Wednesday’s Author Interview: Elise Abram
Today, our guest author is Elise Abram who writes what might be called “light science fiction,” and also has a newly released YA adult book available. Elise, welcome to Bookin’ It. So nice of you to join us today.
BI:. Tell us a bit about how you became a writer. When did you decide that’s what you wanted to be, and what steps did you take to prepare for a writing career?
EA: Being a writer was never a choice for me; I’ve always felt compelled to write. Growing up, I told myself stories to keep myself occupied. Sometimes I wrote them down, but I never really liked how they sounded. I kept telling myself one day I’d write all my stories down and get them published, but I never did. The Internet changed all that, because I suddenly had access to content I couldn’t get before and I was able to teach myself how to write well. With practice, I got to the point where I actually liked what I was writing. Now I look back at my first stories and cringe, but I can also see my progress, which is really gratifying.
BI: I love that you persisted until you felt your skill levels reached what you were aiming for. The internet is a Godsend to budding writers, for sure. Were you inspired by any particular authors, past or present, and what is it about their work that impresses you, or moves you?
EA: Growing up I read a lot of Stephen King. In university I was into Margaret Atwood. I studied King to learn how to write a compelling story, and Atwood for her writing style and thematic content. I remember reading Anne Rice’s Interview with a Vampire and hanging on every word of her narrative voice. Kathy Reichs is another favourite for first person narrative because she makes the science in her Temperence Brennan series so accessible. I love reading books that inspire me to write better, that make me say, “I wish I could write like that.” Sometimes, the way something is written grabs me more than the plot. If I am writing at the same time I’m reading something impressive, I sub-consciously channel the spirit of the writer and find myself emulating their style, which helps me further develop my own narrative voice.
BI: All great choices for fiction writers. And I know what you mean about the way something is written grabbing you even more than the plot. Plots have to work, of course, but there are only so many basic ones out there. To me, it’s what you do with yours that counts, and I do love a beautiful wordsmith. What genres do you read most often for pleasure, Elise…those books you gravitate toward the minute you walk into a bookstore?
EA: I call the genre I read (and the genre I write), light science fiction, because it doesn’t have all the technological bells and whistles of what I consider to be traditional science fiction. My favourite sci-fi takes place in the present or near future, and on earth (not in space on ships) where one element is different from the world as we know it, such as the reality of time travel, or the existence of a portal to another world. I also like paranormal fiction, usually with vampires, though not as a rule. I’m generally open to any genre, so long as it’s well written
BI: I love your idea of light science fiction. Having stories that are set here on earth is something that really appeals to me, too, and the main reason I love Urban Fantasy so much. Do you have a dedicated workspace, and are you consistent with the amount of time you spend writing each day?
EA: I am so bad at writing consistently. I’m a high school English teacher and there are always papers to grade or lessons to plan and the immediacy of that tends to take over my writing time. I enter myself in contests like Nanowrimo or blog challenges because it forces me to put everything else aside and just write. I have an office set up in my basement where I can close the door and be alone, and I frequently write there, but I also like to switch it up from time to time and sit out back or go to a coffee shop or the mall or library for a change of scenery.
BI: If I had to work at an outside job, I’d never get anything else done at all, so I am impressed that you are still able to find time to follow your muse. Do you use visual aids, like Inspiration Boards/Photos or maps of your book’s setting? What reference books or other material do you consult most frequently as you write?
EA: I began “writing” in my head, visualizing stories as if they were movies, and so my brain has sort of been trained to think this way. Because most of my scenes take place in and around Toronto, Ontario, Canada (which is where I live), I have been known to take field trips to locations in the city and just sit and people-watch or make notes or take pictures for future reference. The last time I did this was for The Revenant. Some of the action took place at Yonge-Eglinton Square, an open public place in front of a shopping mall. When I went to take a picture of it, I was horrified to learn it had been blocked off and they were building onto it! My characters go to a Tim Horton’s coffee shop I remember as being across the street from the square and it was no longer there! After much soul-searching, I changed the location to Dundas Square instead. Incidentally, there is a Tim Horton’s only a few doors down from that square, so it worked out in the end.
BI: That must have been a shock. I hate learning something I want to do is no longer an option. Glad you were able to work around the issue. When you have an idea for a new book, do you sit down and start typing, or do you start with an outline, and figure out all the major plot points first? In other words, is your working style structured and organized, or more organic and free flowing?
EA: My style is sort of a combination of the two. When I start, I write an outline, but it is not point-by-point and by no means all encompassing. Once I have the general idea and I know where to start and where I want to end up, I start writing to fill-in-the-blanks. The most important thing I learned from Nanowrimo is to silence my inner critic and just write. I worry about inconsistencies on subsequent drafts. If I ever feel lost in the plot, like I don’t know where I’m going, I’ll leave it alone for a few days and go back to the beginning and read what I’ve written. If I know where I’ve been, it’s easier for me to backtrack in order to find my way again.
BI: Sounds like a good mix of the two styles to me. Do you prefer reading eBooks, or print? Why?
