Welcome to Heartstrings.Thanks for stopping by. I am an author of contemporary and historical romantic fiction. My contemporaries, Carly's Rule and Dusty's Fate, are both Amazon Best-Sellers. Ethan's Heart,book one of The Blackwood Brothers' series, will be released Dec. 6, 2016 followed by Escorting Darby Bloom in 2017. Stay tuned for more books in this series.
"This action-packed romance has everything a reader could want: a handsome hero, a brave and devoted woman, outlaws with a vengeful agenda of their own, and three little girls who will break your heart." Sharon Sala, New York Times Bestselling author
Elaine, welcome to Heartstrings. Thank you for being here. I know you're from Louisiana. My heart goes out to all those affected by the flooding. I hope all your family and friends are okay. Thank you so much. Happy to be here, and yes, thankfully, everyone is okay. I do have friends affected by the flooding. They will need to go through carpet replacement and rebuilding, but thankfully they and their loved ones/pets are all okay.
From your bio, I know you grew up with a love of all things supernatural. Does this come from a personal experience or maybe family stories?
I think it comes from growing up in an eclectic city like New Orleans. It's only been since moving away to another state that I've discovered just how bizarre some things are there, but I grew up thinking it was normal. Like neighborhood homes co-existing with large cemeteries in the same developed area of land. In Louisiana, that's normal, but you won't find that anywhere else. Many cities build areas with townhomes, restaurants, and shops, but cemeteries? No. There's something beautifully paranormal about the entire city. The ornate crypts of the dead blend in with homes, businesses, and schools like a supernatural tapestry. My high school is surrounded by shotgun houses, small corner businesses, with two large cemeteries across the street. It all blends together, and I grew up accepting this as normal. Every area of life is this way; New Orleans gets into your DNA and never leaves. I think that's why I love Savannah so much. It reminds me of home, and it's a much closer drive to where I live now.
I listened to you read the first chapter of No Grits, No Glory. You would be a fantastic reader for audio books. Ever thought about doing that? (Hear Elaine read the first chapter of No Grits, No Glory. You'll be as hooked on the story as I was.) Why, thank you! When I was younger, someone mentioned I might make an ideal radio announcer, but I never could make that career path work. At the present time, I'm considering narrating my own books in audio, but haven't considered it much for doing other people's work. I might need to look into that, though!
Was there one specific moment or incident that pointed you toward writing? While it's true that I've loved stories and writing as far back as I can remember, yes. There was one specific moment in grammar school.The school principal was a former Marine, and he ran a tight ship. Needless to say, as young children, most of us were petrified of him. He was often seen as angry, judgmental, and definitely not approachable. One day, he came into our classroom out of the blue and started talking about words. About how learning new words each day would broaden our horizons, how we could do so much if we just learned two new words per day. He was, for the first time we'd ever seen, trying to relate to us. Trying to inspire us and talk to us on our level. I remember going home and being so excited that I was going to start learning new words every day. Looking back now, I honestly believe the man must have been on some form of medication. He was never that open and approachable again. I remember it vividly and how excited I was about words for the first time.
You've written eight books in three years. How do you structure your day to get all that work done? It's a challenge, definitely! I have always scheduled time on the weekends to write, and fortunately, I can write fast. On the weekdays, I used to have more free time in my day job so I could afford to take long lunches and write then. Since taking a new job, free time is rare, but I am trying to wake up an hour earlier and write before I go into work. Weekends are the easiest, though, as I can block time without distractions. I can't wait to hear your workshop, Plotting vs Pantsing: A Delicate Recipe, at the ACRA Fiction Writers' Conference on the Beach in St. Augustine, Florida. Are you a Plotter or a Pantser? Thanks! I'm excited to be able to speak at ACRA this year. I lean toward pantser, but I actually have come up with a method to use both, and that's what my talk at the conference will focus on.
(I'm anxious to find out how you blend the two. I lean more toward Plotting, but I do some pantsing, as well.)
Do you ever experience writer's block? If so, how do you work through it? I have asked this question of other writers and find that we all have different definitions of the term. That being said, I do not have a shortage of ideas. There are always ideas, inspirations, and characters that I want to create but maynot have the time to do so right away. In that sense, no, I don't experience a block.
