Interview: Elizabeth Hunter

We’ve all had the experience of reading a good book and not being able to put it down. And maybe we’ve also experienced reading a series of books that keeps getting better and better, stronger and stronger with each book. But it’s been a long while since I’ve become so strongly attached to a series of books as I have to the Elemental Mysteries. Due to that, I hope you’ll pardon my giddy excitement that I had the privilege and pleasure to interview the author, Elizabeth Hunter. She talks writing and traveling in the following interview:

AH: Which character did you have the most fun writing in The Elemental Mysteries?

EH: That’s really hard to answer because I love them all in different ways. (They’re kind of like kids.)  For the pure fun of it, probably Carwyn. I love his sense of humor and his heart. For a challenge? Tenzin. She’s very difficult to write because of her age, but that makes her really fun, too. And then Gio and Beatrice are always a joy. They’re like my oldest friends in the series because their characters came first

AH: The world you’ve created in this series is amazing. Can you explain your world building process?

EH: For me, it always goes back to character. The first character in the series was Giovanni. He came first when I imagined an immortal character whose life revolved around books. And then it grew from there. I started asking questions about him: When was he born? How had he lived as a human? Why was he immortal and how did it happen? What is his greatest strength? His weakness? What is he proud of? What does he regret?

And then I research. I do a lot of research to find the answers to all the questions. Books, the internet, music, documentaries. I’ve researched everything from Renaissance printing history to Caucasian geography to Taoist mythology. But that part is fun for me! I love research.

AH:  One of the aspects I really enjoyed about the world was the character names–they rang true and authentic. Do you have a naming process or do they just come to you?

EH: It’s a combination. Every now and then a name will come to me; but often, I have a history or a background, and then I search for a name that seems to fit the character and have meaning beyond the obvious. Beatrice’s name (while not the most popular for a young woman these days!) was obvious. Her father was a Dante scholar, and Beatrice was Dante’s muse. But Carwyn’s name, which means “blessed love,” I had to search for.

AH: Where is your favorite place to write?

EH: I write in my office now that my son is in school, which is quiet and lovely and has my lazy dogs keeping me company. And that’s wonderful. But my first four books were written at my kitchen table when I was still juggling the world. I mostly wrote at night when my son was asleep. Or at a coffee shop sometimes. I think it’s important to be flexible. I understand “getting in the writing zone,” but you don’t want to get to a place in your process where you have to have to be creative. Make a habit of being creative in lots of places, and you might find inspiration in unexpected ways.

AH: On your website, you mention that you and your son plan to visit thirteen countries and as a fellow travel lover I have to ask: What country would you visit for the sole purpose of taking a writing vacation?

EH: This is a great question! (And thirteen is really just the beginning.) I’m actually considering a research/writing trip to the Eastern Mediterranean this summer. It will depend on the timing, but I love that area. I’m fairly sure that Istanbul is the setting for a book that’s swirling around my brain, so I really need to go there. Sometimes a city or country will just keep popping up—in books, news, music, reader letters—so I’m following my gut. If I was going somewhere to just write though, I’d probably go to Ireland. I love the West coast of Ireland; it’s very relaxing, and I do like a good pub.

AH: What have been the easiest and hardest parts about being a published author?

EH: The easiest? Being able to make a living doing what I love. This is my dream job, and I’m supporting myself and my family doing it. I’m incredibly blessed. The hardest? When you’re self-published, there are many responsibilities that go with running what is basically a small business. I hire good people, but finding them and juggling everything can be a challenge. Still, it’s a challenge I gladly accept, because I retain creative control over my work. I write what I want, when I want, and I market my work the way I think is best. Nothing is dictated to me by a publisher or an agent. For me, that’s worth the trade-off in time.

Elizabeth Hunter is the author of The Elemental Mysteries Series, THE GENIUS AND THE MUSE, and The Cambio Springs series. SHIFTING DREAMS is the first book in Cambio Springs and recently came out March 5. For more information, please visit her website elizabethhunterwrites.com 

Interview: Alex Bledsoe

I recently spoke with author Alex Bledsoe about balancing life as a writer and parent, hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, his upcoming novel, and the Shetland Islands. The following are excerpts from the full audio interview:

AH: What character have you had the most fun writing in your career and why?

AB: The most fun character would be Eddie LaCrosse because I’ve written five books about him and some short stories and at this point I can drop right into his voice and go.

AH: Can you explain some of the ways your background has influenced your writing?

AB: I started out in newspapers, which teaches you to write fast and clearly and to a deadline. And once you’ve been a newspaper reporter with those deadlines, book deadlines don’t scare you at all…I deliberately took a lot of jobs so they wouldn’t interfere with my writing. That was why I left newspaper work…I moved into photography and into editing so that I would have the energy and inspiration to write my own stuff around that.

AH: Has moving from Tennessee to Wisconsin influenced your writing style in any way?

AB: Actually, it’s interesting. I’ve lived in the south for all of my life since I moved to Wisconsin. It’s actually made me more conscious of the “southerness” of my writing. I don’t necessarily have a problem with that because a lot of my stories are set in the south but it’s become a lot more prevalent in my thinking now that I’m not surrounded by it every day.

AH: What more can we expect to see from the Tufa in your upcoming sequel in Wisp of a Thing?

