Today multi-published author Elysa Hendricks is here for an interview and a peek at one of her books.
Elysa: I grew up in a pretty "normal" nuclear family, one mother, one father and one brother. My parents are still with us and getting ready to celebrate their 60th wedding anniversary in March. Most of my childhood was spent in the Chicago, IL and Milwaukee, WI areas, with a short stretch outside of Madison, WI. My dad had itchy feet. He was always on the lookout for the next job, the next opportunity, so I ended up attending several grade schools and three different high schools. Moving around was difficult. I'd barely get comfortable in one area before we left for another. But the experience made me self-sufficient. Since I was always the "new" girl in town, I spent a lot of time reading and feeding my active imagination.
I'm long-time married to my very best friend. We've raised two wonderful sons and have a lovely daughter-in-law and one adorable granddaughter.
|Elysa's parents March 2010|
Caroline: Who are your favorite authors and favorite genres?
Elysa: There are too many authors to name them all, but I always make sure to read anything by Susan Elizabeth Phillips. Her books make me laugh and cry and leave me feeling good. Though I tend to gravitate to romance stories with what author Cathy Linz calls the "woo-woo" factor aka paranormal/fantasy/sci-fi, I read all sub-genres of romance - historical, mystery, science fiction, fantasy, horror - as well as non-romance genre fiction. The only types of books I generally don't read are what I call Oprah books, books about miserable people leading miserable lives and dying miserably. I'm a sucker for a happy ending. If I want to read about misery I'll read the newspaper.
Caroline: My thoughts exactly. Who wants to volunteer to be depressed? When you’re not writing, what’s your favorite way to relax and recharge? Hobbies?
Elysa: Even though my thumb is only a very pale green, I love to work in my garden. There's something so satisfying about watching a plant grow and bloom. Of course I read voraciously. And I enjoy doing arts and crafts - everything from knitting to making jewelry.
Caroline: Describe yourself in three or four words.
Elysa: Fun. Energetic. Fair-minded. Adaptable.
Caroline: Would you like to share any guilty pleasures that feed your muse?
Elysa: My muse is a needy child, so I don't feel guilt over any pleasures I indulge in to feed her. Fortunately, she has a weakness for chocolate and usually settles down to work once I give it to her.
Caroline: How long have you been writing?
Elysa: Too long. Not long enough. If I tell you how long I've been writing you might figure out how old I am. Oh, what the heck. I started writing down stories as soon as I learned out how to make letters with my crayons. But I didn't attempt to write a book until Christmas Eve 1989. My first book took me three months to write, then I spent the next three years learning to write. That book will never be published - unless someday I become famous, someone finds it hidden under the bed with the killer dust bunnies, and decides to publish it.
Caroline: Most authors have one of those books hidden away. Where do you prefer to write? Do you need quiet, music, solitude? PC or laptop?
Elysa: I write at my desk in my office, which is situated at the front of the house with a nice view of the street. I like to see outside and have sunshine. I can write with music playing, but it has to be the kind without words otherwise I get distracted by the story in the song. I'll put on a CD, but when I'm writing I'm hearing the story, seeing the scenes, so when the CD ends I usually don't even notice.
Caroline: Are you a plotter or a panzer?
Elysa: Most definitely a pantzer. I've tried plotting out my stories, hoping that would help keep me from getting stuck mid-way through, but what happens instead is that once I know what's going to happen in the story I lose interest in it.
Caroline: Do you do your research before you begin a new project, or as you go along?
Elysa: A bit of both. Generally I just jump into a new story with a vague idea of where it's headed. Only once I get going do I know what I need to research. With my westerns I read extensively about the area and time period, focusing on non-fiction and fiction written during that time period. Since I hadn't been to Texas or New Mexico since I was a teenager, I studied maps, talked to people who lived there, and investigated the flora, fauna and weather of the areas. With the Internet research has become much easier. For one book I was researching the Las Vegas strip. Using Google Maps I was able to take a virtual trip down the whole Strip. Though I haven't been to Las Vegas since 1977 I felt like I'd spent the day there.
When I wrote THE BABY RACE, which is set on a horse rescue ranch, I visited HAHS http://www.hahs.org/ - Hooved Animal Humane Society - in Woodstock, IL and spoke with owners of other similar facilities. Since my hero is a saddle maker I contacted saddle makers.
Funny story. The one saddle maker I contacted only agreed to answer my questions if I assured him and his wife that there would be no premarital sex in my book. Fortunately, I could honestly say there wasn't any. It's a marriage of convenience story, so the hero and heroine are married when they consummate their marriage.
Caroline: Tell us about your writing schedule. Do you set goals? Do you write daily?
