Interview questions from Eternal Press.
Tell us a little about your book.
unvamped follows the story of three supernaturals. Petronella (Ellie) Cooper is a young witch who loves her family, but more often than not wishes she were human. Lee Fletcher is a regulating werewolf – he does not yet shift with every full moon. He is afraid of all the changes he will go through and who he will be on the other side. Charles Dumphrey, perfectly happy being a vampire at 693, feeds from a witch (Ellie) and wakes up the next morning human. Charles finds he lives next door to Ellie and they both go to school with Lee. Lee finds an unlikely friend in Charles as they both help each other adapt to their newfound status as human and supernatural. Ellie finds she cannot resist helping Charles either and the two strike up an awkward, budding romance. An unknown entity has spent his life in the pursuit of more power and sacrifices witches whose eighteenth birthday occurs on a full moon. Ellie is his next sacrifice. To save Ellie, Lee must overcome his newfound werewolf pride and reacquire his humanity, and Charles must overcome his weak human body. Will the boys be able to save Ellie without losing their humanity or sacrificing hers?
What gave you the idea for this particular story?
I was reading Writing the Paranormal Novel by Steven Harper, and in a section on plotting he discusses thinking of things that haven’t been done before. I suddenly thought “instead of starting with a human protagonist turning into a vampire, what if my vampire turned human?” and off I went. The process was actually really simple once I had that. I filled in my Plot Arc Table, and two months later I had unvamped!
Do you read widely?
As widely as I can. I mainly read a lot of YA fantasy/paranormal fiction, or I’m reading research materials either for stories I’m writing or for study. I try to branch away from Speculative Fiction, but it’s hard. I think it’s a bit of a never-ending cycle; I read YA Speculative Fiction, so I write it, so I read it, etc. It does let me know my product well though!
Who are your favorite authors?
Who isn’t?! Jane Austen, Kate Forsyth, Kate Elliott, Terry Pratchett, Rick Riordan, John Flanagan, Darren Shan, Cecilia Dart-Thornton, Cassandra Clare, Isobelle Carmody, J.R.R. Toklein, Julie Kagawa, Phillip Pullman, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, Pittacus Lore, Laini Taylor, Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Christopher Paolini, Neil Gaiman, Bram Stoker, Douglas Adams, Cornelia Funke, Oscar Wilde, Sean Williams, Eoin Colfer…
Who influenced you most?
I’m not sure really, but I can think of some people/things I certainly don’t want to emulate! Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn is my first memory of fantasy, and the first book I truly fell in love with. I think I take a bit of influence from everything and everyone around me. I have a truly shocking memory, so I will have an idea for something, know I saw/read something similar somewhere but have no idea where to even start looking. I read and watch so much material that everything just comes together into one big jumble sale of ideas.
What do you hope to accomplish with your writing? (ex: entertain, bring awareness, touch someone’s heart, inform….)
I’d like to be read and give people some enjoyment, maybe some escapism. I started off trying to insert a bit of a “learn to love yourself for who you are” theme, but I got a bit lost in the story I’m not sure it quite comes across anymore. I feel that that is a really important thing to teach young people, so hopefully not all of that message was lost. But, mainly, I would just like people to enjoy my stories, maybe tell their friends about them J
What scares you?
Lots of things! Growing up, for one, and having to pay the bills and take care of myself. But, also the dark, nearly everything from any Doctor Who episode, except Daleks, and mirrors at night. And, to be totally honest, the idea of bad reviews is really scary – I’ve read a lot of bad ones on Goodreads, and I would hate to be on the receiving end! People have a definite right to dislike my story, but gosh, I hope reviewers aren’t too scathing!
Where can we find you online?
On twitter @writer_iz
On Facebook at www.facebook.com/elizabethstevens88
And my website/blog at https://writeriz.wordpress.com
On Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/writeriz
Is there anything in your story based upon a real life event? If so, tell us about it.
Not really. I mean, I used universal human traits and characteristics/reactions/interactions for my characters, and I drew on my own experiences in creating relationships between them, but nothing came directly from any specific event.
When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?
I’ve been creating stories since before I could even type properly. When I was about 5 or 6, I used to use my mum’s computer and type strings of random letters, print the multitudes of pages off on her old dot-matrix printer, and take them home to read to my Gran. As I got older, I started making little picture books, and eventually started writing novel-length pieces at about 11. I only started to think of becoming a ‘real’ writer when I was about 17 and joined the South Australian Writers’ Centre, and I began to realize that wanting to be a writer wasn’t such a stupid idea after all.
Have you ever written something that you’re afraid to let other people read? Why?
No. I sometimes don’t want certain people to read certain works. For example, people like my mum (reading anything, really) because I worry she might not like it, but not want to say anything and feel awkward. Also, my husband doesn’t get to read much because he is a bit too helpful with the criticism (not that it isn’t good for me!), plus I don’t want him to tease me about the corny bits J
Why do you write the genre(s) you do?
Because I love YA and Speculative Fiction!! And, because I know them well as both a reader and a writer. I see all these inspirational quotes like “write what you know” and “if you can’t find a story you want to read, write it” and I think, yes I’ll do just that. It’s not that I feel there’s not enough of it out in the world, but I feel that adding another may just help someone else to pick up a book.
What is the toughest part about being a writer and how do you get past it?
Being poor and people thinking you’re an idiot (especially before you sell any books). A day job is the best way to get around being poor, although spending all my time studying writing and editing doesn’t really lend itself to getting a day job in Adelaide, so that’s hard. And, how do I get past people thinking I’m an idiot? Well, I generally say “nerts to you, wait until I have my mansion and can sit around all day in my PJs writing books!” I’m all about living in the future and living off faith in myself when it comes to that.
