Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
Elizabeth Isaacs Interview
9/6/2010 7:23:21 PM
Meet this talented debut YA novelist!
LTS: For today’s featured author, I’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Isaacs. I became acquainted with Elizabeth through Twitter and by reading all the fabulous tweets about her debut YA novel, ‘The Light of Asteria’, I felt this author was worth investigating for a possible interview. And guess what? I was right! Talented, funny and inspiring, I thought she’d be the perfect author to feature. (And yes, I admit I’m partial to featuring debut authors and those who struggle through the process of self-publishing, but she truly is fascinating!)
I’d like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Elizabeth. Where do you call home and what do you do when you’re not writing?
EI: I live in Lexington Kentucky and I’m an elementary music teacher for over 630 kiddos. I also direct a Creative Arts Camp in the summer, and I’m the children’s music coordinator at Calvary Baptist Church.
LTS: I understand reading and books have always been a part of your life and you have been a closet writer for quite some time, but what inspired you to write this particular novel?
EI: A few years back, Kate, my daughter, and I were driving home from school. Kate’s always been a compassionate soul, and at that time, she was surrounded by mean spirited people who loved manipulation. Tearfully, she confided that she just didn’t belong; she’d never really felt like she’d had a place of her own.
Parents understand that a child’s pain is much worse than their own. It was poignant to see such a beautiful, incredible girl struggle in this utterly mundane world. She needed somewhere to go, if not a physical location, somewhere in the realm of her imagination. Something inside of me just clicked, and when we got home, I warmed up the computer and started to type.
LTS: What a touching and inspired beginning!
EI: Asteria started as a free write. The first scene was nothing but vast woodlands, the last pure land on earth, a place where selfishness and negativity didn’t exist, a place where Kate would always belong. The floodgates opened, and soon I found the true message my heart longed to share, the lessons I was unable to teach.
LTS: What encouraged you to take the next step of publication to share it with the world?
EI: It was a true sense of accomplishment when I handed Kate a two-inch binder, the first draft hidden inside; it was a gift from the heart. She read all weekend, and when she finally came downstairs, the only words out of her mouth were “Mom, you have to publish this.”
Honestly, I resisted the idea at first. These words were so personal, and I’m an extremely private person. Kate never let up though, and I finally let a few good friends read it. They were just as adamant, and so I took a deep breath and said a big prayer. Six months of revisions, and we finally were ready.
LTS: Can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Nora Johnson?
EI: Nora is a character that has every reason to be bitter, but she always seems to find the best of life. She is loyal, trusting, forgiving, and kind, yet she will fight tooth and nail for what she believes in. She personifies the true human spirit, what we all can be when we put aside selfishness and pride. What I love most about Nora is her mantra. “Appreciate what people can give you, forgive them for the things they can’t.”
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal what’s in store for the reader when they crack open ‘The Light of Asteria’?
EI: The story opens on a college campus in modern day North Carolina. Nora accidentally collides with mysterious stranger, Gavin Frey. His very touch sends flames through her heart. The world seems different—something within her has changed.
She tries to resume her mundane life, but she is now consumed with the one whose very presence ignited her soul, the one with eyes of emerald. Nora soon learns that an energy buried deep within has been unleashed. She now wields unimaginable power and has become Gavin’s source, his strength.
Her newfound joy is shaken when she discovers that Gavin is not who he appears to be and she has been thrust in the middle of a war of mythical proportions.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Did you try the traditional route of acquiring an agent prior to deciding on self-publishing this novel?
EI: To be honest, after I researched the industry I didn’t even try. The standard publishing process is long, arduous, and, at best, inconsistent. I didn’t know whom I could trust, and the daily horror stories regarding young agents ruining careers coupled with the industries “it’s not how well you write, it’s who you know” policies made the decision to self-publish easy.
LTS: Is self-publishing something you’d recommend to other authors? Why?
EI: Absolutely. It’s an exciting time to be a part of this industry. Self-publishing is no longer the pariah it once was; many established writers are taking this route because of the freedom and control they maintain with their projects. As they say, the times, they are a-changing.
LTS: What is the best advice you can share with an author deciding to go the route of self-publishing?
EI: I wish I had something original to say on the subject, but the truth is the best advice is to do your homework. Find a company that isn’t going to charge an arm and a leg for services. Realize that they are in it to make money, not to foster your dreams. Hire an independent editor, and be wary of any “choice” programs that say they are going to help you get noticed by the standard publishers. Walk into self-publishing fully aware that there will be those who automatically think that your work is substandard simply because you chose to go it alone. There may be doors not open to you. Brick and mortar stores, reviewers, agents, you may be sacrificing these opportunities. Most of all, make sure that your work is quality, that it can stand on its own regardless of whose name is on the copyright page.
