Please welcome Elizabeth Monroe as my guest today. She has published two books so far in her Voice of the Wind, Shadows of Time series. I’ve read both books and thoroughly enjoyed them. In fact, I can’t wait until the next book comes out!
Elizabeth and I met on Facebook through the join each other’s writing fan sites and since then we have gotten to know each other. She’s from Norman, Oklahoma and is married. That’s really all I know about her, hence the interview. This way we can get to know her better!
Tell me about yourself, Liz:
I’m really boring! :-) I’m 25 -- well, my mom stopped having birthdays when she was 25 and that’s always sounded like a good idea to me! (She passed away 3 years ago at the age of 82.) I was born in Texas but have lived in Oklahoma my whole life, mostly in small towns where my dad was a doctor and my mom a housewife/nurse.
I had a wildly imaginative childhood and as a kid was fortunate to have good friends who enjoyed getting swept up into my imaginative shenanigans, including my two brothers and sister who always claimed I was the “mastermind” behind everything that got us into trouble. I had an idyllic childhood (for the most part) and lots of freedom to hike, explore, campout, climb mountains, and wade rivers. That’s what’s great about growing up in small, mostly rural towns where there’s absolutely nothing to do except use your imagination!
I’m married, have one son, and have worked in the printing/graphic design/pre-press business my whole life. I didn’t start out “planning” to be in the printing business, but that’s how it worked out when I was a senior in high school and enrolled in commercial art at a newly opened vo-tech, which turned out to be printing. I also have a degree in Art Education and, at one time, played keyboards in my husband’s rock n’roll band. I always enjoyed finding obscure poems and composing music on the piano for them.
But for me, it’s always been about writing. No matter how many times I would try to quit writing, or how crazy it sometimes made me, I always came back to writing. It’s been a long, learning journey with no end in sight. It’s in my nature.
What got you started writing this series?
I was struck by a bolt out of the blue! Actually, throughout college I had been writing a novel (A Heap of Flowers about the 60s) with very similar characters. I was so stressed out at the time, that I tossed the novel into the trash and burned it. But, the characters wouldn’t leave me alone. Then I read J.R.R. Tolkien’s work and loved the idea of elves but wanted to make the story more “realistic” but “not of this world,” too. I wanted to write a story that wasn’t set in any familiar time period, which could be either in the distant past or the future — an alternative reality or parallel universe.
So, with an idea about who the main characters were, I started throwing them together and letting them talk and worked out the story ideas. I also researched the Five Civilized Tribes to develop other ideas, especially for the Objishanda. (My dad’s side of the family has Iroquois, Blackfoot and Cherokee heritage, along with Irish, English, Dutch and German). Also, the word Objishanda in Cherokee/Iroquois means “star folk” (properly written it is Objishandä, but I dropped the ä for ebook formatting not knowing whether it would work).
Anyway, to make a long story short, my husband and I were living in Weatherford, OK where the wind blows nonstop. I was at a loss as to what the story was all about, besides two families -- one family the original inhabitants from a “distant shore” (star folk), and the other a family whose people had migrated over the Mountains of the Sky to escape the Kinstrife in their homeland (another story that I hope to write as a prequel — it’s all outlined and partially written).
So, one day as I was standing outside listening to the wind howling through the junipers, that was when the bolt out of the blue struck me. In those fleeting seconds the whole concept for the story flashed through my mind. I walked into the house, picked up a copy of The Prophet, turned to a random page and read: “And he alone is great who can turn the voice of the wind into a song made sweeter by his own loving.” That became my whole theme — about overcoming fear, hatred and prejudice, not only about other people but also about oneself and one’s family who have lived for several generations with a hostility against another group of people. That all became personified in the main character of Jantz Fayerfield who struggles to understand and also reconcile the missing pieces in his family’s history, if only to understand the hostility. I love serendipity!
It took me two years to write the first three books. Since then I’ve written eight more books in the series and also have plans for two more, the Prequel about the Kinstrife and Before Days, and also one about the seven years that pass between books 2 and 3 — Jantz’s missing years.
A long time ago, my son told me, “Mom, most people write one book and try to get that one published first.” I said, “Yeah, I know but I want to be prepared and have the others written so I can goof off and not stress out.” This series has become my life’s work!
But the Voice of the Wind series, are not the only books I’m working on. I’ve almost completed a novel set in 1930s, another wip set in the 1950s, and a collection of short biographical stories.
I love the detail in your descriptions and your characters are very lifelike, how do you do it?
I have no idea! It’s something I developed very early as a child with an overactive imagination. Also, there’s a great book called, “Seeing with the Mind’s Eye.” It’s a book about creative visualization (it’s on Amazon). I’m a very visual person, always have been. We all think in visual images, or at least I do.
