07 November 2008

Interview Time with Devon Ellington!

A warm welcome going out to Devon Ellington, a great author, publishing with Cloverleaf and FireDrakes Weyr. Sounds like a publisher after my own heart, since I belong to several Weyr. But, that's not all... Devon publishes under several names that you can find linked in at the main site!

If you use a pen name, how did you choose it?

Devon Ellington: I publish under several pen names, and each has significance for me. Some of them are combinations of names of my great grandmothers, etc., for whom I have a special affinity; some are chosen because the sound of the name fits the genre. This name, of course, was picked in a bar – “devon” is a bit androgynous, which I liked, and “Ellington” – well, Duke Ellington played over the speakers! Although you can’t imagine how often people assume I’m a “he” in interviews, in spite of answers to questions that make it clear I’m female, and never bother asking.

How long have you been writing? How long have you been published?

DE: I’ve been writing since I was a kid. However, in college, I moved away from writing seriously because I worked so steadily in production – mostly theatre, but also some film and television. I started writing intensively again in the mid-1990s, and seriously publishing then, too, everything from articles to short stories to getting my plays produced. Now I’m full-time, although I love working backstage, so I occasionally go back for a few days here and there to Broadway.

How long did it take you to publish your first book, once you started looking for an agent or publisher?

DE: I published several novellas a few years ago, as a tie-in with regularly published serials. With HEX BREAKER, FireDrakes Weyr was way up on my list of first choice publishers for it, and they liked it, so it was only a matter of months.

How long does it take you to write a book?

DE: It depends on the deadline. I can usually write a first draft in about three months. If I have a long enough deadline, I like to do quite a few drafts, send it to Trusted Readers, etc., but I truncate the process according to deadline.

Do you write one book/story at a time or multiples?

DE: This is my business, not my hobby. At this point, it would be a luxury for me to be able to work on one project at a time. ;) I always juggle multiple projects. I’ve got to, to pay the bills.

What is the most books/stories you've had WIP at the same time? What is the highest number you've actively been writing on at the same time?

DE: I usually have at least a half a dozen projects going at once. I couldn’t say what “the most” was, because I also get quick-turn-around freelance projects in and out every few days, and that often works in feast or famine cycles, too. I’d say, probably between six and ten is pretty normal.

What genres do you write?

I write in several genres: paranormal, action/adventure, fantasy, mystery, literary fiction. I also write a lot of non-fiction and cover several sports for a publication called FEMMEFAN. I mostly cover horse racing and ice hockey for them, but I’ve also covered things like the America’s Cup and the Central New York Scottish Games.

Are there any genres you'd like to try but haven't?

DE: I tried romantic suspense and wasn’t very good at it. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t try it again, though. Actually, I’d really like to learn how to write about food and wine, keeping it sensual, but not making it sound like porn! ;)

Are there any genres you'd never consider writing in?

DE: I’d consider writing in almost any genre if there was a contract involved! The only projects I refuse are ones that go against my values. I hesitate to say “morals”, because that looks so self-righteous on the page, but about two years ago, I turned down a very lucrative advertising copy freelance position with a company whose reason for existence was something with which I strongly disagree.

What's your writing process? (i.e. pantser/organic writer or plotter or mix? write on the computer? longhand? mix? how many passes? etc.)

DE: Every project requires a different process, I find. I still like to do most of my first drafts in long-hand. Again, if I’m on a tight deadline, it doesn’t happen. The more I write under contract, the more important it becomes to evolve from a blank-pager to a plotter. I simply do not have time to sit and stare at the screen. I have to be able to write as soon as I hit the desk. I use what I call “writer’s roughs” and scene lists to keep me going, and then follow whatever tangents devised by my characters.

What are the strangest conditions you've written under? The strangest place and/or time you've written something?

DE: Backstage on Broadway, in between cues, in the dark, using only my bite-light for illumination. I had an idea for a play and had to scribble it down before I forgot it.

What authors inspire you? Who are your favorite authors?

DE: There are so many wonderful writers, and I’m constantly finding more! Let’s see, some of the ones I keep going back to over and over again are Terry Pratchett, Elizabeth Berg, Ian Rankin, Chaz Brenchley, Yasmine Galenorn, Shakespeare, Moliere, The Brontes, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Louisa May Alcott, Colin Galbraith, Karina Fabian, Donna Leon, Jackie Kessler, Lauren Baratz-Logsted . . .oh, I know I’ve missed some of the authors I know, and now they’ll be mad at me!

If you could choose two authors to be seated between at a signing...or to have your books shelved between in the bookstore, who would they be?

