We are sharing our August First Friday Breakfast with award-winning author Elise Stephens. Elise blogs about practical approaches to creativity, relationships, and life at http://www.elisestephens.com. She lives in Seattle with her husband James. Forecast is her second novel. Her first novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. When she’s not writing, she loves live theater, swing dancing, eating tiramisu, singing, and painting. She also regularly craves Dilettante’s chocolate-covered fruit medleys, in case you’d like to know how to bribe her.
I’m departing from my usual breakfasts by having instead a Trader Joe’s mini croissant that’s been rising all night and baked to a beautiful golden brown, a slice of ‘rugged’ mature white cheddar, brown & green figs from the garden, a white nectarine, and blueberries with a mug of steaming decaf Irish tea. What are you having for your virtual breakfast, Elise?
Today I have a mountain of fresh fruit atop homemade granola and Greek honey yogurt. I might be eating all the fruit and serving myself more as I go, so be warned.
I take your warning seriously. Tell us about your writing process from concept to draft to revision.
I work a lot with images and ideas that get me excited. For Moonlight and Oranges I was excited to write a woman’s quest to reconcile the mistakes she’d made in her love story, while warring against her mother-in-law for who would be The Woman in her husband’s life. In Forecast, I began by writing a scene in which a young boy buried a magical key, at high emotional cost to himself, and wondered what story lay behind this. It always starts with something that excites me, and then I try my best to plan out the nuances and plot of the story before writing. I like to plan scenes so I know where I’m going. I write hot and fast, then spend a lot of time on revisions—though I’d like to shorten the time spent revising, because it’s not my favorite part! I have a group of trusted writer friends who help me edit and revise my books, and I also work with a professional editor through my publisher. I overhaul my manuscripts several times over before the public is allowed to see them!
Tell us about Forecast. What was the easiest thing to write about in the novel, and what was the hardest.
The easiest part of Forecast was making the setting mysterious and magical. An old manor full of secrets and sadness and whispers of magic came naturally to me for this book. Working through the themes of alcohol and abuse was a challenge—I knew I was treading on frightening and sensitive territory, and I had to ask for help on things I didn’t know enough about. Also, revising the manuscript with my editor was very challenging, as I was in middle of pregnancy and on a very tight deadline, but I grew in leaps and bounds through the process.
It was fun reading your short story Tightrope –I was riveted in that world and gripped by the danger. How would you compare novel writing to writing short stories, and will we be seeing more of the latter from you?
I’m so glad you liked it! I think novels and short stories have a lot in common—they both have to build to a climax and show characters changing in the face of powerful forces. I have to watch my word count much more carefully with short stories, though! I have many short stories waiting in the wings, but they have not yet found a home.
What’s your next project?
I am days away from delivering my very first baby. I think motherhood will take center stage for a while, but I have ideas in the works for something while will likely be a science fiction story that includes two best friends, a revolutionary cure for cancer, and a virtual reality computer game about the search for the Elixir of Life. The idea is still swirling around in my head at the moment.
Thank you for sharing your breakfast and writing life, Elise. Congratulations and blessings on the new novel and the new baby.
You can find her on Twitter @elisestephens and Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuthorEliseStephens.
Before you blast off to Amazon, Barnes & Noble or your local bookseller to buy Elise’s books, let me pour us all her favorite cup of espresso with a generous splash of cream.