their sexiest villain, Pendergast’s brother Diogenes. I’ve also met Diana Gabaldon who wrote the Outlander books. She is an absolutely brilliant woman, and it is one of my goals to have her put Arden’s Act on her famed “Methadone List.” Want to make my day, or maybe even my career? Compare Arden’s Act to Outlander, and post the review on Amazon!
What is the first book that made you cry?
My mother would tell you I’d cry whenever she read me Mrs. Duck’s Lovely Day, before I could read for myself. It was written by Vivienne Blake, and apparently I used to get really worked up over Mrs. Duck’s little pond shrinking in the drought and the possibility of her not being able to swim any more. I also remember that I actually became hysterical when the teacher read Snow White to us in kindergarten, because I thought Snow White had really died. I could not be consoled, and my parents had to come and get me and take me home from school. I was a pretty weird little kid. When I was a little older, reading for myself, it was Little Women.
What is your writing Kryptonite?
Well, there is the “grand scheme of things” and the actual writing level. In the grand scheme of things, it’s the conflict between taking things in, and putting them out. I love to read, and to watch television. So when I have spare time, I have to decide, do I want to consume something someone else has written, or do I want to get further with my own writing? And the fact that I labeled it “spare time” is also telling. I love my day job, and right now I need it to live, but sometimes it really drains me. Sometimes after work I’ll just want to mess around on Facebook and watch historical miniseries instead of writing. On the more focused level, I have a really difficult time writing realistic economic systems, military strategies, battle scenes, etc. I have this one fantasy project that’s been in my heart for a long time, but what’s believable and practical keeps getting in the way of the plot I want to present. A member of a writer’s group I used to be in said I could get around this by using a kind of fairytale approach; this is probably what I’ll do, but at the same time populate it with characters who are as deeply human as I can make them.
Do you want each book to stand on its own, or are you trying to build a body of work with connections between each book?
I want each book to be able to stand on its own, but I want each one to tie into my specific writer’s universe. For instance, Preston and Child have this one character, Eli Glinn, who first showed up in their (at the time) stand-alone novel The Ice Limit, then turned up in two of my favorite Pendergast books, Dance of Death and The Book of the Dead, before playing a pivotal role in the authors’ Gideon Crew series. Preston and Child have other cross-overs in their books as well. At the center of my writer’s universe is a fictionalized version of southeastern Michigan, with the elements of its French heritage heightened and embellished, so that it becomes something like a New Orleans North, or a Montreal South. Sure, someone who has read Arden’s Act might say, “what are you talking about? That’s set in London and Oxfordshire!” And yes, it is, but I’m planning another novel at some point that will feature one of Arden’s descendants living near the St. Clair River during the U.S. Civil War period. Even with the fantasy novel I’ll write eventually, various points of its mythical island continent will correspond to points on both Michigan peninsulas.
How did publishing your first book change your process of writing?
My first book was actually self-published in the pre-CreateSpace/KDP days, when a friend of mine wanted to start a self-publishing business. My first book that was chosen by a small Indie publisher (that has since ceased operations) had more of an effect on me. The only real change to my writing process, however, is that I now spend a lot less time wondering if whatever I’m working on “reads like a real book.”
As a writer, what would you choose as your mascot/avatar/spirit animal?
As a female Leo, I do have an identification with the lioness, and that’s something I think about when I need to have courage. And related to that, I am quite the crazy cat lady. Rita Mae Brown says every writer should have a cat to serve as a Muse, so that’s what I named my first cat—Muse. Dolphins also have meaning for me; I see them as a reminder to always try to have fun with what I’m doing. But—and I can’t really explain why—squirrels seem to come up frequently in my life. That fantasy novel I keep bringing up has always been called The White Squirrel. And I had a co-worker recently who nicknamed me Squirrel Girl. Like you can’t predict which way I’m going to dart in traffic. Writing-wise, it’s like I discover all these little plot-acorns, bury them for the winter, but sometimes I don’t find them again until three winters on down the line. I’ll lose enthusiasm for a project, and get distracted by another. So, yes, I’m going to have to go with squirrel.
What did you edit out of your books? (keep it family-friendly, please)
I wish I were a better content editor. I feel like I probably don’t know enough about what story incidents to cut. I’m a much better proofreader. I go through and I try to weed out as much passive language as possible, as many incidences of “was” and “were” as I can re-structure sentences to eliminate. I try to get rid of repetitive language, when I use the same word to describe something twice on the same page, that kind of thing.
What one thing would you give up to become a better writer?
