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I grew up in Colorado at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, then lived in Denmark and traveled throughout Europe before coming back to Colorado. I have two adult sons, whom I cherish. I started my writing career as a columnist and investigative reporter and eventually became the first woman editor of two different papers. Along the way, my team and I won numerous state and several national awards, including the National Journalism Award for Public Service. In 2011, I was awarded the Keeper of the Flame Lifetime Achievement Award for Journalism. Now I write historical romance and contemporary romantic suspense.

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Thursday, March 15, 2012

Interview with Elisabeth Naughton




 So you all know I’ve worked as a journalist most of my life. After I left the newspaper, I got an email from Joyce Lamb asking me whether I felt like interview authors for the brand new Happy Ever After blog on USA Today’s website. I thought about it for all of about an hour and told Joyce that I would be delighted.

During the few months that I’ve been working with Joyce, I’ve had the pleasure of interviewing an number of fantastic authors. I decided I would share some of my favorite interviews with you from time to time, especially when I’m busy writing.

I’m starting with the lovely Elisabeth Naughton.

Enjoy!

(Note: This interview originally appeared on USA Today’s Happy Ever After blog. Reprinted with permission.)

A junior high science teacher, Elisabeth Naughton never planned to be a romance novelist. Fate, it seems, had other ideas. From the moment she took up the pen — in secret, it turns out — Elisabeth was hooked, persisting through early frustrations as she learned about the craft and the industry until her fifth manuscript sold.

Her hard work has more than paid off. With eight novels to her name, as well as a novella, shes garnered a loyal following of readers who turn to her for action-packed adventures and sexy romance.

We caught up with Elisabeth in the wake of the release of Wait for Me, her latest novel, to talk about being a stay-at-home mom, her decision to become a novelist, and why she prefers to limit adventures to the fictional ones in her books.

Pamela: Unlike many authors, you didnt start writing at a young age. In fact, you didn’t start writing until you left your job as a science teacher to stay at home with your children. What was it that prompted you to try writing that first manuscript? Why did you choose to write romance specifically?

Elisabeth: Youre right. I never had dreams of being a writer. Id always loved to read and enjoyed the Peanuts cartoons where Snoopy's writing a book (who doesn’t?), but being an actual author just wasn't something that was ever even close to being on my radar.

After the birth of my second child, I took a years leave of absence from my teaching job to stay home with my kids. I quickly learned that being a stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) mom was a lot harder than I'd anticipated. Not just the workload (anyone whos been a SAHM knows its the hardest job on the planet), but the mental toll it takes on a person. I'd worked my entire adult life — and I’d enjoyed working — so to go from being the teacher who took on everything at school (student council adviser, multiple sports coach, volunteer, etc.) to being housebound was tough. I lasted about six months (through the summer and the first couple months of school) before I decided I needed something more. Don't get me wrong — I love my kids and loved being with them, but not all women are created equal, and I quickly realized I needed to do something to keep my brain active or I'd go nuts.

Since I wasn’t ready to go back to my teaching job yet — and couldn't since it was the middle of the school year — I spent a lot of time reading. Id always been a good writer — in grad school the big joke is I wrote all my friends papers — and one day, while I was reading a romance novel, I thought, “You know, I could do this.” It was a spur-of-the-moment decision to write a book. Just something for me to do. And I didn’t tell a single person I was writing — not even my husband. I worked on that first book when the kids were napping or at night when they were in bed. About three months into it (and after several glasses of wine), I finally got up the nerve to tell my husband what I was doing. To my surprise, he already knew. He said he’d come across the file on my laptop and was thrilled I’d found something that made me happy.

That first book will never see the light of day. It was horrendous. But it was a huge learning process for me, and as soon as I was done — even knowing how bad it was — I knew I wanted to be a writer. When the year was up and it came time to decide if I was going back to teaching, I turned in my resignation. And I never looked back.

Pamela: What kept you going during those frustrating months when the first, second, third and fourth didn’t sell?

Elisabeth: Stubbornness. Without a doubt. Once I put my mind to something, I stick with it until I reach my goal. From the moment I decided I wanted to become a published author, I worked toward that goal. If I didn’t know something, I learned it. I took classes. I went to conferences. I joined writers’ loops, etc. Each time I got a rejection (and there were plenty), it spurred me to work harder. ”Failure is not an option.” That's a line from Apollo 13, isn’t it? For me, it rings true in everything I do.

The cool thing about my career as a writer is that once I reach a goal, there’s always another goal ahead, so I never feel like I don't have something to work toward. Plus, I love what I get to do for a living. And for me, that's the most important part.

Pamela: Between the artifact-hunting of your Stolen trilogy and the ancient aspect of your Eternal Guardian series, it's clear you have a real interest archaeology and ancient mythology. From where does this interest spring?

Elisabeth: I honestly don’t know. I loved The Odyssey and The Iliad when I was in school. When everyone else was complaining about having to read them, I was in pure heaven. A lot of it also comes from my background in science. I’m fascinated by the scientific study of past cultures and how things we learn today tell us not only about ancient civilizations, but also about how decisions we make now can affect our future tomorrow.

Pamela: Your Stolen series is romantic adventure more than romantic suspense. What's the most adventurous thing you’ve done in your life?

