Author Interview: Ellie Lieberman

two hands holding open a book, a cup of tea sits beside the book; text says 'author interview: indie book spotlight'

Follow Ellie Lieberman on Twitter!

1.      Paperback, hardback, audiobook?

As an author. Yes. To them all.

As a reader, paperbacks are generally my go-to. After countless moves, hardbacks can be a nightmare when trying to pack nicely. There are some beautiful hardbacks, and I have kept my all-time favorites, including a masterpiece edition of one of my favorite books, Les Misérables, that my boyfriend gave me for Christmas one year. There’s a new trend by publishers to put out a hardcover before paperbacks for newer books, and my Alix Harrow books that I adore are both hardbacks because I cannot wait to read her brilliant work. Being a starving author and artist, more often than not, a lot of my personal library is made up of second-hand paperbacks.

Audiobooks are amazing for a number of reasons. They can be great in terms of accessibility for a number of readers. I, however, have a processing disorder that make things like audiobooks close to impossible for me to enjoy. That being said, there have been a few I’ve listened to from books very near and dear to my heart, like To Miss the Star by Barbara Lieberman, that I could listen to time and time again.

2.      Pick a genre, any genre!

I always struggle with genre. My reading habits tend to be all over the place. It’s sometimes easier to pinpoint what I don’t like. Some of my favorite books as a reader include banned and challenged books. I tend to gravitate toward historical fiction, but I have also loved fantasy books. Genre isn’t always something I look at for a deciding factor, though I do tend to stay far away from horror, just because I struggle enough with sleeping without any added help. I’m more of a “tell me it’s a good book and why.”

The same is true for me for writing. Though, there is an idea I have that involves a horror element to it. Generally, I only pay attention to genre when I have to, in terms of what categories to put the book in when publishing on Amazon and for marketing.

3.      What is the first book you remember reading?

My childhood was always full of books, from packed shelves decorating the home (to this day, I find well-loved books to be the best home décor), to trips to the library and Barnes & Noble. Books were always part of the bedtime routine, they shaped some beloved family traditions, and, to add to this literary wonderland of my childhood, my mother was a writer and regaled me at night with the tales she’d typed earlier that day. This makes it hard to pin-point the very first book.

I remember one of my all-time favorites growing up was My Mama Had a Dancing Heart by Libba Moore Gray. I still have my hardback copy (the spine has a tear and it’s seen better days, but it’s survived multiple moves, including one across the country). It’s still part of my family’s lexicon.

Anne of Green Gable by L.M. Montgomery was one of those books that was just always around. My love of this series was passed down from my grandmother (still have her copy with her name written in it) and my mother.

One of the books that was included in a family tradition was The Birthday Moon by Lois Duncan. This was a book we originally got from the library. We loved it so much my mother wound up paying the library for it since it was out of print, and she could find a copy nowhere else. To this day, we read this book on everyone’s birthday.

These are just the first three that come to mind.

4.      What book shaped your childhood most?

I recently wrote a blog about the books that shaped my life on my author website. To summarize that blog, along with the three previously mentioned, other books that shaped my childhood include Treasure of Ravenwood by Barbara Lieberman (My mother’s book! I became an author at her keyboard, listening to this book come into being!), Go Ask Alice by Anonymous (5th grade, given to me by my mother, much to the horror of my teacher), and I Am a Emotional Creature by Eve Ensler (once more, given to me by my mother, and one of the only books that got me through 8th grade).

5.      When did you first start writing?

This is something else I wrote about on my blog and on Vocal. My mother says I started writing as soon as I could hold a crayon and that I learned to write, to write down my stories. I remember always telling stories. On car rides with my grandfather, I’d begin a story when the keys went into the ignition and finish my story by the time we pulled up to our destination. I remember using my drawing pads and notebooks to draw a picture and write a story to go along with it. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.

6.      What made you want to write? Does it still hold true?

My mother always said that I learned to write, to write down my stories. I come from a family of story tellers and writers. It feels like a gift that was handed down to me to do with as I wish, and I’ve just been running with it. I write because I have stories to tell, and I love telling them.

7.      What book/poem are you most proud of creating?

At the moment, I’m most proud of my most recent novel, Be. As I say in the acknowledgements, “Fourteen years and two banker’s boxes full of notebooks and binders and countless rewrites and manuscripts devoured by the computer gods and lost to time …” It took quite a bit of perseverance to have it see the light of day, and it is the story that has not only been with me the longest, but sparked an entire series, including two companion short story collections.

