Interview with Elena Douglas, author of Shadow of Athena

 

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

The computer. The ideas flow directly from my brain though my fingertips onto the screen. I will write longhand if nothing better is at hand.

 

  1. When did it dawn upon you that you wanted to be a writer?

From earliest childhood I told myself stories to keep myself entertained. I never revealed this to anyone lest they think me too odd. When I was 12, I began writing down stories I wanted to share with the world.

 

  1. Do you aim to complete a set number of pages or words each day?

I have no particular pattern or goal to my daily writing. I’m a terrible procrastinator. Eventually the need to reach a certain goal kicks in, and I write as much as I can, for as long as I can—usually until life interrupts me.

 

  1. Do you think writers have a normal life like others?

I have no idea. What’s a normal life?

 

  1. What, according to you, is the hardest thing about writing?

For me, the hardest thing ever is that first draft. Not knowing where I’m going, how I’m going to get there, or if I can even tell the story.

 

  1. What would you say is the easiest aspect of writing?

All the other drafts. Once I’ve done that first draft, I know I can only make it better, and there is great satisfaction in the rewriting and editing process.

 

  1. Have you ever experienced “Writer’s Block”? How long do they usually last?

Oh, dear me, yes! When I was writing my second novel, I hit the most impossible brick wall. There was no finishing the story until I could get past this one hurdle, and I couldn’t figure out how to do it. I had to write a scene that couldn’t be in the “I” character’s point of view because she wasn’t there, and yet it was the central turning point of the story. This roadblock occurred at a very busy time in my life, home and career-wise, and it went on for nine years, to the point where I told myself I was not a writer any more. Then one day when I was on my morning walk, the idea came to me and stopped me dead in my tracks. As soon as I could, I began writing, and I couldn’t stop. I had to take a notebook with me everywhere.

 

  1. Do you read much and if so who are your favorite authors?

I read very eclectically, and I must always have a book to read, or I’m lost. I like a lot of writers of historical fiction from earlier years, like Anya Seton and Norah Lofts. One of the writers I adore and envy for her style is Rumer Godden.

 

  1. Over the years, what would you say has improved significantly in your writing?

Everything!

 

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

I proofread obsessively but am still capable of missing mistakes. I have never paid an editor, but I rely on my wonderful writers’ group to tell me where I have gone wrong, from major flaws to tiny typos.

 

  1. Any advice you would like to give to aspiring writers?

Ask for critiques from experienced writers. Listen to what they have to say, and act on it. You need a certain humility in order to do this. Most importantly, never give up!

 

  1. How do you see writing? As a hobby or a passion?

A passion. A love-hate relationship. I would be miserable without my writing, and yet sometimes I yearn to be free of this insane urge.

 

  1. Is it true that authors write word-perfect first drafts?

NO! Not in my experience. Perhaps some do, but I’ve never met one who did.

 

  1. Do you believe attractive book covers help in its sales?

Yes, since I myself am drawn to attractive covers that are not too abstract and give some idea about the book.

 

  1. Have you ever taken any help from other writers?

Yes, in the form of critiques. I take everything they say very seriously.

 

  1. How did it feel when your first book got published?

Over the moon. I was walking on air. I had worked toward this for so long.

 

  1. Do you keep a diary?

No. For some reason I have never been able to do so. What I manage to write down seems inane and does not reflect the thoughts in my head.

 

  1. Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?

Yes, if by that you mean a memoir. I have done so, and I’m hoping to get it published. It is about a critical seven years of my childhood. It was hard, and at first I didn’t want to do it, but my kids practically forced me. Then I really got into it.

 

  1. Was there a time you were unable to write, at all?

Yes, it has happened during periods of being excessively busy. See question #7 about writers’ block.

 

  1. Does it get frustrating if you are unable to recall an idea you had in your mind some time earlier?

Yes, especially if the idea came in the middle of the night. I’ve learned to keep a notepad by my bed. But when I jot down the idea, it never comes out as beautiful/poignant/meaningful as the thought was in head!

 

  1. Which book would you want adapted for the silver screen?

All of them! I tend to see each scene in my book visually, as if in a movie.

 

  1. Doesn’t it bother you that when books are turned into movies, they are often changed to suit the audience needs?

Yes—or the producers’ needs, or what they think the audience wants, or what they think will make the most money. It’s infuriating—especially when they change the ending. I particularly don’t like it when they alter the characters’ looks, usually making all the women platinum blondes.

 

  1. Although all books say that all the characters in the book aren’t real or related, are they really all fictional and made up?

My characters are all fictional, with maybe a few traits borrowed from me or those around me. But my characters become people in their own right, sometimes beyond my control.

 

  1. Did you ever change sentences more than five times just because it didn’t hit the right notes?

Yes, all the time. There are many passages I’ve rewritten more times than I can count.

 

  1. What’s your favorite movie which was based on a book?

The Russian version of War and Peace is unequaled in being faithful to the book. It is a true masterpiece and one of my favorite movies ever. I also love Iphigenia, based on the play by Euripides, and the Zeffirelli Romeo and Juliet.

 

  1. How long do you take to write a book?

Each one took me years. I didn’t count how many—I don’t want to know. I’m the slowest writer on the planet.

 

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