Saturday, October 15, 2011

Indie Spotlight with Laura Elliott!

Today I would like to welcome Laura Elliott to the blog. Laura, who is the author of Winnemucca and the recently released 13 on Halloween, is a dear indie friend and collegue.

Welcome Laura, and thank you so much for gracing us with your lovely presence here at Amy Jones Young Adult Fantasy Fiction!

Hey there Amy, thanks so much for hosting my interview for 13 on Halloween. As I type I am sitting in our home/hotel room at The Holiday Inn at the Portland Airport. My hubby and I move around a lot because of his work. I’m listening to Journey and thinking about home in California.

Your life sounds very exciting and busy. I'm an east coast girl myself, originally raised in the north but now happily transplanted in the south with my hubby and two terrific kids.

OK, so lets get straight to the fascinating details that sum of who Laura Elliott really is, shall we?

Where in the world is your favorite place to write and why?

I love to write on the road. I love being in coffee shops and on trains and in airports, knee-deep in the busy world. But I also love it when I am home, which is rare, and can write at sunset in my favorite chair. It’s a huge chair. Every time we’ve had to move over the past few years it cracks us up how big the chair is. It’s over-stuffed with a huge ottoman and upholstered with a super-soft, small leopard-print fabric. After living in Big Sur, CA for a few years on a cliff perched a few hundred yards above the Pacific Ocean I had a year of sunsets. I stopped everything to watch them. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to live anywhere where I can’t see the sunset every night.

Your cliff sounds absolutely divine. Living within a few miles of the Atlantic Ocean myself I can completely relate to your feelings about your enchanting sunsets. OK, now we're going to switch gears a bit. If you could choose any film or television world to live in what would it be?

I’m drawn to the romance of war. Idealism vs. reality. How regular people have to step outside of themselves and find a way to survive. And because of this, I love war stories, the world of Dr. Zhivago in particular, which is set during The Russian Revolution. I love that the home Zhivago and Lara took refuge in was covered entirely with ice on the inside except for a small room. I love the magic of finding that room with the home in such a state. The solace and respite from war Zhivago and Lara found there. I guess I wouldn’t like to live there, but it is a place I’d definitely love to visit. I kind of like my one-foot in reality, like my stories.

History really is fascinating and frightening simultaneously which is why it makes such terrific inspirational material for writing. Speaking of all things frightening, what are you afraid of?

Waking up a stranger in my own life. I’m so afraid of it that I wrote my debut novel, Winnmeucca, to explore just such a circumstance. Ginny begins an enchanted road trip when she discovers she’s let herself become a stranger in her own life.

Do you remember the exact moment you decided you wanted to be a writer?

Yes! It involved three non-walking casts. I thought my husband had died in a bicycling accident and ran to see if the cyclist was my husband. I ended up finding out that my husband was safe & sound [though, sadly, another man had died] and that I had broken an extra bone in one of my feet. I am a mutant! In addition to painting my laundry room during my lengthy recovery, I began to write short stories. I couldn’t commute to my job at E! Entertainment Television because I had a stick-shift car. The only other way to pass the time was to watch television and I could only take so much of Martha Stewart and daytime TV. So my stories were a way to pass the time.

Whoa!!! Girlfriend, you should write a story about that experience! It would make for an excellent thriller! I know what you mean as well about Martha Stewart and day time TV. I watch very little TV myself these days. The same old reality idiots and hum - drum steriotypes over and over again bore me. I have been encouraged by the fact that some really terrific books are being made into movies and TV series, especially those of the paranormal variety. On that note, if you could be a superhero, who would you be and what would your power do?

I would LOVE to be a Superhero with dead reckoning, but I don’t think one exists. I even get lost with GPS. I’m horrible. If someone dumped me in a forest and gave me a compass I probably couldn’t find my way out. So maybe COMPASSGIRL or DEADRECKONING WOMAN! Yes. That would be lovely. LOL!

Girl, I could get lost in a one - street town. It's so sad, it's funny! What makes you laugh?

