The Interview — Part II

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How has being an actor informed your writing?
There’s no doubt that being an actor has made me a stronger writer. Actors, like writers, are builders. When you’re acting, you’re working and analyzing every beat to inform your next choice. You’re also very tuned into the internal, but you’re using the external to inform your choices – just like a writer does. Without being aware of it, I’ve incorporated many elements of acting into my writing, like character building, scene building and pacing. I think this is what has helped the novel’s rhythm and allowed me to get to the action quickly and cut out what isn’t necessary or moving the story along.

In the novels, just like the plays, I can see and feel everything that is happening as I create a scene — I’ll see the chair in the corner, what the characters are wearing, even the expressions on their faces as they say a certain line. At the heart of it, I guess I’m always writing a play.

You’ve recently moved from the Seattle area to Los Angeles, how has environment played a role in your creative process?
Los Angeles certainly makes you more aware of your craft. Not that I wasn’t aware of it before, living in Seattle. But for me, there was a glass ceiling and I kept hitting my head on it. I needed to move beyond my comfort zone and get in a faster lane, and boy has it been fast. There’s a perception of people who live here – they are laid-back and very chill. That’s true, to an extent. Underneath the cool exterior, there is competition everywhere, no matter the industry. It’s like this because people are coming to this city all year round with hopes of making it “big.” So, you’re surrounded by incredible go-getters who are jockeying for position, which means you fall into that rhythm, too, if you want to keep up. And don’t let me forget to mention the weather. It’s kind of hard not to go outside and be motivated with the sun is shining all day.  

What are you working on now?
Right now, I’m working on the second book of the Bellevue Trilogy (“The Memories of Bellevue” is the first book in the series.) The bulk of the book has been written but there is still more research involved as I continue to strengthen the stories of the central characters, Thomas and Jeyne.

Final Words of Wisdom.
Writing is a tough business. To be successful (i.e., make a living), you have to do more than just love it. You have to understand the business side of things, too. And this is what trips up a lot of writers, the idea that they are a “brand” which needs to be managed. Fundamentally, most writers understand this. But many are still struggling with how all the pieces fit and the level of work involved. In addition to writing very well, you have to be a tireless researcher, marketer, and social media expert. You have to see yourself as an entrepreneur, above and beyond anything else. Most importantly, live. The deepest, creative moments come from real life. Nurture your body and soul, eat right, exercise, and meditate.

Scroll down to read Part I

Elena Hartwell

Author and developmental editor.