Elle Amery: I’ve wanted to be a writer since I could read. Romance is one of the genres in which I write. I also write children’s fiction and am working on two YA novels and a contemporary novel that has some sex in it but is mostly about friendship. Those will be published under a different name. But I love romance—it’s where my heart lies!
Phoebe: Did you know what type of romance you wanted to write about or did you experiment with different genres before you chose the one that you felt was for you?
Elle: I’m a sappy romantic! Although I’d originally targeted contemporary romance, I found that many of the storylines I had in my head had too much of a sexual basis to them. In Tally’s Gift, the entire book wraps itself around the six-week sex-fest in which Tally and Brett indulge. In addition to the overtly sexual nature of the stories roaming about in my head, I found that when I wrote sex scenes, they went on for pages and pages—not exactly what traditional romance publishers had in mind!
Phoebe: What was the first fiction you ever wrote? And do you still have it with you?
Elle: The first full story I ever wrote was in sixth grade. I gave it to my best friend as a present—and yes, she still has it! It wasn’t a romance (in sixth grade I still thought kissing was disgusting!); it was a story about a girl and a horse.
Phoebe: How much research do you have to do for your novels and does it take you a long time to gather that research?
Elle: I research as I write, using the Internet. I tend to write what I know, and since I write contemporary there isn’t a whole lot of need for research. But, there are moments when I do need to get online and start digging around. In Tally’s Gift, for example, I did some research into how to prepare bath and body products using green products. And in Grace on Fire I did some research into anger management techniques.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your latest novel Tally’s Gift, with is part of your Quartzton series?
Elle: Many years ago a male friend of mine had injured both hands and wasn’t able to do the same thing Brett Huntsman wasn’t able to do *wink wink*. All of his friends teased him mercilessly about his towering condition. One of the nurses at the hospital had been flirting with him and, like Brett, neither his pain nor his pain killers managed to keep that good man down! I teased him I would write a story about his “problem,” and several years later, Tally’s Gift was created.
Phoebe: How did you come up with the concept for your Quartzton series and how many more books do you think you will be writing for that series?
Elle: The Quartzton series came about when I thought up the storyline of Tally’s Gift. Although it was the last book in the series, it was the first story I thought up. As I would dream about Tally, her friends Sophie and Grace became more clearly formed. It was obvious each had a story to tell. I’d originally thought that the Quartzton series would end with Tally’s Gift. However, one of the antagonists, Doris, from Saving Sophie and Grace on Fire, is actually quite a sympathetic character and has an intriguing story to tell, especially when the daughter she gave up for adoption shows up in town. Her story, Doris’s Choice, should be out this summer with Ravenous Romance. Also, sex hound Don Marshall, from Grace on Fire, has a lot to learn about being a good man. What the readers don’t know is that he was a total loser nerd in high school and college and has tried to cover it up with sexual bravado. I expect to see these two other books in the Quartzton series coming out by autumn 2009.
Phoebe: How do you come up with each of your characters for your novels? How do you choose their names out of so many names out there?
Elle: I made the mistake of naming the antagonist in Saving Sophie “Doris”, after a girl in high school who had been nothing but mean to me. The mistake came when I realized that Doris had an intriguing story to tell—my character Doris, that is. But that realization brought up something—what if Doris from high school had experienced a similar tough life? Just that thought alone helped me form the character of Doris in a more multi-layered way. With my other characters I tend to give them names I like that would fit with their family’s socio-economic status.
Phoebe: Do you have a process of how you start to write your novels?
Elle: I first dream up a story, or a particular character. I spend a lot of zoning out my couch, imagining scenes, plot, characterization, and more. Once I get a scene fully developed in my head, I sit down and write. I need to have absolute silence, no TV, no telephone, no emails, and no interruptions besides my adorable pets. My bunny, Beatrix the Bad, provides the only amusing (and not so amusing) distractions I can take.
Phoebe: Which do you like best, writing a series or writing stand alone novels? How is writing each different for you?
Elle: Writing a series isn’t easy because you have to layer characters into each novel in a way that’s gripping enough to make a reader want to come back and read the next story but that doesn’t overshadow the main character. But I love the theme of Quartzton, that tiny little speck on the map where so much goes on behind closed doors—and sometimes out in the open! However, writing a stand-alone novel allows me the opportunity to really bond with the main characters, and flesh their storylines out fully without spending any mental energy on connecting that novel to any others.
