Monday, March 3, 2014

Author Interview: Eli Constant

Twisted Book Junkie interviews author Eli Constant, author of Dead Trees, DRAG.N, and Mastic.

Eli Constant lives in Virginia with her husband and two daughters. She is surrounded by battlefield country, farmland and lakes. Currently, she spends her days being a devoted mother and, of course, writing. Eli feels fortunate that her marriage is one of real love and she thinks her children are the coolest people in the world. She also feels so lucky to have an extended family that is ever present with encouragement and kind words.

Welcome to Twisted Book Junkie, Eli. Thank you for taking the time to stop by the blog. First, can you tell us a little about yourself, and how you got into writing?
I  started writing when I was pretty youngmajoring in creative writing at Charleston School for the Arts in South Carolina, USA. I didn’t attend that school for very long, which was probably a good thing in the grand scheme. The teacher I had there, well, let’s just say she was a dream-killer, unhappy with her profession and not exactly hip on teaching any longer. It wasn’t until years later, in high school, that I started writing againI actually won a medal for a story in Junior year. Can’t tell you what it was about exactly, except I do seem to remember a pink umbrella and alien ducks. Needless to say, I’ve come along way since then. Setting the pen down again, I attended college for the biological sciences and worked in that field for a while. It never felt right though, not really. So, with the birth of my daughter, I became a stay-at-home mom with a new opportunity to craft stories. I published my first book in December 2012: Dead Trees. Horror was not what I had in mind for myself, but sometimes, fate has other plans. Dead Trees is a dystopian post-apocalyptic novel with definitive horror elements, but after writing that, I decided that maybe another genre would better suit me. I wrote my second novel, Mastic, which is best classified as an urban fantasy with crime thriller elements. I quite enjoyed that, but still wanted to experiment with other genres. As it would happen though, my dear friend Claire C Rileyfemale horror writer extraordinairekept sending me opportunities to delve into horror again. The first of which was the charity anthology, “Let’s Scare Cancer to Death,” publishing March of this year. By participating in that anthology, I made connections with other writers in the horror genre and, from those associations, I discovered other open submissions, other magazines, etc. Thus the story goes; the horror world can blame it all on Claire C Riley, catalyst for my seemingly permanent trip to the dark side. I still have a lot of different stories in my head, many outside the horror market that I wish to explore though.

Because you're a stay-at-home mom, how do you manage to find time to
I'm very fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom. I still have to schedule writing time though and focusing on my daughters always takes priority, so there are some days that my WIPs take the back burner to being a great, supportive mother.

Have you ever written yourself or people you know as a character in one of your books?
Certainly, I love to build characters that feel real to me and a great way to do that is to reference people in my life. I usually make them secondary characterslike Colonel Benson in Dead Trees. He's crafted after my father, Sgt. Benton Barr, Ret. I also feel that drawing personalities from real life translates more real to my readers. It's an intuitive relationship, I think. 
What type of response have you received being a female author?I've actually just answered a similar question for another author, Julianne Snow ("Days with the Undead"), for an article on DarkMedia for Women in Horror Month. I'll share a shortened version of that here: The reactions I've received, once a person learns that I'm not only an indie author (Oh, you couldn't get a traditional publishing deal?), but a female indie author that writes mainly horror, are less-than-favorable (my family excluded without exception. I'm just fortunate that way). My personal favorites have been: "I don't know how you write that stuff; I only read the classics. Good literature is really dead." and "Do people really read horror written by women?" Most recently, a new one has been added to the pile. Apparently, Our Lady (Mother Mary) appeared to small children [in some small town, at some date (I forget the particulars now)], telling them that their friend was in purgatory, because of the books she read during her life. The speaker was, in full disclosure, referring to books that include graphic sex scenes, but it was easy to tell that the speaker did not rank guts and gore much higher than doing the dirty on her morality scale. To make matters worse, the speaker telling me this believes that women are the purity and strength of the family. I am now going forward, to grow in the horror genre, with the distinct impression that any person who happens to pick up one of my less-than-PG stories, might, in fact, be reading themselves into...hell. (For the full quote and article, please visit DarkMedia's website and "Like" them on Facebook

Horror is my favorite genre, so if that's the case, I guess I've got a one-way ticket to a fiery damnation!