Do I experience a block when writing a current book? Yes, absolutely. I find this happens most in draft writing, of not knowing where to go sometimes (it's a risk for a pantser). I find that by reviewing my original story structure, ensuring I am following the themes/plot points that I wanted to tell, this helps me push through it. Some days, I just have to face the fear and sit down and write, even if I know it's not great writing the first draft. It's a learned skill to do this and is where many writers give up.
(Elaine, I really like how you explained writer's block. This is exactly where I experience blocks. Not on ideas, but where my story is going. I go back and review my plot. Sometimes, I might call a critique partner for additional brainstorming.)
What advice or tips would you like to give, one writer to another? There are so many things, but these three are probably key: 1. Don't ever give up. Keep writing no matter what. 2. Back up all your information to an external drive so you don't lose your data. 3. Don't forget to refill the creative well. Writing is a solitary activity where we live inside our own heads. Don't forget to go out into the world and experience, see beauity to refill that artistic place inside you.
If you could go anywhere in the world to write your books, where would you go? Hmm, that's a toughie. I love views of the ocean and the mountains, however. So I'd say someplace with an incredible view that inspires. Spain, Scotland, Ireland...and probably more spots.
As a teenager, I fell in love with The Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton-Porter. I still love that book and have it in both ebook and paperback. Do you have a favorite book? I love way too many to narrow it down to a favorite. Some of my favorite authors are Neil Gaiman, Cornelia Funke, Dennis Lehane. I read both in my genre and outside of it. My loving a book comes from truly enjoying the author's voice--which is where my list of favorites comes from.
As a writer, what is the strangest or funniest thing that has ever happened to you? I knew many people would not necessarily know the meaning of "grits" for my first Southern Ghosts Series book, No Grits No Glory. But I was surprised and laughed hard when I learned that "grits" in South Wales is slang for men's underpants. That was so not what I was going for! Since it's a humorous anecdote, I tell that story at various book signings and events. Recently, I told it to a group of people in Savannah. When I opened up the room for Q&A, a man raised his hand, told me he was from South Wales, and he corroborated my story! What were the dang odds that someone would be traveling from Europe and be in the audience when I told that exact tale? I still laugh when I think of it.
Now, on a more personal note. What's the craziest thing you've ever done? I walked through New Orleans airport dressed up as a gorilla. Yes, you read that correctly. This was pre 9/11, when we were allowed to walk right to the gate to welcome friends home from a trip. A group of us dressed up as zoo animals, walked through the airport (with many laughing stares from security) and greeted mutual friends who were returning from a long trip. They cracked up laughing, and their faces turned red. We walked them all the way to baggage claim. I will note that since that time, I don't get embarrassed by much. When you've walked through an international airport dressed as a giant ape, the smaller things in life don't really embarrass me anymore! LOL.
Name three things you can't live without? Iced coffee. Cheese. Writing. Not necessarily in that order.
Do you have a favorite recipe you'd like to share? In honor of my No Grits No Glory book, I'll share a fantastic grits recipe. I don't have the chance to cook this often, but it's the best shrimp & grits I've ever eaten. My son-in-law came up with the recipe:
Brandon's Shrimp & Grits 2-3 cups grits (real, do not use instant) 1 cup heavy cream 2-3 cups milk 1 pound bacon 1 stick butter 1 pound deveined shrimp (I prefer using pre-cooked shrimp, but the original recipe calls for raw shrimp that you cook in bacon grease.) Soak the grits in milk for several hours. Cook the bacon on the stovetop, keep the bacon fat/grease in pan. Use that as a base to cook and/or reheat the shrimp. Cook grits in butter and heavy cream. Add bacon, seasoning, shrimp on top and serve.
Elaine, thank you so much for visiting Heartstrings and sharing with us.
Here is more about Elaine.
BIO Elaine Calloway grew up in New Orleans with a love of Gothic architecture, cemeteries, and all things paranormal. Ever since she learned creative writing and saw her first Scooby Doo cartoon, she was destined to become a writer of ghost stories. She spends most of her writing efforts working on her Southern Ghosts Series, which are part ghost story, part romantic suspense, part humor, and part mystery. When she isn't writing (When is that?), she enjoys spending time with friends and family and spoiling her dog. Visit Elaine at her website http://www.elainecalloway.com/ Facebook Author Elaine Twitter Elaine Calloway
You can also see her at DragonCon where she will be on two panels.