Today, I am very pleased to introduce to you author Jessica L. Elliott!
For as long as she can remember, Jessica L. Elliott has been telling stories. As soon as she could grasp a pencil she began writing those stories down. Reading fueled her imagination, as did spending time with her five younger brothers and sisters. Everything was an adventure, something to be treasured and stories were her first love. Jessica began seriously writing in high school and continued into college while attending Emporia State University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She wrote and released her first novel, Charming Academy, in August of 2011. Jessica currently lives in southwest Kansas with her husband, young son and daughter.
Jessica and I met at a local library book signing in December 2014. I was very impressed with her books, which are fairytales for girls AND boys to enjoy! However, I think I will let her tell you more about them. So, without further ado, I welcome Jessica L. Elliot!
Thank you so much for joining me today, Mrs. Elliott. Would you please tell us a little about yourself? Where are you from? Do you have pets? Your family? Imaginary unicorn friend?
Jessica L. Elliott - I’m currently living in Southwest Kansas. I grew up in a suburb of Wichita, so it’s been a bit of an adjustment coming to such a small town, but I LOVE it! I’m happily married to my very own Prince Charming and we have two and two-thirds children (one’s coming in March!). We have a dog named Georgia who sometimes makes me want to pull my hair out, but she’s just too dang cute to stay too mad at. Imaginary unicorn? Not currently, but it seems that my muse takes a different form with each book I write. At one point I had a rather feisty dragon and the last book had a snarling beast muse. Yikes! This muse has been far gentler, but has yet to show herself to me.
Ah, the aMUSEment that a single muse can give us: priceless. Okay, bad pun. Congratulations on the wee bun in the oven, by the way! How exciting! So, tell us a little about your writing. When did you start writing, and why?
Jessica L. Elliott -Mommy says I started writing as soon as I could hold a pencil and I was telling stories before that. Serious writing began more in college and then, realizing that all-nighters and student teaching were a bad mix, it took the backseat until graduation. Then I started in again and my first book was published in 2011. Why do I write? Why wouldn’t I? I have so many stories bubbling in my head that I have to release them somehow or I might explode!
Tell me about it! All the little barbarians banging around in my noggin tend to keep me up at night if I don’t filter out a few of them each day. However, I have found that a cookie or two helps to shut them up.
Now then, do you write for a particular genre, or do you cross genres? If so, what is your favorite genre to write for?
Jessica L. Elliott - I love to write for children/young adult. I guess it’s because I’m still a child myself (don’t let this nearly 30 year-old body fool you!). Currently I’m finishing up a fairy tale series geared towards making them a little less girly. That’s a long story that I’ll tell another day.
Childhood is the best. I wanted to be a “grown-up” so bad when I was younger… Sigh… anyway, on with the interview: are you a planner or a “pantser” – do you plan out your books meticulously or do you write by the seat of your pants?
Jessica L. Elliott - Oh heavens! I tried planning once, but I have these people called characters who take my plans, shred them like so much old newspaper and make their own plans. So really I just write as the story comes. Some things are planned out, mostly because you kind of have to when writing a series. But even there my characters have sometimes changed things up on me, just to be frustrating I’m sure.
Once again, I SO totally understand how you feel. Those characters have minds of their own.
What do you write, and why? What do you enjoy about what you write?
Jessica L. Elliott - I write whatever comes to me because I have stories that need to be told. Currently that’s fairy tale retellings. What I love most about it is that I can take the stories I loved as a kid and change them up in a way that makes them interesting not only to other hopelessly romantic girls like me, but also interesting to boys. At least, that’s the goal.
That is so awesome! There is finally another series, other than Tolkien and C.S. Lewis (and my own book), that my brothers AND sisters can get hooked on! Yay!
So, Jessica, where do you find inspiration?
Jessica L. Elliott - I find inspiration pretty much everywhere! One of my best scenes (unfortunately I lost it in a computer death) was written after watching the fog roll in one dark night. Spooky scene and I wish like heck I’d backed my writing up!
OH! Those computer crashes are the worst! I have had that happen to me way. TOO. often. It just makes me want to hack those stinking transistorized tormentors (aka Computers) up with my sword!
Whoof. Okay, so what is the most difficult part of writing for you and what is the easiest part?