Elysa: I like to write in the mornings. That's when I have the most creative energy. Now, if I can just find a way to break my addiction to email, Facebook and the Internet I might manage to use that energy to write rather than goof off. To me goals are sort of like New Year's resolutions. I make them then I break them. I do make tons of lists with "Things to do," so I suppose that's kind of like setting goals.
Caroline: I’m a list maker, too. Do you write full time or do you have a day job. If you have a day job, what is it?
Elysa: I'm fortunate that I don't need to work a full time job. I do have a part time job as a text book buyer for a wholesale book company. It's not as exciting as it sounds. At the end of the college term I go to the college and buy back textbooks from the students. Talking with the kids is interesting.
Some days I write all day. Others I don't write at all. But I'm always working on my stories in my head. I walk for exercise and while I'm walking I'm working out bits of dialogue, considering plot points and figuring out what I need to research.
Caroline: Tell us something about yourself that might surprise readers.
Elysa: Sadly, I can't think of much about me that would surprise anyone. My life is basically vanilla bland boring. No secrets. No skeletons in my closet. No surprises. What you see is what you get. Guess that's why I write. In my books I get to be wild and crazy people. I get to go places, see things and do things I'd never consider in real life. My motto is: Boring is good. Excitement is vastly overrated.
I do have one small thing to reveal. On a couple of occasions I've gotten a premonition that I was going to win something in a raffle and I did. Of course, stuffing the box with dozens of raffle tickets didn't hurt.
Caroline: What is something unusual you learned while researching and writing this book?
Elysa: I wrote THIS HEART FOR HIRE and HER WILD TEXAS HEART back to back. After growing up watching sanitized westerns on TV and in the movies, researching the time period, the history, the people, and the locals of the American West was an eye opener. I learned that like the settlers the Indians were neither completely evil nor completely good, they were merely people. Much has been said about how the settlers stole this country from the Indians, how the government mistreated them. Sadly, most of it is true. But what I learned from my research is that when two opposing cultures come into contact it's unlikely that they'll both survive intact. The Western European culture and the American Indian cultures weren't compatible. They couldn't peacefully co-exist. One had to adapt to the other or be destroyed.
Caroline: What do you hope your writing brings to readers?
Elysa: First off I want to tell an interesting, compelling story about two people falling in love. In addition I hope my stories inform my readers about a time and place that no longer exists. Years ago I fell in love with Larry McMurtry's stories of the Old West, but at the end of them I always felt sad. So when I wrote my westerns I wanted to give my readers the same sense of gritty realism, but also a happy ending for the characters they'd come to care about.
Caroline: Thank heavens! I love McMurtry’s writing, but hate sad endings. What advice would you give to unpublished authors?
Elysa: Read - a lot! And write - a lot! In order to become an accomplished writer you'll need to put tens of thousands of words on paper. Most of those words will never be published and probably shouldn't be. Someone said that an author has to write a million words before they've honed their craft. Malcolm Gladwell in his book THE OUTLIERS refers to the 10,000-hour rule: "In order to become an expert in any field you need to work at it for 10,000 hours." So what it boils down to is write, write, write, then write some more.
Caroline: Tell us about your latest release.
Elysa: HER WILD TEXAS HEART is the companion book to THIS HEART FOR HIRE.
Blurb for HER WILD TEXAS HEART:
In a lawless west Texas border town, a woman has two choices: death or dishonor. Doctor's apprentice and former Comanche slave, KC O'Connor finds a third--she buries her femininity and longing for love beneath a boyish disguise. But the arrival of an injured greenhorn shatters the shell around her hidden heart.
Arms and legs at odd angles in death, a man lay on his side amid the rocky, scrub covered ground. Blood covered his upper back, but the bullet hole in his coat, just below his left shoulder, was small.
KC leaned over him and fingered the rich cloth. Once she'd soaked out the blood, she could easily mend it.
She turned her attention back to the man at her feet. Too bad he was dead. Thick, gold blond hair covered his head and stubble of beard shaded his square chin. Beneath his tan, his strong classic features had a pale, waxy look. A thin trickle of blood escaped from the corner of his mouth. Creases bracketed that same mouth, indicating he had either smiled or frowned a lot. KC bet on the former. Blue, she thought, with that fair hair, his eyes would have been blue.
His broad shoulders tapered down to a narrow waist, his legs long and lean beneath his tight trousers. KC estimated his height at least six inches over her own five foot seven.
Though KC didn't much like men, she could appreciate this one's male beauty. Gold and bronze, he reminded KC of the pictures she'd seen in Mama's books, of the Greek god Apollo.
Books the Indians had torn apart and used to start the fire that...no, she wouldn't think about that time. She turned her thoughts back to the man.
There'd only been one shot during the night. That, in itself, was unusual. Peaceful, Texas was usually anything but. One shot in the dark meant a slow night. It awakened her from her nightmare and for that she'd been thankful.
