My writing group, Creative Misfits, chose Frostblood for our January book of the month. Collectively, we all loved the book and had great discussions during the month.
I feel honored and lucky that Elly was willing to let me interview her. She was supportive to us and is such a great person. I’m looking forward to reading Fireblood and Nightblood next.
Please, enjoy this interview. 🙂
Elly Blake is the New York Times bestselling author of the Frostblood Saga. After earning a BA in English literature, she held a series of seemingly random jobs, including project manager, customs clerk, graphic designer, a reporter for a local business magazine, and library assistant. She lives in Southwestern Ontario with her husband, kids and a Siberian Husky mix who definitely shows Frostblood tendencies.
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What inspired you to first start writing? Is your motivation to write now different or the same as before?
“Even though my first love was fantasy, it was my discovery of romance novels in my teens that made me want to write. I kept imagining extra scenes that weren’t in the books. Finally, many years later, I tried to write contemporary romance but found that my voice didn’t suit the genre. Then I tried writing a YA fantasy–a genre I’d fallen in love with–and I found my voice suited that better.”
Writers are projected as loners or introverts. Is this true for you?
“I’m an introvert, but not always a loner. I need interactions with friends on a regular basis, and I feel better if I’m not alone too much. After social interactions, I do cherish my alone time, which often involves reading (of course.)”
What genre do you like to write in? Why?
“I enjoy writing YA fantasy because I can mix my love of romance with my love of adventure, action, and magic.”
How often do you write and what schedule to you like to keep?
“I try to write every day. Some days are productive. Some are not. Lately, I’ve been writing at a coffee shop with a writing buddy because sitting at home alone isn’t working as well as it used to. Some days I’m still stuck (writer’s block or unsure of my next plot point), but I try to do something writing-related every day so I don’t completely lose touch with my story. If I go a few days without writing, it’s harder to get back into it when I do try to pick it up again.”
What is the easiest part of writing to you?
“I could write dialogue all day long. Mind you, that doesn’t mean the dialogue in my first draft is scintillating! More often, my characters get too chatty, and go on too long with quippy but pointless conversation. And my villains like to evil-monologue in my first drafts. I do my best to cut the extraneous stuff in edits.”
Can you share any tips on inspiring other writers to pursue their dreams?
“I would say that you don’t know what you’re capable of until you try–and try for a good chunk of time. Everyone starts out a beginner, which means we are usually not great at writing when we start. (I certainly wasn’t. And I’m still learning.) It takes a lot of practice to improve. But anyone can improve with dedication and effort. If writing is your dream, pursue it! And it’s ok to write just for yourself, too. You don’t have to be published to call yourself a writer. A writer is someone who writes. Period.”
What is your favorite thing about being a writer? Why?
“Kind messages from readers are definitely the best thing about being a writer. A reader recently said that she identified with my character not fitting in, and she shared how my books meant a lot to her. I was so touched to think I had helped someone!
Also, Instagram is my happy place. I’m in awe of the time and effort bookstagrammers put into their photos! I absolutely love seeing my book(s) placed alongside beautiful things.”
Who would you compare your work to? What differences set you apart?
“I know who I’d like to be compared to, but I’m not sure I’m there so it feels presumptuous to say. (That answer brought to you by Impostor Syndrome.) J I admire so many writers, but I realize I can never write quite the way they do. I think ultimately the point is not to strive to become someone else (a mistake I often make), but to find our own voices and make them the best and strongest they can be.”
Does a bad review affect your writing?
“First, I just want to acknowledge that I’m grateful for every review. It takes time and effort to review a book after taking the time to read, so thank you to all who do! And we all have our own specific tastes and preferences, which are valid to each of us.
However, bad reviews do affect my creativity, at least temporarily, so I try not to look at reviews too much. Sometimes it hurts because the review is really harsh, but more often it’s because the reviewer pointed out a weakness, and I agree with what they said. The hardest ones to read are the ones from readers who really wanted to like the book, but it just didn’t meet their expectations. I wish I could make every reader happy. Alas, that’s not how it works.”
What did you want to be when you grew up as a child?
“Hmm, let me think. Going back to young childhood, I wanted to be an Olympic figure skater…but I was terrible at figure skating. Then I wanted to be an illustrator, but I didn’t show much talent for drawing. (Though I still enjoy drawing sometimes.) And I also wanted to be a writer…and hey, I did that! Yay!”
What book have you read that has been the most life changing?
“The Chronicles of Narnia introduced me to fantasy. (I wished desperately that Narnia was real.) In my teens, I found Robin McKinley’s fierce female heroines, and I adored them so much. I also read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and then Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, followed by the rest of Austen’s books. I identified with heroines who had a lot to say, even though I had trouble speaking my mind.”
