I have wanted to feature Elizabeth Kirke, and her novel More Than Magic: Semester Aboard, since I dove into her book a couple of months ago. I drove my family crazy for days afterwards because I wouldn’t stop talking about how we needed to go on a cruise now! I know, I won’t actually meet any of her wonderful characters there, but a girl can dream, right?
Jen is your typical college student, spending her summer semester aboard a cruise ship, experiencing the cultures that she loves to learn about. It’s shortly after the start of her semester aboard that she witnesses something that she shouldn’t have seen, and something that can’t possibly be explained.
Witnessing this event draws her into a world of magic, danger, and a team of students who work for the Magical Enforcement & Security agency. Everything she thought she knew about herself, and the world around her, has been flipped on its head, spun around, and hung out to dry. Now that she knows their secrets, and has a HUGE one of her own, they all must work together to defeat the dangers that seem to lurk around every corner.
I loved the different types of characters that Jen meets in this novel. You will meet a fire elemental, a water elemental, a vampire (good and bad), a mermaid (I know, right!?!?), a werewolf, a wizard, and of course a witch. With a group like this, everyone will find a character that they can truly connect with. And no, I won’t pick my favorite because there is no way that I could. Each one of them has something that I love about them.
Elizabeth Kirke knows how to pull a reader in. From the start of this book you won’t be able to pull yourself away until you have dug deep enough to be satisfied (which for me, was when I passed out from exhaustion). I wish I could tell you so much more about it, but there are mysteries, twists, and turns that you will definitely want to experience for yourself. If I had to give this book a star rating, it would be off the charts. Now, I have to say this as well: When is Snow Bound coming out?!?!?
Can you tell us an interesting fact about you, your writing, or anything at all? Or, is there anything in particular you want the readers to know about you?
I’m actually not terribly exciting! But, I’ll give all three a whirl. An interesting fact about me: I have a Harry Potter tattoo. My writing: I talk outloud and act things out while I write, it’s actually quite embarrassing. And anything at all: Cat’s have a gland in the back of their throats that let’s them smell interesting things. If you’ve ever seen one open their mouth and make a crazy face, it’s because they’re smelling something that has caught their attention. When I worked at a vet’s we called it the Clean-Here Face because if a cat made it on the exam table, it meant we hadn’t cleaned it well enough!
Phew! Oh, and I’d also like my readers to know that I am totally, always happy to talk to them! I always think it’s awesome when authors interact with their readers. So, any time someone has a question about my books or wants to chat or anything like that, I’m around!
When did you first know that writing was what you wanted to do as a career?
I think I’ve always known. I’ve been writing forever and ever. I’ve always wanted to be an author.
When you are working on a book, do you plan ahead, or do you let the story flow as you write?
I plan out a basic layout and then let the characters run with it. (Do I sound crazy yet)? A great example is More than Magic: Snow Bound. I wrote a very basic chapter by chapter thing. Essentially it was, Chapter 1: Jen arrives at the cabin, Chapter 2: Everyone goes skiing yay, Chapter 3 everyone spends an evening in the cabin, etc. And yes, I do insert things like “Yay” or “Oh no!” into my outlines. Each chapter “summary” is only a sentence or two long. But, my original outline for Snow Bound was 15 chapters. I’m currently in the middle of chapter 15 and have kept tacking on chapters, now I’ve got an estimate of 21. Whoops.
Is there a special place in your home that you work at?
I actually just bought a house , this is only my second week living there. Tragically, I haven’t had any time to write at all! I spend every “spare” moment I have unpacking. That said, there is a little nook down in my basement that I am eyeing as my Writing Nook. I have plans in mind for it, but we’ll see. If I do turn it into a writing nook, expect some pictures on my blog!
Are any of your characters in your books based on people that you know in real life?
