INTERVIEW by @kendrybird: Emily White, Author of Elemental
Just because Ella can burn someone to the ground with her mind doesn’t mean she should.
But she wants to.
For ten years, since she was a small child, Ella has been held prisoner. Now that she’s escaped, she needs answers. Elemental, Emily White’s taut YA sci-fi thriller debut (Spencer Hill Press, May 2012) confronts many of our greatest fears… darkness, loneliness and the power within each of us to become either the hero or villain in the plotline of our life. Ella must discover whether she will be the prophesied Destructor or if she will, instead, be destroyed.
Young adults understand better than anyone the tumultuous questions of growing up, and will be able to relate strongly to Ella’s journey to discover who she is.
I interviewed Emily for Pure Textuality, asking her the questions only a fellow author could ask an author. Join us for some thoughts on inspiration, symbolism, music and the publishing process.
Kendra for Pure Textuality [Kendra]: Elemental is your debut novel, but we writers know that writing and publishing are completely different veins of the writing life. How many novels had you written before Elemental, or was it your first finished full-length project?
Emily White [Emily]: I’d only finished one novel before ELEMENTAL, but it showed me I could finish one. I’d started so many stories over the years I’ve lost count. Unfortunately, none of them really made it past the first 100 pages.
Kendra: I’ve noticed that writing is similar to acting in so many aspects. Even just the research involved in writing a novel can leave you with traces of your characters and settings. Did you feel yourself becoming any of your characters as you wrote, or taking on some of their habits and quirks?
Emily: Yes, yes, yes! Oh my goodness do I agree with you. I actually studied a little bit of theater in college, so I like to compare acting to a lot of things.
But do I feel myself becoming my characters as I write? Uh…yes. It’s probably a bad thing, actually, seeing as I tend to fall in love with the love interests (shhh! Don’t tell my husband!). I can definitely say I became Ella in a lot of ways. Her favorite color became my favorite color for a long time and when she was depressed, I’d end up wallowing in my room for days on end. In fact, Ella was the first character I ever wrote who wasn’t a fictional version of myself, so it was really weird when I started acting like her.
Kendra: That’s really interesting, and no, I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all! I remember feeling that an old wedding ring was one of the most important aspects of my character, Elisha, in my last novel. He wore the wedding ring sewed onto his jacket, to keep it near his heart and remember his late wife. I actually sewed a gold band into my jacket at the time, to keep him close and have that aspect of him close. And I think I took on some of his sadness in life, which is probably why my family was happy when I was finished writing about him.
When you finished the book, finished all of the edits and finally saw it off… what was your first feeling? Relief? Sadness? The unreasonable desire to eat a tub of ice cream and watch movies and do everything you couldn’t do while writing?
Emily: Restlessness and a sense of inadequacy. I had supreme control over my WIP when writing (and to a lesser extent, editing. I did get to decide which advice I wanted to take and which I chose to ignore, after all) so when everything was all done and ELEMENTAL was out there, I felt inadequate, like I no longer had control over it. And you know, that’s the thing about finding the right publishing company. Putting your book in the hands of someone who loves it is like magic. There’s no longer this issue of having control or losing it because you realize the person you’re working with doesn’t just love your book, she/he shares your vision.
And you know, I actually forgot to celebrate when I was all done with ELEMENTAL. So no yummy ice cream for me. Maybe next time I’ll make a cake.
Kendra: Cake is one of my number one goals in life. Now, do you write to certain music? Some authors have become more vocal about the music that inspires them. Stephanie Meyer talked a lot about how much she loved Muse (I agree with her on that one! Completely agree!), and many authors, myself included, create playlists for each project. Did you have certain bands or albums that inspired or helped your writing? Tell me about a few of them.
Emily: Oh boy do I! I need music when I’m writing. I am so easily distracted and I have kids who don’t necessarily sleep when they should be napping, so having a way to drown out the little noises is a must. Plus, I only have certain hours that I can work. Listening to music I feel reflects my MC’s situation or personality helps me get into the story faster.
The songs I listened to most while writing ELEMENTAL were Hurt, by Johnny Cash, Monster, by Skillet, Iridescent, byLinkinPark, and Unbreakable, by Fireflight.
Kendra: Your protagonist has been locked away in darkness for years. Darkness and claustrophobia are two major fears for a number of people. Was this inspired by any particular fear or symbolism for you?
Emily: Maybe? I don’t know. That sounds like such a pathetic answer because, as the author I SHOULD know, but I really don’t. While writing, I would have said definitely not. That I was just creating a situation that needed to be created for the story to progress the way I wanted it to. But after finishing it and not looking at it for a while, when I come back and read it I see how her feelings closely reflected mine during pretty low points in my life. And how the darkness could symbolize a fear of the unknown and the uncontrollable (why yes, I DO have control issues. Have you noticed that yet?).
The weird (or perhaps wonderful and amazing!) thing is that I’ve had the first chapter up on my blog in the past and I’ll run into people or they’ll email me and tell me they cried because that beginning touched them, that it reminded them of their own struggles with depression. So maybe my subconscious DID make it symbolic. Or maybe darkness is such a powerful force in itself that any mention of it can’t help but evoke certain feelings and fears.
Kendra: It’s worth noting that when the book trailer for ELEMENTAL was filmed, one of the main pointers we gave the actress (Luna Gracie) was to think about depression and loneliness. She connected to that really strongly, so you nailed that.
What books have inspired you most as a writer in recent years?
Emily: It might not be popular, but I have to say it! Twilight changed my writing life. I didn’t even know the YA genre existed until I read that series. The moment I read the last page, I went to my computer and totally rewrote my WIP from Adult to Young Adult. That being said, I feel I should warn your readers that ELEMENTAL is nothing like Ms. Meyer’s series. I’m sorry if that disappoints them, but I hope they will forgive me.
A series that has always and will forever inspire me is The Chronicles of Narnia. I know you said recent years, but their effect on my writing is a perpetual thing, so I think they qualify.
Another one is the Maze Runner series by James Dashner. It’s so disturbing, so graphic, and so real.
Kendra: No shame in those choices. I still think one of my biggest influences in writing has been “A Wrinkle In Time”! So many YA books have that element of wonder in them that isn’t lost, even when you grow up and return to them. Which is, I believe, part of why the YA genre is so popular right now (and so lasting in all respects).
Elemental is a fresh take on so many concepts, and a truly exciting read. I have a feeling that you’ll soon be barraged with readers who love your book and want more from you. What is their best way of reaching you, or keeping track of your new projects?
Emily: Aww, thank you! The best place to find me is my blog (http://www.emilytwhite.blogspot.com) and on facebook (me: http://www.facebook.com/ElementalTrilogy?ref=tn_tnmn ELEMENTAL’s fan page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Elemental/212879475408278) Thanks again, Kendra!
Emily White’s ELEMENTAL will be released in May 2012 through Spencer Hill Press. The much anticipated trailer for the book will be released soon, so keep an eye on her site and on http://www.spencerhillpress.com for that.
Author: Emily White
Publication Date: May 2012
Suggested age range: 13 & up
BISAC Category: Juvenile Fiction (Fantasy and Magic)
Interview by Kendra L. Saunders. Kendra L. Saunders is the author of many works of fiction, poetry and nonfiction, including the novel Inanimate Objects and popular how-to piece for writers, The Five-Headed Muse. She’s won Runner Up in the Writer’s Digest Book Awards and writes regularly for Pure Textuality. She is also marketing coordinator for Spencer Hill Press. Visit her online for information, interview requests and tips for writers at http://www.kendralsaunders.com