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AUTHOR SPOTLIGHT

Elizabeth Lane

 

DECEMBER 2010 

 


WG:      Welcome and thanks for stepping into my spotlight this month. To start off, please tell us about yourself.

EL:      I was raised in Monroe, Utah, a small town set between forested mountains and red rock desert. The first of two sisters, I grew up hiking, fishing and camping with my family. I graduated from the University of Utah with a major in biology/education and minors in Spanish and art. Early on I worked as a teacher and as a proofreader before beginning a 23-year career as an educational software designer.

In the late 1970's, after selling several children's stories to a magazine, I decided to try a novel. My first adult book, MISTRESS OF THE MORNING STAR was published in 1980. After publishing five more novels and ghost-writing two others, I sold a proposal to Harlequin's then-new historical line. Since then I've written about 30 books for that publisher.

Presently I live in a suburb of Salt Lake City with my two rescue cats. I have a grown son and daughter and three wonderful grandchildren. Another daughter died in an accident in 1985. The cats, Walter and Sadie, have their own story. I found Walter, a huge brown tabby, through an online adoption site - clicked on his photo and fell in love. After I got him home, he meowed for days until I went back to the shelter and got his little red girlfriend. What a reunion! It's impossible not to be happy around them.



WG:      Tell us about your journey.

EL:      I'd always enjoyed writing but didn't consider it as a career till after my third child was born. My then mother-in-law encouraged me to enter a state writing contest. When my little short story won a prize, I wrote more and sold several to local magazines. I had an idea for a novel, but it took me several years before I was ready to start. The research alone took a year, the writing another two years (on an antique manual typewriter). But MISTRESS OF THE MORNING STAR sold after just a few times out, and the publisher bought three more books from me before the market changed and they went out of business. Another publisher bought two more books, the second one a lead, before they also lost their funding and went under. There followed what I call my "dark years" in which calamitous things were happening in my personal life, and I couldn't sell anything I wrote. The breakthrough came when my agent sold a proposal to Harlequin. I've been writing for them consistently ever since. For anyone interested, my first four books are still available in e-book and print on demand format.


WG:      How many books did you complete before you sold your first? Have all/any of them sold since?

EL:      I was lucky enough to sell my first book - a big, historical epic, when those books were popular. Since then I've had plenty of unsold proposals, but never an entire book that didn't end up in print.


WG:      How has being a published author impacted your life?

EL:      I'm not rich and/or famous, but it's given me credibility and a means of connecting with new friends. The money, though not a lot, has been a nice extra. And of course, seeing that book in print is still a high, as is hearing from readers. But the roller coaster of ups and downs is still there.



WG:      What aspect of life as a published author surprised you the most - either in a good or bad way?

EL:      It's a lot less glamorous than I thought it might be, nothing like you see in the movies. Mostly hard work and the pressure to keep producing. Self promotion is something I never anticipated, either. Always thought the publishers did that. Ha! Still I feel very lucky to be publishing and wouldn't trade the experience.


WG:      What about your writing process:
Do you maintain a set schedule? Is there such a thing as a typical day for you?

EL:      For years, when I was working full time and raising a family, I'd get up at 4:00 in the morning to write. Now that I'm living alone and writing full time, I just weave the writing in with the rest of my day, whatever it brings. I've reached the point where I refuse to let writing rule my life. Other things, family, friends, my physical and mental health, etc., have become more important. Even so, I manage to do at least two novels a year, plus proposals and promotion.


WG:      Do you have a 'mood setter', something (music, ritual, environment, etc) you use to get you going when you sit down to write?

EL:      Music helps - I have plenty of movie sound tracks and classical cd's. And I have a big, beautiful painting above my desk. Painted by an Australian Aboriginal woman, it's just clusters of tiny dots, thousands of them, on a black background, like gazing into space. Looking at it helps me think. Also, I keep a really good book handy. When I get stuck, reading a few wonderful pages helps jump start my own creativity.


WG:      Do you do a lot of up front plotting before you start or do you just dive in?

EL:      I have to write a synopsis to sell most books. But I'm definitely a diver. CHRISTMAS MOON, which I wrote without a contract, was written in a single edited draft with no advance plotting. It just flowed from my head onto the page. I love working that way and would do it always if I could.


WG:      Do you normally start with storyline or with character or with some combination of the two?

EL:      Probably a combination. It depends on the story. My writing style is very intuitive and unstructured. Usually I just jump into the story and figure it out as I go. For me, some of this comes before the synopsis.


WG:      What do you see as your own personal strengths as a writer?

EL:      Hmmm. Probably a feel for the flow of language. Also the ability to keep a lot of things in my head. I remember most of my research, and the plotting I do is mostly mental. No charts or files or stickies. Very few notes.


WG:      Are there any obstacles/conflicts, specific to your particular lifestyle, that get in the way of your writing? If so, how do you try and overcome them?

