I’m talking today with author Eliza Andrews who writes contemporary lesbian fiction books that have strong dramatic themes with romantic subplots. Welcome Eliza!
Anne: Now, in all honesty, I met Eliza Andrews for the first time as R.A. Marshall, a writer of young adult (YA) fiction which some of, incidentally, has queer – mostly questioning lesbian – themes, but not all of it.
Eliza uses this caricature of herself for all of her pen names. Isn’t she cute?! Now, don’t fret that she’s not a real person. This caricature image is close to the way she actually looks but just slightly on the young side…just slightly…
Her first lesfic book, To Have Loved & Lost, a sometimes dark and gritty NA romance, was a #1 best-seller in several Amazon categories for about three consecutive weeks, and it has over 170 positive reviews on Amazon.
When two people’s lives are spiraling out of control, can coming together pull both of them back up?
Alexis Woods knows who she is — or at least, she thought she did. She’s number 17, point guard, MVP, all-star, co-captain of the Lady Raiders NCAA Division I women’s basketball team. But there’s a darkness growing inside of her, a darkness that started the night her beloved died in her arms, and if she doesn’t turn things around soon, the darkness just might swallow her whole.
Graham Griffin knows a thing or two about darkness. That’s been her zip code ever since the car accident that took her boyfriend’s life — the car accident she caused. When she meets Alex, she sees a reflection of her own sorrow. And she can’t help but want to fix it.
Eliza Andrews’ Writing in Progress:
Anne: So that’s where you were and you’ve just recently released what you’re calling a ‘short lesbian romance’ (71 pages), Paradise, that seems to be doing well.
Readers can click the link above or the image to the left to get that for only $.99 at Amazon or free via Kindle Unlimited.
All of that said, please give us a little overview of what you’re working on right now.
Eliza: I’m trying hard to finish my novel Anika Takes the Long Way Home Up Soul Mountain. It’s a follow-up to, To Have Loved & Lost (THL&L), which came out at the beginning of November 2016.
Anika is more of a spin-off than a sequel; it follows one of the side characters from THL&L into the future, about fifteen years after the end of the events in THL&L (two years after the Epilogue). I should’ve finished Anika’s story back in February or March, but then my life took an unexpected turn, so life has sort of derailed writing for the past few months. It’s ironic, because Anika is a story about someone’s mid-life crisis, so I find it fitting that my own life would become stressful and weird at the same time as writing a story about someone else’s crisis.
Note: Sign up for Eliza’s email list and you can get the first four chapters of her work in progress, Anika Takes the Long Way Home free.
Anne: What do your plans for future projects include?
Eliza: Once Anika’s story is finished, I have to finish a young adult trilogy (under her R.A. Marshall pen name), but after that, I want to get to work on a novel I’m currently calling Apart. It’s another book about tragedy and grief (like THL&L) — don’t know why this keeps coming up in my work! — but this time, the reader isn’t going to know exactly what the main character is grieving until about halfway through the novel.
Anne: That’s interesting. Sort of a suspense novel, then.
Eliza: Yes. I kind of know how I want Apart to “feel”; it should be a little like that unsettling feeling of walking down the stairs into the basement in the dark while you fumble for the light switch. You’re not “scared,” exactly, but you’re not comfortable, either. Have you heard the podcast S-Town? I want this book to feel a little like that.
Anne: I haven’t heard of it but I’ll definitely check it out. (Note – Here’s a link for anyone interested: https://stownpodcast.org/)
Eliza: The other thing about Apart is that it’s my “ode to the South.” I grew up in small-town Georgia and have spent most of my adult life in Atlanta and the Carolinas. It’s an uncomfortable thing to be an obviously gay woman in the South, but at the same time, there’s something about the deep South — the way it sounds, the way it smells, the cadence of people’s speech — that I just can’t quite resist. I’d like bring some of that out in Apart.
Anne: I agree with you. I find the southern U.S. states intensely interesting myself. I spent some time in South Carolina and Georgia with the military. It was the southern states and the way of life there, their extreme conservatism, their values and their quirks and so forth that prompted my Loving Blue in Red States short story series. There are, of course, lots of ‘red states’ to cover so I’m trying to make myself skip around the country and not just dwell in the south.
Anne: But, enough about me. Please tell us about your other work. Have you written any other stories that are set in the South?
Eliza: One of my two young adult trilogies (Guardians of the Portal, written as R.A. Marshall) is set in rural Arkansas, in the Ozark Mountains. Arkansas is South-ish, though the Ozark Mountains are sort of their own thing. But the kids in the story are working class, small-town kids — the type of people I went to high school with myself. My dad’s family is from that part of the country, so it felt natural to write.
Also, To Have Loved & Lost is roughly set in North Carolina, but the location doesn’t really come across in that story. It could be anywhere.