The hot Texas sun beat down on KC's bent head. Sweat trickled between her breasts reminding her the dead didn't keep long in the heat. Already a lone buzzard circled above, waiting.
With a grimace of distaste, KC searched the man's pockets. Other than a pale, pink lace, nothing-of-a-handkerchief, they were empty. She stroked the soft silk, her rough fingers snagging the delicate fabric. With a scowl she shoved it into her vest pocket and continued her search.
Whoever shot the man also picked him clean. Probably Rico, she thought. That mean little snake would think nothing of shooting a man in the back. Rico must have been in a hurry, only the stranger's boots were missing.
Well, Rico's loss was KC's gain. Made of quality material, the stranger's clothes could be reused. The man's silk shirt alone had nearly enough fabric to make a shirt each for Eli and herself. KC silently thanked her deceased mother for the needlework lessons.
Already the morning had proven quite profitable. Just before dawn, shouts and gunshots roused her from her bed yet again. Peering out of the hayloft window, she caught a glimpse of Rico and his men taking off after a dark stranger riding a big rawboned horse. KC wasn't sure, but she thought she saw a woman riding double with the stranger. She wished the man luck and put the incident out of her mind. This was, after all, Peaceful. Shootouts and murders happened on a regular basis.
When KC came down from the loft, she found over a dozen books lying strewn on the barn floor. Beautiful, leather-bound, gold-embossed books, books like the ones Mama had so loved.
Glancing quickly around, she waited for someone to step out of the shadows to claim them. No one came. She collected them and carried them up to the loft. Before she hid them away, she stole a few minutes to stroke the smooth leather, to smell the familiar scent of paper and ink. Later she would open them and read the words, savoring them like the rare and wonderful things they were. Then she had scooted back down to begin the day's chores.
Sweat soaked through the bandanna tied around her forehead, and rolled down her chest and back under the heavy leather vest she wore. If she stayed to strip and bury the dead man, she wouldn't have time to slip away for a quick dip in the river before she'd be needed back at the stable.
Of course, she didn't have to bury the man. What was one more body in a town like Peaceful? This far from town no one would notice the smell. Even if they did, it wouldn't concern them, dead bodies were not uncommon in and around town. Few of those who died in Peaceful ever received a proper burial. Besides, the buzzards gathering above wouldn't leave much.
As if summoned, a buzzard landed a few yards away, its beady eyes focused on the man's still figure. KC gazed longingly at the silver swathe of water glistening in the distance then looked down at the man's lifeless form. She gave a resigned sigh.
"Don't worry stranger. The buzzards won't have you. And," something made her add, "I'll leave you enough so you won't meet your maker buck-naked."
Standing, KC swept the broad-brimmed hat from her head and shooed the buzzard away. The bird rose squawking into the air. It would be awhile before the ugly creature worked up its nerve to approach again. By then it would be too late.
KC knelt next to the man and grasped his shoulders, rolling him onto his back. Only when he lay flat on the ground did she realize the scope of the loss his death was. Beautiful, she thought. Even in death, his face held the power to move her. A lump formed in her throat. No matter how often she encountered it, the ending of a life affected her. Unbidden, tears stung the back of her eyes.
Savagely, she rubbed her knuckles into her eyes. She would not cry for some unknown man—no matter how beautiful. She never cried. She hadn't cried for Mama, or for Papa. She didn't cry for her lost brother, Brendan. Crying didn't bring the dead back. Crying didn't ease the pain of grief. She swallowed the lump in her throat, pressed her lips into a tight line and reached for the pearl buttons of the man's shirt.
His eyes blinked opened.
Shock held her rigid.
He reached out. His hand closed around her wrist, trapping her. His grip brought her nightmares to life.
A strangled shriek bubbled in her throat. Her heart pounded in fright. With a gasp, she yanked her hand free. Overbalanced she landed on her backside in the dust. She scooted away crab-like.
His hand fell limply to his side. "Please," he croaked. "Help me." Deep aquamarine eyes focused on her for just a moment, then flickered shut. Again, he lay still as death.
Trembling, KC crawled to his side and placed hesitant fingers on the column of his throat. There, beneath the warm, smooth skin, she could feel the blood pulsing through his veins.
Alive. He was alive!
Caroline: I loved that excerpt! And you know I love anything western especially if it includes Texas. Where can readers find your books?
Elysa: THIS HEART FOR HIRE
HER WILD TEXAS HEART
Caroline: Anything else you’d like readers to know? How can readers learn more about you?
Elysa: I love hearing from readers and other authors. They can contact me through my web site or on Facebook.
Thank you so much for joining us today, Elysa. I wish you continued success with your writing career.
Readers, thanks for stopping by!