No, and yes, but mostly no. The main crew all came out of my imagination. Every once in a while a friend will have a trait I recognize in my characters, but my characters actually pre-date the people I spend my time with, so it’s pure coincidence! Now, I did shout-out some of my friends in Semester Aboard. Whitney, Beth, and Kaitlyn are all my friends from my own voyage. But, all I did was borrow their names. I should also say, there are little bits of me in all of my characters. Their interests and hobbies are all either things that I share (allowing me to write from experience!) or things I wish I could do.
Do you have an interesting writing quirk? Maybe something that you have to do while writing or something that you have to do before you start writing?
I think I answered this already, but I’ll elaborate. When I write I must look like a crazy person. I have a (bad) impression of each character and I sit and have conversations with myself in their “voices”. Actually, sit isn’t the right word. I wander around and act things out as I converse with me. I go through all of the motions and actions to see if it’s physically possible and to figure out how to describe it. It’s really a one woman show. I can sit and write quietly if I have to, but even then I tend to mumble. My husband frequently calls me out on it. I just pray he never walks in while I’m choreographing a fight scene!
What is your opinion on Indie publishing versus mainstream publishing?
I think Indie publishing is brilliant. I wouldn’t be here if I hadn’t started out as Indie. I don’t think I’d ever want to be signed by one of the so-called “big” publishers. At the UtopYA convention our motto was “There’s room for everyone at the top” and it’s true. My experience with indie authors has been overwhelmingly positive. As one said (I’m sorry, I forgot who!) “There are 52 weeks in a year, what are people going to read during the other 51 when they’re done with my book?” There’s a great sense of community, you share my book, I’ll share yours. I have a couple of things in the works that, as much as I love my publisher, I plan on self-publishing. I have no regrets yet!
Do you hear from your fans a lot? If so, what are some of the best & worst things that you have heard?
It’s sporadic. Mostly I get “likes” on Facebook status updates and the occasional comment. Once in a while I get a message from someone who has finished my book. As I said before, I love hearing from fans! I’m going to turn around your question and answer the worst first! The worst was probably a review where the person just ranted about how much vampire books suck, admitted she hadn’t read any reviews so had no idea that mine had vampires (funny, given that the edition she owns has a bloody stake on the cover) and basically implied that I read Twilight ,and didn’t have the creativity to come up with anything original, and just wanted to get in on the “stupid vampire hype”. Also insulting, since I make no secret that I don’t like Twlight (sorry!) and my book was ¾ written before I had ever even heard of Twlight. Now, I don’t like to make a big deal of negative reviews, everyone gets them and it’s unprofessional to whine about them, but one criticizing me as a person and saying my book is “s**t” because it has a topic she doesn’t like, really ground my nerves. Especially since this reviewer is an author herself!
On to the happy things, one of the best things I’ve heard was a message, out of the blue, saying that I’ve inspired her to try and write a book of her own! That one still makes me happy. I’ve also had a few people send me a message once in a while, just to say “Hey, I just got to this part in your book and I loved it!” Those are great.
What does your family think of your writing?
I never thought any of them would even read it, so I was mortified when I started getting the “Beth, I bought your book!” emails from extended family members. I also waited with bated breath when my parents said they were reading it. However, they’ve all loved it so far, which is great. It’s still weird now and again when family, and friends as well, start talking to me about it. Very surreal.
How has being published changed your life, if any way?
It hasn’t really. I’m still writing, for one thing, but now I guess I have more of a goal in mind. I have met some great people (shout-out to Stacey and Melissa, and everyone at UtopYA) because of it. I know most authors never make the big leagues, and I have no desire to. That said, I would love it, someday, I can earn enough off of my books to quit my day job and just focus on writing.
What are you currently working on? We would love to know what is coming next from you.
My biggest current project is More than Magic: Snow Bound, which is the second book in the series. I’m also working on a related short story collection. I’ve revealed a few details about that here and there, but I’m keeping most of it close to the chest for now. Except an announcement in the next month though!
What advice would you give to someone who wants to be a writer?
