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Interview with Debut Author C. Elle Kent

Welcome to the second week of Saturday Coffee with Authors! Grab your cuppa, sit back, and relax. If you have a muffin, bring that too! Today we welcome C. Elle Kent, whose debut novel will be released in late summer.

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Tell us about yourself.  When did you start writing and what made you start? 

Just yesterday I stumbled upon one of my very first stories. I was eleven. I’m sure it was a school writing assignment but I remember loving the writing process nonetheless.  (And, apparently, I was a horrible big sister because, in this story, I tell about how I left my baby sister in the bathtub alone when she was two. Hey, I was eleven. What did I know? Hmmm…perhaps I need to burn this evidence.)

My first memory of writing something for pleasure was in the sixth grade when I wrote a short play with my best friend at a sleepover. We decided on the characters, wrote the script, threw in a song, practiced until Letterman was over (when we knew my dad would be coming upstairs), turned my dad’s bedroom into the set, and performed the two-girl/five-character ditty for my dad, who gave his usual nod of encouragement and then told us to go to bed. I remember the story vividly. I’m sure I have that script somewhere in my hoarder’s attic. Hmmmm…..

My latest stint with writing came courtesy of NaNoWriMo in 2009. I was perusing the Internet one October night while feeling all mid-life crisis-ey and thinking about all those bucket list items I really should get started on. I stumbled upon National Novel Writer’s Month and signed up immediately. It took me a week to tell my husband (I was afraid he’d shake his head at yet another item I was adding to my already-chaotic life. His response? “It’s about time! I’ve been telling you that you need to write a book!” Whew. Disaster averted.) I’ve done NaNo every year since then and I find I look forward to it more and more. It’s the only time I feel truly justified locking myself in my room for days on end, making my kids bring me food and wait on me hand and foot. How many months ‘til November?

Tell us a little bit about your latest books. My debut novel is expected out in late August. I’m in the home stretch of the final edit (though I’ve been saying that for months now) and I am anxious to be done with this one, the product of the first NaNo back in 2009, so I can move on to the others I’ve written throughout the other NaNo’s. (My characters miss me I just know it.)

Where did you come up with this idea? I dreamed part of the first book one night, woke up at 3am, flipped open my computer, and started writing down my ideas. When NaNo started, I wrote the beginning chapters and the ending, then had to fill in the middle.

Who did the cover art for your book? Streetlight Graphics. Glendon is my hero.

Did you learn anything about yourself or your writing while working on this book? I have a hard time keeping my inner editor at bay during Nano. I’m an editor by trade, so it’s super difficult to write during NaNo without editing. I’m trying to get better at separating the two because it really slows me down! The good news is that my final edits, though uber laborious, should be fairly thorough, saving me the cost of a real editor.

I also struggle with over-thinking the story. I’m so Type-A and I just can’t help it. It has been, by far, the hardest habit I have ever had to break (and that includes giving up sugar). I’m trying to remind myself that over-thinking things will eventually start to hurt the story and I should just leave well enough alone. My beta readers probably aren’t going to wait forever.  Actually, I think they have already given up on me and are probably reading something else by now. *sigh*

Who do you find to be a huge inspiration for your writing? And why is that? Ahem…..YOU! (Jennings Wright) After hearing about all the things you had going on (business, homeschooling, non-profit, health issues, wedding, house on the market) and the number of books you managed to write and release at the same time, I really have no excuses for my ONE book taking so long. I have been so lucky and blessed to have you in my life, showing me the way and being the epitome of “No excuses. IT CAN BE DONE!” Drat. I was hoping for a legitimate out. (But thank you!)

Which one of your characters would be the best to meet in real life? Seth. He’s the guy everyone wants to know. He’s firm in his faith, completely non-judgmental, and gentle in his delivery of encouragement and accountability. I actually do already know “him.” I kind of modeled him after my kids’ youth pastor. But don’t tell him (the youth pastor) that!

What are you reading right now? Nothing. I am forcing myself to use any available reading time I *might* have otherwise had for finishing my book. Oh, wait!! I am beta reading a friend’s novel. Aaaaaaand I just realized it’s due soon. Pause! Pause the interview!

Besides the genre you write, what genres do you like to read? Mystery. I really should have been a detective in real life. I love a good crime. Clue was my favorite game growing up. I wish my parents had noticed this about me and told me detectives were real.

What is the most embarrassing mistake you’ve made as a writer? Grammar. I hate hitting the “post” button on my FB page as I post teasers and such and then realize I – the writer, editor, grammar-geek – made a mistake. Delete! Delete! Two likes already? Dang it!

If you had to pick one trait that makes you a better writer, what would it be? I think I can be fairly witty. I also have radically witty friends (they were witty long before I ever was) and I use actual conversations in my books. They tell me I’m funny. Hmmm…I hope that’s not a conspiracy.

