Highly popular multi-genre author Elle Klass is our guest on Author CenterStage for a round of questions on her writing experience. Elle has published titles ranging from action-adventure, mystery, suspense, ghosts, women’s fiction and maybe a couple in between. Her fiction has entertained readers through many nights! Elle, thanks for joining us and answering questions!
Elle: Thanks for having me Candi. It’s an honor.
|Elle Klass - Author|
Candi: I’ve gathered several frequently asked questions from readers to share with you. So, let's begin with a couple of key questions: How did you arrive one day with pen, ink and paper in your hands as you began your first novel? What tipped the balance scales of your motivation to write the first word, the first page?
Elle: I have been writing for fun since junior high and always planned on writing a novel. The idea of an entire novel is a daunting task. About 10 years ago I went for it and wrote As Snow Falls, followed by Baby Girl. I printed out the entire ASF novel and gave to a few people to read and help me edit – my very first beta readers. Their enthusiasm with the book overwhelmed me, everybody loved it. I made corrections to the document but still didn’t publish it. I had no idea where to begin and indie publishing wasn’t real popular and was far more difficult than today so the book sat until 2 years ago. I had it professionally edited, my talented daughter drew the image for the cover which I uploaded and suddenly I had a published book. With ASF published I decided to divide Baby Girl into short stories- easily done since Cleo changes identity for each book and published each short separately.
Candi: How old were you when you first noticed your desire to put words on paper? What were early influencers, books, people?
Elle: I began writing poetry at the ripe old age of about 12 and continued with poetry until about 10 years ago. Here is a couple samples of my cheesy and sometimes goofy poetry, circa 1990’s.
As the ocean flows, so do my thoughts of a more hectic time.
Memories in the back of my mind, the teenage years and struggles with my peers,
Always being right lead to many a fight. I’ve learned and grown, but the battle will always be known. Memories in the back of my mind.
~ Elle Klass
Slowly, slowly little ember,
Burning on the earth,
Dwindle, dwindle little ember,
Till only a flickers worth,
Surely, surely little ember,
You will not die alone,
Go on, go on little ember,
Make yourself be known,
Rise up, rise up little ember,
Scorch the weeds around you,
Slowly, slowly little ember,
Burning on the earth,
Nothing, nothing little ember,
Is left to tell the truth.
~ Elle Klass
I will probably never publish a poetry book but it’s always fun to look back, read, and occasionally share. My earliest influencers were Edgar Ellen Poe and V.C. Andrews. I always had my head buried reading something from one or the other. Sometimes I read poetry to my younger sister and throughout college I read my literature books for classes to my children. Always reading, always writing.
Elle: The story for Baby Girl came to me like all the others through my senses. In this case it was a picture I saw on TV, I think. My mind fashioned a distinguished lady walking up the steps to a N.Y. Brownstone, and from there the story and Cleo took on a life of their own. As of yet, readers haven’t seen the picture in my head but that’s coming in the next few months and was the first part of the book written.
I had a difficult time staying within the parameters of a young adult book. Cleo’s lifestyle is beyond her age and she does things I hope young adults don’t do. The series begins when she is 12, by book 2 Moonlighting in Paris she is 16, and book 3 City by the Bay she is 18 – my sigh of relief. She isn’t fashioned to be a role model but as seen in all books she is strong, independent, and at times wise beyond her years. She is also stubborn, street smart, and savvy. In many ways she is a role model and a new adult from the time she is 12.
Candi: Having read the Baby Girl series, I have to say that you’ve developed an immensely interesting character in Cleo! So what were the challenges in writing Baby Girl series with an international setting? And do any of those settings reflect your own travels?
Elle: I loved having an international setting for the book. I haven’t travelled to Paris, New York or Aruba – I have spent time in the Caribbean. I did extensive research in each destination including airline flights. I grew up in the San Francisco/ Sacramento area and had the most fun with book 3. If the story continues beyond book 4 Bite the Big Apple…I can’t say, no spoilers.
Candi: One of the most popular fiction genres today is the thriller category. Your most recent book is Eye of The Storm, which is planned as a series. What are the ingredients or elements that turn a plain vanilla thriller into a mystery suspense thriller?