I feel like I say this one a lot, but write every day. If you have writers block, sit down and write something else. I find it all flows much better if I’ve been writing (even if it’s nonsense) than if I took a week off or something. My personal tip is to write background. If you’re stuck on a chapter, just start writing a side story about one of your characters. It keeps you in the world you’re working on, but also provides tons of extra characterization. My characters would be completely different (and much less interesting IMHO) if I hadn’t done that. I also wouldn’t have all of the fodder for the aforementioned short story collection!
What was the hardest part of writing your book?
Probably keeping it short. Remember I said that I estimated 15 chapters for the second and now it’s up to 21? You can tell from this interview, I get wordy! When I first started writing I looked at publisher requirements and they all said between 80-100k for a first time author query. I was worried about even hitting 80! Then I got upwards of 150k and decided it was too long. By that time I wanted to be indie, so I wasn’t worried about a certain length, but I didn’t want a monster of a book either. I chopped a good 30K out of it when it was all said and done and the book is still huge.
What hardships have you encountered while writing your books?
Time time time. There are not enough hours in the day to write and still do everything else I need to do. I also find I have to make choices between writing a chapter and my social life. Not to mention my domestic life! Wash the dishes or write doesn’t seem like an issue, but the dishes have to win in the end. But when I go to bed with that last paragraph unwritten because I spent to long scrubbing something, I always regret it..
What books (or authors) have influenced you the most during your career?
That’s a tough one too. I like to think that I sort of march to my own drum and don’t have any one “influence”. I have a lot of favorite authors and books. However, I think Mercedes Lackey was a big one. I was...probably 13 or 14 when I first read one of her books and I think that was the first time I said, “Yes, I’m going to do this.” As I said before, I’ve always wanted to be an author, but I just remember an Ah-Ha moment while reading her book. It didn’t inspire me to want to become an author, so much as just cement that it was what I wanted to do with my life.
Favorite flavor of ice cream: Marsh Mud - (it’s double chocolate )
Favorite color: Purple and Green
Favorite animal: Cat
Favorite season of the year: Winter
Favorite Author: I have waaay too many favorites to choose just one!
Favorite drink: Coffee with a shot of Baileys
Favorite food: Bacon Balls
Favorite Halloween Candy: Candy Corn
Phone “Interview” with Jen and Dani from More than Magic: Semester Aboard
Jen: Hey, it’s me.
Dani: Jen, what’s up?
Jen: Are you busy right now?”
Dani: Nah, I’m just waiting to go on a raid of the goblin lair.
Jen: Oh. Sorry, I didn’t realize you were at work.
Dani: ...I’m not at work.
Jen: You aren’t?
Dani: First of all, my work computer is almost as old as you are. No offense.
Jen: That might be the first time you’ve referred to me as “old,” so none taken. And I know your computer isn’t anywhere near twenty-one.
Dani: It’s gotta be at least ten. And in computer years that’s ancient. But, regardless of how old my computer is, I’m pretty sure my supervisors would frown upon any gaming at work.
Dani: Yeah. Raid on the goblin lair, remember?
Jen: Oh...I thought you mean, you know, in real life.
Dani: Haha, what?
Jen: You work for the Magical Enforcement and Security Agency. I figured you must raid things now and again.
Dani: Yes, I do. But typically not goblin lairs, seeing as they aren’t real.
Jen: I’ve known about magic for like, four months. I have no idea if goblins are real or not.
Dani: They aren’t.
Jen: I gathered, thank you so much. So, if you aren’t at work, do you have a minute?
Dani: I have as many as you need. What’s up?
Jen: Well, I’m taking a history class...
Dani: Really? I didn’t know history majors did that.
Jen: I already regret calling you. Anyway, I have to interview somebody...
Dani: Sounds good. Go for it.
Jen: In the middle of your game?
Dani: I can slay goblins and talk to you at the same time.
Jen: Ok, thanks. So, first question, what is your name?
Dani: Danio Pelagos. That’s D-a-n-i-
Jen: I know how to spell it.
Dani: Wait, this is for non-magics, isn’t it? Put Daniel instead. D-a-n-
Jen: Thank you. Ok, how old are you?