That’s really difficult. I’m such a hedonist. I don’t like to give up anything! I guess what I do tend to give up, as I’ve touched on before, is being as frequently entertained by the works of others. Also, anyone who publishes their writing gives up a certain level of mental privacy. Your thoughts, in your words, are out there for anyone and everyone to see.
What is your favorite childhood book?
This is such a hard question. There are so many. We’ve already hit upon Mrs. Duck’s Lovely Day, but Little Women had a huge influence on me, with its writer-heroine. I also loved animal books, from realistic ones like Farley’s Black Stallion books, to more fanciful ones like Margery Sharp’s stories about Miss Bianca and Bernard. And then I have to ask, how are we defining childhood? I first read The Lord of the Rings in eighth grade, and it had quite an impact on me. Does that count?
What is the most difficult part of your writing process?
Overcoming inertia. Actually starting and putting words down on a page. I’m fortunate; I once had a job where I had to write for a living, and so I never get writer’s block. But I do get the “I’m lazy and I’d rather read this other book over here that somebody else has written.”
What is the easiest part of your writing process?
Getting ideas. The number of novel ideas I have stored in my brain so far greatly outweighs the time I’ve had to get them written. Inspiration is pretty much everywhere for me.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
I feel as though I still don’t really know the answer to this. Two of my books are stories I’ve tinkered with for years. Arden’s Act, for instance, took ten years to finish, because I stopped in the middle and wrote a play, kept trying to get short stories published, and just in general kept getting distracted by other projects. On the other hand, Apologia Diogenes took about four or five months, partially because I wanted its release to coincide with Preston and Child’s The Obsidian Chamber. I also just happened to lose my day job, and it gave me great comfort to work on that book while I tried to find another one. I think in the future that I’ll manage to finish projects more quickly, now that I have the option of self-publishing open to me. I still want to have some books with traditional publishers; I think a hybrid publishing career is ideal.
A common misconception entwined with authors is that they are socially inept, how true is that?
For me, it’s kind of a toss up. I’m certainly capable of social faux pas. In a lot of ways, though, it depends on who I’m with. If it’s a bunch of people with whom I have nothing in common, they probably won’t even know I’m there, unless they say something I find so offensive that I stomp off. Among my friends, I like to think a lot of people find me hilarious. I love to make people laugh. Even though the things I write aren’t generally comedic, I think there are glimmers of humor in everything I write. And, of course, I love to make people laugh in person, too.
When did it dawn on you that you wanted to be an author?
When I was nine years old. I had just finished reading the actual Dodie Smith novel, The 101 Dalmatians (as opposed to Disney adaptations for little kids), and couldn’t find a “next book to read” that I thought would measure up. So I started writing one instead.
Who are your biggest literary influences?
It’s quite a bizarre assortment. Louisa May Alcott, Judy Blume, J.R.R. Tolkien, Anne Rice, Diana Gabaldon, Bertrice Small, and Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child.
What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book? Why?
Is it cheating to say all three of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films? Why? Because—and to clarify, I mean the extended director’s cuts—what these films got right was done beautifully, and two of the biggest changes they made I feel were changes for the better—Arwen’s greater involvement in the story, and the complete elimination of Tom Bombadil.
How did it feel when your first book got published? How did you celebrate?Each book feels the same. It is a joy to hold the physical book in my hands, to fan through the pages, and see the lines of print. To see my name on the cover. There is usually champagne, or at the very least, French sparkling wine involved.
What is that one thing you think readers generally don’t know about authors?
How little most of them make. Even I continue hanging on to the belief that I will somehow make it into that very small percentage who can live comfortably from their writing. Also, related, just how difficult it is to get a book noticed and reviewed.
Can you tell us about your current projects?
Right now I’m working on a collection of short stories that I’m going to call Crossings, because each story contains some element of pushing boundaries, transitions from one state of being to another, sliding into taboo behavior or thought. Then I’ll do a re-issue of my young adult title, Confessions of a Mixed-Up Weasel Hater. After that I’ll primarily be working on a novel of contemporary romantic suspense that includes a love quadrangle with two serial killers.
Are you attending any conventions/festivals where readers can meet you and/or buy your books? Please provide all the “find it” information.
I’m definitely thinking of participating in the 2020 Autumn Virtual Book Festival in October; that will be at http://www.pagespromotions.com/virtual-book-festival.html#/
Please provide links and/or instructions about how readers can purchase signed copies of your books.
You can message me on my Facebook author page, @elizabeththomaswriter, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Any advice you would like to give to aspiring authors?
Read as much as you can, especially in the genres you wish to write. Also, learn the rules of English grammar and composition. It’s okay to break the rules sometimes, but know what rule you are breaking and the reason you are doing it.
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