Welcome to Author Spotlight! Each week will feature a different author. We’ll get the scoop behind their writing life and dish a little. The authors will also be giving away a copy of their latest book. FUN.
This week Rosslyn Elliott is in the Spotlight! To win a copy of Rosslyn’s debut book, Fairer Than Morning, leave a comment on this post!
Share a little bit about yourself. Married with kids? Empty nester? Do you work full-time and write when you can squeeze it in?
I’m married and we have a daughter in third grade whom I homeschool. This year, she is starting a two-day-a-week school for homeschoolers. This schedule will give me more work to do on my teaching days, but will also free some time on my ‘off’ days for writing. We’re all animal lovers, so we have two dogs and my daughter and I spend a lot of time with horses. Eventually, I am going to give in to her longing for a kitten…but don’t tell her that yet!
And share something about your writing. What’s your genre(s), your areas of interest…
My first series of novels is based on the true story of a minister’s family who lived in Ohio in the nineteenth century. They have a place in history because of heir work on the Underground Railroad as well as a famous song composed by one family member. I’m honored to tell their story of love and courage. My genre is historical romance with suspense. I love to engage the reader in real problems that happened to believers in history just as they continue to happen to us today. My novels show how our faith sometimes calls us to be countercultural, and to stand up for what’s right even when it’s not popular or easy. I like to depict characters who are good people—sometimes even heroic people—but who also have real flaws and are in need of grace, as we all are.
How did you get started writing? Did you have a dream of being a published author?
I’ve always loved to write, from a very young age. I was afraid to pursue it professionally, however. My perfectionism and fear of failure stood in my way, and I had to mature before I could take the risk. Getting my doctorate gave me some time to grow up, and teaching high school students and college students for a few years also helped. Teaching showed me what mattered in life and writing, and I observed firsthand how perfectionism crippled some of the brightest students. I learned that no one ever achieves anything by sitting around thinking about it. You have to be willing to try and fail.
After you started writing seriously–how long was it before you were published?
I started my first novel in 2006 after I finished my doctoral work. A major interstate move and my motherly responsibilities threw a wrench in the gears for about a year, so I did not finish that novel until May of 2008. I signed with my agent Rachelle Gardner in July of 2008. It was almost exactly three years from the time I finished my first novel until my debut novel (not the same novel!) was published in May 2011.
Aside from a cup of good, strong coffee, what helps you get all of your “brain cylinders” firing so you can write well? Do you have any favorite places and routines when you write? How many hours a day do you spend writing?
As a historical author, I love to immerse the reader in a really vivid setting to take her away from the present and into a completely different world. So research is what primes my pump as a writer. The other day, I found a drawing online that made me want to jump around and wave my arms like a fool. It was an interior design of a parlor from 1857—the year of my work-in-progress—from a house on the very street where my characters live in Philadelphia. That kind of discovery lights my fire for several days.
What has been the biggest help to you in the journey to publication? Writers’ conferences? Writing groups? Your mom as your first draft reader?
I think my critique partners have to get the credit for helping me to publication. If I didn’t have the pressure of making my crit group deadlines, I’m not sure I would ever have finished my novels. Plus, they’re great people and they give really helpful feedback.
Is the “writer’s life” what you thought it would be?
Every professional writer talks about the pressure of deadlines, but I didn’t really know all the things that can happen behind the scenes in the publishing industry that might make it hard to meet deadlines. At the same time, I’m grateful for deadlines as they make me produce whether I like it or not!
What are your biggest distractions?
Housework and financial administrative stuff for our family. I would like to be very neat, in my ideal world, but our house is completely disorganized right now. I can’t wait until I meet my upcoming deadline so I can start some trips to Goodwill and clear out some closets. And I should clarify that the reason housework is often a distraction is because I don’t have time to do it and the house is messy, not because I’m Martha Stewart.
What was one of the best moments in your career and what was one of the worst?
The best moments are letters from readers and talks with readers. One of the very best of those was from a reader who said a scene in my novel changed her. I don’t think there can be a higher compliment, and I know what she means because it changed me too. When a novel shows a character who is able to forgive after some truly terrible events, it makes me reevaluate my own ability to forgive. That may sound funny because I wrote the novel myself, but I was telling someone else’s story, not my own. That person’s life story encourages me and holds me accountable to this day. The worst was discovering the real meaning of deadline.
What do you least like about being a writer? Most like?
What I least like about being an author: the tendency for my books to become a conversational focal point in too many conversations. I’m a listener as much as a talker, and I like to hear what’s going on in the lives of others, if they are willing to share with me. But sometimes the glamour factor of writing overwhelms conversation because people are curious about it. I understand that, but I also want to talk about lots of other things, and to hear about others’ lives. What I most like about writing: the chance to minister to people through my writing and offer them a little bit of hope and courage.
What is the role and importance of an agent?
An agent is the guard and champion of her writers. Many things can go wrong in publishing. An agent is there to prevent those problems if she can, but if they are not preventable, she will help you get through them.
What advice would you give to new writers?
The industry is changing so much that I think the best advice is to keep your eyes and ears wide open to opportunity. I’d also recommend the advice of a professional freelance editor. I have a feeling many writers are going to start self-publishing, which is great in some ways, but a writer really needs an objective editor before she sends that book out to the world.
Pretend I’m a customer at a bookstore looking for a good book. Give me a one or two sentence promo to convince me to buy your book.
If you want a story that is going to have you on the edge of your seat, surprise you, make you cry, but then have you cheering at the end, Fairer than Morning is the novel for you.
What’s on the book horizon for you?
I just turned in the edited version of my second novel, Sweeter than Birdsong (February 2012). It features more real-life heroes as well as a strong romance between two musicians who are just perfect for one another, but blocked by parental opposition.
Last question, how can readers find you and your books?
Please visit me at www.rosslynelliott.com, where there’s a link to a blog as well as to my books and some other fun stuff. If you ‘like’ my Author page on Facebook, you can keep up with news and insider info on the writing process. https://www.facebook.com/rosslynelliottauthor. I’m always glad to get new Facebook friends, and I get on Twitter once or twice a day, so look me up!
Thank you for sharing your writing life with my bleaders! (blog + readers = bleaders)
Thanks so much for having me, Suzanne. And please let your readers know about my Kindle Giveaway and Fairer Than Morning Facebook Party where I’ll be giving away a custom-made period dress!