Happy Monday all!! I am excited to have J. Elizabeth Hill with me today! 🙂 I just started reading her book “Bound”, and am loving it so far!! Grab a seat and learn a bit about her with me.
Born in Toronto, Ontario, J Elizabeth Hill exported herself to Vancouver, British Columbia after many years of staring longingly at the map following every snowfall. For as long as she can remember, she’s been making up stories, but it wasn’t until high school that someone suggested writing them down. Since then, she’s been hopelessly in love with story crafting, often forgetting about everything else in the process.
Christina: What’s your current project? Tell us a little about it.
J. Elizabeth Hill : My current project is tentatively named Where The Ether Flows. It’s about Devan Endorus, a necromancer from a family full of them. He’s always been the outcast of the family, despite being the eldest and heir to the family leadership, because he cares deeply about the dead and wants to help them rather than exploit them. After the death of his girlfriend a few years, he left his family and their city behind, but he gets dragged back into all of their affairs after an attack on him by one of his father’s minions.
C. What has been your favorite scene to write so far?
JEH: Devan met a woman before returning to Henresh, his family’s city-state, and she followed him there. They’re in his old apartment after getting there and he starts getting undressed, forgetting she’s there. When she reminds him, he trips on his own clothes in a huge fit of embarrassment but refuses to show it by hurriedly dressing and she takes the opportunity to enjoy the view of him in just his underwear. Given Devan usually knows what to do or say, I enjoyed him being this flustered.
C: Who or what has inspired your writing?
JEH: A lot of writers, across multiple media types, have inspired me to write. I love stories, always have, and somewhere along the way, I got the idea that I could do that too. I could tell stories, write them down and share them with people. All the things stories have offered me, comfort, shelter, hope, belonging, solace, I could offer those to others. And it’s like having my own adventure with stories no one ever saw, at least in the first draft.
C: What is your biggest goal with your writing?
JEH: To tell a story that’s all mine. One others might not think to tell because they’re not me, but that will touch people in an important way, even if it’s small.
C : Do you have any pre-writing rituals?
JEH : Music. Every story ends up with a song or two that touches on a deep aspect of the world or characters. Before I start writing, I’ll throw that song on repeat and listen to it for a bit. It’s like a key to the story, in that it lets me into that story as nothing else does.
C. What is the weirdest location you’ve ever written at?
JEH: Mostly I write at home, but a few times, I’ve had an idea or a passage come into my head during a meeting at the day job. Thankfully, I always have a notebook then.
C: How do you handle writer’s block?
JEH: To me, writer’s block means I’ve pushed the story into a direction that didn’t flow right, tried to make it do something that didn’t fit. In that case, I have to back up and find the place where I got off the rails and figure out where the story needs to go.
8. How much research was involved in your latest piece and how did you tackle it?
JEH: I didn’t do a lot of research out of the gate. I looked into historical definitions of necromancy, which helped set some of the framing of the story. Because it’s secondary world Fantasy (made up world) I didn’t have to do a lot of historical research. There have been a few things I needed to figure out as I went, how some stuff works, and I tend to hop online for that, making sure I have a few sources before I rely too much on something.
C : Are you a panser or a plotter?
JEH: I’m a plotter, though the amount of plotting I do varies. Right now, I’m just plotting a few chapters ahead at a time. Most of the time, I have the events of the novel all worked out ahead of time, outlined in short narrative format. I do a lot of notes and thinking about characters, world and magic before I start outlining too.
C: What’s next for you?
JEH: After I finish Where The Ether Flows? I think I’ll write the first book of another series I’ve been building for the last several months. No title so far for the book, but the project (which might span several books) has the working title The Pick-up Artist. It’s about a young woman who can steal pieces of other people’s magic, and what happens when she does so from the wrong person one day.
C: What do you like best about writing fantasy ?
JEH: How open the field of possibilities is. I can have magic, fantastical creatures, places and people who might never exist in our world. I find I have so much freedom to go with my wildest imaginings, so long as it has internal logic, and that allows me to explore things I might not be able to in any other genre. So many of my story ideas start with “what if this thing were real/different/not an actual limit?” and I love that.
C: Is there another genre you have tried writing?
JEH: I once tried writing sci-fi, which wasn’t for me, and there are story ideas for mysteries and contemporary romance kicking around in my head but I’ll probably never write them. I’m happy with Fantasy and have more ideas there than I could hope to finish anyway.
C: Have you taken any writing classes? If so, share those experiences
JEH: I’ve never taken a long fiction writing class, but in high school, I took a creative writing course my school offered and I’m really glad I did. Our teacher was a big believer in revision as part of the writing process (which it always should be), so he’d let us revise a piece and resubmit it for grading. You could improve your grade, but you could also make it worse if it was a poor, rushed revision. You were stuck with whatever new grade it got. He allowed us to revise and resubmit as much as we wanted though. It was good to have that idea driven into my head at a very young age, because it helps me keep perspective when it comes to revisions now.
C: Is there any talent or skill you wish you were better at within the writing/publishing process?
JEH: Drawing, which doesn’t sound like it would be part of the writing/publishing process, but I wish I could sketch my characters and other very visual things I need to describe. Sometimes, I’d give anything for a set of reference drawings, especially when working on later books of a series/trilogy/whatever.
C: Have your parents read your work?
JEH: Yes. My stepfather even proofreads them for me. They love my work and often nudge me about what I’m working on, when they can read the next book. It’s really nice and a bit surprising, since neither have ever been fans of Fantasy. My mom even highlighted some passages she especially enjoyed and wanted to show me. Was a bit floored by that.
C: What scares you the most?
JEH: The idea of dying with stories untold. It’s going to happen. I have no shortage of ideas, and a major backlog of them. But I hate this idea that I won’t get to share them all, that I won’t even get to write them all and see what they become.
C: When did you start to feel like an author?
JEH: The first time someone I didn’t know much said they’d read and loved my first book. That was an OMG, mind blown moment. I mean, someone other than close friends read my book! They could have said they hated it and I might still have left the conversation a little dazed and smiley. Maybe.
C: Have you ever acted out a scene to see if it worked? Share a funny or embarrassing story about acting it out.
JEH: I rarely act them out physically, but I’ve caught myself mumbling dialogue when writing in public. One time the lady sitting next to me at Starbucks actually got up and moved to another table, so I must have been doing it a lot. I don’t think I ever went back to that particular location, just in case I ran into her. This is why I mostly write at home.
C: Which poets or authors have influenced you in your own writing?
JEH: Carol Berg has been a huge influence. The first time I read one of her books, I sat there and thought, these are the kinds of stories I want to tell. I was lucky enough to meet her a couple of times at Norwescon and she’s a delightful woman, very friendly and caring. Also, Anne McCaffrey, because I love how very personal her stories are, how romance is a part of them without being the whole story.
Thank you so much for the interview!! 🙂 I had so much fun getting to know you and can’t wait to finish your book! 🙂