EA: If you would have asked me this question 5 years ago, I would have said print, hands down. A book isn’t a book unless it’s an actual paper and print book. Then I got my first smart phone and bought my first eBook and I haven’t bought a print book since. I like that, with an eBook, my book is always with me because my phone is always with me. If I’m ever bored or waiting on an appointment, I don’t need to remember to bring my book with me because it’s already there in my purse. And I don’t have to switch to a larger purse to take my book with me either.
BI: I’m always sort of surprised at how many authors dislike eBooks. To me, it’s not an either/or thing. I buy books for my library all the time, but mostly it’s the ones I’m specifically collecting, like a favorite series. The convience and comfort of eReaders is heavenly, though, so I use my Kindle daily, and have about 500 books on it that I’d never have room to shelve, otherwise. Glad you have discovered the fun of them. Can you give us some info on the books have you published, and where we can buy them?
EA: I used to be an archaeologist and got tired of people telling me that archaeology in Ontario wasn’t real archaeology because the sites weren’t as old as in Greece or Egypt. I thought “I’ll show them that archaeology in Ontario can be every bit as interesting as anywhere else,” and started writing. The first book I published was Phase Shift in which archaeologist Molly McBride is given an artifact that turns out to be the key to a doppelganger earth. I used the same characters in the two novellas I published, Throwaway Child and The Mummy Wore Combat Boots.
In Throwaway Child, a dig in the basement of an old house uncovers the skeleton of a young native child, who lived there when it functioned as a residential school. The story follows Molly, her husband, Palmer Richardson, and police detective constable Michael Crestwood as they investigate the child’s story.
The Mummy Wore Combat Boots is more of a police procedural starring Palmer and Crestwood. In it they discover that a mummy in the Royal Ontario Museum’s holdings is actually a recent murder victim.
My most recent release, The Revenant, is my take on the whole young adult paranormal craze. I started off wanting to write about vampires and wound up with a revenant, a seer, an empath, a necromancer, and a few zombies. It was my first young adult novel and my first paranormal one, too. I think I surprised myself, not only with how dark and gory I could make a scene, but how fun it was to write like that.
BI: I really love the archaelogy aspect, a field I’ve always been interested in. It sounds like Temperance Brennan meets the Leakeys. 😀 I’m definitely going to check those out. And The Revenant should be hugely popular for you. I think I’d enjoy that, too. Are you currently working on a new book? When do you expect it to be available?
EA: I am working on 3 new books. The Next Coming Race is another Molly, Palmer and Crestwood story with ties to Edward Bulwer-Lyton’s The Coming Race, in which evidence of aliens having visited earth is uncovered on a dig. Chicken or Egg: A Love Story is a novel about time-travel and love-triangles. I Am, Was, Will Be Alice is sort of a young adult Time Traveler’s Wife. I plan to finish it during this year’s Camp Nanowrimo (Junowrimo?) and have it ready to submit for publication by the end of the year.
BI: I’m getting really interested in these “Molly” books. And the others sound intriguing, too. Hope you’ll let us know as soon as they are available. Elise, what is the best thing about being a writer in your mind? The worst?
EA: The best thing about being a writer is when you retreat into your own world and lose yourself in the persona of your narrative character for a while. This is why my blog’s subtitle is “Writing to find my inner bliss.” It’s all about the peace and clarity of mind I get when I write that helps ground me and release stress.
The worst part is not being able to control when the muse strikes, being in a situation where my characters are “talking” to me and I can’t give them a voice because of the real-world demands of my job or my family. Wasn’t it in The Tommyknockers by Stephen King where someone rigs up a typewriter to write his thoughts for him? Most nights I need something like that because my characters tend to talk to me in the moments between wakefulness and sleep, and I imagine my next chapter with crystal clarity. The next day, no matter what I write, it’s never as good as what I had the night before.
BI: I suspect most writers have that same problem. I like the rigged up typewriter (computer?) idea, but can’t tell you if it’s from Tommyknockers or not. I tried to forget that book as soon as I finished reading it. Sorry, it just wasn’t one of my favorite King novels, though I’ve certainly read a plethora of them. You’ve made me think about hooking up some voice recognition software I could mumble into at night, though, but it wouldn’t be nearly as nice as a direct connection to my wandering thoughts. And if ONLY we could record what our characters say to us. Wouldn’t that be something!
Elise, thank you so much for being here on Bookin’ It today. I’ve really enjoyed learning more about you, your books, and what you have in the works. Hope you’ll visit again!
Elise Abram, B.A. B.Ed., M.Ed
Teacher of English and Computer Studies by day, wife and mother by night and author whenever she can steal some time, Elise is the proud author of Phase Shift, The Mummy Wore Combat Boots, and Throwaway Child, available on Amazon and KoboBooks. She pens a blog about literature, popular culture and the human condition whenever the muse moves her.
Contact Elise or join her blog at:
Hope you’ll check out all of Elise’s books. I’m sure going to. All are available on amazon.com, and The Revenant is also available on Black Rose Writing.
If you decide to place an order with amazon, clicking through from my links will give me credit. If you are enjoying my reviews on Bookin It, its a great way to let me know! Thanks!