The prequel, An Impossible Dream, will be coming out later this year.

8.      Did you publish your first book or is it for your eyes only?

Having written for as long as I have, there have been quite a few stories that will never see the light of day. Certain stories, like my most recent novel, Be, have been with me for fourteen years before publishing.

9.      How many books/collections have you published so far?

I have eleven books published so far. As of right now, this includes six illustrated children’s books, a few from two different series (I do my own illustrations); four short stories; and a novel (first in a series).

More of my writing can be found on Vocal.media, as well as in Re-Membering with Goddess: Healing the Patriarchal Perpetuation of Trauma.

10.   What genres do you write in (or hope to)?

My current genres kind of run the gambit from illustrated children’s to children’s chapter books, short stories, holiday, dystopian, fantasy, contemporary YA, and I’m calling my novel Literary Fiction, mostly because I can’t figure out what other genre it might be.

Future genres include a sort of time-travel and a mystery/horror. I’d love to write historical fiction at some point, too.

11.   Do you do research for your writing or is it all in your head?

Both. The majority of my writing is all in my head. I find completely fictional settings easier to write. I’d love to try my hand at historical fiction, but I find tackling a real setting to be daunting for fear of what I might accidentally get wrong. That being said, I do a lot of weird and interesting research for my books, like when doorknobs were first invented to make sure it makes sense for a more medieval time period.

I tend to love research and looking things up when questions occur to me anyway, and knowledge from those interests tend to spill over into my writing, like plants and gardening. Questions I have come from everyday activities like cooking, for example. Regardless, if it’s intended for my writing, I like to look it up anyway.

My family has always encouraged endless learning and fostered curiosity. We joke around that my mother is a fount of useless information. My boyfriend, too, has a lot of “did you knows” in his pocket. So, while I research for my books, often times it’s research I’ve done on my own that winds up inspiring different things in my books, too. It’s a lovely cycle.

The majority of my research is probably for my children’s books, though. One of my children’s books series, Basil Basset Books, is about word origins or origins of idioms, as is the case for the upcoming third book in that series. The first two are about “butterfly” and “dandelion,” and the back of the book also includes facts about those themes. The same is true for my Ben’s Little Book Series, which teach important lessons about the little, but important, things in life through the garden, plants, and nature.

12.   To plan, or not to plan your plot?

I am a complete pantser. I write what comes, and then I quilt all the random scenes together.

That being said, the series I’m currently working on jumps around a bit between book order and overall story timeline. This requires me to keep more notes of when things happen. It still doesn’t quite feel like plotting, probably because I’m writing multiple books in the series at the same time, but it is a shift in my writing method.

13.   What route of publishing have you chosen? Do you plan to stick with it?

I self-publish my books. One of my newest writings is in the Re-Membering with Goddess: Dismantling the Patriarchal Perpetuation of Trauma anthology, published by the small press, Girl God Books. Going forward, I will probably stick with self-publishing. If a small or big press want to pick up my books, though, I’d be happy to discuss the opportunity with them!

14.   If you could live inside another author’s universe, which one would you pick? (Ex: Middle Earth, Narnia, etc.)

This is such a difficult question because, while there are so many cool worlds authors have created, I kind of like being able to return to my universe after a bit. I’m probably overthinking the question.

My first immediate thought is not so much a different universe as a setting in a historical fiction. In Barbara Lieberman’s book To Miss The Stars, I’d love to live in Emma Marsden’s garden. The second thought is from the book I’m currently reading, The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. I’m not that far into the book yet, but the sort of library that is The Starless Sea sounds like it would be incredible to explore. Or the witch’s home in The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill.

15.   Do you currently have a WIP?

My current WIP is An Impossible Dream. It is the prequel to the novel I published last year, Be. An Impossible Dream is the story of a character mentioned in Be and follows the brother’s love interest, Sare, from when she first enters the castle to a little after Be takes place.

Here’s the working blurb: A story of friendship, love, survival, and dreams, even when they seem impossible.

Sare survived fifteen years playing the perfect little servant, but can she survive the castle? After all, as Elsbie tells her, “Nowhere compares to the castle and no one compares to the King.”

16.   Tell me about the character you’ve created who is dearest to your heart.

I could no sooner choose a favorite book. Each character feels real and unique to me and has a special place in my heart. It would feel wrong to pick a favorite, and I’d be terrified those whose feelings might get hurt will stop talking to me and I still have two more books in the series and a short story collection after my current WIP. Even those standalone books that are already published are full of characters I love equally. I adore them all too much to choose one. They are all precious and deserve much more love than they find at the mercy of me as their author.