What is the one thing that seems to always get in the way of writing time? Ugh…I have to pick one? Seriously. Everything gets in the way. Homeschooling. Business-running. Leading my daughter’s American Heritage Girls Troop. Teaching Yoga. Sleeping. I am so bad at setting a writing schedule and sticking to it. If I had to narrow it down, I would say it’s my ability to allow myself the time to sit down and write. I have a hard time justifying sitting still for that long when my bed is covered in laundry.

When you are not writing, what are you doing? Did you not read the answer to the above question? See above question.

What is one of your favorite places to write? The beach. I have a friend with a condo there that overlooks the water and I try to go a few times a year. I do my best writing when I can go clear my head oceanside and get into a zone.

What is one of your favorite places in the world?  Hawaii. We took a family trip there in 2005 and did a lesser-known (read difficult) hike to the top of a ridge where we had the most breathtaking 360 degree view. With the ocean on one side, mountains on another, and gorgeous valley below, I could have sat there and marveled at that view forever (okay, fine. Also because I didn’t want to hike back down.) Seriously. When I die, scatter my ashes there. Yosemite National Park is a close second.

What is one thing about you most people find interesting (or unusual etc.)? I have a fairly serious heart condition and have had a pacemaker since I was 21. I was looking like a criminal at airport security long before all the hype over the TSA pat-downs.

Are there any more projects you are currently working on? Do you know when we might get to see those? Once my debut novel is released, I’m diving right into editing book two (NaNo 2010.) I’m trying to get that done by November so I can attempt my first series, which I hope to tackle for this year’s NaNo. (This may require an entire week at the beach. Or two. Or four.)

What is your favorite quote? “When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left, and could say, ‘I used everything you gave me.”  – Erma Bombeck

What secrets would you share with aspiring authors? You don’t need a big-time publishing company to fulfill your dream of being an accomplished writer. Write because it’s what you love to do, and if you make money from it, consider it a bonus.

Name one author you’d love to meet and tell us why. Matthew, Mark, Luke, or John. They knew what they were talking about, and they weren’t afraid to share it with the world. OR Corrie Ten Boom. To sit with this woman and hear her stories first-hand would be amazing. The Hiding Place is my favorite novel…ever.

You’re throwing a fiction character party.  What fictional characters would you like to invite (name and where they are from (book/TV/Movie/etc.) and why? This is such a hard question to answer because I read so little fiction. (Yes, I know, it’s what I write so it’s what I should be reading.) I would have to with Jean Valjean from Les Miserables. I’ve loved his story of repentance and redemption ever since high school. He may be fictional, but we should all take note and be inspired.

How about a little “this or that?”

Hot/Cold                               Cold

Summer/Winter                  Summer

Coke/Pepsi                           Neither! Soda bad

Cat/Dog                                Dog

Water skiing/snow skiing         Water sliding 😉                 

Beach/Mountains                Mountains

Romance/Action                  Action-filled romance?

Convertible/SUV                 Convertible

Flip Flops/Dress shoes         Flip flops

Historical/Futuristic            Historical

Hero/Villain                          Hero

Car/Plane                             Plane

London/Paris                        Paris                                              

Mexico/Canada                    Canada

Ice cream/Chips                   Chips

Hot dog/Hamburger            Zweigle’s white hots!

Beer/Wine                             Wine

Skittles/Hershey Bar            Hershey Bar

BIO:

C. Elle Kent has always had a deep love for writing stories. She is thrilled to release her first novel, Finding Grace, this fall and has two more novels waiting in the wings. A singer before she could talk, she can be found on any given Sunday singing on stage at her church. C. Elle lives in North Carolina with her husband and two children, whom she homeschools.

Want to find out more about Finding Grace and C. Elle Kent? Here’s where to find her!

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On Getting Things Done Anyway

yes I am

I knew that the first half of this year was going to be crazy. There was no way around it, and that was one reason that I started thinking about my writing as my job, sticking to a schedule, and being chained to my desk. And all that has worked out really well, no complaints.

What all that planning could not foresee was when some sort of super-bug norovirus from hell attacked my family. I did not have that scheduled! The first to go was my husband, then my son, then my future son-in-law who was staying with us, and then my daughter. My daughter got so sick she was in the hospital for 3 days. The evening we got home, I got sick. That was Tuesday, and it was Saturday before I was eating. So. One week gone. I checked my day timer; that really wasn’t in there!

The main reason this was bad, besides the obvious, is that I am leaving on the 15th (yes, a week from tomorrow!) for about three weeks in Uganda. While there, I never count on having power or internet, so while I plan to do some on-paper editing and writing when I do have a charge in my laptop, for the most part those weeks are non-writing weeks. THAT I’ve known about.