Elle: A twisted mind. It takes a special kind of imagination to create a mystery suspense thriller. My goal was to keep readers guessing until the end. From the reviews I’ve read I accomplished that. My ingredients were to throw suspicion and doubt on every character, have a unique idea that hasn’t been done in the past, and give small tidbits to the reader throughout the course of the book. I left a huge tidbit in the epilogue for the next book in the trilogy, Calm Before the Storm Evan’s Sins. Eye of the Storm is only a taste of this wickedly thrilling series.
Candi: What is a typical writing day like for you? When does it begin and end? And do you use a lot of expensive equipment or materials in writing your novels? Can you write with background noise or do you prefer quiet?
Elle: A typical writing day for me is waking up in the morning, brewing a pot of Starbucks, turning on my laptop, and pulling up whichever manuscript I’m currently working on. I prepare my coffee with spoons of sugar and chocolate, or French vanilla creamer, go back to my computer and plug away. The day goes quick when I’m uninterrupted and I may type from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. before I notice how late the day is getting. Most days I get interrupted. I work all day on and off taking breaks when I want. I forget to eat – no I hate to cook – unlike Baby Girl character Cleo, so I snack. I don’t like noise when I write but can tune the world out. I’m guilty of tuning everything out except the story in my head, on occasion I like rock or pop music when I write.
My equipment was a computer running Windows XP. I loved that operating system I think it’s the best one Microsoft has put out. Why change a good thing? Who knows but they did and I started having problems – no updates. I invested in a new computer with Windows 8.1 touchscreen. Love it almost as much as XP. I’m stubborn about computers and refused to buy Windows 7- I loathe it. My new computer runs Microsoft Word 2013. I’m sure I will continue using this computer until it dies or the operating system is null. I spent NaNoWriMo 2014 typing on my tablet. No, I don’t need anything expensive so long as it works and I can type.
Candi: A frequently asked question for authors is: Have you experienced writer’s block, and how do you deal with it or prevent it?
Elle: If I get to a point the words don’t flow it means one of three things:
1. I’m tired and need to go to bed.
2. Go for a walk or do something else until the words flow again.
3. Erase and go back. The direction the story is heading is all wrong. I’m not listening to my characters.
My biggest problem is shutting off my computer and going to bed. I never want to. I feel guilty and hate leaving them in conspicuous situations.
Candi: To what extent do your story characters shape your novels? What do they add? Isn't it enough to just tell the story sort of like a newspaper article? You know, just the facts? What distinctions do characters bring to a story?
Elle: I think of my stories more as soap operas – characters develop, leave and come back when least expected. Characters add depth to a story through their humanity. My characters are flawed and face realistic problems. They aren’t perfect and share their struggles through life. At times they make corny decisions and put themselves in conspicuous situations. Characters, lovable or hateable give the reader a connection to the story, a reason to continue reading and buying books. I think that’s why series are so popular. We get connected, our curiosity drives us, we want to know what’s going to happen next. Cleo from Baby Girl is a popular character. The book written and released in short stories has a growing following because people feel for her. They’ve seen her go from a 12 year old abandoned child to a 20 year old who faces her demons searching for family ties and makes familial friendships along the way.
As a writer I love writing various types of individuals and when a reader tells me I hated… or asks will Cleo ever…? Tells me my characters have depth. In volume 2 Ruthless Storm Trilogy Calm Before the Storm readers will be introduced to the most despicable, vile character my mind has devised and I’m having a blast writing the book allowing this character free reign to complete his immoral acts and fight his internal demons.
Candi: How do you conceptualize or layout the plan or your approach of the plot for a novel you're about to write? What's the time sequence like? Is it scribbled on a napkin over a cup of coffee or over a period of days or weeks? And what are the particular challenges of the process of solidifying and nailing down the plot? What challenges does an author face when doing research in writing the book?
