Welcome! Please introduce yourself and tell us about your latest release.
I’d be delighted to! My name is Elaine Cantrell. I was born and raised in South Carolina so I eat grits, and I say ya’ll which is always plural. (Try shrimp and grits sometimes. Yummy.) I have a Master’s Degree in Personnel Services from Clemson University, and I’m a member of Alpha Delta Kappa, an international honorary sorority for women educators. I’m also a member of Romance Writer’s of America and EPIC authors. My second novel, A New Leaf, was the 2003 winner of the Timeless Love Contest and was published in 2004 by Oak Tree Books. At present I teach high school social studies. I spend my spare time-if there is any-collecting vintage Christmas ornaments, reading, and playing with my grandchildren. I usually have to go to bed to recover after keeping the kids, but who cares?
Have you ever had an idea for a story which scared you after you began writing it?
Not scared as in frightened, but it has daunted me to think of the tremendous task ahead of me. Some books are far more difficult than others to write. Right now I’m working on a time travel novel. My research for this book gave me a splitting headache. It took me all day to finally grasp what the scientists say about it, and I only skimmed the surface. I’m a bit of a perfectionist too, and it does concern me that I’ll send a book out into the world before I’ve caught all of the mistakes. My first book sat on my computer from 2002 until 2011because every time I’d read through it I’d find something I wanted to change. I finally bit the bullet and sent it out, and Astraea Press picked it up.
And I have to say that March 15 is release day for that first book! It’s called A New Dream, and you can get it at http://www.astraeapress.com I hope you won’t mind if I tell your readers about my cupcake party which I’m giving at my blog on March 15. My heroine is a baker, so a cupcake party sounded just right. I’m sharing excerpts and giving away prizes, all of which have a cupcake theme. My blog address is http://www.elainepcantrell.blogspot.com
Have you incorporated actual events from your own life into your books?
Oh, sure. I tried to change them just a little so people wouldn’t recognize themselves, but I use them all the time. For example, in A New Dream my hero becomes a grocery store manager after he’s in an accident that destroys his pro-football career. I got some info from my granddaughter who worked in a grocery store.
How much research do you do? Do you research first and then write, or do you write first, then research as needed?
How much research I need really depends on the book. I’ve already mentioned my time travel novel. I had to do a lot for that one. And for A New Dream my granddaughter helped me. After he retired, my dad worked part time as a motel desk clerk. The stories he’d tell about the people who checked in would raise your hair. I put a lot of those into The Welcome Inn which is about a motel. (http://www.wings-press.com) I usually write and then research as necessary.
Is there any message you want readers to take from reading your work?
I want my readers to see that even though things go wrong in life, there’s always reason for hope. Matt McCallum in A New Dream lost a leg and couldn’t play pro-football anymore. He thought his dreams were lost forever, but he was wrong. There was a lot of good things waiting on him.
Are you a plotter or a pantser? And have you ever had a story take on a life of its own?
More of a punster than a plotter. I know my starting point, and I know what the finish line looks like, but between those two points I have no idea what’s going to happen. A New Dream is one of those stories that took on a life of its own. I had dreadful trouble keeping one of my secondary characters in line. He wanted to hog the show! I noticed how many times he forced his way into a scene and realized that one day he might need a book of his own.
How long did it take for you to be published?
Not too long. I started writing in 2001, and A New Leaf won the Timeless Love Contest in 2003 and was published in 2004.
If you could go back and tell yourself anything when you first began your writing career, what would you say?
I’d say to enjoy the journey and write from your heart without worrying how other people will view your work. I’d also say not to let someone edit your book to the point that it isn’t your story at all.
Laptop or pen and ink? What are your ‘must-haves’ when writing?
Laptop. Can’t write without it. I also need a tall glass of cold ice water and a tapping straw. I bet you never heard of that, did you? A tapping straw is one of those bendy, plastic straws. I was having trouble with a scene one day, and I started tapping with a straw I’d put on the coffee table. I swear it helped me think! From that time on, I keep one handy. The other members of my family have picked up the habit too. You’d be surprised how hard it is to keep one! Actually, I’m twiddling a straw now as I read over what I’ve written. (You can laugh if you want to. I know it’s kinda weird.)
Who are your favorite authors? Who would you say influenced you the most?
I’ve read so much in my life it’s almost impossible to say. Right now I do enjoy Karen White, Elizabeth Peters, and Gemma Halliday.
What would your readers be surprised to learn about you?
A lot of things I expect, but let’s go with this one. I adopted a rescue dog a week or so ago. To say he’s challenging is an understatement. Today he pulled a huge amount of fringe from my oriental rug in the dining room. I had given him a pig’s ear to play with, and I thought he was being good. No such luck.
What is your favorite Spring Break vacation?
Charleston, SC. It’s totally beautiful and so historical. I teach history, remember?
Favorite St. Patrick’s Day memory or ritual? (ie: Do you wear green? Fix corned beef and cabbage? Speak with an Irish dialect for fun?)
We don’t celebrate it much around here. I wear my emerald earrings to nobody will pinch me.
I’m a March Madness fan. Do you follow the college basketball tournaments? If so, who’s your favorite team?
Sorry. Don’t follow.
Thank you for being here today! Please tell us where we can find your books.
I’m on Amazon, but the cheapest place to buy them is from the publishers. Go to my website at http://www.elainecantrell.com and click on a cover. It’ll take you to the publisher’s website. A New Dream is coming out March 8. You can find it at http://www.astraeapress.com
Thanks so much for having me today! I enjoyed your interview.