The Writing Process for Eliza Andrews:
Anne: Talk to me about how you write…how you go from a blank screen to a full novel.
Eliza: When I first started writing, I wrote by intuition alone but, I have to confess, I hardly knew what I was doing. When I look back on my first novel, I grimace and think, Learning curve!
Anne: I am so with you on that! Unfortunately, mine is the first book in a nine (soon to be ten) book series…I just give it away.
Eliza: Now I understand how we are hard-wired as Westerners — and maybe just as humans — to hear and process stories in a certain way. We actually *want* familiar archetypes, and, to a certain extent, tropes. These days, I try to plot pretty thoroughly. It makes the writing itself much easier.
With that being said, I still find that my characters take the story in directions I didn’t always expect or plan for. So although I make a thorough outline at the beginning, once I actually sit at the computer and begin to write, sometimes things happen that I didn’t plan. That’s kind of fun, though — makes me feel like it’s my characters’ story, and I’m just following along behind them.
Anne: Do you have any strange writing habits you’re willing to share with us?
Eliza: Not really. I’m pretty vanilla. I will say that I like to be outside as much as possible — my version of hell would be working in a windowless office cubicle — but mainly I just sit down with my laptop and start typing away.
I will say this: Showering, walking, and driving are probably the three best places for me to get inspiration and tease out story ideas. I’ve plotted entire novels on road trips before!
Anne: Do you write full-time or part-time?
Eliza: Now THAT is a good question! I used to write only part-time, but I quit my job recently, not because I wanted to write full-time, but for other reasons. So I’m giving myself the next six months to really make a go at writing full-time. My results over the next few months will determine whether or not I write full-time or part-time going forward.
Anne: Every writer’s dream! I wish you the best of luck.
Eliza Andrews On her writing influences:
Anne: What is your favorite childhood book?
Eliza: I can only pick one? I’m sure that if I thought about it, I could come up with dozens, but the one that made me want to write was Robert A. Heinlein’s Tunnel in the Sky. (See what a sci-fi nerd I am?) It’s a sort of obscure book, so briefly: A group of young inter-planetary rangers gets sent to a wild, inhospitable planet for their final exam, but something goes wrong and instead of being retrieved in only a week, they are left out there to survive on their own for MONTHS.
I liked this book so much that I read it two or three times, and I didn’t want it to end, so I started writing my own sequel, just so I could keep reading the story. I was about ten when I wrote my “sequel,” but I probably wrote maybe fifteen or twenty pages before I got tired of it and gave up. Not bad for a fifth grader.
Anne: Take it from me, you have to be careful putting that sort of information out there. Fans have a way of latching onto that and clamoring for it. You might want to either think about giving that a shot again or bribing me to completely delete this answer and pretend we never talked about it…
Questions for Eliza, just for fun:
Anne: What’s the funniest movie you’ve ever seen?
“Excuse me, stewardess? I speak jive.”
Anne: An oldie but a goodie and, with that, we’re both showing our age.
Anne: What’s your favorite TV show of all time and why?
Eliza: It would come down to three: Twin Peaks, Lost, and The Walking Dead. For Lost and The Walking Dead, the reason is character development! No other shows that I can think of develop their characters like those. As for Twin Peaks, it’s just a weird, quirky show. I love the blend of the real and the supernatural, and I can hardly think of a character on television better than Special Agent Dale Cooper.
Anne: I’m totally down with the whole zombie thing of The Walking Dead. With Twin Peaks, I’m assuming you’re talking about the old version of the show first, and foremost. There is a Twin Peaks remake out there that just kicked off in the last few weeks on Showtime.
Anne: Do you have any recurring dreams or nightmares you’re willing to share with us?
Eliza: When Glee was still on and Cory Monteith was still alive (RIP), I used to dream that I was Finn Hudson. *Shrug* Maybe I shouldn’t admit that. I also dream about the zombie apocalypse with some regularity, because I am a Walking Dead addict.
Anne: See what watching all of that zombie stuff does to you?!
All the links you need for Eliza Andrews (and RA Marshall!):
Author Page on Amazon:
Eliza Andrews: https://www.amazon.com/Eliza-Andrews/e/B01N08ZF8P
R. A. Marshall: https://www.amazon.com/R.-A.-Marshall/e/B00JNZPXP0/
Eliza Andrews: http://authorelizaandrews.com
R. A. Marshall: http://ninja-writer.com/
Eliza Andrews: http://facebook.com/authorelizaandrews
R. A. Marshall: https://www.facebook.com/ra.marshall
Please check her work out at either of her websites or both. Sign up to receive email from her and you’ll get access to free excerpts and more.
Thanks for joining us today and, as always, thanks for reading!