LTS: Excellent advice, Elizabeth! Now, I’m curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
EI: I guess you’d say I’m a mixture of both. I still get up every morning before five and write (although these days I’m writing more blog posts and marketing materials than fiction). I try to work on the new book every day, but if the creative mojo isn’t there, either I rework what I’ve already written, or I work on something else.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
EI: Writing for me is very organic. I’ve literally gasped at what a character has said, or the way things play out in my imagination. I live by the Robert Frost’s quote, “No surprise for the writer, no surprise for the reader.”
LTS: With ‘The Light of Asteria’ in print and another novel underway, where do you find your inspiration?
EI: I believe that inspiration comes from the intent. Why am I writing? What is it I’m really trying to say? I have a teacher’s heart, everything I do pretty much has a lesson to it, and so the inspiration for the Kailmeyra series stemmed from a desire to teach Kate about the power of love and forgiveness. Once this series is done, it’ll be interesting to see where the inspiration for the next story comes from.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
EI: I usually start a session with a free write, letting my thoughts run wild. Normally these are bits of nonsense, whatever errant thought is flying at the moment is captured and put on paper. This allows me to clear my head, literally, but sometimes there’s a new character lurking, or a really great descriptor hidden within the lunacy. Also, I love to write in complete silence and when it’s dark. Normally during extremely creative times I’ll keep my eyes closed for hours. The typos are ridiculous, but the storyline comes through so much stronger when I shut out all distractions.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writer’s block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
EI: Sometimes I feel like the story is either stalled or going in a wrong direction. When that happens, I write … a lot. I’ve been known to write over 5,000 words of useless dialogue and scenes, just circling, milling around, meandering through, and then finally one character says something, the heavens align, and boom, we’re back in the story!
I think perseverance and believing that the story is buried deep within is what keeps writer’s block from taking hold.
LTS: Who is your favorite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
EI: I thought about giving some pat answer that would make me seem intelligent and well read, but then I looked to my heart and decided to answer honestly.
My two favorite authors are Dr. Seuss and Maya Angelou. I know, weird combo, but I’ve never claimed to be normal.
Theodor Geisel was my first love. I read every book he wrote before I was eight. More importantly, I understood the deeper implications of his work at an early age. Dr. Seuss was the first person in my life that inspired me to find different ways to phrase ideas, to love the way words are strung together. He taught me to have fun with words, to play with them, to find joy in reading them over and over.
Where Dr. Seuss taught that words could affect through humor and rhyme, Maya Angelou, taught me that words have power … that they can change who we are, who we want to be. Her voice is so deeply embedded in her writing that they literally go from the page straight to my heart. She has a way of turning ordinary words into extraordinary thoughts.
While neither of these authors inspired me to write YA, they greatly affect the way my thoughts flow to the page, and they helped foster the idea that great stories have a message.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery you’ve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
EI: I never really appreciated that writing is so very personal. Nora’s story originally manifested itself out of a desire to help my daughter. It was extremely private and I really did not intend to share it with the world. For the longest time, only a handful of people knew that I had written so much as a post-it note, and I honestly thought that I wouldn’t have the courage to go through with it. I have never felt such intense vulnerability in my life as I did the night the first review came in. What I soon discovered was that the love that I had poured into the story seeped through the pages only to touch the hearts of others as well.
The response to Nora’s story has been humbling and, at times, a little overwhelming. Over the past five months I’ve found that people long for a place where thoughts hold power, where relationships matter. I can only hope that, even in a small way, Asteria will help make this world a better place.
LTS: What is the most important lesson you’ve learned on the road to publication?
EI: The writing community is full of kind people who are willing to take a moment out of their busy schedules to offer you friendship, to follow a blog, to give encouragement or advice. I’ve met great authors, VP’s of publishing companies, executive producers of indie films, housewives, reporters, editors, bloggers, freelance writers, and they all have two things in common…they love the written word, and they are genuine and kind.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
EI: I’m finishing Jonathon Weyer’s new novel “The Faithful”. I’ve found that writers are an extremely enthusiastic bunch and I now have several works from other authors just waiting to be read. Jonathon’s novel officially hits the stores in a few weeks, but I have the privilege of getting a first peek at it. I’ve strayed a bit from YA into the adult realm, but I’m telling you it was well worth it!
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from YA into other genres?
EI: I’ve been offered a contract from a standard publishing company. I’m considering all the possibilities, but regardless of who is on the copyright page, the first draft of the second book is almost complete, and the third still has to be written.
I’m sure at some point I’ll write for a different demographic, but honestly right now I’ll continue to follow my heart.
LTS: When can your fans expect a sequel to ‘The Light of Asteria’?
EI: The Secret of the Keepers, Kailmeyra’s Strength is slated for release in the fall of 2011.
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time from your hectic schedule to share in your writing experiences and for talking about your debut novel, Elizabeth. This sounds like one for my daughter to check out!
For more information about Elizabeth Isaacs and her novel, check out:
Follow Elizabeth on Twitter: .kailmeyra
Where to buy the book:
Amazon.com . http://amzn.to/98c0Ot
Barnes & Noble . http://bit.ly/cpu53c
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