Today I am delighted to be hosting a young lady I have had the pleasure of knowing through the magic of the internet. I am incredibly proud of her despite having nothing to do with making her as amazing as she is. When I critiqued her manuscript, The Hidden Pharaoh, I nearly cried because she wrote twice as good as some adults I’ve workshopped and she was only 13 at the time. In other words, she’s going to be big, people. And now…let’s get to the interview!
Elly Gard is a writer, an over-thinker, an inventor of words, a dreamer of improbable dreams, and a Catholic who strives to find God in little things. She is a senior in high-school, is, and has been homeschooled all her life. At heart, she loves rainstorms, but she lives in the desert with her parents, her brother, two dogs, and a cat who thinks she’s a Russian tsar. When she’s not conversing with her characters, indulging in her inkwell, spending time with her soundtracks, or adventuring with her associates, she could probably be located in her room nursing a novel. She possesses an undying fondness for all things Broadway, likes watching TV shows on Netflix that got cancelled ten years ago, prefers swing dancing to karaoke, and puts too much granola in her yogurt. You can read about her adventures on her blog, The Spilled Inkwell.
Welcome, Elly! What got you into writing?
A lot of things got me into writing! I’ve been thinking up stories since I was old enough to hold a crayon, and I think my family’s encouragement at that point was crucial to my passion growing into what it is now. Then, the stories usually involved talking animals; one time when I was seven my friend and I wrote a fairy tale about a girl who turned into a horse. Our moms had it printed out and laminated and we thought we were the next Mary Pope Osbournes! When I was a little older, my parents encouraged me to enter a few of my stories and poems in 4-H contests, and I began attending a writing club at a local middle school. My teacher – Mr. Taylor – encouraged me to keep writing. During those years, I wrote stories and poems galore; eventually I had binders full of them.
But…I couldn’t write novels. Give me a prompt, and I could give you a ten-page suspense story. Give me a picture and I could summon up a purple-prosed poem. Tell me to write a book? I didn’t even know where to begin. Then, in 8th grade, my mom found a homeschool curriculum called One Year Adventure Novel (OYAN). I wrote my first historical fiction novel (The Hidden Pharaoh) that year with the help of OYAN’s guidelines, outlining templates, and live webinars. Other students on OYAN’s online Forum both encouraged and critiqued my work, and that first year of the curriculum was invaluable. I’ve now written three novels and one novella. I intend on writing many more. 😉
I too wouldn’t have started writing without homeschooling. Cheers for supportive moms! What has been the highlight of your writing thus far?
Last year, my first fantasy novel (Of Lavron) placed as a finalist in the OYAN Contest. This really encouraged me to keep writing the series I’d previously viewed as an experiment. I’d only written historical fiction up until that point, but last fall I thought I’d give medieval fantasy a try. I ambitiously and very messily “plotted out” a fantasy trilogy and began writing the first book. I didn’t know if I’d actually accomplish that series, if my idea would stick, or if the story was even good; but I kept writing anyway. I’m so glad I did. I love writing the Lost Princes series, and even though I’m taking a break from Of Lavron’s sequel to edit my two-year-old NaNoWriMo monster (Riding in the Red), I look forward to continuing the series soon.
Yes, fantasy is the best! (Said the fantasy lover in a wholly unbiased way.) What genre(s) are your favorite to write/read?
I’m partial to historical fiction. It is my favorite genre to write, and it’s usually my favorite genre to read, too. (I also love BBC’s period dramas, and am rather a guru for history in general). Unfortunately, well-written his-fic doesn’t dominate the YA market right now, so you often have to dig to find the gems. Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief, Ruta Sepetys’s Salt to the Sea, and Genevieve Valentine’s The Girls at the Kingfisher Club are some of my favorites.
Recently I’ve also found myself drawn toward fantasy. Last winter, I happened upon Jonathan Auxier’s The Night Gardener, and it was so wonderful that it automatically had me searching for more whimsical fiction. Around the same time, I also became a fan of Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles (if you haven’t read them, give them a try! I usually don’t prefer popular dystopian, but these are exemplary). Likewise, Maggie Stiefvater’s Raven Cycle series has – in the past thirty days – enthralled and captivated me. I guess my favorite genre changes with the seasons. It’s a good way to keep myself well rounded.
It is always good to read a little outside your comfort zone now and again. (Maggie Stiefvater will ruin your life. Just FYI.) Have you ever gotten to meet any of your favorite authors? What happened? If not, who would you like to meet?
Well… I have met several people who became some of my favorite authors. For example, a lot of my friends are writers, and I think they write beautifully (@Elisabeth!). The OYAN Summer Workshop has allowed me to meet several authors (Jill Williamson!) whose Blood of Kings trilogy I later read and obsessed over.
Also, a lot of my favorite authors are dead. It’s rather unfortunate. I can’t tell you how much I’d love to have tea with C.S. Lewis and discuss theology with J.R.R. Tolkien. Victor Hugo would be cool to talk to if we could get past the language barrier.
If I could meet let’s say three of my favorite [currently living] authors, I’d really like to meet J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter), Maggie Stiefvater (The Raven Cycle), and Elizabeth Wein (Code Name Verity). I’d ask J.K. Rowling for advice on writing a theme-incorporated series, because I love how everything in Harry Potter leads up to The End. I’d ask Maggie Stiefvater how she writes her characters so beautifully, because I absolutely love how realistic and true they feel in her books. And, I would ask Elizabeth Wein how to successfully research a historical fiction novel and implement that history throughout the story so that it becomes an undeniable part of it.
Goodness, I feel like I’ve cheated all the other authors I admire. (I didn’t forget about you, Gail Carson Levine!)
Yes, I’m still jealous about you meeting Jill. 😛 What’s one thing people are surprised to learn about you?
People are really funny when I tell them I used to write ghost stories. They usually say something like, “Oh, Ellie, you’re so nice! I feel like you’d only write happy things.” At that point, I usually laugh it off so I can maintain my “nice person” façade.
I think I try to write redeeming things, but I don’t know if I’d call myself a happy-book writer. My books are usually rather melancholy in nature, and if they’re not that, they certainly aren’t sunshine and rainbows. It’s something I’m actually proud of. I’m a really happy person, but my alter ego could be considered vaguely morbid.
This world needs more redemption stories, in my opinion. What will let you know when you have “made it” as an author?
When I see something I wrote on the shelves of a book store, I think I’ll feel like I made it. In the larger scheme of things, I think that if I can look back on my life at the end of it and know that someone read my story and was moved by it, I’ll know that I’ve made it as an author.
Thank you so much for making the time to stop by, Elly!