I have been most pleased to have been introduced to up and coming author Elena May. I have had the pleasure of reading her debut novel, Kingdom of Ashes, that has recently been published and I wanted to do this post so that you would also have the opportunity to learn more about Ms. May. I enjoyed reading Kingdom of Ashes and you can read my review here.
A conversation with Author Elena May
Q. Tell us a little about yourself, what do you want us to know about you?
I’ve always been obsessed with books. When I was a kid, all I wanted to do was read 24/7, and I was very annoyed when my parents made me do boring things, such as, you know, playing outside with the other children. 😀 On some days, I was even happy I had hay fever because I could use it as an excuse to go home early and read a book.
Nowadays, I’ve learned to enjoy and appreciate outdoor activities, but my love for books is still strong. I can never judge a bookaholic. At my latest birthday party, a colleague left early, and when asked why, she said, “I’m reading this book, and I need to know what happens next!” Everyone else thought that was ridiculous, but I said, “Of course you should go!” As far as excuses go, I believe this is one of the best.
I think anyone reading this post would agree with you!
Q. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer?
Way too late! Even though I’ve been writing since preschool, I never planned to do it professionally. For many, many years, I viewed writing as a hobby, as something I did for fun, and I feared that if I turned it into a job, the fun would go away. A couple of years ago, I realized that if I told the stories I enjoyed and wanted to tell, the fun would never go away, no matter what, so I might as well do it properly. And while getting a novel published does require work, I’ve discovered I enjoy polishing my early drafts until they are as good as they can be perhaps even more than I love writing itself.
Q. What do you think makes a good story?
Believable, complex, intriguing characters. If readers grow attached to the characters, they will laugh with them, cry with them, and enjoy their adventures.
Also, I believe that art of any kind not only entertains, but also educates. Art instills a certain set of values in the people who consume it. That’s why parents tell their children fairy tales in which good triumphs – to teach them to be good. Even as we grow up, the books we read affect us in some way and change the way we perceive the world. That’s why I think every author, especially one writing for young readers, has a responsibility to create a story that gives no harmful messages. If readers learn something useful from my book, I’ll be happy.
Q. As a new author, what is your favorite part of the writing/publishing process?
Content editing. While writing the first draft is super fun, what I really love is hearing back from beta readers and coming up with new ideas in response to their comments. It’s amazing to see how much the story changes when I restructure it and add new scenes.
Q. Now the flipside, what is your least favorite?
As I’m very introverted, my least favorite is marketing. I wish I could focus on writing and editing and let the book magically market itself. I enjoy giving interviews, though!
Q. Let us talk about your recently published book, Kingdom of Ashes, what was your inspiration for this book?
Most of my characters are immortals who have lived through different times and places, so I draw a lot of my inspiration from history and knowledge of various lands. I’ve traveled extensively across Southeast Asia, Europe, the Middle East, the USA, and New Zealand, and every time I visit a new place, I like to go to the local history museum. When I look at objects of the past, I ask myself, “Who created this? Who used it? Under what circumstances?” I make up a full story in my mind. Seeing pieces of history from various places helps me come up with my characters and shape their backstories.
Q. What sort of research did you do to write this book?
I read about vampire myths across the world, so I could decide what elements to keep, what to change, and what new things to invent. History research was important for Book 2, which has more elaborate flashbacks to the vampires’ human lives. Book 2 was way more fun in terms of research I needed to do – I had to learn all kinds of useful stuff, including how to milk a mare.
Also, the story takes place in a post-apocalyptic world, so I had to make sure I got all the science facts straight. For example, I couldn’t say vampires used gas-fueled cars since gas would have decayed during the 50 years after the apocalypse. Autogas (LPG), on the other hand, would work. As I have a degree in physics, it would be extremely embarrassing to get one of these wrong!
Q. What are you working on now? Any chance of a sequel?
Oh, yes, a sequel is coming! In fact, a first draft is ready, but I’m planning to add a few more scenes before I start sending it out to beta readers and editors. It’s called Men and Monsters, and it goes deeper into the question of what it means to be human and into Myra’s struggle to decide what is best for everyone and to reconcile her choices with her conscience. The book also answers all questions left open in Kingdom of Ashes and reveals more of Tristan’s and Prince Vladimir’s pasts.
Q. What genre is your book and what draws you to this genre?
Young adult fantasy. It’s one genre where the imagination can go wild, and young readers are generally more open to elaborate fantasy worlds, creatures and storylines.
Q. Are there any nuggets of wisdom you can impart to aspiring writers?
Three main things – first, write a story that you enjoy reading. Don’t try to follow trends or to force yourself to write something you don’t like just because you think it might be popular. You’ll spend a lot of time on your writing, and you need to have fun. There are 7.4 billion people in the world – if you like your book, chances are someone else will like it too!
Second, be receptive of constructive criticism. When you send a story to an editor, perhaps all you want to hear is, “Perfect! Let’s fix these five commas and we’re good to go!” In all likelihood, you’ll hear, “You need more scenes here, and rewrite this one, and expand that storyline.” While editing is a lot of work, you should listen. No matter how good you are, you can always benefit from a fresh pair of eyes.
Last, don’t try to please everyone. People have different tastes, and there is no single book in the world that everybody likes. Don’t panic if you get a bad review – even the most popular and critically acclaimed books get some! Don’t try to appeal to as many people as possible – if you do, your book might turn out so generic that it will appeal to no one. It all boils down to my first point: write a book that you like, and others will like it too.
Thank you so much, Minx, for having me here!
You are most welcome! Thank you for your time.
If you are interested in reading a free excerpt from her debut release Kingdom of Ashes or checking out Ms.May’s characters you may visit her Kingdom of Ashes website.