Interview written July 6, 2014
Please welcome the brilliant and talented lady behind the awsome book that’s been kicking up a storm on amazon. ELIZA
How are you? Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m good, thanks. Keeping busy, which is what I like. A little about myself? I’m an American, born and raised in Oregon (yay, Portland!) and elsewhere on the West Coast, but I’ve lived just outside of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, for the past 12 years. As a product of my environment, I love rain and have appropriately webbed feet (not really). I have a soft spot for critters and trees, and I consume likely unhealthy quantities of coffee because COFFEE.
How would you describe your book(s)?
Eliza Gordon’s books are meant to serve as pure entertainment, a little something different than what one might expect. Light romance with the intention of recreating real people who are faced with life’s often-unfortunate circumstances. Oh, and laughing. I love making people laugh.
What genre is your work mainly? Do you tend to stay in the same vein or are you hoping (if not already) to explore new ventures?
While Eliza Gordon set out to write romantic comedies primarily, our next book, Neurotica, has slid more into the realm of chick lit and/or women’s fiction. Jayne Dandy is a different girl from Must Love Otters’ Hollie Porter, with a little less comedy and more emphasis on personal growth and overcoming private obstacles.
Under Jennifer Sommersby, I write YA, although you wouldn’t know this because I’ve been working on the same book for four years and we’re still “in surgery” with my publisher. (A version of the story was self-published in 2011, but it’s completely different in its current incarnation.)
Share with us a quote from one of your favorite characters.
This is a tough one … how about a favorite quote from a character who no longer exists? A fellow in an earlier version of Sleight said, “When God slams the door on your fingers, he opens a window so you can scream for help.” I like that quote. Darling Irwin is no longer in the story, but his line stuck with me.
In Must Love Otters, I love it when Ryan says, “Our raft, our rules.” You’ll have to read the book to know what it means.
Is it hard to come up with new ideas and/or plots?
Sometimes it’s hard to come up with ideas that will stick. If something shiny floats by and I think, hey, that could be fun, the idea really has to go through a serious set of questions and answers before I will deem it good enough to carry its own weight. A lot of ideas come and go, but few actually get the attention that will carry them forward into a full-fledged story.
Who is your favorite actor?
There are many: Mark Strong is my #1. But I love Richard Armitage, Peter Mooney (Canadian actor who inspired me while writing Must Love Otters), Henry Cavill is pretty to look at, Ezra Miller (Perks of Being a Wallflower, among others) … For the ladies, I love Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig. I love actors who make me laugh. Oh, and Jennifer Lawrence because I think she’d be amazing to hang out with—she and Bradley Cooper. Silver Linings Playbook is one of my favorite movies. This is a dangerous question—I LOVE movies so I have a huge list of favorite actors.
What inspired you to write your book(s)?
I wanted to write something that I would read myself. Something funny and not angst-ridden, set in my favorite locations. Light on the sexual content, heavy on laughs and character relatability. And of course, with critters.
Who is the easiest character to write and why? Hardest and why?
For me, there is never an easy character to write. I want to make sure all of my characters have their own layers—I think that getting into the head of someone readers aren’t going to like is an interesting challenge. Although for some reason, I do find writing villains the most enjoyable. Oh, and smart-asses. I’ve always been a little cheeky myself, so writing a smart-ass (like Gretchen in the upcoming Neurotica) is easier for me than someone who isn’t so cynical.
Are your characters based on real people? People you may know on TV/movie stars?
Often I rely quite heavily on TV and movie actors when I’m building characters, especially my male characters. It helps solidify in my mind what he looks like. The girls, not so much—the looser, the better, so that she could be Every Woman. And my writing style is sparse when it comes to character description; I give the readers a few details about what the character looks like but I don’t spend very much time on it because I really want a reader to have his or her own impressions. It’s part of the fun of reading—imagination!
Without giving anything away, what is/are your favorite scenes in your book?
In Must Love Otters, my favorite scene is probably when Ryan takes Hollie to watch the otters. The cougar scene was pretty cool to write—as was the end scene. I just … *sigh*. Yeah. I liked that scene.
What is your favorite color?
YELLOW! And the turquoise-y blue on the cover of Must Love Otters.
Do you have any hobbies?
Photography. And of course, reading.
Is there anyone besides you in your family who writes?
