Interview with Elizabeth Delisi

Serious Reading Author Interview Questions and Answers: Elizabeth Delisi


Question: Do all authors have to be grammar Nazis?

Answer: LOL! No. But grammar is an important tool for a writer. You want your story to hold the reader’s attention. You don’t want a misspelled word or missing comma to yank the reader out of the story. And as they say, it’s hard to “un-see” something. If you’re good with grammar, you’ll notice every mistake you come across.

One of my pet peeves is people who say “try and,” as in, “try and do it right.” It’s not “try and,” it’s “try to.” To remember this, substitute the synonym “attempt” for “try.” In this example you’d get, “Attempt and do it right.” Clearly, that’s incorrect; it should be, “Attempt to do it right.” Easy tip!

Question: If you could have been the original author of any book, what would it have been and why?

Answer: Ooh, tough one. Probably the book I’ve read most often is THE ROBE by Lloyd C. Douglas. It’s a wonderful story, masterfully written, and with the perfect balance of description, dialogue, action, and background. There’s a movie version of course, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the book. Read it yourself and see what I mean!

Question: What works best for you: Typewriters, fountain pen, dictate, computer or longhand?

Answer: I started out writing with pen and paper. That worked well for short stories and articles, but too much effort for a novel. Next I moved to an electric typewriter. I took in typing for many months to pay for that machine! It was the cream of the crop, a Smith Corona portable electric typewriter with auto-correct. I got many years of service from it!

Then I finally entered the computer age…but that was 1988 so you can imagine what I had…a computer with large monitor, speakers, mouse, keyboard, and printer. It was a dot-matrix printer and the computer ran on DOS. No such thing as Windows. Pretty primitive, but it led to eventually working on computers as my preferred method.

However, there’s one thing I miss. An early Windows computer of mine had a game called EL FISH. It’s gone now, but I sure loved that game! Wish they still made it.

Question: When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

Answer: When I was in first grade, one little girl in my class wrote a story instead of doing her spelling homework. The teacher read her story to the class and complimented her on it. I raised my hand and said I wanted to write a story, too. But she said no, I just needed to do my homework.

Undaunted, I went home and wrote a story. But I did my spelling assignment also. And that was the start of me wanting to be a writer.

Question: How hard was it to sit down and actually start writing something?

Answer: The first book, at the start? It was simple, and fun, and a little bit…I don’t know…naughty?…because I was doing something the teacher told me not to. And for years it continued that way, clandestine and fun. Now I sometimes find it more difficult to write. Perhaps I need to have someone tell me not to! Reverse psychology.

Question: Writers are often associated with loner tendencies; is there any truth to that?

Answer: I always say, if I’d have wanted to be a public speaker, I’d have become a politician. I’m a writer in part because I like to work alone and on my own initiative, not someone else telling me what to do. And in a crowd, say at a party, I’m most likely to be sitting in the corner watching what’s happening and making mental notes for future stories.

Question: Do you set a plot or prefer going wherever an idea takes you?

Answer: I’m one of those writers who outlines first. So I take the germ of an idea and start jotting down notes. That germ might be something like, “Someone is murdered. A psychic tries to solve the case, but no one believes in her powers, so she’s forced to work alone.”

Once I have that basic plot line, I write the outline with 1-2 paragraphs for each chapter, telling who is in that scene, what’s happening, etc. If I have research needed, I make a note so I don’t forget to do it. If a gorgeous line of description or dialogue comes to me, I write it there so it doesn’t get lost.

Some authors feel an outline is too constricting. But I find it freeing. It proves I have at least ONE way to work from start to end through the story. And if something better occurs to me while I’m writing, I can change the story…and I change the outline to match.

Question: Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Answer: I think I always had a fairly good grasp of characters, plot, and description. What I feel has improved for me is my knowledge of technical things like POV (point of view), tone, voice, etc. That ties everything together into a cohesive whole.

Question: Do you proofread and edit your work on your own or pay someone to do it for you?

Answer: LOL! This one made me laugh, because I worked as an editor for many years, for several small publishers as well as for individuals. So yes, I proofread and edit my own work. BUT…I do like to run my work past several people whose judgment I trust, including a couple of critique partners, and my favorite reader, my husband. They can give me the reader’s POV, and I can catch virtually all of the technical issues myself.

Question: Have you ever left any of your books to stew for months on end or even a year?

Answer: Oh my, yes. I have several books started, and others outlined and waiting to be written. To give you an idea of how long some of them have lingered…the oldest one is printed out from a dot matrix printer!

Question: What is your take on the importance of a good cover and title?