Elle: My books begin with a simple plot that blossoms over months or even years in my head. I make notes on my tablet as the story develops. When I’m ready I type a rough draft, let it sit and ferment then go back when I’m ready and begin the process of purging, adding and tweaking. The fermenting, tweaking, adding, purging process happens several times before I’m ready to consider publishing. For the past 2 years I have completed NaNoWriMo and used the contest as an opportunity both years to tweak a rough draft. In 2013 I wrote Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy. When I started the initial rough draft was a few thousand words by the time I finished the manuscript reached over 50,000 words. The plot is mine but I give my characters a lot of room and allow them to develop and take the plot in directions I never planned.
I’d say my biggest challenge with research is not being able to take off on a whim and travel to the various places I’m researching. Instead I google everything and talk with people who have spent time there. In researching Eye of the Storm Sunshine sees a hypnotherapist. I watched Youtube videos of actual hypnotherapy sessions to make her experience life like. Where there is a will there is a way. If I need to know something for a book I don’t stop until I find it.
Candi: There’s no doubt NaNoWriMo continues to be a crucible of creativity for writers! But I hear you saying writing and publishing are not 100% easy. So, what advice do you have for a person, let’s say my neighbor down the street, who says she wants to write a book? She’s got this great idea for a bestseller novel. Should she enroll in the nearest college writing class, buy 10 books on writing, or what?
Elle: Writing and publishing a quality book isn’t simple. Indie authors have to find editors, beta readers, cover designers. Once the book is published we have to figure out how to market and sell it. All this we do on our own. Small press authors face the same challenges. On the flip side there is a ton of support amongst indie and small press authors.
It’s interesting you ask what I would say to advise a neighbor or friend who wants to publish. A friend sent a young teen my way when she learned the teen wanted to publish a poetry book. I talked with her and gave her a few resources to check out – Createspace and Smashwords. I scribbled the websites down for her. She talked with her parents and with their support has begun the publishing process. She keeps me updated. She entered a poem into a contest and received a letter stating she is a finalist! I’m excited for her and can’t wait to purchase her book.
I have met other people who feed me great ideas for stories then ask if I’ll write it. My advice is it’s your story to write not mine start simple write a rough draft, talk and record your ideas, scribble down notes. The story doesn’t have to begin sequentially nor does it need to be perfect. The perfecting process happens later and may take months or years to develop. I’m always happy to assist as a beta reader and give my ideas on a stories strengths and weaknesses.
Candi: Great example of how you inspired a young teen to write and publish! Okay, time for a challenge question: You’ve just been notified that you’ll be teaching a university course entitled: Writing Your First Mystery Suspense Thriller. What 3-4 points or pillars would you consider essential to the course?
Elle: I taught junior high for 12 years this should be easy right? Wrong, I taught science. The idea of teaching a writing course is a challenge. Here goes:
1. Suspicious characters - no character should be innocent and all characters should cast a shadow of doubt
2. Twists - a good mystery needs a few twists in the plot to keep the readers on the edge of their seat.
3. Observations - drop clues throughout the story to build suspense. Never give away too much at one time.
4. Build- use the element of the known to create suspense
I think Poe and Hitchcock are true masters of the genre and I’d have my students reading through their stories with a fine toothed comb looking for these elements before beginning their writing process.
Elle: I’d say the biggest challenge of publishing in our digital world is so many people are doing it. Any person can create a story and publish a quality book. There are freelance cover designers, editors, beta readers, and ghost writers available to assist a writer in creating a fantastic story. The challenge is marketing. For a writer to be successful they have to create a solid marketing plan to get their book into the public eye. The author has to find a hook that makes their book stand out from the rest. The good news is the digital world has opened up publishing on an international scale more than ever before. There are potentially billions of readers worldwide for each and every book in the wide varieties of genres available.
Candi: As Snow Falls is categorized as women’s fiction and family relationships. I read that book first. Truly enjoyed it! What were the challenges in writing that novel? What were your feelings the day you published it?