EL:      I've had my share of rough patches - jobs, children, elderly parents, an unhappy marriage, a divorce and more. Like most of you out there, I just got through them somehow and kept writing. These days my biggest obstacle is a 20-pound cat who sprawls across my wrists when he wants attention. He gets it. ?


WG:      Is there anything else you'd like to tell us about your process?

EL:      I pretty much free write for the first half of the book. Then, because I have to write to a specific length, I do a sketchy chapter outline, covering what has to happen before the end of the book. As I finish each chapter I revise the outline to fit the number of pages I have left. I tend to write at a snail's pace, thinking out every detail as I go. It can be maddeningly slow, but by the time I get to the end the text is pretty much finished. I've tried batting things out to revise later - it just doesn't work for me.


WG:      Is there a genre you haven't been published in yet that you'd like to try your hand at someday?

EL:      I love romantic suspense, both historical and contemporary. But it's all I can do to write the books I'm known for and can sell. Maybe someday.



WG:      Do you have any advice to offer writers still striving toward publication?

EL:      It's a tough business, and you need to be tough, too. Don't be afraid to put your best work out there. It has to be seen to be published. If you get rejections, keep improving and trying. The one sure way to fail is to quit.


WG:      Rejections, notes from unhappy readers and less than stellar reviews are all part of this business. What is your own method for dealing with these and moving on?

EL:      I've long since accepted the fact that my work isn't for everyone. Usually I ask myself if there's anything I can learn from a rejection or bad review. If so, I make a mental note of it. If not, I forget it and focus on my next project.


WG:      Is there some piece of advice you received or bit of 'conventional wisdom' that you wish you had ignored?

EL:      "Write what you love." No, no, no, you write what somebody else will love, and if you do it right, you'll come to love it, too.

The single biggest mistake of my career was waiting too long to make the jump from heavy historical novels to hot romances like the Kathleen Woodiwiss books. The delay has cost me dearly.


WG:      What do you find to be the most rewarding thing about being a writer? What aspect do you struggle with the most?

EL:      Most rewarding: the creative process. Most frustrating: the creative process.


WG:      When you're not writing, what do you do for fun or what is your favorite self-indulgence?

EL:      I have a hard time sitting still. When I'm not writing, I like to be up and moving, so I dance, hike, do a killer yoga class, garden, snowshoe, or just walk around my neighborhood. I also love to travel when I can spare the time and money. My most recent trips have been to Tanzania, Peru and Alaska.


WG:      When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?

EL:      I always wanted to be a scientist and study animals. In college I majored in biology. But then I got married, had children and it just wasn't practical. So somewhere along the way I became a writer.


WG:      What would your readers be most surprised to learn about you?

EL:      In addition to writing romance, I'm also a nationally published children's author. The little books, which I wrote as part of my day job, are still available on Amazon, some of them under made-up names.


WG:      What are your favorite movies and/or TV shows? Why?

EL:      Love the old classics like "Casablanca." Such great romantic stories and stars. On TV I like the PBS dramas and, for reasons I'm not sure of, crime shows like CSI. Maybe it has something to do with the triumph of good over evil.


WG:      I love to collect quotes, all kinds of quotes - inspirational, quirky, motivational, profound, etc. Do you have a personal favorite you'd like to share.

EL:      "Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and look for trouble." Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek.

(I discovered the book and the quote at a difficult time in my life. It helped me understand that if I couldn't change my situation, I could at least change myself.)


WG:      Please tell us about your current project.

EL:      I'm excited about my new holiday release CHRISTMAS MOON, available in e-book and paperback. Here's the blurb from the back of the book.

Anything can happen under a Christmas Moon...

Pregnant, unwed and down on her luck, history teacher Emma Carlyle is facing the worst Christmas of her life. Needing some research for her master's thesis on legendary Wyoming lawman J.D. McNulty, she makes a Christmas Eve drive to South Pass City, where J.D. was buried. Heading home, she loses her way in a storm. After her car vanishes, she ends up in 1871, half-frozen, on the doorstep of a remote mountain cabin. When J.D. himself opens the door with a pistol in one hand and a bottle of whiskey in the other...well, let's just say that sparks start flying. These two lost souls are clearly meant for each other. But there's one problem. Emma has studied everything about J.D.--and she knows he has only a few weeks to live.

Historical author Elizabeth Lane has penned a sensual time travel romp that will delight the reader from beginning to end.


WG:      Tell us about your upcoming plans.

EL:      My next release (March 2011) will be The Widowed Bride, the fourth and last book in my Western "Bride" series for Harlequin Historicals. In September I finished another historical, no release date yet. It's set in California in 1858. My working title is The Prince from the Sea, but I'm guessing it will be changed. And I just accepted a contract for two more historical novels and a Spring Brides novella. Since Harlequin wants Westerns from me, that's what they'll be.


WG:      And before we close, tell us how your readers can get in touch with you.

EL:      I love hearing from my readers. Best way to contact me is through my web site: www.elizabethlaneauthor.com.


WG:      Thanks so much for spending time with me and my readers this month. It was fun 'chatting' with you, as always!

 

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