I’ve always had an extremely dark personality. Fascinated by the macabre -- but with a soft spot -- I am inspired by the intersection of horror and romance. I am thrilled by books like Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker, or The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson. I’m also fascinated by stories where people do unbelievable things for one another against all odds. So bring me a love story set during an alien invasion, or a romance during the zombie apocalypse. The bloodier the better. The steamier the better. Because they say that love conquers all and I want my characters to prove it.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
I don’t think I ever “realized” I wanted to be a writer. Rather, writing became a means to an end that later evolved into a hobby and eventually, a passion.
When I was 10 years old, I was obsessed with American Girl Dolls. In order to get my parents to buy me a doll, I was forced to read all of the books in that doll’s series. So I read Kit’s six books on the Great Depression and my parents awarded me with a doll. Blonde and blue eyed, she looked nothing like me. Being the spoiled only child, Kit wasn’t good enough. Being mixed with one parent of African descent another parent of European ancestry, I wanted a doll I could identify with. Unfortunately, there weren’t any. So I had to build my own. But there were no stories to complement the “build-your-own” American Girl Dolls, so my mom told me that I had to write my own.
So with an old, grey computer -- today an antique -- armed as my only weapon, I began this doll’s journey. Unlike the other American Girl Doll books, this wasn’t set in reality. For reasons fully passing understanding, this doll took a journey on a crude spaceship with a band of misfits who kidnapped her in the night. I’ve been writing ever since. Simple as that.
Give us an insight into your main character. What does he/she do that is so special?
My main character is special for a number of reasons. Abel is a tough-as-nails female protagonist who will stop at nothing to protect the people she loves. She’s a heroine women and girls everywhere can aspire to -- I certainly do -- and I like to imagine that in a post-apocalyptic world I’d manage to be more like Abel than myself. Fierce and beautiful, but with a touching humanity that any decent thing can identify with.
Abel is also unique in another aspect: she is a female protagonist of color. I like to think that as a society we are in a state of constant evolution and that this evolution has extended to the literature we read. Unfortunately, I don’t think we are evolving fast enough. Publication is competitive as hell, and unfortunately the industry itself lacks professionals of diverse backgrounds. Compound this problem with the fact that there are very few minority authors and what do we have? Almost no characters of color, from the LBGT community, or with disabilities -- let alone principle characters.
Abel is my small effort to remedy this problem. I want to see through the eyes of more characters that aren’t white and heterosexual and I want my readers to have the opportunity to do the same. And don’t get me wrong -- Harry Potter is still one of my favorite all-time novels and I’m also a Hunger Games and Twilight fan. But if I could see just one novel take the world by storm featuring a non-white main character, I’d die a happy girl.
Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
Getting stuck. When I lose interest in the story I’m writing it’s as if all hope is lost. This of course only exacerbates the problem. Getting back on track becomes significantly more difficult after a lull, but I know that the only thing I can do is get back on the horse. My advice to all writers (including myself) is to KEEP WRITING no matter what. Even if sometimes, you think it might kill you. It won’t. And it’s important to remember why you do what you do.
Is there a certain type of scene that's harder for you to write than others?
It’s much harder for me to write background into books. I work in the realm of fiction, and the worlds I write often invent themselves in my mind without me being fully conscious of them. Therefore, it frustrates me to have to explain these worlds to my audiences. I would prefer it if my readers were all telepathic and already understood the world, the characters in it, their strengths and their limitations without my having to show it in the work. Unfortunately, that doesn’t make for a very good read so I work really hard to weave background into the opening chapters of a novel, doing as much showing as I can, as opposed to telling.
Do you have any unique talents or hobbies?
I paint, draw, and do ceramics but I’d say writing is the hobby that has stuck with me the longest and has been the most persistent voice in the back of my head. While I love making things out of clay, I can live without it. Even though a painting was the first artistic work I ever sold, I could stop without hating myself for it. What unnerves me is when I go more than a day or two without reading something I’ve written or writing something new. Writing is stitched into my soul. A habit I can’t shake, and don’t want to.
Beyond that, I also love learning new languages. As of now, I’ve got a solid mastery of English, French and Arabic stemming from time abroad. I have previously lived, worked and studied across the world including in Mali, France, the US, Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan, Ghana, and Lebanon. I currently live in Johannesburg, South Africa and intend to start learning German.
What books have most influenced your life most?
Books influence my life all the time and in a number of ways. It’s hard to say which books have influenced me the most. Most recently, I read The Supremes at Earl’s All You Can Eat by Edward Kelsey Moore. I cried three times reading that book and honestly, it helped mend my soul. The Gargoyle is certainly on that list. It is a love story like no other. Wretched and tender and truly beautiful. The Crazy School, by Cornelia Read, for that same reason. Anything by Stephen King or Clive Barker. Both are authors extraordinaire in my book -- pun very much intended. And of course, I should conclude my list with my childhood favorites -- the Tamara Pierce novels about female knights, and Harry Potter which features JK Rowling’s most incredible invention, Hermoine Granger.
Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
My favorite authors include Andrew Davidson, Clive Barker, and Stephen King. I adore horror and they are masters, Andrew Davidson and Clive Barker particularly so because love is one of their principle themes.
What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Keep writing! First and foremost, I would say to write no matter what. Don’t be afraid of the craft. It’s yours -- you own it -- so never let yourself feel inferior or that you’re not good enough. You can have a good idea and talk yourself out of it a thousand times. Write what you like to read, and the audience will come.
Network! Publishing is a scary experience -- I won’t sugar coat it. On a number of a levels it’s tough. So go to writer’s conferences, attend local events, and meet other authors. Hear stories from people who have been through what you’re going through and are where you want to be. Also talk to people who are experiencing the same things you are, and to those who are even fresher to the industry.
I thought writing the book was the hard part but unfortunately, next to publishing writing looks like a dream. So meet other authors -- they are your allies! Help and be helped in return.
What can we expect from you in the future?
I must have two dozen stories that are in varying stages of completion -- or incompletion in most cases. The one I’m most excited about at the current moment is the second part to Population.
Population is quite graphic, particularly in how it deals with being a woman in violent environments. A good portion of my undergraduate career at George Washington University was spent living in Egypt, before, during, and after the January 25th Revolution. I saw first hand what happened to society when law and order broke down. The experiences of women in environments like these is even more difficult and yet, they persevere. Population (part 2) picks up on more of these issues, while maintaining one consistency: Abel’s resilience and her ability to handle any of the crazy things Population throws at her.
The second part to Abel’s journey will hit the shelves in May 2016. To keep up-to-date on the progress of the next installment, check out my official website www.booksbyelizabeth.com or follow me on Facebook and Twitter. In the meantime, you can lend your support by reading, liking, sharing and reviewing Population on Amazon or Goodreads.
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Elizabeth began writing at the age of 10. She later was able to translate these skills into work as a political correspondent and travel writer during her time in the Middle East and North Africa. Her true passion however, still remained in the realm of fiction.
Being a fan of the macabre, Elizabeth's first published pieces were horror stories that featured in several ezines and online magazines. She later combined her love of horror with a soft spot for all things romantic and published Population, her first adult fiction title released by Vantage Point Books in April 2015. See Elizabeth's website for more information about her novels and her travels at www.booksbyelizabeth.com.