Answer: A good cover and title are vital. When a reader scans the shelves in a bookstore, he will see only the spines of the books with titles; or if the author is lucky, some books will face out so the cover art can be seen also. If these don’t appeal to the reader, he’s likely to move on rather than examine that book further. Thus it’s imperative the art and title grab the reader’s attention long enough to make him move on to Step 2, picking up the book and flipping through it.

Question: How would you feel if no one showed up at your book signing?

Answer: Been there, done that, bought the T-Shirt. I’ve had book signings with as many as 40 people, and as few as zero. Naturally, it feels awful when people pass by your table and give you sidelong glances, but don’t stop to check out your book.

For that reason, I’ve made myself a promise. If I ever happen upon a book signing where the author is sitting there alone and no readers are on hand, *I* will purchase a copy of the author’s book, regardless of what it is. That way, they won’t have to go home without a single sale. Would any of you readers out there like to join me in this pledge?

Question: What did you want to become when you were a kid?

Answer: My two most frequent future career dreams were being a writer, and being a veterinarian. As it turns out, I’m better at writing than I am at science. Who knew?

Question: Do you recall the first ever book/novel you read?

Answer: Yes, I certainly do! I was in first grade and was given the first book I read on my own. It was called “Mr. Pine’s Mixed-Up Signs,” and it was about a sign painter who lost his glasses, and chaos ensued. Here it is: I was so proud of having read it to myself that I read it nearly every night for a month.

Question: Who is the most supportive of your writing in your family?

Answer: I’m lucky to have a very supportive family and friends. I can’t think of a single person (well, except that darn first grade teacher) who discouraged my desire to write.

Question: When you were young, did you ever see writing as a career or full-time profession?

Answer: Yes, of course! Only I envisioned it as much easier and more glamorous than it is. But that’s how kids are…they see life through rose-colored glasses and only envision the good things.

Question: Now when you look back at your past, do you feel accomplished?

Answer: Yes and no. I’m proud of what I’ve written, but I’d like to have written more. I guess I need to get writing! Because the only thing stopping me from writing is me.

Question: Are you friends with other writers?

Answer: Yes, I am. Some of my best friends are writers…actually, when I think about it, ALL my best friends are writers. Not all published, but all writers. Hmm.

Question: What advice would you like to pass on to young writers of today that is unconventional but true?

Answer: You can take all the courses you want, read all the how-to books you want, but in the end it comes down to you sitting in front of a blank page, and challenging yourself to put something on it. Then something else. Then more. The surest way to become a successful writer is simply to keep writing.

Question: Have you ever written a character with an actor in mind?

Answer: Yes! In my first published novel, FATAL FORTUNE, the heroine, Lottie Baldwin, is a psychic living in a conservative Midwest town where no one believes in her powers. Lottie is flamboyant character, willing to stand up for anyone who needs her help. Her character is based in part on the character “Lottie” in the 60s TV show, “Here Come the Brides.” That Lottie was played by Joan Blondell, so she’s always been my inspiration for “my” Lottie. Here’s a picture of her in that show:–the-bride-robert-richard.jpg

Question: Were your parents reading enthusiasts who gave you a push to be a reader as a kid?

Answer: Yes, definitely. My dad was a minister, so he had to write his own sermons. Not quite the same as fiction…but he had a deadline every Sunday. My mom typed his sermons for him, and often helped him with suggestions when he was writing.

My mom read to my sister and me every night. When I was old enough to read to myself, I spent many long summer days lounging sideways in an upholstered chair, reading. My mom tried to push me to go outdoors and get some exercise and sun. Sometimes it worked; sometimes it didn’t. My favorite form of exercise was walking to the town library to check out books!

Question: How do you think concepts such as Kindle, and e-books have changed the present or future of reading?

Answer: I was one of the early adopters of e-book formats. Way back in 1999, I participated in a number of book signings at Hastings bookstores in the Midwest to introduce e-books to the public. Back then you either read the books on your computer, or on a specialized device made specifically for reading e-books. The most popular one at the time was the Rocket e-Book Reader. It was about 5×8” and could hold up to 20 books.

It took a long time for e-books to catch on, but those little devices helped. I was most pleased in the beginning to find e-books helpful for those who were blind, or at least had difficulty reading. The programs they used to read other items aloud to them worked just as well on e-books. I received thank-you notes from several folks who now could “read” novels for themselves, rather than asking someone else to do it for them. That made me feel good!

Nowadays no one thinks twice about reading a book on a laptop, tablet, or smart phone. We’ve come a long way. I believe paper books will always exist, but e-books have their place as well in this busy world we live in. I welcome the changes. Nothing wrong with having new choices.

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