Yup. Our family boasts a screenwriter, a journalism student and blogger (my daughter Yaunna writes for Page to Premiere), a sometimes poet, an avid journaler, and a kid who loves to write comics.
When did you start? What was your first piece? First published piece?
Wow … I don’t even know. I’ve always just sort of written stuff. I wrote a story about a dentist when I was six. I started university studying journalism and then changed to English, but I’ve always been a rather shy writer when It comes to fiction efforts, really only sharing work when I absolutely had to as part of a workshop or writers’ group. I’ve written nonfiction articles for online and print magazines, as well as movie and book reviews. I’m not as sensitive to the rejection of my nonfiction work as I am about fiction. I’m a scaredy cat! In 2007 I was accepted into the fiction cohort of The Writer’s Studio, a program here in Vancouver, and I slowly released my tight grip on my fiction work. My short story about a thirteen-year-old girl growing up with a circus evolved into the YA project (Sleight) now with a major publisher.
Do you have any favorite books? Authors? Movies?
My favorite book ever is Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. That book changed my life. I have so many favorite authors, from Shakespeare to Jane Austen to J. R. R. Tolkien. I recently read a book by Andrew Smith called Grasshopper Jungle, and it was a most incredible experience. What a ride! I’ve finally succumbed to the Diana Gabaldon OUTLANDER fever—Jamie Fraser … wow, talk about the perfect book boyfriend!—but I love Chuck Palahniuk, Flannery O’Connor, Suzanne Collins, Libba Bray, John Green, Kenneth Oppel, Laini Taylor (you’re seeing a lot of YA authors in here, hey? LOL …). Oh, and Andrew Davidson’s The Gargoyle is a masterpiece of imagery. I love writers who INSPIRE me to aim higher.
As far as movies are concerned, I am a total nerd for the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films. My very favorites otherwise are probably Welcome to the Punch, with Mark Strong (!) and James McAvoy, Pride and Prejudice (Keira Knightley version), Perks of Being a Wallflower, Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty (Jessica Chastain—Mark Strong has a small part in that too!). Pretty much any Mark Strong movie is my favorite. Except for The Eagle. That was one of the worst films ever made. (Sorry, Mark.) I also love Man of Steel because my husband worked on it AND because Henry Cavill is dreamy. Oh, and Bridesmaids—because LAUGHING. My girlfriend introduced me to the BBC miniseries North and South with Richard Armitage, so I tend to watch and rewatch that more than is likely healthy. See? These sorts of questions are dangerous because I could go on forever.
Do you have a favorite character in your books?
In Must Love Otters, my favorite character is probably Ryan Fielding. In Neurotica, I really have a special place for Jayne, but I also love Luke. In Sleight, the YA project, hands down, my favorite character is my villain, Lucian Dmitri. Mmmmmm, Lucian.
What is your favorite genre to write?
It depends on what kind of mood I’m in or where I am emotionally. Sometimes I feel feisty and silly, and that’s when comedy writing is easiest. When I’m in a darker mood, I tend to write more emotionally charged stuff. Makes sense, hey? I can only guess this is the same thing that other writers experience, but I cannot write happy-fun-time when I’m down.
What is your favorite genre to read?
Again, it depends on my mood. Lately I’ve been reading OUTLANDER, because it’s lush and rich and full-bodied and very, very involved. Other times I will want to read light and fluffy that doesn’t require me to think too much. And still yet, I go on YA binges where I seek out young adult stories that really stand apart from the rest. Andrew Smith does this for me, as does Libba Bray and Barry Lyga.
How long have you been writing?
I learned how to read around five years old. My older sister was disabled and had to use a typewriter to do her schoolwork, so I would steal into her room and use the sky-blue Smith Corona electric typewriter to make up my own stories. So … a long time.
Who or what has been your biggest literary influence?
“My editors,” she says, crying into her beer.
How about characters? Are they easily born and developed?
Almost never. Characters are a complex business. I spend a lot of time thinking about every detail, and I learn something new every time I build a new person.
Do you ever find yourself a struggling writer?
Do you mean, do I suffer from writer’s block? I absolutely do. I wholly believe this is a real thing, and folks who say it isn’t maybe just have a different approach to their work. It is all derived from fear, however—if I’m not feeling confident in my abilities or my work, I have to wrestle with those demons before I can make anything meaningful happen. This can take minutes or hours, though rarely it can take days. I have to force the fear away because my writing time is precious—I have a busy life with my day job, so I don’t have the “luxury” of whisky-soaked episodes of writer’s block depression. LOL …
How about how long does it take for you to complete a novel, from concept to completion?