AB: Wisp of a Things takes place a little bit after The Hum and the Shiver and introduces a new main character named Rob, who was a performer on an American Idol type show and he is coming to Cloud County which is the place that the Tufa live in search of a magical song that heals broken hearts. In his quest for that, he connects with a young lady who is under a curse and if the curse isn’t lifted by a certain point, it will become permanent. I don’t want to give too much away because that is there the story starts.

AH: If you could visit any country in the world for a writing vacation, which country would you go to?

AB: Scotland. I’d go to the Shetland Islands. I became fascinated with the Shetland Islands about five or six years ago.

AH: What are the easiest and hardest parts about being a published author?

AB: The easiest is that I get to do this for a living. After a long time of wanting to be in this position, being in it is great. I try to treat it like I would any other job. I get up early, I work for a certain amount of hours, I have deadlines…the hardest thing is that I’m also a stay-at-home parent to two little boys and that as you can imagine can kind of get in the way of the other…but parenting and writing are things that need both of your attention.

AH: Can you tell us a little bit about how you got involved with The Triumph Over Tragedy anthology?

AB: The editor of the anthology contacted me, described the anthology that he was putting together and asked me if I had anything I’d like to contribute. He was willing to take reprints, or older stories and that was good because I was right in the middle of a deadline…The reason I didn’t even hesitate is because I used to live down in Mobile, Alabama and when you live on the gulf coast for any amount of time you get extremely sensitive to hurricanes. I was living there when a hurricane hit Pensacola, which is only about a 45 minute drive to the east. With hurricanes, that distance is almost insignificant. It could have just as easily hit Mobile. It did tremendous damage to Pensacola, which was a place that I went to all the time. Then of course, when you live on the gulf coast, you go to New Orleans all the time. Everyone goes to New Orleans, once a month is not unreasonable. And when Hurricane Katrina hit there and destroyed all of these beautiful places that I knew, that I had been to…I can’t even describe how that felt…so when this happened in New Jersey, I felt for them in a way that I might not have…this one spoke really directly…

My story is very short. It’s only five to six hundred words so I can’t really tell you much about it or I’ll tell you the whole story. It’s sort of a gothic, love crafty, and horror story set in Arkansas and it’s called ‘Wrap’.

Alex Bledsoe is the author of the Eddie LaCrosse Novels, The Hum and the Shiver and more. His upcoming sequel Wisp of a Thing comes out June 2013. Find more information at www.alexbledsoe.com 

Book vs. Movie Debate


Photo Credit: Ariel da Silva Parreira

It’s the clash of the titans, the age-old dilemma with fervent advocates on either side.

To read, or not to read—and by this I mean a book before its movie adaption.

I recently went to see Beautiful Creatures and walked away thinking it was an all right movie (Emmy Rossum and Emma Thompson were fabulous). I’d learned that the movie was based off of a book, but I didn’t have time to read it before seeing the movie. Usually, my policy is to read the book before seeing the movie, but according to some of my friends, that may be a backward way of doing it.

I’ll use Beautiful Creatures as a case study because it was the first time I’ve done the opposite. Honestly, I’m intrigued by what actually happens in the book, but I don’t have a burning desire to read it.

For me, that’s the Achilles heel. What if, based on a mediocre or awful movie, I completely dismiss amazing literature? Someone said to me that reading a book before seeing the movie is like having an extended version of a book or being a celebrity insider. You already know what’s going to happen and you’re familiar with all the characters/have an idea in your head of how you want them to be, so watching a movie can be like a reunion with old friends.

Except all reunions don’t end well, which is often the case for movie adaptions.

However, seeing the movie before reading the book could ruin a chance to read the book based on the actors, director, or the overall movie structure. Plus you already know the ending to the book, which could make actually reading it tedious.

After I saw The Perks of Being a Wallflower, I really wanted to read the book. It helped that the author had a hand in the screenwriting process because he was able to translate his vision into the movie. I felt that I would be getting the same vision, the same essence if I read the book as well. Many times, this does not translate well between movies and film.

The issue is becoming more apparent as more books take on the big screen. For this year alone, 26 books will be adapted into movies. In the next couple of years, as many as 60 books could either wow us or make us groan inwardly when they make their adapted debut on the big screen. The hunger for favorite literary stories to see a larger than life stage is almost palpable in public opinion. As early as 1899 with the Brothers’ Grimm adaption of Cinderella, literary works adapted for movies have proven to be an enduring market.

This still doesn’t solve my dilemma. A good movie should be able to stand on its own, despite any preconceived notions or bias a reader may have. Books and movies are two separate creative entities with different means of expression and should be allowed a judgment based on self merit and not the merit of the opposing entity. I recognize this, and yet it is very hard to do when reading a book and then seeing a movie that had the potential to be good.

Personally, I know that by watching a movie, I’ll either have a strong reaction to reading the book or I’m blasé about it. I’m always interested in new literature, but it would take an exceptional movie to actually propel me to read the book. In this way, the movie is the book’s sales pitch without even intending to be. This either leads to a return on investment for the author, in the sense that audiences will buy more books or an adverse reaction to the author’s work based on a movie.

It shouldn’t be that way, but so often watching the movie before reading the book makes it that way.

I’ll stick with reading the book before the movie, when I can manage it. What do you think?