DE: Chaz Brenchley and Yasmine Galenorn. Chaz and I have been friends for years, and we have a blast together, plus he’s one of the best writers working today. Yasmine’s a wonderful person and a wonderful writer. And I think they would really like each other, too, so for the three of us to be together would be such fun!

How many books do you read in the average month? e-Book or print or both?

DE: I read about 3 books per week, and I read both in print and e-Books. I work as a paid reviewer in addition to hosting authors for blog tours on one of my sites, reading books my colleagues write, and ones that just catch my eye in the store. Also, I do a lot of research for my work, so I’m halfway into about a half a dozen heavy duty research books at any given time.

What is the funniest or strangest editor/crit request/comment you've encountered?

DE: An editor once told me that my heroine was too intelligent and too independent; she should be weaker and more dependant on men. I decided to take it as a compliment and find it hilarious.

What is your ideal location to write a book, if you had the money to live there or sequester yourself there?

DE: I’m actually house-hunting in my current favorite area: Cape Cod. I also like to write when I vacation on the southwest Scottish coast and in Iceland.

If you could have a book signing anywhere in the world, where would you like to go?

DE: Edinburgh. I’ve spent a lot of time there, I have friends there, and my work is well-received in the UK.

What would you like to own/have that would make your writing faster or smoother? (Yes, you can name everything from computer programs to a personal maid here.)

DE: I want to convert my Dell Hell with Microsoft over to top-of-the-line Mac and also add in the Adobe Creative Suite package. That would solve 90% of my lost writing time.

Introvert or extrovert?

DE: Introvert, although because I’m interested in almost everything except math and anchovies, and because I like to include people rather than exclude people, I am sometimes mistaken for an extrovert.

What's the strangest/worst job (outside of publishing) you've held? (Choose either strangest or worst, since strange doesn't necessarily mean bad...or answer both.)

DE: As a teenager, I had a temp job for a company where I had to stamp numbers on pieces of paper for eight hours a day. They brought me the stacks of folders on hand-trucks. I’ve had some temp jobs over the years, but I’ve worked in the arts my entire professional life, thank goodness. Cubicle-slavedom was only for a week or so at a time in between shows.

If you could choose your dream job, besides writing, what would it be?

DE: Archaeologist.

What's your dream car? Your favorite car you've ever owned?

DE: I have my dream car! A 2007 bright blue VW Rabbit! Actually, I like Lamborghinis, but, really, my Volkswagen makes me happier than anything I’ve ever driven.

The best bumper stickers you've ever seen? The best you've ever personally had on your vehicle?

DE: I don’t put bumper stickers on my car, but my favorite is over my desk: “Do not interfere in the business of dragons, for you are crunchy and good with ketchup.”

The #1 holiday or birthday gift to purchase for an author is...

DE: Either a new computer or a spa weekend!

Your favorite leisure activity or vacation spot?

DE: Scotland. I love Scotland. I also love visiting Lindisfarne, the Holy Island cut off by the tide, off the coast of Northumbria.

Have you ever included a real experience of your own in a book? Did anyone who knows you notice it?

DE: Real experiences are mixed and matched. Often, the basis for something is real, but then it gets fictionalized. Those who know me try to pick stuff out, but they’re usually wrong.

Have you ever included someone who irritated you in the book? As what, and what comeuppance did he/she get?

DE: I regularly kill off characters inspired by people who anger me. I think it’s healthy! ;) Besides, when I do my job as a writer, the final character is quite far removed from the original inspiration.

Where do you get your character names?

DE: A lot of characters name themselves. Or I look for a name with meaning relevant to the theme of the book.

Where do you get your inspiration for a book? How do you get your ideas?

DE: I’m a writer. Everything I experience on any level is material.

What is the best reader or reviewer comment you've ever received?

DE: I received a letter about a year after one of my plays was produced in Australia. The woman who wrote it saw my play at a low point in her life; she was actually contemplating suicide. I had a line in the play stating, “If you don’t like your life, go out and change it; don’t come whining to me about it.” She said that hit home, she got help, and, a year later, she was healthy, happy, in love, in a job she adored, and she thanked me for being a positive catalyst.

What does your family think about your writing? How, if they do, do they support you in your writing endeavors?

DE: Unsupportive people are excommunicated from my universe. Period. The people around me support me by respecting my writing time and by telling me the truth when something doesn’t work.

When and where do you do the bulk of your writing?

DE: I do it at my desk at home, early in the morning. I do my first 1K per day right after my morning yoga, but before I start the rest of my day.

Do you have animal companions while you write? How do they help or hinder the process?

DE: I am owned by three cats. They’re great, and I miss them when I write offsite. They remind me to take breaks, and they “help” by typing on the keyboard. Sometimes, they “edit”. It’s sad when they’re right.

