Blogs by L.T. Suzuki
7/31/2011 5:54:20 AM
Debut novelist Elena Aitken discusses her book and the writing life!
LTS: For todayís guest blog, Iíd like to introduce you to my writerly twitter pal and debut novelist, the lovely and talented Elena Aitken. Iíd like to begin by having you share a little information about yourself with our readers, Elena. What do you like to do when youíre not writing?
EA: Sometimes it feels like Iím always writing. But I suppose there are times when I do other things. Iím actually a busy mom of nine-year-old twins (gasp, when did they get that old?) and during the summer months we like to hang out in the mountains at the lake where we play in the sun. I also work part-time from home and train for various events in my spare time. Recently I completed my first ever Olympic triathlon which was pretty major for me.
LTS: Writing, twins and triathlons? Iím exhausted just thinking about what you do! Now, youíve been writing since your were in elementary school, but when did you decide to write fiction? Has becoming a published author been a life long dream for you?
EA: When I was young I used to make up fun little short stories, and I feel like I was always writing or creating an imaginary story in my head. I actually quit writing in University and for a few years afterward. Looking back, I think I thought it was a Ďwaste of my timeí. But shortly after my twins were born, I Ďcame backí to writing because it made me happy and I started a small copywriting business as a way to make extra money. It wasnít until 2006 when I thought Iíd give Nanowrimo a try that I remembered my love for fiction. That first Nano was amazing for me because I fell completely in love in with the whole process and while that novel will never see the light of day, (at least not with a serious rewrite) it was all it took to completely hook me again.
LTS: Your debut novel, ĎNothing Stays in Vegasí was recently released as an ebook. What was the inspiration behind this story and can you tell us a little bit about your protagonist, Lexi Titan?
EA: Iíve been to Las Vegas a few times and I just really enjoy the city. Thereís really no other place like it. Last summer I took another trip there and I happened to be looking for a new story idea to hit me. I thought it would be a great place to set a story, even part of it. You always hear the phrase, ďWhat happens in Vegas, stays in VegasĒ and I thought to myself, What if what happened in Vegas didnít really stay there but haunted you for the rest of your life? Could someone really find love in Sin City, a place known for flings and one night stands?
Hereís the blurb...
Lexi Titan has mastered the art of pretending everythingís fine. After all, how else could she ignore the fact that her husband is never home, her son barely knows him and the last time she had sex, well, who can remember? With her life crumbling, the last thing she wants to do is go on a trip, especially back to Vegas; a city full of glitz, excess, and Leo, the man sheís spent the last six years trying to forget. But when her best friend announces sheís getting married, Lexi doesnít have a choice. Besides, itís ridiculous to avoid an entire city because of one guy. Even if he is the father of your child.
Face to face with memories of the past and the gorgeous man who started it all, Lexi can no longer deny the truth to anyone, especially Leo. But honesty will come at a price, and Lexi must decide if sheís wiling to take that risk. And what exactly will she tell her husband? Because as she now knows, NOTHING STAYS IN VEGAS.
LTS: Without giving away too much, can you reveal whatís in store for the readers when they crack open ĎNothing Stays in Vegasí?
EA: Readers can expect to laugh, cry sometimes, and cheer for Lexi and Leo. Of course thereís a little bit of loviní too. ;)
LTS: Although you classify this novel as womenís fiction, is it something male readers could enjoy, too?
EA: While definitely itís a story that will appeal to women primarily, Iím sure many men will also be able to connect with Leo and Lexi and the challenges they face. At the end of the day itís a story about figuring out love and both men and women experience love and all of the struggles that come along with it, so yes, Iím sure many men will enjoy the story.
LTS: The road to publication is difficult at the best of times. Do you have any advice youíd like to share with the author struggling to find representation from a literary agent?
EA: Wow, isnít that the truth!? Publication, in any form is not easy because first you have to write the book. Iíve said before, anyone who thinks writing a book is easy, obviously hasnít done it before.
As for advice seeking an agent. I stopped pursuing this route, so I may not be the best one to ask but that being said, I think the most important thing, no matter what road you choose is to be true to your own goals and your own vision. I think sometimes writers get caught up in getting an agent no matter what and in doing so may settle, or comprise their writing. I no longer believe an agent is the holy grail for writers. I think the publishing industry is changing so quickly, and representation from an agent is only one of the many roads you can take to achieve your goal. I think itís important to keep options open.
LTS: Youíre right about the agent thing, thatís for sure. Iíve had two literary agents and I released the last one, opting to use an entertainment attorney to negotiate the film rights for my novels! So tell me, what made you decide to self-publish your novel?
EA: It wasnít a clear path for me. It actually took me awhile to let go of the fact that traditional publishing might not be the only option. I didnít query Nothing Stays In Vegas very widely, but I did query. I think the tipping point for me was having a conversation with my father where we discussed the publishing industry and what the future of publishing might look like.
