We’d like to welcome Award Winning Author Elaine Russell today. Elaine is the author of the adult novel Across the Mekong River and five other books for young adult and children. Three is her book have been awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion.
What are your writing goals for spring?
This has been a very long, cold and wet winter. We are a bit spoiled in Northern California as normally there are brief reprieves of sunny days and warmer temperatures. Not this season. After five years of drought the rain is desperately needed, but it makes bundling up for a walk or bike ride far from appealing. On the bright side, it has forced me to settle in and work on my newest adult novel. It is a treat to have an uninterrupted day of writing, snuggled up on the sofa, listening to the patter of the rain.
My goal is to finish this book, which I started two years ago, by the end of April. I completed a first draft back in September and hired a great editor, Jennifer Pooley, to help me think through the story and characters. Armed with her helpful suggestions, I slaved all winter on revisions. This is a historical novel about three sisters in 1901 Denver set against the backdrop of the women’s suffrage movement. I loved doing the research. What a thrill it was to come upon original letters from Susanne B. Anthony, Lucy Stone and Carrie Chapman Catt in the collection of one of Colorado’s suffrage leaders, Ellis Meredith. I’m always amazed by the serendipity of finding events or facts that fit in perfectly with the story or lead me to a wonderful new idea that connects all the dots.
The current draft of the book is making another round with writing friends. I hope to make final changes and send it off to a copy editor soon. (The last and very essential step before publishing.) I am always sad to leave behind the world of my characters, who feel like family after all this time together. On the other hand, it’s exciting to embark on the development of the next book.
When do your best ideas come to you for a story?
Ideas for new stories originate from many places – an article, a conversation with a friend or an encounter while traveling. I normally begin with a general concept and trajectory for the book, trusting that the details of the story and characters will evolve as I write. At the moment, I’m considering another novel about Laos where my first adult novel Across the Mekong River is set in part. This story would take place during the French Colonial period. For the last year I’ve been studying French in order to read history books and novels about that era. But my limited familiarity with the language means it will take some time!
I do some of my best thinking when I’m engaged in activities like walking or gardening, when I can zone out and let my mind wander unfettered. Ideas also float by as I’m just about to fall asleep then I have to hope I remember them in the morning. I try not to write in the evening as my mind keeps buzzing for hours and I can’t get to sleep.
What are some of the health and lifestyle choices you make to help you become a better writer?
I exercise just about every day, even if it’s only a short walk. It wakes me up and keeps me energized to get things done. I also eat well, with lots of fresh vegetables and fruit — brain food. I have to counterbalance my sweet tooth and recent obsession with salted caramels. As spring emerges, I look forward to spring produce as it become available – asparagus, spring onions, fresh peas, rhubarb, and mangoes. I absolutely have to have a full night of sleep or I cannot function or think. And of course, I read all the time to keep my mind alive. I’ve just finished three wonderful novels – A Gentleman in Moscow, News of the World and The Atomic Weight of Love.
Today the sun is out, the sky is blue, and tulip trees and camellia bushes are bursting into bloom. All things seem possible.