Looking to be swept off your feet? Read on for a chance to win Anna Elliot’s novel Dark Moon of Avalon!
Anna Elliot is a historical fiction and fantasy author of the the Twilight of Avalon Trilogy: Twilight of Avalon, Dark Moon of Avalon, and the upcoming Sunrise of Avalon. And that’s not all. She’s also e-publishing several free short stories featuring secondary characters from the trilogy. The first two are already available for those of us, like me, who are fiction hungry. Look here to read The Witch Queen’s Secret and Dawn of Avalon.
She’s here for an exclusive interview into her advice on publishing and how she became the author she is today.
1) When did you know you wanted to write a novel?
I grew up loving to read and write, but I was always afraid of trying to write something as major as a novel. It felt so scary, and what if I failed? What if, you know, someone read it? All those writerly fears. Then when I was a senior in college, one of the requirements for graduation was an honor’s thesis, and my dad strongly encouraged me to write a novel. I’m so grateful, because without him, I never would have had the courage to begin! The novel I turned out that year wasn’t exactly a masterpiece–I was 20, and had never written anything before–but it absolutely made me fall in love with the writing process. By the time I turned it in and graduated, I couldn’t have stopped writing if I’d tried.
2) How did you become a published author?
Probably like most published authors, lots of rejection! I think that’s the most important advice I can offer any aspiring authors is not to give up, no matter how many rejections you rack up, no matter how many manuscripts you wind up having to set aside. I kept getting rejected, but I kept writing because I had stories that I had to tell–not just wanted to, had to or something vital inside me was going to die. Writing was who I was; no amount of rejection was going to make that go away. So every time a rejection came, I would take a deep breath, drop it in my “rejections” file, and then get back to work, sending out more queries, revising and polishing whatever book I was working on again and again.
There was only one day–one afternoon, to be exact, when I really, truly considered giving up all hope on having a career as a published author. It was an afternoon in early spring. I was four months pregnant with my first baby. I’d just weeks before been dropped by my first agent, who had decided to stop agenting and pursue another career–and that afternoon, I’d gotten my final-nail-in-the-coffin rejection on the book I’d been shopping around.
I remember sitting at my computer and thinking–really thinking for the first time–that maybe my career as an author really wasn’t ever going to be. I had my daughter to think about, after all, even though it would still be months before she was born. And maybe this was a sign from the universe that I needed to give up on writing and just focus on being a mom. I remember calling my own mom and telling her, with my voice wobbling, I don’t think I can do this anymore–I think this is it, I’m done.
But at the same time, I did have my daughter to think about. Even though she wasn’t born yet. Even though I didn’t yet even really know who she was. I was going to be a mother. And I had to ask myself what I wanted my daughter to learn from me, to take from the example I set by my own life. That if your dream doesn’t come true easily or right away you just give up on it? Of course not.
Any dream worth having is worth fighting for. That was what I wanted my girl to know as she grew up to pursue her own dreams, whatever they might be. I remember calling my mom back later that very same afternoon and saying, I’m not giving up. I’m going to go in a new direction–try something completely different and new. I didn’t even know what that new direction was going to be. Only that I was going to write another book–find a new and completely different story to tell. And that this one was going to be “the one”–the one that made it off my computer, onto the shelves of real, actual bookstores, and into real readers’ hands.
A week or so later I had a dream. A very vivid dream that I was telling my mom about a book I planned to write about the daughter of Modred, great villain of the cycle of King Arthur tales. Over the next several months that dream became the manuscript of my book, Twilight of Avalon. I had finished a third of the first draft when my daughter was born; I signed with my second (fabulous) agent when she was 7 months old. And the week before my daughter turned one, my agent and I landed our three book publishing contract.
3) What are three things you wished you would have known about the publishing business?
I do wish I’d been a bit more savvy about everything that goes on behind the scenes in the publishing world, the marketing/publicity angle, it’s a bit dizzying, really. But I’m learning! I can’t think of anything else–maybe because I spent so much time being rejected, I had time to acquaint myself with the publishing business fairly well.
4) What has been your favorite author experience so far?
By far and away my favorite part is getting e-mails from people all over the world who have really connected to my story and characters. There’s just no better feeling for an author, I think. And I’ve made several friends that way, too, that I’m in regular touch with–people from the other side of the world whom I’d never have connected with in a thousand years except that them happening across one of my books led them to contact me. It’s amazing!
5) What’s the less than thrilling part of being an author?
Being an author is my absolute dream job, so really I’d feel guilty complaining about any part of it. I guess I’d say it is sometimes hard when it takes me away from my two little girls (ages 1 and 3). But I do get to stay home with them (even if I send them off to the park with my husband every morning so that I can write) and still do my dream job, so really I have it so much easier than many mothers struggling with the work/family balance.
6) What advice would you give to aspiring writers?
Don’t give up! Remember, not giving up doesn’t guarantee that you’ll get published. But giving up certainly guarantees you never will.
7) Describe your writing space:
Well, I used to have an office of my own, but then we moved and had our second baby, so now my office is a corner of my bedroom with toys on the floor to occupy my baby when she’s with me and I’m trying to work. But it’s fine, really, I can write anywhere I can set up a computer and snatch a few moments’ quiet. Although I have to admit I did do some internal cartwheels when my older girl started talking about how excited she was to someday soon share a room with her sister. Gee, twist my arm!
8 ) Tell me about your trilogy, Twilight of Avalon:
The Twilight of Avalon trilogy is a retelling of the Trystan and Isolde legend, which is part of the King Arthur cycle of stories. It’s set in 6th century Dark Age Britain, because I was really interested in exploring the roots of the legends–the reality that might have inspired the stories as they’ve been passed down to us today.
9) What draws you to writing historical fiction out of any genre?
I love history, love imagining the past and how different it must have been to live in a time without so many of the modern contrivances we take for granted today. And yet I love reading the primary sources and realizing how much of human nature and the human experience has remained the same throughout the ages: love, hate, faith, despair, hope. The essentials of life are constant, no matter how much the world around us changes.
10) What do you do when you’re not writing?
Play with my daughters, mostly. And I read any chance I get, of course, I love losing myself in a good book.
11) If you could meet any author, who would it be?
I would love to meet Jane Austen! She wrote my absolute favorite love story, Persuasion, and I’d love to ask her what inspired the book and what it was like for her to write it.
*To Enter for a chance to win Dark Moon of Avalon:
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