Jen: No, how old are you really?
Dani: I’m confused again. This is for non-magics, isn’t it?
Jen: Yeah, but we were assigned to interview an immigrant over the age of seventy.
Dani: Oh, so there’s a reason you called me specifically. Now, I’m less flattered.
Jen: Age, please.
Dani: Fine, fine. Eighty-two next month.
Jen: Thank you. And where were you born?
Dani: Off the coast of Greece.
Jen: Like on a ship?
Dani: No. In the water. I am a water elemental, you know.
Jen: Yeah...I’m just going to put Greece. Ok, when did you come to the United States and why?
Dani: Man, um...1949 I think. And well, we went straight from World War Two into a Civil War, so we figured it was time to relocate.
Jen: Awesome. What barriers did you face learning English?
Dani: Ugh, don’t remind me. English is complicated.
Jen: Even though water elementals can mimic accents?
Dani: No, no, no, that didn’t help at all. I used a heavy Greek accent for years.
Jen: Really? Why?
Dani: Cause when you sound like a native speaker, people assume that you are. Then they start talking all fast and using big words and you just sort of nod your head. Oh crap, crap goblin brutes. No, no, no, no!
Jen: Do you need to go...concentrate on your game?
Dani: Sorry, no I’m good. No amount of concentration would have saved me from that. Especially since my brother just went to go take care of his kid and left me alone to die in the goblin throne room. Anyway, passing for a native speaker led to some awkward situations.
Jen: If you say so...so, what sort of awkward situations?
Dani: Well...I ended up having dinner once. The entire evening was one big translation nightmare. It wasn’t until the end that I realized it was supposed to be a date. And, in addition to the whole ESL problem, I was...sort of innocent and stupid back then. Remember, no internet or anything like that. So, I was sort of flying blind as it was.
Jen: Oo, that’s actually a useful historical comment.
Dani: So, no idea we were on a date until the end, when she tried to kiss me.
Jen: Wait, did you say she?
Dani: Well, I sure as hell wouldn’t let a guy kiss me in the middle of a diner in the 1950s.
Jen: That’s also a great historic point of view. My professor will love this.
Dani: You’re welcome, here’s another one: this girl was one of those Rosie the Riveter, progressive, women-are-here-to-stay-in-the-workforce, types. Now, what little I did know about girls, did not cover that. So, I was not expecting her to make any sort of move.
Jen: What happened?
Dani: Um...I said something. I thought it was English at the time, but now I’m fairly sure it was Greeklish or some other abomination. Whatever it was, I got slapped and decided that I needed to lay off sounding like a native speaker for a while.
Jen: Jeez. Ok, next question.
Dani: Ah, drought my Blackberry is going off. Give me one sec.
Dani: So, I hate to run, but I just got called into work.
Jen: Is everything ok?
Dani: Mm...more or less. Looks like a werewolf puppy shifted in front of a bunch of non-magics. It’ll be a paperwork hassle, but not the end of the world. I’ll call you back when I’m done.
Jen: Ok, thanks!
Dani: Anytime, kiddo.
Elizabeth Kirke wanted to be an author before she even knew what an author was. She used to say that she wanted to be an artist, but that was only because she was too young to write and had to tell stories with pictures instead. She hasn't stopped writing since she learned how. It wasn't long before she dreamed of becoming an author and couldn't be happier now that that dream is a reality.
If she isn't writing...well, let's be honest; if she isn't writing she's probably on Facebook thinking that she should start writing. But, if she isn't writing or on Facebook, she's probably doing something involving books, baking, gardening, or yarn. In an ideal world, she'd be reading and knitting while something from the garden is in the oven. Then again, in an ideal world, she'd have a flock of ducks and a couple of goats.
Like most slightly-nosy, avid readers, Elizabeth can't resist trying to catch a peek at books she sees people reading when out in public to see if she can figure out what it is. While doing just that one day, she realized that it would probably be the coolest-thing-ever if she caught a complete stranger reading one of her books. That's her new dream.