McKenzie is back again with another author interview. Today’s post features Elizabeth M. Lawrence, author of My Apple Tree from the Harvest Treats compilation. While this is her first published piece, Elizabeth is no stranger to the intricacies of publishing – she is the Head Editor at Renaissance Romance Publishing. Here is her Q&A with Kenna -
McKenzie: How do you get your mindset to write a young adult theme?
Elizabeth: I didn’t really set out to write a YA story originally. My initial idea did deal with a young boy and girl, but it followed them into adulthood. I revised and expanded the story quite a bit, and in the end, it seemed to fit into the YA category. I think that if I had an idea for another story or book that was YA, it wouldn’t be hard to get into that mindset. You’d be surprised by how many adults vividly remember what it’s like to be a teenager. It’s a tough period in life, and the memories of the feelings and thoughts you had tend to stick with you, no matter how much you grow and change.
McKenzie: How are you able to get a good plot without over-explaining?
Elizabeth: One tip they give often in writing style guides and writing workshops is “Show, Don’t Tell.” It’s a delicate balance. You have to give the reader enough background to understand the events in the story, but it’s better to let the characters reveal things through their actions, their facial expressions, and their interactions with each other. When you’re hanging out with your friends, one might tell you a story about something that happened, but you’re going to be able to visualize what she’s describing by the words she uses, her body language, and even the pitch of her voice. You can tell before she says it that she was angry or embarrassed or excited from those clues. Writing works the same way – if the writer shows the reader what the characters are feeling, it allows the reader to be right there in the moment with the characters. That makes the entire reading experience and the reader’s understanding of the plot much more dynamic and exciting.
McKenzie: How much time do you put into an average story?
Elizabeth: Months and months and months. I can write a first draft pretty quickly in maybe a month or two, but shaping and honing and polishing and reworking it takes a lot longer. I usually will put a manuscript away for awhile and work on other things so that I can come back to it with a fresh perspective. Sometimes years pass before I will consider a piece really finished.
McKenzie: When and why did you start writing?
Elizabeth: I’ve always written stories as long as I can remember. Even if I don’t actually write them down, I get ideas everywhere I go – whole characters and scenes will just pop into my head as I go about my business throughout the day. I think most writers have that experience, and we start writing the stories down just to get them out of our heads!
McKenzie: Has there ever been a time when you couldn’t think of any ideas?
Elizabeth: Not really – I have tons of ideas all the time, but they’re not always “complete.” I might have an idea for a scene but not the full story around it, and that’s when I get stumped and have to wrack my brain for more ideas that are specifically for that particular set of characters in that particular situation. That’s the situation in which I will really find myself stuck until a solution occurs to me.
McKenzie: How hard is it to keep your writing from interfering with your personal life?
Elizabeth: I think usually my personal life interferes with my writing – and I don’t mean that in a negative way. Most writers would love to just write all the time. It is personal relationships and housework and bills and families and errands that pull us away from our computers or notebooks and force us to be in the real world. That’s not a bad thing. I love my husband and kids and friends, so I’m not sorry to have to spend time with them. Also, writers need to interact with the real world and real people, otherwise we wouldn’t understand real life enough to write about it. My family and my responsibilities to them will always be the most important thing, so it’s not hard to put them first (unless I’ve got a REALLY good idea!). Writing’s like any other job; you’ve got to get the work done to make a living. Going to work physically takes you away from your family if you have a “traditional” kind of career – the only difference is that as a writer I’m still home while I’m working.
McKenzie: Do you tend to use your kids/friends’ names in your stories?
Elizabeth: Rarely. I will use names that I associate with certain types of people, but I tend to stay away from namesakes. It’s tough for me to imagine writing a love story in which the male lead is named after my son, for example. Especially since I’m not going to let him date until he’s at least thirty-five. I’m much more likely to base characters’ personality traits on people I know; depending on what those traits are, I may or may not actually tell the person about it. Very close friends might recognize the inspiration behind a scene or a character, but I do try not to make it obvious.
McKenzie: How do you stay committed to your writing?
Elizabeth: I’m very fortunate to have a career that I love. Writing is something that’s in my blood, and I enjoy it tremendously. It’s challenging and a lot of work and often heartbreaking, but it is a part of who I am. Even when it looks like I’m just staring out into space, I’m working on my writing. It’s easy to stay committed to something that you love, that brings you joy, and that helps you be the best version of yourself possible. For as much effort as I put into it, it gives back so much to me in return. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
These answers are great! Thanks, Elizabeth, for humoring McKenzie and me. To my readers, stay tuned tomorrow to hear from another Harvest Treats author.
Don’t forget, Harvest Treats will be released on September 25th, and be available on Nook, Kindle, and Smashwords in assorted ebook formats, and on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in paperback.