Depends on the project. I give myself four to six months for writing because of life’s other interruptions. The editing and other non-writing details can add even more time to that. I don’t know how some writers churn out books so fast—maybe because writing is their sole job—but I insist that my stories be given time to percolate and age. Like wine, fiction gets better with the passage of time.
Have you ever trashed a novel or story before or after finishing it, feeling it wasn’t turning out as you planned?
I’ve done this very recently. It’s sad when this happens. I mourn those lost characters.
Do you have a special time or place to write?
I used to write in my car, longhand, outside of a coffee shop from 10 p.m. to 1 a.m. I can’t do that anymore, so I typically write during the day at home, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. And I power-write on the weekends. I *love* long weekends when I don’t have to be anywhere—I might not even change my clothes for three days. (Okay, I do. I’m a germ freak. But still … )
Any funny experiences or quirks you’d like to share with your readers?
How about a quirk: I have a Blankie. It has satin binding on the edge, and I absolutely cannot sleep without it. When I leave the house for any overnighter, it goes with me or I don’t go.
Which of your books would you like to see made in to a movie?
I’d love to see ALL of my books made into movies. Must Love Otters could be shot up here in BC—it’s absolutely gorgeous up here—and Neurotica would look fabulous in its Portland setting. And of course, Sleight would be fantastic in her rural Washington (fictionalized) locale. I tend to dream big.
What was it like to publish your first book?
Terrifying. And exciting. But mostly terrifying as I waited for people to share their impressions.
What advice would you give to others who want to make writing their career?
Listen to your editor(s). Never stop learning. READ. Every word in every sentence should mean something and not simply serve as a space-filler. And anytime you fall head over heels in love with a sentence, delete it.
What is the worst job that you have ever done and why?
I did medical transcription for thirteen years. It was mind-numbing. Although I think the WORST job was probably as a dough tester at the Nabisco factory in Portland, Oregon. It was only a temp job during college for three days, but I thought I was going to die of boredom. My job was to test the consistency of the Oreo cookie dough as it was moved from mixing into the cooling room. It’s a miracle I still eat Oreos after seeing how they’re made.
Do you ever get ideas at random moments, and if so how do you hang on to them?
All the time. Especially while driving and in the shower. And I write them down, of course! Notebooks are always handy in my house.
How do you overcome writer’s block?
TIME. And forcing myself to write something different. It can also be helped by reading. When I can’t make my own words for whatever reason, I read, read, read.
Can you write on demand and under pressure, or do you need time and space before the creativity starts to flow?
Depends on the content. If someone says that I have thirty minutes to write something, I can do it, but there are no guarantees on its readability. I tend to be stronger with nonfiction when writing under pressure, for some reason.
How supportive are your family of your work?
My immediate family is completely supportive. They know it’s best to let me write or else I’m a bear to deal with.
Are there any places in the world you would love to do a book tour that you have not yet had a chance?
THE UNITED KINGDOM!!! All over. I want to see England and Scotland so badly. And then on to Ireland, of course. Holy smokers, I’ve dreamed about that part of the world since I was a wee lass. And my family is Scottish—Clan Moffitt.
What is your favorite food?
Anything sweet. Cakes, cupcakes, cookies. But I’m particularly fond of breakfast crepes.
Is there a place you would love to do a book event that you haven’t already been to?
I’ve been nowhere, my friend. WHERE CAN WE GO FIRST?
What are you afraid of (creepy crawlies)?
Oh dear lord, SPIDERS. There are places in the world I cannot go because they have too many spiders that are bigger than my thumb. I don’t know how I will ever be able to visit Australia (golden orb spiders, Sydney funnel-web, redbacks, huntsman) or New Zealand (huntsman) or anywhere near Thailand, etc. (all the giant spiders). I think I will likely have to rely on National Geographic to get my fill of those places unless someone promises to come with me as my own personal spider wrangler. I am terrified of big spiders. Especially the kind that can make you dead or at least make you pee your pants in absolute terror. Although peeing one’s pants is better than being dead, I suppose.
Thank you for this interview! I hope your readers will find their way to Must Love Otters and Neurotica.