Jessica L. Elliott - The hardest part of writing is finding the time! With two toddlers and a dog vying for my time, it can be hard to set aside time to sit and write. Sometimes, even when I have set the time aside, I find that my muse is being obnoxiously silent. I can only take looking at a blank page so long before I’ll set it aside again and go on to something else. The easiest part is getting ideas of stories to write. While I’ve been finishing the fairy tale series (just two books to go!), I’ve gotten ideas for about ten more stories. I write down the most pertinent details and usually set that aside so I can finish what I’m working on. Sometimes though I do some freewriting, just to get the ideas solidified a little more.
You and I sound very much alike in this aspect, although my siblings have finally all grown out of toddler-hood (which I often wondered if they would). And now, I am curious, do you listen to music or watch TV whilst you write? Or do you need to lock yourself away?
Jessica L. Elliott - I usually listen to instrumental music while writing. Very rarely do I listen to anything with lyrics, because then I focus on singing along with the music instead of writing. And I never watch TV while writing because I wouldn’t get any writing done. I get sucked into stories (even visual ones) very easily!
Once again, I totally relate with you! That TV has incredible, overpowering, magnetic forces.
Is there a message conveyed within your writing?
Jessica L. Elliott - I think all arts, whether written, visual, or performed, have some kind of message even if the creator didn’t “intend” on a message. The most important message in my stories right now is that you can overcome obstacles to reach “happily ever after”. It sometimes takes a long time, but it can happen if you keep believing in yourself and working for it!
Stories of perseverance are really hard to find, and particularly when combined with “happily ever after”. I am glad that your stories draw on that!
So, most authors like to read. What have you recently finished reading?
Jessica L. Elliott - I love to read and currently I’ve been reading a lot of children’s books because I love to read to my kiddos. But, sometimes we read things that normally wouldn’t be considered “children’s” literature. Right now we’re finishing the first part of Lord of the Rings together.
EEH! I love Lord of the Rings! I am an insane Tolkienite… I better stop while I am ahead. But, thinking of Tolkien (who was a brilliant author), can you name your favorite traditionally published author?
Jessica L. Elliott - I have so many, but probably J. R. R. Tolkien. The fact that he could build a world, create realistic languages and write such compelling stories is amazing to me!
*Grabs you in a big hug* You’re my new favorite person! Tee-hee… okay, and who would be your favorite indie/self-published author?
Jessica L. Elliott - Um, me? Just kidding! I really love Fiona Deal and can’t wait to get her next book!
I haven’t had a chance to read Deal’s works yet. *looks at the mile high “To-Read” list and cringes* Ahem, well, anyway. Research can be important in world-building, how much do you need to do for your books?
Jessica L. Elliott - Depends on the story. The nice thing in fairy tales is I can kind of make stuff up as I need to. But there have been other areas where I did a fair amount of research (such as sword-fighting terminology and heraldry) so that if an expert happened to pick my book up he wouldn’t immediately facepalm and think me stupid.
Oh yeah. The eternal fear of every author is that smarter-than-average reader will pick up the book and go “Clearly… this author has no idea what she is talking about.”
Now, I remember talking to you about this before, but I must ask for the audience’s sake: Do you self-edit? If so why is that the case?
Jessica L. Elliott - I do self-edit. There are two reasons. One, I’m cheap! Two, I have a very highly developed sense of grammar and spelling. I rarely make mistakes (note I said rarely and not never!) and when I do, I usually catch them pretty quickly.
I envy you. I am a complete failure at self-editing. On that note, do you believe a book suffers without being professionally edited?
Jessica L. Elliott - I think that depends on the person editing. If my husband were writing and trying to edit, it would definitely suffer! Love him dearly, but he can’t spell worth anything and sometimes his grammar is off. I think a person can self-edit, but they have to be willing to take the time to go through the book not just once, but several times.
Or, in my case, go through it 15 times and then send it to an editor only to find out that your book needed a therapist (and it’s author too). Ahem!
What was your experience with getting your book published? How did you start out? Did you have help?
Jessica L. Elliott - It was kind of a baptism by fire thing. I had no clue really going into it how to get started. I sent out some queries to traditional publishers and didn’t get any bites at all. After a while, I got tired of waiting for someone else to decide my writing was worth reading. I went through CreateSpace and that was how I started. My biggest help was my husband who helped in formatting and getting things set up. But neither of us had any experience and it was a challenge getting things off the ground.
*Waves my “Go CreateSpace!” flag* I just love CreateSpace. It makes life so much simpler.
So now, the killer question: did you find marketing difficult? What strategy do you use, if any?