Facing the facts, itís becoming harder to go the trad route and there are more and more authors finding success by going indie. I know itís not right for everyone, but ultimately I donít write my books so they can languish on my hard drive forever. I was getting good reviews from my beta readers and I knew I had a good book, so I decided to go for it.
LTS: What is the most important lesson youíve learned on the road to publication?
EA: In my mind itís crucial to have two things: determination and willingness to learn. I love reading writing books, going to conferences and talking to other writers. The more I can learn about my craft, the better. You have to constantly evolve as a writer. I donít think I'll ever know everything there is to know, but Iím going to keep trying.
And obviously determination is key. Not everyone is going to like what you write, and there are so many obstacles along the way that you must be determined to succeed or you will be derailed all too easily.
LTS: Iím curious about your writing style. Are you one of those disciplined writers who must dedicate a certain time each day to producing so many words, or are you more relaxed and tend to write when it strikes your fancy?
EA: I hope to one day make a decent living by writing fiction so I do tend to treat it like a Ďjobí. I do set word goals and targets depending on where I am in a project. Usually I aim for 1000 words, five days a week. In the summer, Iím lucky enough to spend a lot of time in an inspiring location, so I usually aim for 2000 words a day. I try and be disciplined, but I write best in the afternoon.
LTS: Still on the subject of writing styles, are you a plotter or pantser? The readers would like to know if you tend to plot out your story line in great detail or if your writing is more organic with the characters and events unfolding as you write.
EA: Iím a bit of both. I really like to take an idea and sketch it out long hand in a notebook. I find that pen and paper help my ideas flow, so Iíll sit down and just let the ideas come. Once I have a rough outline, I start writing and go with it. Throughout the process Iíll periodically stop and go back to the notebook to sketch out future scenes or work through any tough spots.
LTS: Some authors meditate, others need to fuel up on coffee or listen to music. Do you have any rituals, ones that can be shared with the readers, that you must do before you hunker down for a writing session?
EA: I have to have my music when I write. Usually something like Serena Ryder, Christina Perri, or Adele. And tea. I REALLY like to have a cup of Earl Grey next to me. It usually gets cold and I have to make another one, but I still have to have it there.
LTS: At one time or another, most writers hit the wall and their work stalls because of the dreaded writerís block. What do you do to get around or over this mental wall to resume writing?
EA: Like I mentioned before, if I hit a tough spot Iíll go back to the notebook and start sketching it out. There have been times when I get really stuck for a few days, where something just isnít working for me. Times like that I just get really grumpy, so I find that going for a run, gardening, or doing something else will get my mind going and Iíll come up with a way out.
LTS: Who is your favourite author and how has he/she inspired you to write or influenced your writing style or choice of genre?
EA: Tough question. I donít think I can name anyone in particular. I read all the time and I think almost every author has inspired me in some way. Whether itís with a particular character, or setting theyíve created, when I read and something touches me, thatís inspiring.
LTS: What is the most profound discovery youíve made in terms of your writing and how it has touched the lives of others?
EA: For me, Iím always amazed when people tell me that they Ďcareí about my characters. Itís my wish of course for readers to become invested with all of my characters or at least make a connection with one of them, so when I hear that someone cried or cheered with a plot twist, Iím always blown away.
Itís still hard to comprehend that my words have the power to move people or even provide a means of escape where they can lose themselves for a brief period.
LTS: What are you reading now, and how did this particular book make it onto your to-read list?
EA: I just finished reading Not to Us by Katherine Owen. I Ďmetí Katherine on Twitter, sheís a fellow Womenís Fiction author and I like to support indie authors whenever I can. There is an immense amount of undiscovered talent out there. It was a great read, that runs the spectrum on emotions.
My Kindle is full, I really enjoy a variety of books. Iím not sure what Iíll start next.
LTS: What do you foresee in your future over the next five years and do you hope to branch out from womenís fiction into other genres? Can your fans expect a sequel to ĎNothing Stays in Vegasí in the future?
EA: In five years I hope to have a few more books out. I really like the womenís fiction genre, because itís so diverse and really, it fits almost anything I can think of. My next project is a book Iíve been working of for quite awhile about a mom who finally hits the breaking point and one day, instead of returning home to her family, just keeps driving. Iím in the middle of reworking a few plot points, but it should be ready by Christmas. Iím really excited about it because Becca is a character that my early readers have really been able to connect with.
LTS: Thank you so much for taking the time from your crazy, hectic schedule to discuss your first of many novels and in sharing in your writing experiences, Elena! Iíll catch you on Twitter.
EA: Thank you for letting me visit your blog! I really appreciate the opportunity.
For more information about Elena and her works, check out:
Follow Elena on Twitter: .elenaaitken
Where to buy the book: http://www.amazon.com/Nothing-Stays-In-Vegas-ebook/dp/B005CIRR8S/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1310619947&sr=8-2
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