When I’m writing, I close my eyes and try to see everything as my characters would — using all the five senses — and feel everything they feel, even if drawing upon my own life experiences, and also using intuition. Intuition is important. Maybe it’s channeling, I don’t know. I see the story as if it was a movie, or maybe I’m tuning into a different frequency on the radio dial.
A lot of my writing is “autobiographical.” For instance, the scene where Jantz stumbles across the forgotten gravestones in the forest happened to me when I was a kid running through the woods with my brother and sister. When I wrote that scene, I just recalled the rush of adrenaline, panic and fear and gave them to Jantz.
A lot of it also stems from plain old observation of everything in my environment — weather, wildlife, plants, the landscapes. And research (before the internet or personal computers existed) at the library reading obscure reference books and taking a lot of notes.
Out in the SW part of OK, after a thunderstorm has moved off to the north and the clouds are piled up in shades of blues, purples and white they look like mountains — hence the name for the Mountains of the Sky. It’s something I remembered from the first time I saw the Rocky Mountains.
Another thing I like to do is to write in first person and then later rewrite in a close 3rd person pov. It’s all about putting yourself into your character’s skin.
Who’s your favorite author and why?
I have too many favorites to pick just one author! It’s a long list. I guess I would have to go back to the first books I ever read (besides Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden), and that is Charles Dickens. Dickens was a huge influence — I wanted to be another Dickens! J I loved his characters and details. Alexandre Dumas and Frank Yerby are also among my favorites — along with the late Robert Jordan — Jordan was a master of description.
Do you have a critique partner or are you in any writing groups?
I don’t have a critique partner and I don’t belong to any writers’ groups. I did belong to one group that met on Sundays for several hours, but it was too boring (for me) and I decided the time was better spent writing. I do have four really great friends who’ve read and critiqued. Three are writers and one is a reader who read both books 1 and 2 and always emailed me typo corrections and said she wanted a sex scene — so I gave her the wedding scene between in Fortune’s Hostage. :-)
However, I do think critique partners and writing groups have their value. A writer needs all the input and encouragement they can get — something I never had, other than the times my Grandma Short would peek over my shoulder when I was a kid scribbling away on a story at her dining room table (she always had a knowing smile on her face). It wasn't until many years later that I discovered that she’d been writing poetry for most of her life. She was a very “Victoria” lady.
I’ve been on my own (basically taught myself writing through the years), and for the Voice of the Wind series, I did my own editing, so there are plenty of mistakes. Anyone who reads the books, please feel free to point out any mistakes so I can fix them!!
I did take a professional writing course that Mel Odom taught (he now teaches creative writing at the University of Oklahoma). He always encouraged me to publish and also pointed out that what I thought was writing from an omniscient pov was “head hopping!”
If you had a choice to go anywhere in the world for vacation, where would you go and why?
I’ve never seen the ocean, so that’s where I want to go. Where doesn’t matter where, as long as it’s the ocean! I’m not one for crowds; I avoid crowds!
It’s almost Halloween, do you like this holiday?
I love Halloween and the other holidays. I used to get into a lot of trouble. When I was in high school our small town of Cyril was so crazy at Halloween that sometimes the National Guard was called in on All Hallows Eve to make sure the town wasn’t destroyed! It never was except for the farmer who lost his outhouse, which was set afire on Main Street by the high school boys.
What scares you, Vampires? Witches? Zombies?
I’m not scared of much of anything! Demons and goblins are another thing! Werewolves, too. Shapeshifting just seems so painful!!
Do you dress up or give out candy to all the scary characters?
Yeah, I usually go as myself because that’s scary enough! I don’t dress up to give out candy though. Don’t want to frighten the little ones too much, but once they see my dog San, they always come right on into the house and try to pet the doggie — forget the candy! San thinks it’s her duty to guard the candy bowl. Every time I pass out a handful, she runs to check the bowl.
When my son was young, we lived in the country so we always took him to the mall to trick-or-treat. Sometimes, I’d get in Goth mode and bush up my hair and tie plastic spiders in it. My hair was long then.
What is your idea of a fun day?
Relaxing at home! Being able to sit outside beneath the maple tree and read or work on a story/book. I enjoy writing outside — listening to the wind or the birds, the neighbor hood noises. I work full time and anytime I can stay at home and goof off is my idea of a fun day. Boring, I know.
I’m working on “Cursed in Love” and hope to have the edits and all the rewriting done soon — if I don’t goof off too much.
Thanks for answering all my questions, I know, I am very inquisitive. You have been a great trooper and I hope that my followers leave you comments and questions below. Thanks for coming on my blog and I look forward to your next book! Let me know as soon as it’s out!
Here are Elizabeth's links:
Please leave your comments for Elizabeth and show her the love! Lisa