How much is your protagonist like you? How different?
That’s a hard one. In reality, I have three protagonists, Charles, Ellie and Lee. I would say none of them are really like me at all, but I also couldn’t say how they were different – other than the boys, they are obviously not girls. I sometimes suspect Charles is the male version of what I’d like to be, minus the fangs. He’s confidant, knows who he is and where he fits in, and has no cares in the world. Lee and Ellie both have older siblings, and I have an older sister, so that’s similar. But otherwise, I think I just create characters based on how I think other people will see them – or how I need them to be for storyline – I don’t really think about what of me goes into them. Although, I would like blue hair that sparked, that would be cool!
I’ve heard it said that writers are the sanest people on the planet because they get their daily stresses and problems out in a story. What are your thoughts on this? Is writing therapy?
HA! Writing is therapy, but I can’t say I’ve met any writer that could be considered sane, let alone one of the sanest people on the planet. I remember a quote I heard from Kirsty Brooks once that all writers need to be a little bit insane because we send off our work to be judged by others, simultaneously so hopeful they like it and yet also having to prepare ourselves for rejection – it’s like split personalities having to live side by side in us. And, I think that’s true of most days in my life, I’m trying to be the writer part of me, which needs solitude and to put words on a page, and there’s the other part of me that needs to work and study and remember to feed my husband and pets. Writing is a bit like a drug in that there is immense pride and relief after I finish a writing session, and I can use it to investigate my stresses and problems. But, writing should also be fun and let the writer escape from the world a little. There is a fun, quirky, and somewhat nerdiness to a writer’s lack of sanity, in my opinion. All the best people are mad J
What kind of research did you do for this type of story?
I did more research for this story than I expected I would so I could try to maintain the element of realism. I looked up 14th century French surnames, homes and police, witches’ familiars, and maths. I started looking up Druids while I was writing this story, and a bit on altars and other bits of magic so I could be a little bit more specific in the kinds of magic Ellie and her family can do. I also made up a fair bit, but it helps to base it in already established canon.
Do writing violent or highly sexual scenes bother you? Why or why not?
I can’t help but blush when I write something a bit sexual, or when I read it in my own work, but it doesn’t really bother me. And, I’m trying to write for a YA market, so it’s not overly graphic which helps. Violence doesn’t bother me at all, to write I mean. I feel like inserting violence into a story (not when it’s gratuitous, but necessary to the plot) can give it more depth and realism – when you have evil people who take the good people hostage, torture is likely and almost expected. I do sometimes feel bad when my characters are tortured or hurt, but I usually know it’s a temporary thing and they’ll be fine later.
What about your book makes it special?
Because I wrote it! Ha, no. I think my book is probably one of the first to turn the traditional vampire stories on their heads because my vampire only spends about two chapters actually being a vampire and the rest being human. So it’s not really a vampire book at all.
What are your thoughts on the future of books?
I think books will be here to stay for a long time. Not necessarily in the form we recognize them in now, though that would make me very sad. I think ebooks are going to be the future, but there will always be those of us strange beings who cherish a good print book.
What are your hobbies? Do you ever work them into a story?
I do a lot of reading, writing, watching TV shows/movies, taking baths, spending time with family and friends, gardening a little, and coffee. Sleeping and eating are also favourite past times, and I do NaNoWriMo every year to varying degrees of success depending on the year. I have written a story where the protagonist is a writer, and most all of my characters read, but not a lot of them make hobbies of my hobbies really – I think I think they’re too boring!
What are you passionate about?
My writing, for one. It would be my biggest passion in terms of what sets me apart from the world I think. I love it, I would do only that if only I didn’t have to eat and pay bills, well that and read. Of course, I’m passionate about my family, friends, and pets, but most people are. I’m also passionate about my book collection, books in general actually, and promoting books and a love of reading to younger people. I think it’s very important that books and reading aren’t lost to the coming generations.
How do you want to be remembered?
Well. I’d like to not be remembered for anything really embarrassing – although that’s unlikely the way my mouth runs off without my brain. I’d like to be remembered for writing well and for being good to the people around me. I’d like to have kids one day and be remembered as a good parent. I’d also, one day, like to be remembered for helping others get their writing published, either through editing or publishing or just by being an industry contact – but I’m probably a while off any of that yet!
How does your childhood influence your writing?
My childhood was filled with books. When my mum did the shopping, the first thing she would do would be to put a Golden Book into my hands – I have hundreds now! – I’d read it upside down for a while, because I couldn’t actually read, but it fostered a love and appreciation for reading and stories which eventually led to me creating my own.
Everyone has a quirk; what’s yours?
I don’t know if I can isolate just one. But…I’m quite random. My brain just leaps about all over the place so I have the propensity to not make a lot of sense at times – particularly when over-tired, -caffeinated, and -sugared. Sometimes I have conversations/arguments with my husband, but only the last part is out loud and he has no idea what I’m talking about because my brain was doing the talking for him the whole time. Other times, my mouth just stops working at all and drivel comes out, my go to then is to say “words”, that usually gets my point across and resets my brain a little.
Tell us one thing about yourself that no one would guess by just meeting you.
I’m a bit of a nerd – I like computer games (Diablo III, Heroes of Might and Magic, Oblivion, The Sims, to name a few) and fantasy/sci-fi (obviously), am a part of many fandoms (Doctor Who, Supernatural, Stargate, Teen Wolf, Sherlock, Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, to begin with) and can be quite vocal about them. I also love studying and history – I’d love to be a perpetual student!