Jessica L. Elliott - I still find marketing difficult! I’m not much of a salesman and I didn’t want to be the “annoying author friend”, so I tried a few different approaches. Most of my strategy has been using my Facebook page to promote and share different aspects of my writing life. I try not to just bash people over the head with my books, but also share blog articles that are totally unrelated, pictures and other little things in hopes that it will get shared again. Right now I’m trying a 52 Week Writing Challenge to see if I can a) get other people writing too and b) spread the word about my books without being obnoxious.
What a fantastic idea! I may have to borrow it sometime. I love to encourage others to write, and promoting my book mercilessly is just not my style.
Well, would you please sort these into order of importance: Great characters; great world-building; solid plot; technically perfect. Can you explain why you chose this order?
Jessica L. Elliott - Great characters, solid plot, great world-building and technically perfect. It’s amazing how forgiving people will be of a few (not a ton, but a few) errors when your characters and story are so captivating that they hardly notice them. Characters that readers can relate to are what really sell a story and having a great plot holds the reader in. World-building is important in that you want your readers to have a general sense of where they are and being technically perfect is important in keeping the grammar Nazis off your back. But I think the two most important are great characters and a solid plot.
Ugh. I’ve given up on being technically perfect. Let the Nazis eat me! Again, I envy your Ninja grammar skills.
If you have more than one published work, which book or series was your favorite to create?
Jessica L. Elliott - My most recently published book, Becoming Prince Charming, was definitely my favorite. I’ve loved creating my entire fairy tale series, but this last book has been my very best writing to date. I enjoyed delving more deeply into the story of “Beauty and the Beast” and looking at it from different angles. Trying to show how the beast and Kaelen were the same, and yet not, was a great challenge and I enjoyed every minute of it!
I love Beauty and the Beast stories! I can’t wait to read it and explore those different angles with you!
If you could change anything in an existing book, or series, of yours, what would it be?
Jessica L. Elliott - I plan on going back through Charming Academy and doing a little cleaning up. Things that I thought at the time were important have turned out to be obsolete and there are a few things I need to clarify to make better sense in later books. I think really if I could totally redo it, I would write the entire series first and then start publishing. But one of the beautiful things about being self-published is I can go back and tweak without totally freaking people out.
Isn’t that glorious? I have a big Sci-Fi series I am working on now that has me considering the option to wait to publish until I have finished writing all, or nearly all, the books. But CreateSpace is so flexible when it comes to changing things around that I am still on the fence about it. *Waves my “Go CreateSpace!” flag again*
What is your latest book or series? Any forthcoming books?
Jessica L. Elliott - The latest book is the fourth in the Charming Academy series, Becoming Prince Charming. I’m currently working on the fifth book, The Ultimate Prince Charming and will immediately delve into the sixth. Hopefully I can have both books written before my new baby arrives and then it will just be a matter of editing and releasing! But both of those should come out this year.
Yay! How exciting! I wish you great inspiration and speed and lots of free time for writing with (purely for selfish reasons… I want ALL of your books on my shelf!)
Is there any project you started and are just completely stuck on?
Jessica L. Elliott - I am the queen of unfinished projects! I have an entire file folder devoted to “Abandoned Manuscripts”. Eventually I’ll go back to them and either decide they really are rubbish and toss them out, or I’ll try to work out the kinks and get back into them.
Once again, I find common ground with you! I have more unfinished manuscripts than published books!
Tell us a little about the world of your latest or favorite book or series.
Jessica L. Elliott - My current series takes place in Sanalbereth, which is supposed to be a past version of Earth. It has fairies, dragons, witches, pirates, and of course Prince Charmings trying desperately to figure out where their princesses have gone.
Ooh! How exciting! An earth with dragons: sounds like my kind of place!
And now, I just have to ask if you would introduce us to some of your awesome characters? What do you like about them?
Jessica L. Elliott - I love my princes. There are five that each have their own stories: Adrian, Jacobi, Kaelen, George and Lucian. Each has such an interesting personality and I’ve enjoyed journeying with them on their quests. Well, Adrian didn’t travel much, but you’ll have to read his story to find out why. Their princesses are fun as well and have given me opportunities to really look into different aspects of femininity and how it comes out in different ways. For example, Allegra is very headstrong and it’s probably no wonder that she had a quest of her own. Clarissa, on the other hand, is shy and gentle and had to overcome a lot of difficulties before her prince came to her rescue.
