When not rereading Jane Austen, mucking about in her garden and simply messing about with boats, award-winning author Elizabeth Essex can be always be found with her laptop, making up stories about heroes and heroines who live far more exciting lives than she. It wasn’t always so. Long before she ever set pen to paper, Elizabeth graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics, and then earned her MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University. While she loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, she has found her true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure.
Elizabeth lives in Texas with her husband, the indispensable Mr. Essex, and her active and exuberant family in an old house filled to the brim with books.
Places to find Elizabeth:
First off, can you tell us a bit about you?
When not rereading Jane Austen, mucking about in my garden or simply messing about with boats, I can usually be found with my laptop, writing up stories about heroes and heroines who live far more exciting lives than I do. It wasn’t always so. Long before I ever set pen to paper as a novelist, I graduated from Hollins College with a BA in Classics, and then earned my MA in Nautical Archaeology from Texas A&M University. While I loved the life of an underwater archaeologist, I think I’ve found my true calling writing lush, lyrical historical romance full of passion, daring and adventure. I am an utterly devoted family person and homebody, and I am happiest when I’m with the indispensable Mr. Essex, and my active and exuberant family. I really do my best work when the house is loud and guitars are wailing and drums are beating and dancers are stomping on the floor. It’s as if our creaking, comfy old house is filled to the brim with love (and books).
Did you always want to be a writer?
No! What I wanted to be was a reader. And then I wanted to be an archaeologist second, and I did that, but all the while I still read. Then when I decided to have a family, I wanted to do something with less travel and less time away from my family, so I thought I’ll write books. And I did. :) I’m very focused that way.
What kind of writer are you? Panster or Plotter?
I am mostly a seat of my pants, character-driven writer. I usually think of the characters first, and then maybe just one scene where the character’s personality becomes more apparent to me, and then I just start to write and see where it goes. Though, I will say, usually about Chapter 12 I have to stop (or I have already stopped) because I’ve lost the narrative thread, and then I’ll plot a little. It’s a big soup, but whether it’s turkey soup or tomato soup starts with the main ingredient—the character.
Where do your ideas come from?
Everywhere! Irene Dunne movies: my first heroine, Lizzie Paxton in THE PURSUIT OF PLEASURE was influenced by the kind of wise-cracking, whip-smart girls Irene Dunne made her name playing in the 1930’s and 40’s. Florence and the Machine songs: A BREATH OF SCANDAL was revised from an inspiration I got listening to Florence on a car trip. A glimpse of a character on the cover of Gameplayer Magazine: the street rat character of Meggs in THE DANGER OF DESIRE was partially inspired by a computer-generated image of a dirty, bruised, fighting-for-her-life girl on the cover of a mag my teenaged boys get. Real difficulties in the lives of friends: the dark, child exploitation sub plot from A BREATH OF SCANDAL came from a real friend’s real life crusade. A photo from the recent hurricane Sandy, when a tall ship went to the bottom: a friend sent me a note with the photo and the text, “Nothing romantic about this,” but my romantic brain immediately started telling a story with a happier ending. And I’m writing that book now!
A la Twitter style, can you describe your book (or series) in 140 characters or less.
The lady is a knockout! Antigone Preston won’t go into an arranged marriage without a fight, and someone to fight for: Cmdr Will Jellicoe.
What are some of your favorite kinds of stories to read?
I love adventure stories. And I love stories with humor. I love the zing and rhythm of the conversation between two people who know each other so well their conversation goes a mile a minute and five directions at once, like Irene Dunne and Cary Grant, or Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell, or William Powell and Myrna Loy. Smart, sassy and adventurous.
Do you have a favorite book and if so what is it?
Of all time? This is a really hard question to answer, because I love to read and have many, many favorite books, but my all-time favorite, and the story that I go back to again and again, like a touchstone, would be Elizabeth George Speare’s THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND. I read it when I was about thirteen, and it just struck a chord about suspicion and bias, and pride and judgement that still resonates today.
What are the scenes that are the hardest for you to write?
On any given day, it could be anything! I think transition scenes, where you have to get from one physical and emotional place in the novel to the next is a challenge. I work hard to smooth those transitions out, but they are super hard for me. Harder even than love scenes, which I have to write in layers of action, description and emotion to get right.
If you could have dinner with any three authors, who would you choose and why?
This is an even tougher question than my favorite book, because there are so many I would like to chat with. I’m going to go for a bit of a hen-night, with only ladies whom I’ve never met, because I wouldn’t want to offend any of the fabulous authors I have met and have had great dinners with! :) So for wit, I suppose I will start with the obvious choice of Jane Austen, who I’m sure had witty opinions she might be persuaded to share. For genuine creative genius, I think I’ll have J.K. Rowling, whose imagination—an ability to harness that imagination— I greatly admire. And although dear Miss Austen would tell me I have ‘too many ladies,’ I’ll round it out with Beatrix Potter, who seems to me to possess a genuine sweetness and niceness along with all her marvelous, multi-faceted talent.
Last question, are you working on anything right now?
I am ALWAYS working on something! I just finished up revisions for the story that will be coming out next summer, SCANDAL IN THE NIGHT, which is the story of a forbidden love in pre-Raj colonial India, but right now, I’m working on that shipwreck story I told you about, which is going to feature two secondary characters we’ve already met—Claire Jellicoe from A BREATH OF SCANDAL and Timothy Evans from THE DANGER OF DESIRE. And I’m working on a set of three novellas, the first of which will be the story of the effervescently formidable Lady Grace and her hero Owen Kent from ALMOST A SCANDAL.
There is always a lot of talk in romance reading circles of ‘alpha males,’ whether it’s the brooding, wicked dukes, or the strong, sexy, silent paranormal vampires. But I have to admit, the brooding type generally doesn’t do it for me—I like a hero who can make me laugh, like Will Jellicoe in A BREATH OF SCANDAL. But what’s your favorite attribute or characteristic in a hero, and a real man?! :)
Shockingly brash and scandalously independent, the Reckless Brides are boldly rewriting the rules of love and marriage—one smitten bachelor at a time…
In the game of kiss and tell, there are no rules…
THE LADY IS A KNOCKOUT
Forced by her family into an engagement with a man she can never abide, Antigone Preston knows only a scandal will save her from a loveless marriage. But knocking a man down to the ballroom floor with her fists brings dangerous consequences. She may have ruined her reputation, but now she’s endangered her heart…
THE OFFICER IS A GENTLEMAN
The son of an earl and a career navy man, Captain William Jellicoe has no interest in the frivolities of London—and even less in the institution of marriage. But there’s something steering him toward Antigone. He has never met anyone as brazen and unconventional as…himself. But will he risk it all for a woman who still has the breath of scandal hot on her lips?
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Up For Grabs:
- 1 lucky winner will win a copy of Almost a Scandal
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- Leave a comment answering Elizabeth's question: What’s your favorite attribute or characteristic in a hero, and a real man?! :)
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Good Luck =)