But on my calendar for Ross James Publishing, that loss of the last week of January meant that several January items didn’t get done in January. I had lightened the production load for February and March somewhat compared to other months, and certainly realize that I’ll lose a few days here and there for whatever reason, but looking at that calendar and not having things checked off… Stress!

(Additionally, my husband is at the tail end of his editing process, so I’ve done one full beta read of his 105,000 word manuscript and expect the final version for proofreading at any moment…)

But this week, I really pushed through. I got the first draft of IXEOS: Rebellion finished on Tuesday, racing out before writing the final chapter to meet a friend for dinner, then racing back after dinner to write that chapter and those lovely words: THE END.  Yesterday, in some strange burst of editing energy (which needs to come more often), I worked eleven hours in my pajamas, and revised, edited and wrote study questions for my upcoming non-fiction book. I’m not really sure how that happened, but my deadline for that was the end of February, and that was one thing I’d planned to take with me to Uganda, so I’ll take it for the win.

I’ve given myself two months to write a non-fiction book on homeschooling. I think it’ll be about 50,000 words, and I’ve given dozens of seminars on the topic (tentative title is “So You Think You Want to Homeschool?”), so it should be easy to transfer all that seminar information into a book with some study questions after each chapter and references at the end.

That means the only thing unchecked is the publication of IXEOS, which is imminent. I have approved the ebook proof today, with a few minor changes like the font the chapter headings are in, so that will be ready soon, along with the print proof in the next day or so. The print side and back cover are nearly complete, also. I’m hoping that I’ll be spending next Tuesday or Wednesday happily uploading everything to Amazon.

The only other thing on the February production schedule now is the publication of my husband’s book (which we were hoping to get done before I leave, but that’s looking less likely), and starting to edit IXEOS: Rebellion. Meaning that, for whatever reason, my burst of hyper-productivity has bought me a much more relaxed February and March than I’d otherwise planned, and for that I’m grateful.

I’m going to be doing two blog tours in March, one starting the 11th and one the 20th. I’m hoping to get most of the guest blog topics and interviews before I leave so that I can work on those while I’m gone. That’s something I can do when I don’t have internet but do have power. I guess I’m going to have to come up with thirty or so… yikes. Better to look at that one at a time! (I’d like to get a full list of the blog stops from the January Solomon’s Throne posted here for you to see. I reblogged a couple, but there were some pretty good posts out there, in case you missed them.)

I am very grateful for two things. (Well, many things, but in the context of this post, two.) Those are, that I have truly found my passion, and that my family supports my work. I’ve never had such a sustained period of productivity in my life, but I’ve never done something that I loved so much, either. And when I sit in my pajamas all day working, it’s great to know that my family doesn’t think it’s a sign of impending craziness, just mom working.

I’m thankful for all of you, too. I really enjoy writing these blogs and getting your feedback. So since I don’t tell you enough – THANK YOU!!

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Busy busy busy all the time…

The recent 106 degree temperatures were a dead giveaway that it’s summer, and, as a 12 year homeschooling veteran, I take summer seriously. I am as ready for summer as my kids have always been, and we take a long one – this year my son (my only remaining child at home!) was done around April 26, and will not be back in full swing until after Labor Day. And yet, it’s already July 24! How did this happen??

In April I wrote a screenplay for Script Frenzy, and edited it, before the end of the month.

In May, we were in Uganda for 3 weeks (go here to see why), and while we were there I did a ton of Civil War research, which included reading actual diaries of young women from both the Confederate and Union sides. I researched battles, the way the military was set up, how they came to war… (Here’s my secret feeling on research: when I’m in the middle of writing and I do it, I think it’s pretty fun. When I am doing nothing but research, it makes me want to take a nap.)

In June I did Camp NaNo and wrote the Civil War romance, on which I am now doing the final edit before sending to the agent who suggested it. That was 88,370 words.

In July, I finished the sequel to Solomon’s Throne, called The Hoard of the Doges (about 84k words). I did a quick first edit on that yesterday. (Editing cramps my eyeballs…)

In July, my first novel, Solomon’s Throne, was published as well, and that involved a lot of work with Streetlight Graphics, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, VistaPrint (I had postcards made), and OvernightPrints (bookmarks). Initial response has been great, and I’m hoping the people who bought the books last week and over the weekend will start getting reviews up soon.

August 1 I will start August Camp NaNo, and I’ve been noodling through that storyline over the last week or so. As I’ve posted before, it will be a YA dystopian fantasy thing… I will also start work with Streetlight Graphics the week of August 27 to publish The Hoard of the Doges.

Additionally, my son will start a couple of co-op classes that week, will have his 16th birthday during the month, and is in full swing with football. And my daughter will go back to college for her senior year. And my husband is publishing his first book. And I might have laser eye surgery.

September… I think I’ll rest!

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