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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tuesday Spotlight: Elysa Hendricks

WHY I WRITE

Almost every author at one time or another gets asked why they write. I’m no exception. Usually, I just joke about the voices in my head not leaving me alone, but recently I’ve been thinking about my writing journey and wondering about the different journeys to writing and publication taken by other authors. Here’s my story.

As a child I was a bit of a nerd. I didn’t care for sports or most team activities. Still don’t. Growing up I spent my time scribbling stories in my school notebooks, trying to capture the same magic I found in the books I read voraciously. When I was in third grade I spun stories for my classmates at recess. At one point during my early sci-fi phase I convinced some of them I was actually an alien. That I came from Venus. Either those kids were really gullible, or I was pretty convincing. I like to think the latter is true.

My sophomore year in high school I was excited to take a creative writing class. Finally I had a forum and a teacher who understood who I was and what I wanted to do, but when we moved mid-term my new school didn’t have anything comparable. I was put in a journalism class, which sad to say totally destroyed my youthful dream of becoming an author and crushed my confidence and budding creativity in ways that still make me shudder. Trying to write articles with facts and figures to back up my “story” was a torturous process for me, as bad as writing this little essay. I’d much rather “make things up.”

After that disastrous start, the idea that I could actually write books that other people would read didn’t reoccur to me until years later when it finally dawned on me that though journalism and fiction writing both involve putting words down on paper, they are totally different beasts. They’re not mutually exclusive, but learning to be a good journalist doesn’t necessarily lead to being a novelist, nor the other way around.

I can remember the exact moment I decided to try and write a book, Christmas Eve 1989. My sister-in-law had passed away that morning. Sadly we postponed our Christmas celebrations, so my husband, his mother and our nine-year-old son could go to Phoenix, Arizona to attend the funeral while I remained at home in Illinois with our younger son. On top of that my parents who had always lived within a few miles of us had recently up and moved to Hawaii. So there I was on Christmas Eve alone with a cranky five-year-old.

For years my hubby had been teasing me about the number of books I read, telling me I should write one myself and earn back some of what I spent. Little did we know. So that night after my son finally fell asleep wondering what had happened to Santa Claus I sat down at my typewriter. I decided I’d write a short contemporary romance ala Harlequin style. I thought, how hard could it be?

Three hundred pages and three months later I had a sci-fi story about a winged, telepathic alien who stows away on a passing space ship. Hardly what I’d started out to write. At that point I didn’t have a clue what to do with my masterpiece, so I signed up at the local college for a course on how to write a romance taught by the wonderful Myra McWethy. As a result of that class I joined Romance Writers of America and spent the next three years learning how to write. I even helped found two chapters, Windy City in the Chicago, IL suburbs and the FF&P online chapter.

A little less than ten years later I sold my first book, RAWHIDE SURRENDER a western historical romance to Hard Shell Word Press. Then I wrote and sold several fantasy romances to another small press. In 2007 Dorchester bought my sci-fi romance STAR CRASH. THE SWORD AND THE PEN, a contemporary fantasy is my second book with Dorchester. And March 2010 they’ll be releasing my next sci-fi romance STAR RAIDERS. Now, as my hubby likes to say, after nearly twenty years and seven books I’m practically an overnight success.

My telepathic alien story resides in a box under my desk, providing me with a lovely footrest. I still love the story and maybe someday I’ll pull it out and totally rewrite it. If not, I’ve left instructions for it to be cremated along with me when I die.

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