What kind of research did you do when you were working on your books?
I've had to perform research for everything I've writtenfrom basic physical science principles (molecular construct, viruses, naturally occurring chemicals, etc), to variations of an obscure legend, to the rate of air consumption at a depth of 20 metersspecifically, for a new driver (and new divers tend to have a higher respiration rate), seasoned divers are more able to control their intake and extend dive time safely). I like old-school research methodslibraries with delicious books and phone calls to real people (tomorrow, I'm actually calling a dive shop to confirm some calculations), but the internet is undeniably useful and loads of information is conveniently a click away.

Are there any critiques or reviews that you just can't seem to shake?
Yes. Absolutely there are. It's one of those things that no matter how hard you try to let it roll off your shoulders, you just can't. Writing a book is a birthing process, the result becomes dear to an author's heart. I love reviews; I love honest reviews, where a reader details what they liked and what they did not like, what worked for them and what didn't work for them. It's an important process, to learn about your audience and how your technique translates to a community. What is hard to accept, however, is when a reviewer is particularly negative with no attempt at social niceties. In these cases, I tend to dwell, to go over in my mind what i could have done to please the reader. I'm better at dealing now, a little more wizened. I can accept that not everyone will be pleased with everything I write; I do hope though that people will take the time to realize that words are powerful things, as a writer, I can say that this is an absolute, non-debatable fact.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I've been very lucky to receive advice and support from many seasoned authors. Among them, Mike Lee's (Starfire and Fey) words of wisdom stand out. I was struggling over trying to write Dead Trees II and he told me to leave it be, to never commit to a sequel until your creativity takes you there and that some writers take years to write sequels. That advice gave me the freedom to set aside a frustration and move forward to write DRAG.N and Mastic. Mike was absolutely right; you can't force your brain to write something it's not ready to tackle. Now, over the space of a novella, a novel, and many short stories, I'm mentally ready to write Dead Trees II and it's well on its way.

Aside from Dead Trees II, do you have other projects in the works?
Yes, in addition to Dead Trees II, a series of zombie stories, a continuation from my own story in Let's Scare Cancer to Death, a charity anthology benefiting the V Foundation for cancer research.

What tools have you found most successful in advertising/marketing yourself and your books?
Hands down, the support I've received from other authors has proven the most beneficial; I connect with other others, other people. I support them and they support me, through social media, word of mouth and more. It's a wonderful thingthe community of indie authors I'm involved in. They care about each other and truly care about the integrity of the written word.

What five words best describe you?
Protective, Loyal, Honest, Creative, Loving

Okay, here are some questions you can answer in just a few words. What is your biggest fear?
Dying before I can write every story in my head.

Do you have a favorite TV show?
More than one, but I do love PBS's Sherlock Holmes.

What is the first item on your bucket list?
Diving with Christ of the Abyss in the Mediterranean.

What is the happiest moment in your life, to date?
Meeting my husband, wonderful things followed that event. 

If you could be a superhero, what would you want your superpowers to be?
All I would need is my own "mind palace." Sherlock Holmes ;-) 

If you could meet anybody in historypast or presentwho would it be?
John Wayne. I want to witness his signature walk.

Do you have a quirk that annoys your spouse or?
I interrupt people...a lot. It's a really awful habit.

What is one thing that you can't live without?
Tea. I drink at least six cups daily.

What is the craziest thing you have ever done?
Ditching a full college scholarship to move to Texas. 

What is your worst job ever?
Vet tech. I couldn't handle euthanizing the pets.

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