17.   What do you consider your *current* magnum opus?

My most popular books among my readers seem to be Society’s Foundlings and The Memory Tree. My children’s books, especially The Butter Thief, are well loved. However, I’d consider my current magnum opus to be the series I’m currently working on, beginning with my most recent novel, Be.

Part of this might be just how expansive the world of Be has become. That first book was fourteen years in the making and I never intended for it to be a series, let alone grow into what is currently four books, a companion short story collection, and a collection of fairy tales. When the world first came to me, it had two kingdoms at most. Now, I know there are at least five, with at least one more potential kingdom overseas. Be takes place over the course of less than a year. The prequel coming out sometime later this year, An Impossible Dream, takes place over the course of six years. The third book, which is a sort of prequel of the prequel, takes place over the course of seventeen years.

That’s just the setting itself. The cast of characters has grown by leaps and bounds with more randomly walking on every once in a while. With how much larger it is, it feels like a big deal, and I’m in love with the overall stories that come from it.

I’ve always heard that a writer should grow with each work. Each book should be better than the one previously. If that’s true, then the Be series will probably be my magnum opus for a few more years to come, too.

18.   Do you have a favourite romance in your books? Or, if yours features no romance, tell us about your favourite character friendship!

I tend to write friendship more than romance, though my newest book series, does feature a number of romantic relationships that I’m a big fan of. In my book Be, this relationship is only mentioned, but is explored in the upcoming books, including the prequel, An Impossible Dream. Sare and Fra’s relationship is a fairy tale amidst terror, love in the face of cruelty. I have a thing for endearing romances, the kinds that are sweet and somewhat bumbling. I had a lot of fun writing them.

As for friendship, in An Impossible Dream, I enjoy the friendship between Sare and the four girls who become like family. They’re the kind of friends who love each other through the good, the fun, the hard, and the ugly. In Be, I love Henry and Ari’s friendship. I like the way it develops through the story. I enjoy Math and Clem from Society’s Foundlings. As the characters reflect in the book, “One thing you can always count on is Math and Clem. You can’t have one without the other. They’ve always been friends for as long as any of us can remember.”

19.   Do you listen to music as you write? Recommend a favourite writing song.

Absolutely! They can help get me in the mood and often my mom – my alpha reader – and I assign songs to certain characters. There’s many, many songs on my playlist for my books, but just one singer/songwriter in particular that seems to always capture my characters is Beth Crowley. Songs like ‘I Didn’t Ask For This’, ‘Hard to Kill’, ‘I Am Not Nothing’, and ‘Worth It’, I always associate with Ari from my novel, Be.

One song in particular that captures a character introduced in my upcoming novel, Gracelynn,  is ‘She Used to Be Mine’ by Sara Bareilles.

20.   Do you have any character art for your books, whether by you or another artist? (Be sure to credit/link if you can!)

I did a couple quick doodles of my characters for my novel, Be. I combined them with quotes from or about the characters for a sticker set that is available in my Etsy Shop.

Not character art, but my first ever fan art was from The Enchanted Wren. She did an original 3D miniature paper art scene of The Queen’s Room that is an important setting for all four books in the series. She wrote a blog about it, too.

I highly encourage fanart of my work and would be so honored if my books could speak that much to a reader! If anyone were to make fanart of my books, I’d love to be tagged and to know and to share it with much gushing through an obscene amount of exclamation points and emojis!

21.   If you could give one piece of advice to an aspiring author, what would it be?

There’s three pieces of advice that helped me greatly as an author, but if I only have to pick one it is to take all advice with a grain of salt. Take what works. Leave what doesn’t. Everyone will have something to say. It’s up to you, as the author, to find what works best for you. There’s no one right way.

22.   Have you entered any writer contests? Tell us about your experience!

I have entered a few writing contests, with little success. I enjoy participating in the writing challenges on Vocal. One of their biggest challenges and competitions last year I made runner up, which was pretty exciting.

23.   Who are your top 5-10 favourite writers?

Alix E. Harrow
Andrea Gibson
Barbara Lieberman
Evangeline Duran Fuentes
Ray Bradbury
Danielle Dulsky
Kurt Vonnegut
Jane Austen

Just to name a few of the first ones that have popped into my head!

24.   Link us your book/twitter/goodreads or wherever we can best connect with you!

You can find all my links available on my Linktr.ee, including Amazon, Goodreads, signed copies in my Etsy Shop, Vocal, my websites, and all of my social media.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s