Our interview today is with Elise Stephens the author of Moonlight and Oranges (4.4 stars, 23 reviews. FREE on 5/15/2012). A quick book description before we get to her interview: A timeless tale of young romance.
Lorona Connelly is ready for a change from her carefully planned, bookish life. When sparks fly at a costume party, she embraces a chance for romance with the handsome Kestrin Feather. However, she quickly realizes that even love and destiny may not be enough to overcome the reality of an overprotective mother-in-law and Kestrin’s long, tarnished history of relationships.
When Lorona’s curiosity leads her to Kestrin’s journal, doubt plagues them both with insecurities and threatens the relationship. Can true love overcome the odds, or was their whirlwind romance just a frivolous crush? Author Elise Stephens shares a journey of young love, fate, and wounded trust in the story of Lorona and Kestrin, a couple who must learn to overcome their fears to share a life together.
Interview with Elise Stephens
What was unique about the setting of the book and how did it enhance or take away from the story?
I grew up, attended college, married and settled in Seattle, thus, making it “my” city on just about every front. Seattle has plenty of magic, mystery, and romance to make a perfect setting for my love story and that means I can speak about it with the authority of a local, thus lending credibility and relevance to my topic.
Was there a basis for your story? A previous experience? Something else?
I based this story loosely on the Greek myth love story of Cupid and Psyche. I was enchanted by the ancient love story of two people who fall in love, get married quickly, experience the explosion of broken trust, and then work hard to overcome severe forces, including doubt, that are trying to hold them apart. When I read the myth, I knew I wanted to retell it as a novel someday.
Can you relate to your characters’ predicaments? To what extent do they remind you of yourself or someone you know?
Lorona Connelly, the heroine, has a good helping of me in her. Moonlight and Oranges is loosely based on a retelling of a Greek myth, as I said, and Lorona’s own name comes from another myth. Lorona’s namesake comes from the ghost in the Mexican folktale La Llorona. The name literally means “the crying woman” or “she who cries.” Like me, she is the girl who did her best to keep clear of dangerous boys while she was in school. Also like me, she has traces of a shy girl who often prefers to play things safe and needs the prodding of an outgoing friend to keep life interesting.
Kestrin Feather, the hero, is based on a friend of mine. Like my friend, Kestrin exhibits strong, almost overly-dramatic mood swings, an intense and dependent attraction to women, and a destructive behavior that leads to a long string of flings. Kestrin’s belief in fateful forces beyond his immediate control is also borrowed from my friend. Kestrin is inspired by the Greek god Cupid, who made people fall in love with each other—but I twisted it so that Kestrin’s knack was making the girls all fall in love with him.
How do characters change or evolve throughout the course of the story? What events trigger such changes?
Lorona changes from a girl who hates taking risks to one who takes all sorts of risks to fight for the love she believes in. Previously, she was a woman of moral character, but hadn’t had to fight hard for much, and had never had much reason to let her passionate personality surface. The tests set for her throughout this book, especially the challenges from her mother-in-law, form her into a more powerful, dynamic heroine.
Kestrin begins as a young man who has plenty of charisma to go around, but very little happiness, because he’s haunted by a dream of true love that he believes he’ll never achieve. When he meets Lorona and decides he’s finally found the love of his life, he has to battle inner and outer demons to prove it.
What is your method for writing a book? A certain amount of hours every day? A certain routine? Are you character/story builder or an outliner or some other method?
I write 1000 words (minimum) every day. I spend time writing and editing almost every day. I treat writing like my job, since I want it to eventually become the career that sustains me. I try to outline and plan as much as possible before launching into a creative frenzy. I definitely prefer the creating stage to the revision stage, but I’m getting better at bringing creativity into my revisions. It’s taken years to learn to enjoy it, though. I’m a fast writer and very slower reviser.
How do you get past writer’s block or distractions like the internet?
When I write my 1000 words a day, I don’t have any requirement for quality on those words. They can be any kind of words, I just have to write them. I can write about a dream, how I felt about an argument with someone, what my front yard looks like, but I just have to get the words out. This means there’s always something to write about. This also means that I reach new ideas faster, because when my pen is moving, my ideas and brain are warmed up and ready to go.
Email is a huge time-drain and distraction for me (the primary one). I recently created a rule to check my email only twice a day. I then try to respond to all the emails in my inbox within 24 hours. I also limit my social media interactions to once a day (facebook) or twice a day (Twitter) so that I can keep up with things without letting them possess my mind, body, and soul (which they seem to do if I let them get beyond this).
Favorite book from childhood.
I loved Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, which I read in high school. This was a powerful, magnetic book for me. Also Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman, which I read in college—it gave me a respect for drama and humor and magic all intermingling in an incredible way.
What’s on your desk? Can you see your desk? Describe what you see when you look around.
Currently, my desk is my kitchen table. I have an unfinished smoothie in a Nalgene bottle sitting beside my laptop. There are a couple pens scattered, papers with notes written on them, and a headset that I use for dictating my handwritten notes onto the computer through the program Dragon Naturally Speaking. Hanging on the wall is a red, pink, and orange paper star lamp that makes my day better every morning. Light is one of the most important things to me as a writer. I consume huge quantities daily.
About the Author
Elise Stephens received the Eugene Van Buren Prize for Fiction from the University of Washington in 2007. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys seeing live theater, swing dancing, eating tiramisu, singing, and painting. She lives in Seattle with her husband James. Her novel Moonlight and Oranges was a quarter-finalist for the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award.
You can find Elise at www.elisestephens.com, on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/AuthorEliseStephens or follow her on Twitter @elisestephens