I’m so excited to have one of my newest author buddies Ellen Smith on the blog this week! We recently connected via Instagram and after just a few seconds of perusing (perusing, not stalking :-P), her social media, I knew we’d be fast friends! In this interview, you’ll get an inside look at her writing process, learn her top tips for marketing and productivity, and receive invaluable advice all writers would be wise to follow!
Now get comfy and please enjoy the interview!
How long have you been writing? Have you always wanted to be an author?
Always! I’m a storyteller at heart. I’ve been jotting down little stories and character sketches since I could write, and dreaming of sharing those stories for just as long.
Your novel, Reluctant Cassandra, immediately caught my eye because of the allusion to the Greek myth about the Trojan prophetess, Cassandra. Can you share how you came up with the premise for the book and tell us a bit about it?
Although the mythical Cassandra could see the future, nobody believed her prophecies. That always stuck with me. What would it be like to know something bad was going to happen and not be able to change it? I wanted to take that concept and write a modern story with a Cassandra-like character.
In Reluctant Cassandra, Arden McCrae has always had premonitions about the future as well as insights into the past. That kind of information overload can be too much to handle sometimes, so Arden has carved a safe little niche for herself: she’s an antique store owner in her hometown, the historic hamlet of Eagle Valley, Virginia. However, her safe little cocoon is about to get shaken up in a major way. Her father has Alzheimer’s disease, and she can see as well as anyone that her parents will have to sell their family farm in order to pay for his care. However, when her parents sell the farm to a housing developer, the town’s historic status is threatened, too. Arden knows that she is slowly losing the father she loves and quickly losing her business and her town, too. As much as Arden wishes she could cling on to the past, she knows that she will need to learn to embrace the future…and discover how strong she really is.
What is your favorite part of the writing process and why?
I’m a daydreamer, so my favorite part of writing is freewriting that first draft. I love seeing where my imagination carries me. The moment when the story idea starts to take on a life of its own is so exciting!
What is your least favorite part of the writing process and why?
Editing, definitely. Because my early drafts tend to be all over the place, there’s a lot of clean-up work to do when I start editing!
Are you a “plotter” or a “pantser,” or perhaps a blend of both? Have you tried writing both ways?
I used to be a pantser and tried plotting my most recent work-in-progress. Now I’m a plantser! I liked plotting because it gave me a little more direction as I was writing, but I always end up adding new characters and ideas as I’m drafting.
Do you have any writing tricks or tips for productivity?
For me, it just comes down to deciding to write. There will always, always, always be an excuse for why ‘now’ isn’t a good time to write. I have to decide to write anyway—even if I only have ten minutes, even if I don’t know what to write next, even if I’m just plain tired. Write anyway.
Where do you go for inspiration when you feel your creativity well is running dry?
I do other creative projects—the idea is to keep moving but change tracks for a little while. I’ll play piano, draw a little, paint, or sew. Before long, I’ll feel “un-stuck” and get back to writing! Most recently I’ve started doing origami. One of the main characters in my work-in-progress is very talented at making origami models, so I wanted to try it myself in order to describe what she does. It’s more difficult than I thought, but it’s also very satisfying! In some ways it’s given me more insight into her character.
Which contemporary authors do you admire most, and why?
Jo-Ann Mapson is a longtime favorite of mine because of how she weaves together complicated characters and unique settings. I can open up a page of one of her novels and just slip in to the world she’s created in an instant. I love Kate Morton’s writing style—she really takes her readers on a journey with her characters. Beth Hoffman and Kim Boykin both write fantastic books featuring quirky characters and Southern towns, which obviously appeals to me! And I never miss a book by Jeff Haws—he’s a speculative fiction writer, which is my favorite genre. I keep thinking about his stories long after I’ve read the last page.
Do you have any marketing tricks or tips for authors who are new to publishing?
The great thing about book marketing is that you’re connecting with other readers. I love to read and I love talking about what I’ve read with other book-lovers. Marketing a book you wrote is just an extension of that. You’re sharing what you love about the story with other people who love to read.
Do you have any advice for new writers?
There is someone out there who is going to love your story as much as you do. Keep writing, because that person is as eager to read your story as you are to write it!
And, most of important of all, coffee or tea?
I like both, but coffee is my lifeblood. 😊
MORE ABOUT ELLEN:
Ellen Smith is the author of the novel Reluctant Cassandra and the Channillo for Charity series Ghosts of Eagle Valley. She’s currently editing her next book, Every Last Minute, the first installment of a time-travel trilogy. When she isn’t writing, Ellen can be found reading, sewing, or avoiding housework. She lives with her family near Washington, D.C.
ABOUT RELUCTANT CASSANDRA:
Nothing much changes in historic Eagle Valley, Virginia. That’s a good thing for Arden McCrae. It’s easier to manage her visions of the future when there isn’t much to see. Arden would rather stay buried in the certainty that comes with stories of the past. Fortunately, running the local antique store and keeping up with the Eagle Valley Historical Society gives her plenty of history to hide behind.
When her aging parents are forced to sell their farm to pay for medical care, Arden sees big changes ahead. The sale threatens the historic status of Eagle Valley, and Arden’s own store is in peril. Meanwhile, her father’s rapidly advancing Alzheimer’s keeps him locked in a heartbreaking past. The rest of the McCrae family is left to make difficult decisions for the days to come.
The future that nobody wants is descending fast, and Arden must face the visions she’s always avoided. Soon, her town is divided over their historic status and her family is shattered by her father’s declining health. Arden will have to choose whether to fight to preserve the past or learn to embrace the future.
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