Elle: The challenges in writing that book was publishing it. When I first wrote it the indie world was fresh, new, and frowned upon more than today. The publishing resources available were knocking on the door of potentially thousands of literary agents’ doors until finding one to take the book under their wing or a vanity press. Neither option appealed to me so the book sat until 2 years ago when I researched publishing again and saw how drastically the options had changed. I can’t express in words the excitement, fear, and self-doubt I felt when I first published the book. Over time all that eased as reviews started coming in stating how much people enjoyed the story. Every once in a while a reader picks it up and doesn’t enjoy it leaving an unfavorable review. When I first published it, that would have torn me up. A year and a half later I shrug and think it wasn’t for them. I move on and continue writing keeping in mind not everybody will be a fan. That’s an important point new writers need to remember not every reader will like your book and even the most accomplished USA Today and New York Times Bestsellers have negative reviews.
Candi: It's been reported that Amazon has over ten million titles (books) listed on their website. What are the challenges for readers in selecting “goodreads” from that many choices? What's your best advice for readers on how to choose an entertaining/interesting book?
Elle: That’s a tough question. Each reader has varied tastes on writing styles and genre choices. Some readers choose purely indie books while others want only traditional published books. My advice is if the book sounds intriguing go for it. Ebook prices make it possible to find new authors without breaking the bank. You won’t enjoy every book but you will broaden your horizons and find new authors. Subscribing to review blogs is a great way to find new books to check out. Social media such as Twitter or Facebook and Google+ groups are a great way to hear about new authors and find new genres. When searching Amazon for a book look for daily deals and Kindle countdowns and don’t limit your reading to Amazon. Places like Smashwords, iBooks, Kobo, Nook, Google Play, Scribd, Flipkart, and others have the same and sometimes a wider variety of books to choose from. For a lover of reading there are far more options available today than ever before. Readers can even sign up with popular websites to review books. Reviewing is a great way to let the author know how much their book was enjoyed. When finding an enjoyable book share, share, and share. Word of mouth is one of the best ways to get the word out about an author or book.
Candi: Isn't it enough for a writer to simply have all the facts for his story and just write it and publish, or to what extent does the writer's imagination play a part in crafting a page-turning novel?
Elle: Imagination has everything to do with it. Stephen King wouldn’t be popular if he wrote dry books that didn’t pique the readers’ interest. His imagination has no limits. I use King because in my opinion he doesn’t write perfect books sometimes they get a bit boring but his wild imagination and suspense building capabilities keeps me on the edge. He may be the most accomplished author in today’s world. His imagination keeps me reading his books along with billions of other readers worldwide. I pale in comparison to him and can only hope to one day have a small percentage of the readers and fans he’s accumulated. What I do have is a vivid imagination that comes out in my books which improve with the publication of each one.
Candi: Some have said writing is not an end result, but a journey that never ends. Do you agree or disagree with that and why?
Elle: Absolutely! Writing is addicting. I can’t stop and look forward daily to spending time with my characters and writing their worlds. Every so often a writer publishes one book, best seller or not, and stops. Do they quit writing? I don’t know. Most authors writing journey starts many years before publishing and many writers never publish. With each story a writer’s skills improve. Practice makes perfect. As a writer I’m always researching and finding resources to improve. It’s a learning process that doesn’t stop with writing alone; reading is a great way for a writer to increase their skills. I read a wide variety of genres, and can’t help but mentally compare and critique their words. This doesn’t stop me from enjoying the story but does help me see strengths and weakness in their styles and critique my own books in a similar way.
Candi: From what I gather, many years ago (think post early printing presses) authors and readers rarely connected or communicated. A reader was lucky to just read the written book. But today the Internet is one huge gathering place where authors and readers communicate freely. How do you feel about those dynamics and how do both authors and readers benefit from that kind of environment? How do you enjoy making and keeping in contact with your readers?
Elle: Social media is a smorgasbord for readers and authors. As an author I enjoy connecting to readers and discussing elements of my books and characters, to congratulating them on their new grandbaby. I enjoy meeting people internationally and finding commonalities in our personalities and lives. I love when readers contact me and ask about my books or tell me how much they enjoyed a particular story or hate or love a specific character.
As a reader I enjoy connecting with authors of my favorite books on a personal level. I find myself more apt to buy books from authors I’ve met and speak with frequently than those I don’t. For example I have never read Fifty Shades of Grey but have purchased 4 Candi Silk titles and read 3 so far. Loved them all. I have never read Hunger Games but have watched all the movies when they came available at Redbox, and enjoyed them. When I meet a new author and like them as a person I buy their book. If I enjoy it I tell the world. My reader is never empty and contains a wide variety of authors and genres.
