Also this week I have had the chance to chat with a lovely author. I’ve just read her last book Dear Dwayne, With Love and it’s a very funny romantic comedy which you should absolutely read…so, I’m very happy to introduce…
She has excellent taste in books, shoes, movies, and friends, and questionable sanity in the realm of love.Eliza writes stories to help you believe in the Happily Ever After; Jennifer Sommersby, her other self, writes young adult.
Describe yourself with three adjectives.
Eliza: Tenacious, perseverant, strong-willed.
Choose three adjectives for your last novel, Dear Dwayne, With Love.
Eliza: lighthearted, inspiring, funny.
What inspired you to write this novel?
Eliza: Going to the gym myself! I liked how I set goals for myself and then achieved them with the help of my trainer, Shelly—it’s pretty empowering. I made a joke one day about tweeting my movie star muse, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, about the personal gains I was making. That joke turned into a book. The Rock is a pretty inspiring guy!
Who was your favorite character to write and why?
Eliza: Of course, I’m partial to Dani because she’s my heroine, and she puts up with a lot of stuff from her family and her icky boyfriend so you can’t help but feel a little sorry for her. She’s brave and strong—she just doesn’t know it yet. I think that’s true of so many of us. And of course, I have a soft spot for Howie. We all have the potential for great personal fortitude, but sometimes the curveballs life throws at us are just too hard to hit. Howie is a tragic character with a heart of gold.
What was the funny part about writing your last novel?
Eliza: Coming up with some of the characters—a few are based on real humans that I sort of mashed together into one and then fleshed out. There was a dude at our gym who kept trying—and failing—to do handstands against the wall. He was really loud and pushy about it too, which I didn’t include in the book. My Handstand Man in Dear Dwayne is a lovely fellow who again is a combination of a couple of my gym friends (including one who really DID beat cancer!).
From copy editor to writer… what made you decide to self-publish?
Eliza: Dear Dwayne, With Love isn’t self-published; it’s with Lake Union, an imprint of Amazon Publishing, which is the traditional publishing branch of the company Amazon. They have fourteen different imprints covering everything from children’s books to crime novels, so I’m thrilled to be a part of such a vast publishing experience. The earlier Eliza Gordon books were published through my literary agency (Writers House) as sort of an experiment, and so it’s safe to call those self-published, although I did have terrific support with editorial and marketing that the typical self-published author wouldn’t have access to without paying for those services on their own. The coolest part about putting these earlier books out the way we did? The acquiring editor at Lake Union read Must Love Otters over a long weekend and contacted my agent to see what other work I had available. She found ME! That was pretty awesome. (And I’m still a copy editor … the “glamourous” life of full-time writer is still something I’m chasing!)
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
Eliza: Write full-time, all the time. Get lots of my stories out into the world. A comfortable living for my family. I’ve been self-employed for years, so I will never retire. I’ll die sitting in my desk chair, trying to untangle a plot knot or write another silly joke.
What inspires you to write?
Eliza: It’s the only thing I’ve ever been relatively good at. The desire and drive to write is this thing you cannot deny. If you have those creative impulses, whether it’s to write or paint or dance or sing or sculpt—if you ignore them, they will eventually tear you apart. It’s easier to give in and get along with the beast in your head instead of fighting it all the time. I’ve had lots of “real” jobs, and hated every single one. My husband and I have made sacrifices over the last decade to structure our lives so I can work out of the house—so I can spend more time writing. If your art is important to you, you will find a way, even if it’s ten minutes every night before bed or during your lunch break at work. Baby steps!
If you could be one of your characters for a day, who would it be and why?
Eliza: I think I’d be Hollie Porter (Must Love Otters), to be honest. Living and working at Revelation Cove alongside my dreamy ex-NHL boyfriend? Rescuing an orphaned baby sea otter? Yeah. I’d definitely do that. Although hanging out with Miraculously Beautiful Marco and Dani’s cool gym friends … that would be cool too (Dear Dwayne, With Love).
What author/s has/have most influenced your writing?
Oh man, this is a tough question. I interviewed Irish romance/women’s fiction writer Marian Keyes in 2006 and she told me that I need to write what makes me happy. That was a huge turning point personally as I’d been trying to write stuff that the greater book community would deem “important” or “literary,” with disastrous results. Diana Gabaldon taught me how to be descriptive (and also when to rein it in); a writer named Les Edgerton gives the BEST dialogue advice I’ve come across; books by Jojo Moyes and Liane Moriarty have taught me how to weave funny and pathos into the same story; and Andrew Smith’s books have taught me to be brave on the page.
Is there a genre you want to experiment with?
Eliza: YES. I love plague stories! I probably should’ve been an epidemiologist. I’m a germophobe but I love pathogenesis. However, the Eliza Gordon brand is more Happily Ever Afters, so I’ll probably have to play around with those darker themes under my real name. Someday!
What is the most difficult part of your writing?
Eliza: Handling the vicious self-doubt. Will the stories ring true? Will the characters be believable? Will the jokes be funny? Will readers like it? Should I go back to school to retrain in a different field so I stop torturing the world with my blathering on? That sort of thing.
What is the best compliment you’ve ever received?
Eliza: “You can write. You should be a writer when you grow up.” From my fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Williams.
What are you working on now?
Eliza: I’m writing the sequel to my young adult novel that comes out in April from HarperCollins Canada and Sky Pony Press (US), published under my real name (Jennifer Sommersby). As far as Eliza Gordon goes, I have two projects I’m working on, though I’m not sure which one will make it to market next. Stay tuned! (P.S. I write under a pen name to keep my brands separate. It’s not a secret, my dual identity; I write young adult under my real name and the grownup stuff under Eliza Gordon. That way a younger reader doesn’t happen upon a book where the jokes will make their parents mad. LOL …)
Could you share with us a happy photo of you and tell us more about that moment?
Eliza: AH! Me with Diana Gabaldon at last fall’s Surrey International Writers Conference in Surrey, British Columbia. I took her dialogue Master Class and she was so great—I did a Blue Pencil session with her that weekend where she read the first three pages of my next project, and she laughed at all the right spots. Victory! The Surrey conference is fantastic—definitely the highlight of my year.
Thanks Eliza for your time and for sharing an ebook of Dear Dwayne, With Love with our readers!
Eliza: Thank you so much, Elisabeth! J