Yay! I love it when authors draw out the differences in femininity! Real life is comprised of tough girls AND gentle girls (and then there are the ones like me who are… whoo: something else), and not enough authors draw on that. It seems like, in too many books, that the female characters are all one way or the other. I applaud you for marking the difference!
Do you have a favorite character? Why?
Jessica L. Elliott - Don’t tell the others, because they might revolt and kill me, but Lucian has always been my favorite character. His was the first story I told, though it will be the last that I write. He is the very embodiment of everything I think a man really should be, including tall and handsome. He stands up for others, takes time away from his own quest to help those in need (which is how I sneak him into each of the books) and is just a generally good guy.
GASP! You are the first author I have met that actually said she had a favorite! Don’t worry: I won’t breathe a word of it to the others. *wink*
Now, do you have a character you hate/dislike? Why?
Jessica L. Elliott - I hate Nathan! I hate him a lot. I can’t reveal a lot of the why right now because it would spoil my next book. But be looking for The Ultimate Prince Charming when I release it. Then you will understand just why I hate this guy sooooooooo much! I also hate Esmé and you can read Becoming Prince Charming to find out why she’s such a nasty piece of work.
YES! I love characters that I can hate! It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is true! *grins*
Now, are your characters ever based on real people?
Jessica L. Elliott - Yes and no. I do sometimes take aspects of real people and put them into characters. And I did put two cameos in Prince Charming’s Search based on my mother-in-law and her sister. But I try to usually avoid completely basing a character off of someone else.
I see. I haven’t even attempted to go there with any of my characters. I’m afraid that my friends would notice it and get big heads, or my enemies would read it and higher better assassins. Ahem. Anyway, back onto topic: have you ever used (or been tempted to use) a person you don’t/didn’t like as a character then kill them off?
Jessica L. Elliott - Hahahaha, oh so very tempting! I’ve toyed with putting an evil English teacher in a book just for that very purpose, but in the end, it’s not worth allowing her any more power in my life. And the idea of her becoming famous through me kind of makes me want to puke.
So, what formats are your books available in (E-book, print, large print, audio)? Are you intending to expand these and if not, what is the reason?
Jessica L. Elliott - Right now all of my books are available in print and a couple are available in E-book. Once I finish writing the series and do my final walk-through of each of the books, my sweetheart and I will get them all formatted into E-book. If I get some interest in having large print out, I might do that. But some of my books are so big as it is that I don’t want to make them ginormous! And eventually I would like to do audiobooks, but that’s going to be a ways down the road, so don’t hold your breath.
*Exhales the breath I was holding* Aw drat! Well, hopefully audiobooks will be sooner down the road rather than later. My siblings LOVE audiobooks.
Give a fun/silly fact you would like your readers to know about you or your book.
Jessica L. Elliott - If you read Finding Prince Charming you will find that Allegra is deathly afraid of frogs. This may seem like the wimpiest phobia in the world, but that is actually based off one of my two phobias. I try to put a little of myself in each of the books, so there’s the tidbit from that one. The others? Well, I’m not telling today.
A phobia of frogs? Oh my. A few of my characters would have far too much fun torturing Allegra. It’s a good thing they aren’t in the same book together!
Is there any advice you would pass on to those authors who are still just starting out? Do's and don'ts?
Jessica L. Elliott - DON’T QUIT!!! No matter what anyone tells you, don’t give up. It’s not easy writing a story and getting it perfected the way you want it. It’s even harder to take that precious bundle and put it out there for the whole world to see. But it’s worth it! It hasn’t been an easy road, and I’m not exactly swimming in cash, but the joy of having readers tell me that they love my stories is worth all the rough spots! So keep writing, keep creating and just keep on keeping on!
Such GREAT advice, Mrs. Elliot! Thank you so much for sharing that!
Well, that is all for today. Thank you so much, Jessica, for allowing me to interigat… I mean, interview you! I had a really great time!
For the rest of you out there, here is Jessica L. Elliott’s information. You NEED to check her books out.
And, if you liked this interview, please say so in the comment section below! There will be a dragon at every exit who will inquire, politely, if you have left a comment.
Thank you so much for joining us! Till next time!
Jessica's Books: www.JessicaLElliott.com/books
Jessica L. Elliot's first 4 books!
Author of the fantasy series, Tales of the Wovlen, Kathryn spends a great deal of time in the world of her imagination, having tea with fire breathing dragons, writing books on flying space ships, and practicing her mad scientist laugh with gusto. However, on occasion,she returns to this world just to play with her dog and blog about her fun.
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