Candi: Okay, I’d better get busy and write more books. LOL! What are your thoughts on the advantages of the Kindle, Nook, and other e-reader devices? Isn't there something to be said about a real paper and ink book in hand as one sits by the fireside of home and reads?
Elle: An advantage to ereaders is the ability to take hundreds of books on vacation without packing hundreds of books in a suitcase. When I fly or go for a road trip my tablet and hours of entertainment come with me. My 8 inch tablet fits into my purse and comes with me almost everywhere.
I do enjoy paperback books and have a small collection of my favorites including a few autographed books. Paperbacks are a precious commodity. When I get an autographed one I have a hard time reading it because I don’t want to bend the pages or ruin the cover. I also have a hard time autographing books because I feel as though I’m defacing them. As an author signing is a part of life so I’m getting used to it and rarely cringe anymore.
Both types of books have their purpose but I reserve paperbacks for my favorite authors because of the room they take up. I’m a friend to the library where I can borrow a paperback or hardback and give it back so I don’t run out of shelf space in my own home.
Candi: Elle, you have a varied professional background and one rich with many experiences. How has that contributed to your writing?
Elle: Yes, my experiences in life come across in my writing. Not so much my careers as my experiences with other people and peculiar predicaments I get myself into. I’m famous among my friends for making odd choices such as walking several miles home, getting stopped for walking by the police who kept their chuckling under control until they dropped me at home. That experience gave me the cool and frightening opportunity of riding in the back of a police car. And I can say there’s no way to get out unless a person is Houdini. For the record I didn’t break the law. They pulled me over to give me a ride because they didn’t like the idea of a woman walking alone at night. The silliest part—I was 2 blocks from home. My life is littered with strange occurrences and I find I write stuff that comes true months or years later. Eerie!
Candi: Another challenge question: Your Baby Girl series covers approximately 8 years of your protagonist, Cleo? What were the dynamics as you developed her on paper?
Elle: In order to make her realistic I had to consider her age and predicament in life through each book. At ages 12 – 16 during In the Beginning she is alone, scared, and more mature than in later books. But she’s still a child. In later books her situation in life is more comfortable and her inner child breaks out. In Bite the Big Apple, the last book in the series, she is faced with answers to questions that have plagued her for 8 years. She’s overwhelmed, relieved, and forced to reflect on her inner journey.
Candi: What can readers look forward to from the writing studio of Elle Klass in the next 12 months?
Elle: My big surprise and unofficial announcement the four Baby Girl books are currently undergoing editing and will be formatted into a box set available in paperback and ebook formats. I’ve been keeping this under wraps but the date of its launch is drawing near. The boxset will include never read before prologue, epilogue, and scenes. The idea came from Baby Girl readers who love the series and continue to ask, ‘Will Baby Girl ever be available in paperback?’ I value readers’ opinions and ideas. Having said that, Cleo’s journey is only beginning so readers can expect more Baby Girl shorts and possible box sets in the future. I enjoy writing her character and hope throughout the course of Cleo’s journey to answer all its readers’ questions.
Calm Before the Storm Evan’s Sins Vol. 2 Ruthless Storm Trilogy is my next project. My goal is to have it available for preorder by late fall for release in early 2016. I’m not saying much about this yet except Vol. 2 is a prequel, read Vol. 1 Eye of the Storm Eilida’s Tragedy within the next several months in preparation and expect an increase in suspense.
Candi: Elle, thank you for taking time to share your thoughts and giving us an inside look at your fascinating writing world.
Elle: Thank you I enjoyed the opportunity to share and hope your readers will take the chance and check out my books.
Candi: Here's how you can experience the entertaining writing of Elle Klass, author of multi-genres.
Elle’s Online Links:
Sign up for newsletter here- http://elleklass.weebly.com/contact-mailing-list.html
Amazon author page- http://www.amazon.com/Elle-Klass/e/B00F2Y48C0/
Amazon author U.K.- http://www.amazon.co.uk/Elle-Klass/e/B00F2Y48C0/