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Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Writing as a Team: Author Interview with Elyse Douglas

Your books are a collaboration between you and your husband. What made you decide to write books together?
We realized years ago that we were a good team. We were both writing novels and recognized we had a knack for editing each other’s work. The collaboration grew from there.

How do you divide up the writing?
The process is different for each book; usually one of us comes up with an idea and then we kick around the possibilities of character and plot and genre, and one of us sets off on the journey of writing it.

Sometimes, one of us will be inspired to write the entire first draft. Then the other works off that draft: revising, rewriting, editing, checking historical details or facts and suggesting plot changes.

Who has the final say in a storyline or character?
When plot changes are suggested, we have spirited discussions, as you can imagine, and one of us has to complete another draft, which is then read again by the other person. Basically, we go back and forth, rereading, revising and editing, and then proofreading until we feel the book is ready for someone else to read.

We pay for an editor and readers/proofreaders to read the manuscript, and then based on their input, we often make additional changes.

From what I can see, you’ve published 21 books since 2011. What was the best lesson you learned from publishing your first novel that gave you the impetus to go on to another book?
We learned many lessons in the process of publishing our first novel, originally called The Astrologer’s Daughter. We ultimately renamed it The Other Side of Summer because we realized that readers thought it was an occult book and not the women’s fiction/romance novel that it is.

We learned that typos pop up like mosquitos on a hot night and that it is crucial to pay for professionals to edit and read the novel. We learned that it is great to have readers all over the world reading our books, and it’s delightful and rewarding when they write to say how much they have enjoyed the books!

We have also learned from bad reviews. We ask ourselves why? Sometimes they bluntly tell you. We try to learn from it.

At conferences, I’ve been told not to write Christmas books because it won’t have year-round appeal. How do your Christmas themed books sell out of season?
We are always amazed at how well our Christmas-themed books sell throughout the year, especially The Christmas Diary, The Christmas Town, and the three books in the Christmas Eve series. Many are time travel novels, which may account for their popularity all year long. Also, none of our books are boilerplate, Hallmark-type novels; each is unique, and Christmas is only one part of the plot.

So, my advice is to write a Christmas book and see what happens. Our experience is that people like to escape into the joy and magic of Christmas all year long. In July, we market Christmas in July and feature many of Christmas books. They sell very well.

What is the hardest part of writing for you?
The hardest part for me is creating tension in each scene, and I’ve learned a great deal from Doug about that. He is a master at creating tension and interesting subplots which are as compelling as the main plot. Because of these techniques, readers often say they “can’t put the novel down.”

As John Grisham once said, “Writing's still the most difficult job I've ever had - but it's worth it.”

What’s the best encouragement you’ve had in your writing?
The best encouragement comes from our readers, through increased sales and good reviews on Amazon, Goodreads, and BookBub. We are also encouraged when readers write to us through our website or on Facebook, to thank us and/or ask to be put on our mailing list.

Are your books indie-published?
Yes. Broadback is the name we gave to ourselves, as publishers. We will be expanding the imprint in the near future, featuring different genres and expanding our Christmas Eve time travel series.

What has surprised or frustrated you the most in writing/publishing? 
Writing the novel is only the first step. Getting readers is the second big step and requires continuous marketing. Before you write that novel, have a marketing plan and strategy, and polish, polish and polish your novel’s description. Seduce the reader with words like “secret” “must struggle” “discover” “daring” “hypnotic” “haunting” “new love,” etc. Otherwise, you might end up having only a few readers (basically, family and friends, and most of them don’t read!)

What do you know now about writing you wished you had known sooner?
If you are self-publishing and you want readers, you have to get them through writing the books readers want to read. You also have to advertise and market. You have to do your research, have an advertising budget and be creative and persistent.

What is the best writing advice you’ve received or could give?
Write every day or at least six days a week. Set aside a time of day to write and let everyone know you can’t be disturbed during those hours. It’s your job. And read, read, read.

Are there any other points about writing you would like to add?
There is nothing like the high you get when you write a good scene and it looks and smells right; especially when your characters lead the way, dancing on the page.

Time with Norma Jeane: A Time Travel Novel is your latest book. What drew you to write this story?
We were drawn to Marilyn Monroe’s story because she is such a magical, well-known and well-loved person. We used quotes from her letters, from newspaper and magazine articles and from publicity about her that circulated at that time.

By making it primarily Darla’s coming-of-age story, though, we could be more creative and imaginative, and not be tied to specific biographical details about Marilyn’s life. And we could gently reveal Marilyn’s personality through the eyes of a smart, troubled and worshiping young girl, who grows up in just eight days.

Can you give my readers a short synopsis?
This novel is a coming of age story about Darla, a precocious and lonely 16-year-old girl, who wants to escape her current, troubled family life. While walking her dog, she slips back in time to 1954 and meets Marilyn Monroe, who is one of her favorite actresses.

She lives with Marilyn for eight days, even going on a road trip with her. As Darla interacts with Marilyn and the people they meet on the road trip, she discovers important things about herself and comes to a decision about the purpose of her life.

Meanwhile, Marilyn is trying to connect with the father she never knew. While the events in the novel are totally fictitious, we have based them on facts (such as her marriage to Joe DiMaggio and her friendship with the photographer Milton Greene). We have tried to present Marilyn in a respectful and caring way, even while showing her charm, playfulness and, unfortunately, her self-destructive tendencies.

I just started reading this book and I encourage my readers to pick it up as well. If you’d like to learn more about all their books, here are some links to get you started.

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