Phoebe: What process did you have to go through to get your first book published and did it take you long?
Elle: I was lucky in getting the Quartzton series published. In January of 2008, I finally got over my fear-of-publishing block and joined RWA. I attended their conference in July and met with Holly Schmidt of Ravenous Romance. She requested I send in a partial for Saving Sophie, which I did. I also sent in an overview of the other two books as well. Within a couple of weeks I had signed a three-book contract, which has been extended to five!
Phoebe: Do you ever get writers block? What do you do to get rid of it so you can get back to writing your novels?
Elle: This is where my couch comes in handy. Any time I get stuck while writing a scene, I take an hour or two and snuggle up with my cat and allow myself to dream. As long as I’ve fully connected with the characters, the scene unfolds in my head.
Phoebe: What is your biggest reader pet peeve, if you have any? (stock characters, unresolved endings, predictability, everything wrapped up hurriedly in the end, etc.)
Elle: As a reader, I detest stupid heroines. I don’t mind if a heroine is a little blind, because we all can be blind and we often do make bad decisions when it comes to love, but I hate it when they stay that way throughout the course of the novel. I want to see a character grow during the course of a story, and grow in a realistic way. I want a woman to find her strength, not rely on a man to be her strength.
Phoebe: Which aspects of writing do you enjoy the most and why? And what is your biggest writing pet peeve? (overuse of exclamation points, adverbs, bad guys named Wayne, etc.), if you have any?
Elle: My biggest writing pet peeve is incorrect use of punctuation. I will stop reading a book if there are too many typos. I edit and critique manuscripts, so it’s like fingernails down a chalkboard for me. My favorite aspect of writing is how I create these characters I fall in love with.
Phoebe: What is the one writing tool can you not live without?
Elle: I have several: 1) my laptop; 2) frozen Jr. Mints; 3) my couch; and, 4) my pets.
Phoebe: How do you handle your writing schedule and your personal life without going insane?
Elle: I don’t. There are days I end up staring blankly at my dog, wondering why I’m standing in that particular room staring at him. The fact that he’s salivating all over the floor while sitting next to an empty food bowl doesn’t seem to even click in.
Phoebe: What do you do to relax after having spent a long while writing? Do you have any hobbies?
Elle: Hobbies? Free time? Oh, yes, I dimly remember something like that…I read, of course, and I love to scrapbook, but haven’t in a year. I also like to hike in the woods, ride horses, go to the gym, and practice yoga. All of which I rarely seem to do these days. The one way I do tend to relax is to take a long, soaky bubble bath with a glass of excellent old-vine California zinfandel and a good book.
Phoebe: Is there any advice that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Elle: Leave plenty of room for promotional work. Ask for advice from writing partners you can trust. Read and re-read all books on writing. Subscribe to Chicago Manual of Style on-line. And mostly, don’t be afraid to submit!
Phoebe: Is there any writing tips, research tips, promotion and marketing tips that you would give to an aspiring romance writer that you wish someone had given you?
Elle: Get a blog. Join reader’s group, like Shelfari and Goodreads. Connect with other authors, especially authors from your own publishing firm. Read and re-read books on writing and publishing. Find an excellent writing partner who isn’t afraid to rip through your work with a fine-tooth comb.
Phoebe: Do you have a favorite genre you like to read? Who is your favorite author(s)?
Elle: My favorite author is Jane Austin, followed closely by Kate Chopin, Virginia Woolf, Elizabeth Peters, Heather Graham, and Saskia Walker. Now that I’m published with Ravenous Romance, I’m reading some great erotic romance by their authors, including Keta Diablo, Angela Cameron, and many, many others.
Phoebe: What are you reading now? And what do you plan to read after that?
Elle: I just finished Fault Line by Barry Eisler. Not a romance, but there is a strong romantic element to the story! I have a number of e-books on my to-read list, including Ripping the Bodice by Inara Lavey and Land of Falling Stars by Keta Diablo. I also have three Elizabeth Peters books, two by Joan Hess, three by Heather Graham, three by Lori King, and Reckless by Saskia Walker piled by my bed.