Elisabeth: Hmm … I'm afraid of heights and am pretty claustrophobic, so for me anything adventurous usually relates to something that scares the pants off me. Parasailing from a boat off the coast of Mexico ranks right up there in the ohmygod, I never should have done that! category, as does scuba diving. Ironically, I find it much easier to write about the adventurous parts of my books rather than do them myself.

Pamela: You're one of a growing number of authors who is getting books out both through a New York publisher and via indie publishing. You’ve now reissued your entire Stolen series and the first two books of your Eternal Guardian series as independently published e-books. Was that a complicated process for you? What are your thoughts on the changes in the publishing industry and specifically indie publishing?

Elisabeth: Not as complicated as I thought. Indie publishing is more time-consuming than anything else. As I tend to be a perfectionist, I want things done right. And knowing I have the power to change things and make them right is both liberating and can really suck up my time. I don’t think indie publishing is for every author. If you're someone who doesn't like dealing with details, if you'd rather just write and have someone else handle all the "other" stuff, then indie publishing wouldn't be a good fit for you. But if you’re an author who likes to be in control of his/her career, then it can open up multiple doors.

As for my thoughts on the changing publishing landscape … For years I’ve been getting e-mails from readers asking when I'm going to write another romantic suspense book. Those have always been hard e-mails to answer because I love writing romantic suspense as much as readers love reading it, and even though New York hasn't been buying much romantic suspense lately, I've been continuing to write it. The new indie-publishing wave is encouraging because it's getting books out there that might not otherwise be published. And readers are finally getting to decide what they want to read rather than what New York wants to take a chance on publishing. I see benefits to being both New York- and indie-published, and I’m excited about the opportunities authors now have to make their stories available to readers who are anxious to read them.

Pamela: We’ve talked a lot on this blog about the role that music plays for authors. You’ve said you can’t really listen to music when you write but that it helps you when you’re thinking about your characters. Is it the tone of the music, its mood, or the lyrics that influence you most?

Elisabeth: I love music. I make soundtracks for all my books, and every book has its own theme song — one song that for whatever reason resonates with me. When I'm writing, I can’t listen to anything with lyrics because I find myself singing along and lose track of my scenes, but I still love music, so I listen to a lot of movie scores while writing. My favorites are the film scores to Gladiator, Lord of the Rings, The Last of the Mohicans and Transformers. (I listen to the Gladiator film score station on Pandora a lot when writing, and it comes up with some great selections.) Because I write action and fight sequences, the tempo of the music also helps a lot to get me in the right frame of mind for each scene.

When not writing, though, songs that make me think of my characters keep me “in my book” during the day. When I’m driving, when I'm doing non-writing-related work at home, etc., they help me stay focused on the plot and characters and keep me thinking about the next scene I’ll be writing. And I have eclectic music tastes. I like New Age, rock, country, and alternative, so my book soundtracks run the gamut from Linkin Park to Kenny Chesney to Enya.

Pamela: Your books have garnered high praise for their tight action, thrilling suspense and steamy sensuality. How do you balance these elements as you write?


Elisabeth: I have no idea! That probably isn’t a good answer, huh? The truth is I let the story write itself the way it needs to be written. I’m a pantster — I have a vague understanding of a book when I sit down to write it, but I can usually only see about three chapters ahead at any one time. If I get stuck, I know it’s usually because I've let the tension drop somewhere — either the action or the romance or the suspense — and then I go back and figure out where I went off track. For me, the emotional experience of the book is the most important thing, so even though I’m letting the book flow on its own, I’m always checking to make sure the stakes are high, the emotion is deep, and that the reader feels what the characters are feeling. I want my readers to feel like they're in the story rather than sitting back reading about someone else’s life.

Pamela: Wait for Me is the first book you’ve written specifically for indie publishing. What is the story behind this book? What can you tell us about the story itself?

Elisabeth: Wait for Me is the story that’s been in my head the longest. It wasn't the first book I wrote, but it’s the story I daydreamed about over and over, and it's the one I always come back to. I love second-chance stories, and that's what Wait for Me is. It’s about a happily married man whose life is torn apart when his wife dies in a plane crash. Five years later he’s only a shell of the man he used to be, but he gets up and goes on every day because he has a daughter to raise. When a woman who looks like his long lost wife shows up on his doorstep, he thinks he's been given a second chance, until he realizes the woman has absolutely no memory of him whatsoever. This book is filled with emotional turmoil, hope and despair, suspense and mystery. But at its core, it's a story about fate and destiny, trust and forgiveness and taking chances.

Pamela: What can we expect from your Eternal Guardian series this year?

Elisabeth: I'm totally excited that the fourth Eternal Guardians book — Enraptured — releases April 3, 2012. Enraptured recently received a starred review from Publishers Weekly and will be featured on the April cover of RT Book Reviews. After that, book five — Enslaved — releases in November, and picks up right where Enraptured ends.

Pamela: That all sounds fantastic! Thanks for taking time to talk with us!

Elisabeth: Thanks so much for the opportunity to stop by!

Pamela: To learn more about Elisabeth Naughton and her books, go to ElisabethNaughton.com.

2 comments:

Great interview, Elisabeth! I've been a fan of your work since I first read Stolen Fury! Can't wait to see what's coming next from you.

Jane said...

Congrats on the upcoming release, Elisabeth. So happy that there will be more Eternal Guardian books to look forward to.

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