Author Interview: Lisa Ellis

Finding Lily by Lisa D. Ellis
ISBN:  9781619351639 (ebook)
ASIN:  B00B4Y331E (Kindle edition)
Publisher:  Soul Mate Publishing
Publication Date:  January 22, 2013

When her newborn baby Lily dies suddenly, Claire Edwards runs away to live in a lighthouse she had fallen in love with as a young child. The lighthouse is reputed by some to have magical powers, but Claire isn’t looking for a miracle. She just wants an escape from her husband Jim’s colder way of grieving, and from their apartment filled with the tiny clothes and stuffed animals they had collected over the past few months. But once Claire is situated in the lighthouse, it begins to illuminate things for her in a new way and she’s suddenly forced to rethink her views on life, death, and her marriage. 

The Book Diva’s Reads is pleased to host a Q&A visit with Lisa Ellis, author of Finding Lily. Welcome to the Book Diva’s Reads Ms. Ellis and thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions about your writing and writing career.

Have you always known that you wanted to be a writer or is this something that you only realized later?

I think I was born with some very specific traits, including my love for chocolate, an affinity for collecting elaborate dresses for places I want to go (and usually never get to), and the need to write! (Not necessarily in that order…)

I remember how, long before I was old enough to put pen to paper, I was fascinated by the words my parents read to me and loved how the sounds strung together into beautiful sentences. Throughout my childhood, I also spent lots of time in my head, crafting my own stories and putting together all of the pieces to try to make all the little details add up into something bigger–usually involving chocolate and ball gowns when I could fit them in.

As a journalist you’ve had articles published on health and fashion, but what was your initial reaction upon learning you were going to be published as a fiction author?

I want to say ecstatic…think “winning the lottery” type of excitement. But in truth, it was a quieter victory, although perhaps more rewarding because I had earned it and it wasn’t just luck of the draw. The reality is that my smaller works of fiction (poetry and short stories) have been published in various small literary journals and magazines throughout my journalism career, so I’ve been working up to being a published fiction writer for a very long time. Therefore, it felt like more of a natural evolution. Still, it’s amazing to be able to talk about my published NOVEL finally!

It’s also interesting to note that the short stories and poetry are more reflective of my inner self and my experiences, while the novel seems to have a life of its own. In Finding Lily, I wrote about things I didn’t know about, and this was a neat way to explore the world and grow. 

Is your fiction ever influenced by your non-fiction writing?

That’s a great question. I was a newspaper reporter for a long time and I got to meet so many people and hear about their experiences that I think this has helped me to be better at character development. It also has sparked my curiosity about so many topics. As a journalist, I am also expected to become a mini expert on so many subjects, and this makes it easier to step in and out of different fiction scenes. In truth, though, I haven’t written about anyone specific that I’ve encountered in my career, but I have found many details that have intrigued me during interviews that are tucked away in my “mental file cabinet,” just waiting for the right opportunity to use them in my fiction. One example in particular that comes to mind is a man I did a feature on a few years ago, who collected hundreds of bees in his home and invited me over to meet them. He was one of the most interesting characters I have met, and I am sure he will find his way into one of my novels eventually. (Although I am afraid of bees myself, so I will explore him from a very safe distance!)

In general, I find that the actual processes of writing fiction and writing non-fiction are totally different for me and it can be difficult to make the transition between the two creative states. With non-fiction, I am very present and alert throughout the writing process, sifting through details and molding the information, while with my fiction, I have to take a step back and let the story find me and unfold at its own pace. 

What authors do you consider to be your inspiration?

So many authors have inspired me over the years, but there’s one in particular that I want to mention. When I was working on Finding Lily, I was stuck at one point in the revision process, so I went to a book signing for Karen Peterson, PhD., author of The Tomorrow Trap and Write: 10 Days to Overcome Writer’s Block. Period. Her presentation really sparked a chord in me and I lingered to chat with her. I learned she was also working on a novel and we decided to exchange manuscripts and help each other. This was the luckiest day for me. She really helped me take Finding Lily to where it is today. More than a decade later, we continue to critique each other’s work, but much more important, she has become one of my closest friends, too, and she is an ongoing inspiration for me. 

What are some of your all-time favorite fiction reads? 

Anne of Green Gables is my all-time favorite because I love the rich language and flowing sentences and I am entranced by Anne’s point of view: we are definitely kindred spirits! I also love The Distance by Saborna Roychowdhury, because she does an excellent job of taking me to new places physically and mentally and developing well-rounded and thoughtful characters who feel like friends. I also enjoy all of Chitra Banjaree Divakaruni’s novels, including The Mistress of Spices, Sister of My Heart and her latest, Oleander Girl. Her books are so delicately crafted and every word and image shines. For a lighter read, I love everything by Madeleine Wickham. She has such a talent for bringing her characters together in the most awkward situations to see what will happen next, and this intrigues me. I also am crazy about her Shopaholic series (published under her pen name of Sophie Kinsella), although if my husband reads this interview, I officially deny any resemblance to the main character, even if I do have a thing for collecting clothes, shoes, and handbags much like she does!

What do you hope readers will take from your book Finding Lily?

I hope that many readers will relate to Finding Lily on a personal level because at one time or another, most of us have grappled with the emotional differences in our relationships, even if the line isn’t as clearly drawn as it is for Claire and Jim. I also hope that Claire’s perspective will make people think about what it means to see with the heart and not the head. I would love for readers to step into the rhythmic language and let it gently sweep them into the storyline for a simple but meaningful ride. I have heard from some reviewers and readers that they related deeply with Claire as they read my book, and her pain became theirs. But for me, there isn’t any sadness in her story. It’s meant to be a very enlightening and very honest book and although it does center around a loss that occurs before the first chapter opens and is recounted after the fact, for me the book is really about Claire finding herself and finding a new balance to her marriage… So I hope readers will ultimately feel some resolution and peace when they come full circle with Claire on her journey to the lighthouse and back again. 

Can you tell us anything about your next book, The Rasa-Lila? 

The Rasa-Lila is another book about marriage and motherhood but its style is very different. In this one, my narrator Faith Parker, a new mother, can feel her husband Andrew slipping away from her. She is so caught up in her new role that her marriage seems to have lost its momentum. Desperate to regain his attention, she concocts a tale about their conservative married neighbor, Pramila, having a heated affair with a stranger. The first time Faith tells the lie, she is just trying to shock Andrew and get him to look at her again. She promises herself that she won’t do this again. But her plan works so well that she finds herself elaborating on the story and adding new parts over time to help her and Andrew continue to reconnect. What Faith doesn’t bargain for, though, is that in the process she and Pramila will become good friends. In the end, she is forced to take a closer look at herself, her marriage and her friendship in order to decide what to betray and what to protect.

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About the author:

Lisa Ellis is a writer whose short fiction has appeared in a number of literary journals and magazines. Finding Lily is her first novel. She has a Master’s degree in Journalism from Boston University and provides health content regularly for hospitals and websites in New England and the tri-state area.

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