What's your favorite part of being a writer?

DE: The creation process. Telling stories. Living vicariously through characters and getting to live many lives in one.

What's the thing you wish you could hire someone else to do or wish you didn't have to do as a writer?

DE: Writers need to connect with readers, but writers are expected to spend too much of their day marketing and not enough of the day writing. It has to be written before it can be sold.

Do you use any special software to write? Voice to text? Audio edits? etc.

DE: No.

What advice would you give a new writer?

DE: No excuses. If you want to do this professionally, it doesn’t matter if you’re busy or tired. Get your butt in that chair and write. If you have a day job, treat the writing as a second job, until you’re in a position to make it your only job.

What are your writing goals? Where do you want to be in a year? Five years?

DE: I want to keep writing and publish regularly in any genre that interests me. I want to keep growing from book to book.

Do you belong to a crit group or other writing group? How helpful do you find it?

DE: I used to be in a great group, for six years. I’m not now, because I’m not available nights and weekends, and that’s when most groups meet. I do have a group of Trusted Readers whose input I value.

What book, if you have written several books, is your favorite and why?

DE: Whatever book I’m in the midst of is the favorite! Seriously, each holds a special place in my heart.

Which of your own characters would you like to meet in real life, and what would you do?

DE: Gosh, I’d love to meet Jain Lazarus from HEX BREAKER or Capt. Kit Erksine from “The Merry’s Dalliance” or Gwen from TRACKING MEDUSA. They’re all strong and intelligent and funny. We’d have a blast together. The four of us on a Caribbean cruise or a mountain vacation opens a whole host of possibilities! As far as the male characters, I think I’m a little bit in love with Wyatt East, from the Jain Lazarus Adventures. Which is kind of ironic, since he wasn’t supposed to be in the books in the first place. He just kind of sauntered in and took over.

Do you prefer to think of yourself as a hero/heroine or villain/villainess and why?

DE: Aren’t we all the heros of our own stories, even the villains?

If you could have one magical power, what would it be and why?

DE: Teleportation. Because the airlines took all the fun out of flying.

If you were the overlord of the world, what would your first decree be?

DE: All acts of deliberate cruelty are forbidden.

Give us your backlist...

HEX BREAKER: A Jain Lazarus Adventure from Firedrakes Weyr Publishing.

“The Merry’s Dalliance” (as Cerridwen Iris Shea) in the Fall 2008 issue of New Myths.

PERFECTLY PLUM edited by Leah Wilson, Ben Bella Books (note: I have an essay in this anthology)

SIMPLE PLEASURES OF THE KITCHED edited by Susannah Seton, published by Conari Press. (note: four essays under the “Christiane Van de Velde” name in this anthology).

FULL CIRCLE, edited by Colin Galbraith, published by Smashing Press (my short story “Pauvre Bob” is included)

I had four serials running in four genres for two years, but they are no longer available.

I have a selection of small e-books on writing available via my website:


Tell us about releases you expect within the next year...

TILL DEATH DO THEY PART will be produced by Cloverleaf Productions, opening in January of 2009.

OLD-FASHIONED DETECTIVE WORK: A Jain Lazarus Adventure, will release from FireDrakes Weyr in Spring 2009.

Those are the signed contracts. More to follow, as negotiations progress – there are several things under submission, but I don’t want to jinx anything.

Also, the Penny’s Dreadfuls series of fun, short, retro-futuristic fiction will launch in November.

Tell us about your current release... blurb... link to purchase is a plus!

Hex Breaker Jain Lazarus joins the crew of a cursed film, hoping to put to rest what was stirred up before more people die and the film is lost. Tough, practical Detective Wyatt East becomes her unlikely ally and lover on an adventure fighting zombies, ceremonial magicians, the town wife-beater, the messenger of the gods, and their own pasts.

HEX BREAKER: A JAIN LAZARUS ADVENTURE by Devon Ellington, published by FireDrakes Weyr Publishing.

Give us your URLs (web site, MySpace, Facebook, blog, etc.)

Blog: Ink in My Coffee: http://devonellington.wordpress.com

The Jain Lazarus Adventures: http://hexbreaker.devonellingtonwork.com

Devon Ellington: www.devonellingtonwork.com

Cerridwen Iris Shea: www.cerridwenscottage.com

Fearless Ink (business writing): www.fearlessink.com

Penny’s Dreadfuls: http://pennysdreadfuls.devonellingtonwork.com

A Biblio Paradise: http://biblioparadise.wordpress.com

Devon’s MySpace: http://www.myspace.com/devonellington

Jain Lazarus Adventures MySapce: http://www.myspace.com/jainlazarusadventures

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