My total lack of ability to find my way around new places and yet my desire to still try to figure it all out. That, and putting my characters in situations where their dreams come true in hilariously, scary ways. In Roxie’s case, this means that she’ll visit a shadow world. And she’ll have to choose between what she’s always wanted and what she has.

I also love when people say things in funny ways. This was the original idea behind Roxie. My friends told me I should write a character who speaks like I do. I mean, how serious could a book that uses animals as verbs be? And yet, while I hope readers get a good laugh at Roxie’s unique perspective on the world, I hope they might also get a lump in their throat from time to time as they discover powerful insights along with Roxie, the twelve-turning-thirteen-on-Halloween main character.

Animal verbs... hmmm? Very interesting... LOL! If you couldn't be a writer, what would you be?

I would love to be a stand-up comedian. I used to live in Los Angeles and was a big fan of going to The Comedy Store and The Improv and The Laugh Factory. I was just talking about this with an old high school friend of mine who actually took comedy classes. I love to laugh. I would love to be able to make other people laugh too. I hope that 13 on Halloween puts a smile on readers’ faces.

I can totally imagine you as a comedian because you are naturally such a funny gal and keep me in stitches often. OK, so it's almost Halloween and I have been intentionally saving your new book to celebrate the spirit of the occasion. Can you share with us what inspired you to write 13 on Halloween? Can you tell us a little bit about the book or share with us a little taste/sneak preview?

Awww. That’s sweet! Thanks, Amy. Well, it really was my friends that made me do it! They always laugh at me when I say “I hamster,” or, “I gopher.” They said I should write the way I talk. I sort of rolled my eyes. But then it dawned on me, teenagers have their own languages too. So I decided to explore a character who uses animals as verbs, as I do, and looks at the world through a Wild Kingdom prism in order to understand her changing world and her role in it. I wanted the book to be funny. I was also living in Pacific Grove at the time. It is a beautiful place with loads of literary history. John Steinbeck and Joseph Campbell lived there once upon a time. I used to take long walks in the fog when I was writing 13 on Halloween.

Here’s a little excerpt:

Anyway, here’s the dodo fact I googled––in the year 1598 AD, Portuguese sailors landing on the shores of the island of Mauritius discovered a previously unknown species of bird, the dodo. Having been isolated by its island location from contact with humanity, the dodo greeted the new visitors with a child-like innocence. The sailors mistook the gentle spirit of the dodo, and its lack of fear of the new predators, as stupidity. They dubbed the bird “dodo” [meaning something like a simpleton, in Portuguese]. Many dodo were killed by the human visitors, and those that survived man had to face dogs and pigs which went wild in the Mauritian eco-system. By 1681, the last dodo died.

So, all you need to do to understand The Life of Roxie, is switch it up a little and you have the definition of what it’s like to be me at Oakdale Middle School. Roxanne O’Grady landed on the shores of Oakdale Middle School in sixth grade but had been going to school with most of the kids since kindergarten. The new kids from the rich neighborhoods discovered a girl previously unknown to them. Having been isolated to the ways of popularity by her family’s hard working, studious nature, the rich kids mistook Roxie’s gentle spirit and her lack of fear of the new predators as stupidity. They dubbed Roxie, Toxy––as in toxic. If you aren’t in, you are out. And I won’t lie to you, some days I felt as extinct as the dodo, invisible. But while the death of the last dodo was the death of a breed, I knew my breed would always live on––the not-quite-good-enough girl of eighth grade.

You can read more here.

If you will be in the Pacific Northwest, I’m on The Rain Boots Required Young Adult Book Tour Please join us! Or, if you are in Savannah, GA for Halloween Weekend, I’d love to celebrate with you and some other amazing YA authors here.

Thanks so much for this interview Amy! I loved the questions and had a lot of fun answering them. Happy Halloween!

You are so very welcome Laura! It has been a thrill to be your host. FYI, I will be in Savannah, GA with Laura and several other fabulous YA Indies Halloween Weekend! Here is a link to my post about the event.

Check out Laura's book trailer for 13 on Halloween!

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