Today, I present an interview with Irene Elliot, author of Lucid.
1. First, tell me a bit about yourself. What would you like readers to know about you?
I have a conflicting love of things that are both utterly darling and horrifically strange. I like to write my interests, which tend toward horror, fantasy, and dumb things that only I seem to think are funny (like walrus feet). I put everything I got into what I write. I really want people to believe in the characters I write and feel like they are a part of their lives. I hope that those characters stay with them and, with any luck, help them consider something they never have before.
2. Can you tell me about your current project?
My current projects are a little all over the place. I’m working on finishing up my second novel in what I hope becomes a series of books called the Twelliger Family Tree (still a working title). It follows a family of monster hunters struggling with their place in the world, but more where they stand with each other. The first book in the series features Pauline, a young woman trying to cope with the loss of her mother and find the path she wants her life to follow – slaying monsters, or exploring the world of culinary excellence. Her father, Hunter, is struggling with the loss of his wife and desperately trying to keep up with his father’s legendary exploits. They are both at odds with each other, but there’s something bigger than both of them looming on the horizon, and they don’t have the strength they need to stop it. Should be a quirky, dark, and strange run through a fun and familiar setting for urban fantasy fans and horror readers.
3. What inspired you to explore the world of dreams in your book, Lucid?
For a long time (and still today), I struggled with insomnia sometimes caused by some pretty horrific nightmares. Sometimes I’d just lay in bed and all the gears would start turning in my head, and after I finally would sleep I’d pop up trembling from bad dreams and couldn’t sleep for the rest of the night. Nothing would really shut off or shut up, so I was looking into medical options, or seeing a doctor about sleepless nights – and eventually this lead to my discovery of lucid dreaming. The whole point about lucid dreaming concerns controlling your dreams, but it takes weeks or longer of meditation, repetition, and dedication to perfecting the technique. The best I could manage was to wake up, then fall back into the same dream. It didn’t really help much with my sleep, but at the time, I was reading the book Fade, by Robert Cormier, and the themes in that story just clicked with the sleep issues I was experiencing. I loved the idea of a teenager having this amazing gift, but you know, being a teenager and not quite knowing how to control it or use it responsibly – everyone loves a super hero story like that. I was really excited to write something that could touch on so much of what I was living in my own day-to-day.
4. Where did you get the character inspiration for Olive?
Olive is different pieces of people I knew growing up and went to high school with. I wanted to dig a bit into loner type characters that want to feel close to people but don’t quite know how to approach them. Giving the character an ability to do this without socializing is a good way to explore themes of isolation, social anxiety, and how an atypical girl thinks about these issues.
5. How did you discover your love of writing?
I was in middle school and burning through every Michael Crichton book I could get my hands on, and also some not so great teen horror novels… yeah. I wrote the worst, pulpy horror stories imaginable and I would show them off to my friends just to try and gross them out, or get a reaction. Most of the time it worked, but from there, I just loved creating something from the dumb pit of my brain and now I just like to see it build into something bigger.
6. What is your favorite part of being a writer?
I love writing dialogue. I don’t know what it is specifically about it, but it’s really satisfying to have a good, natural string of words evolve between two characters. It’s one thing I’ll say I do well at. I’m not sure what that says about me that I can make two fake people have a natural sounding conversation when I’m bumbling and stumbling over my own spoken words in the same situations, but there you have it!
7. What is your greatest challenge as a writer?
Marketing yourself. That and not giving up. They go hand-in-hand really. It’s a vicious pairing really. I’m not one to really talk about myself in any capacity, so when I’m trying to sell myself and my work – it’s extremely difficult. I’m proud of it, but I have trouble convincing people to purchase something I worked really hard on. Maybe that’s a Midwest thing, or maybe it’s a social thing – but it’s hard! So, when you’re getting about $1 to $2 margins for a paper book, and $3 digital sales (minus 30%), it can be incredibly discouraging. It’s important to look at what you’re doing, evaluate what’s working and what’s not. It might force you into doing something you’re not comfortable with, but in the long run, it will likely help your career. I didn’t think I would do any sort of book fairs, but I did two last year and I’m lining up to do another at Siouxpercon because they can be really beneficial in getting the early word out, get people to take a chance on you because they can put a face and a personality to the cover. It’s something I keep working on every chance I get.
8. How do you find inspiration and motivation to write when you feel stuck?
I tend to dig around a lot in some massive image folders on my laptop or listen to new types of music to generate new thoughts, latching onto lyrics and turning them into concrete ideas. I’ll also just read up on some topic I know I’m interested in and come up with little snippets of stories that may not go anywhere, just to see if the idea is worth exploring. Worst case scenario is just writing whatever my brain barfs up. It’s going to be hot, clichéd garbage, but it gets me in the groove of writing consistently and making it a habit. And maybe, just maybe, there’s a small nugget of gold somewhere in all those muddy words. Or maybe it’s just mud, and that sucks. But hey, you won’t find the big win if you don’t try, so. See question seven regarding “staying positive and not giving up.”
9. What’s your favorite way to take a break from writing?
I’ve always been big into video games, so I’ll hop on a few different multiplayer games with some friends, play something one-on-one with my husband, or deep dive into a stable of well-worn horror games where I feel like I’m in my element. I also love hiking and being in nature, so if I can get the chance, I like being isolated out with my hubby in the middle of nowhere.
10. What’s one piece of advice that you would give to aspiring or new authors?
The old adage “good artists copy, great artists steal” has always stuck with me. People always say there is nothing new under the sun, only different perspectives and takes on plots and themes we already know. But if you think the idea for your story already exists – so what? This is YOUR take, YOUR story, YOUR words. Own it and spread your perspective. I’d love to see it, just like I hope you will love to see mine.