The Interview — Part I

You’ve written in a number of genres, from poetry to journalism, in addition to playwriting, and now you’ve finished your first novel. What drives you to tell a given story in a specific form? 
I can’t explain it, but every story tells me where it liked to be – and should be. It’s weird, because the stories always seem to find their place. There’s no formal process to where I say, “I think I want to write a novel and here’s the story.” “Or this would make a good short story, let me get started.” The ideas and characters come first and I just kind of let that settle for a while. Technically, most writers understand the parameters of a play, short story, or novel and write accordingly. Over the years, I’ve experimented with different forms just to see if I can write within that paradigm. And what I’ve discovered is that there are really no limits to what you can do with these forms. Sometimes, they’re interchangeable.

How did “The Memories of Bellevue” come about?
“Memories” came to me in 2000 when I lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. I was working as a feature writer for a magazine and was meeting a lot of interesting people. During an interview, I was introduced to a book by Dr. Brian Weiss called “Only Love is Real,” which explores the whole concept of soul mates on a very deep psychological level. And that got me thinking¸”What happens when you meet your soul mate and circumstances don’t allow for an immediate ‘happily ever after’? I wanted to explore that. I’m also fascinated by anything to do with the Civil War, so I merged the idea with the setting and started writing. I returned to the States a month before 9/11 and wrote the book in nine months. I thought the novel was ready and started sending it out to agents. I was so green back then. I quickly learned that a first draft is exactly that – a first draft. It takes a good 5-10 drafts to get it right, and then you’re still editing.

What has the publication process been like?
The process towards publication has been very empowering. I’m publishing on the Create Space platform which has proven to be a pretty smooth process, and one of the best options for self-publishers these days. However, I was a self-published author before it became popular (with my poetry book “Musings of an Eccentric Dreamer”) so, I understand how the process works and was able to dive right in again. Of course, all the heavy lifting comes before – the writing, research, editing, etc. Then there is the marketing, of course. The irony about self-publishing is that it’s easy to start and then stop. Life gets in the way and you find yourself pulled in different directions and none of them have anything to do with finishing your book. However, all the stops and starts made me a better writer and I was able to tackle the novel with fresh eyes. I also had to keep all those promises I made to myself and push through the challenges.

Check Back May 15 for Part II!

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.