Today on the blog I have the pleasure of interviewing author Elisabeth Wheatley. She started writing short stories when she was as young as seven years old. She began working on what would eventually become The Key of Amatahns when she was eleven. After many rewrites, the story was recommended by its editor to a small publishing house, Chengalera Press. Elisabeth is currently working on the second and third installments in the Argetallam Saga, while continuing to attend high school in the Texas Hill Country. Her hobbies include beekeeping, cheesemaking, mythology, and studying American Sign Language.
You have started your career as a writer at a young age. How did you initially become interested in writing?
The first story I can remember writing was a short piece of fan-fiction for my favorite picture book when I was about six or seven. Corgiville Fair by Tasha Tudor is the story of a young corgi named Caleb training his racing goat, Josephine, for the upcoming race at the fair. I loved that book to bits, literally, and I wanted to live in it. Since moving to Corgiville wasn’t an option, I scribbled out a story entitled Muttville Fair with my dog and my pet goat, Count as the main characters. (Yes, I had a pet goat – one advantage of living on a ranch is you have plenty of room for pets.) It was written and illustrated in pencil and held together with duct tape. We still have it because my mother is a pack-rat.
What motivated you to finish and revise The Key of Amatahns?
At first, when I was writing, I thought “maybe this will be a real book someday,” but it wasn’t that serious, it was more like “maybe I will grow up to marry a billionaire fairy prince.” Writing was fun, yet I didn’t think of it as that important. After awhile, I started getting into my writing and revising was a matter of personal pride—I couldn’t let anyone see the story when it was like that—hence, I revised. I got more and more into my stories until they now consume about 70% of my working brain capacity.
What kind of emotions ran through your head when you found out that your work would be published?
My reaction was like this: “Say what? I’m going to be published? Is this a joke? It isn’t? ISTHISREALLYHAPPENING?!?!?!?”
What has the reaction of your friends and family been to your early writing success?
My friends didn’t even know I was writing a story, I was that secretive. Now they’re very impressed. My parents, aunts, and grandmothers take every opportunity to mention that I’m a writer, which can get embarrassing, but I know that just means they’re proud of me.
How have you been able to make the time to write?
The biggest thing I did was cut down on TV and start doing my chores early. After I did that, it was amazing how much free time I had.
How would you describe your story?
An enchanted, dark fairytale of destiny, love, and adventure with a spice of humor.
Was there any part of writing this book that was difficult? If so, why?
I wrote a complete draft of The Secrets of the Vanmars which I ended up scrapping and totally re-writing. There are perhaps three scenes in the final draft and the first draft that are the same. So, I would say that writing this book itself was the greatest challenge. While I was writing this book, I kept thinking about how much I wanted to get to the next book, book No. 3. I’ve had the idea for book 3 since almost before book 1, and I’ve been dying to write it. There was just the problem of getting from the end of The Key of Amatahns toward the beginning of book 3 without leaving loopholes and ginormous gaps in the story. Once I had the second draft, editing was relatively easy.
Which of the characters in the story would you say you are most like?
I recognize a lot of my faults in Janir (occasional pig-headedness, for one), but fortunately she has several qualities I don’t (patience with Karile, for instance). I think there’s a bit of me—however great or small—in each of my main characters. Some people who’ve read my books might find that alarming, but I don’t write characters who are purely evil or purely good and if right now a character seems purely evil it’s because I just haven’t showed his/her good side yet.
Who are some authors who have inspired you?
Christopher Paolini was probably my biggest inspiration in writing because he was fifteen when he started Eragon, and I thought that if he could do it, then I could, too. Besides him, I look up to Shannon Hale, Gail Carson Levine, C.S. Lewis, Madeleine L’Engle and I recently fell in love with Sarah J. Maas’ novellas, and now I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of my copy of Throne of Glass.
Are you reading anything now?
Technically, I’ve been reading Sense and Sensibility for months now and I’m almost done. But the truth is, I just went on an online feeding frenzy and ordered a bunch of books I’ve been coveting (Something Strange and Deadly, Entangled, Innocent Darkness, and Throne of Glass), so as soon as those arrive I’ll get to pick one.
About the Book:
After her adventures with the Key of Amatahns, sixteen-year-old Janir Caersynn Argetallam returns home to find Brevia on the brink of war with a neighboring country, Stlaven. Her foster-father and even Saoven—a brave young elf warrior—think it will be safe at the castle where Janir grew up. However, while trying to unravel a looming mystery, Karile—self-taught wizard and Janir’s self-appointed best friend—becomes certain that there is danger in the mountains surrounding Janir’s childhood home and that it has something to do with Stlaven’s most powerful family, the Vanmars…
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