Are you working on anything right now? If so, what can you share?
“I am in the messy plotting stages of a new project, which means I’ve tried to outline and drafted some of it, but I still haven’t discovered the main story. First, it was going to be historical fantasy and then I realized I’d have to do bonkers amounts of research for that, so I changed my mind. Haha. So it’s high fantasy, and the magic system borrows a little bit from Nightblood, but not so much from Frostblood or Fireblood. Just to give you a teaser.”
Who is in your support system? How do they keep you motivated?
“I have writer friends and critique partners whom I chat with online regularly, if not daily. I rely completely on these dear friends to bolster me, encourage me, read my stuff, nudge me when I need a kick, and be wise when I’m feeling panicked or overly negative. In return, I try my best to do the same for them.
My husband is also an incredible support for me every single day. He encouraged me to join writing groups and go to conferences long before I was published, all of which cost money that we didn’t really have at that time. He brings me coffee or tea when I’m writing and just generally makes sure I am able to focus on writing as much as possible. I’m very lucky!”
Do you keep a blog or a journal? How does it help you as a writer?
“I have a writing diary, but I only write in it every few months when I hit a real low point and need to vent. It’s more of a last resort to get my feelings out so I’m not so overwhelmed. I don’t enjoy journaling, unfortunately. I wish I did!
Do you have any daily mantras? What do you tell yourself to keep your inspiration alive?
I need those. Do you have those? Where can I get those? Ha.
I do have some quotes posted by my computer that sometimes help. “Perfect is the enemy of good.” (I’m not sure who first said that.) And Dr. Seuss’ quote, “I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells.” Also, Andy Warhol’s quote, “Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”
I also have a page that says “Keep it simple” front and center above my computer. I tend to overcomplicate things.”
What is one thing you want people to know about you as a writer? A person?
“As a writer, my goal is to entertain! I want to provide a temporary escape from the harder parts of life. I hope I can get better at doing that. I think we all need to be transported sometimes.
As a person, I’m an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person). Realizing that changed my life because until then, I thought there was something inherently wrong with me. If you’re wondering about yourself, do the questionnaire at the beginning of the book The Highly Sensitive Person by Elaine Aron. If you have so much empathy that life is sometimes painful, and you feel overwhelmed a lot, you might be an HSP, too!”
What are your career goals?
“All the usual things! I want to keep writing and improving, as I still have so much to learn. I’d like to have strong enough sales that I can continue getting published, and it would be amazing if one of my books were made into a tv show or movie someday!”
How will you handle fame if/when you reach that level? How do you think it will change your writing?
“Fame in the book world is lovely because it means bookish people like you, and bookish people are the best people. I would hope I would never stop being grateful. I think fame can actually make writing harder, so I don’t know how that would affect me. I’m already pretty hard on myself, to the point that I’m often paralyzed creatively.”
What advice would you give your younger self about writing?
“Take the first baby step. You don’t have to learn it all at once.”
Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?
“No, but I have thought of writing a book of family history, just for my family to read.”
How did you celebrate the launch of your book?
“My wonderful mom organized a launch at a local indie bookstore for my first and second books. She handled all the food and the details so I just had to show up! I had great support from local people, which meant so much to me. Also, there were cupcakes. That is important.”
If given the chance, what author would you interview? What is the most important question you would ask?
“Oh wow! That’s too hard. Lol. I could find questions to ask just about any author. I love talking about writing.”
Have you experienced writer’s block? How do you handle it?
“All. The. Time. Unfortunately. I don’t have any tried and true tips. I usually ask other writers for their tips so I can try them. These are some things I’ve heard: take a walk, take a shower, take a drive, get near water, read a favorite book, watch a movie, exercise, work on another story, lower your expectations, nap, travel, free write, meditate, write long-hand, write scenes out of order. I’m sure I’m forgetting some. Any or none of these may work at any given time.”
What would you tell others who are considering traditional/self-publishing? Any advice?
“The best advice I ever received in this regard was, “Know what you want.” If your dream is to walk into a bookstore and find your book on a shelf, you probably need to focus on traditional publishing. If you want complete control over your cover and marketing, self-publishing might suit you better. Research before you decide. Neither is easy. Still, the best things in life are often the hardest, so why not try, right?”
What do you want to be remembered for as a writer? A person?
“As a writer, I hope I’m remembered for providing enjoyable reads with memorable characters. As a person, I hope I’m remembered for good things like kindness and compassion.”
Thank you, Elly!