Monday, October 26, 2015

Getting to know Elaine Dodge

I was thrilled to sit down and chat with author Elaine Dodge today.

What do you do when you’re not writing, how often does your muse distract you from day to day minutiae, and how do you like to relax after a day writing?
Unfortunately, it’s the other way around. Day-to-day minutiae, like paying the rent and, I’m ashamed to admit, Facebook, distract me from my muse. Unfortunately, paying the rent is a big part of my day. I write copy for websites, blogs, articles, reports etc. as a freelance copywriter. I’m also writing a script for the Jameson First Shot competition. Every year since it started in 2013 I’ve said I was going to enter. I’m doing it this year if it kills me! If I’m not paying the rent, or writing my own stories, I’m hiding inside other people’s imaginations; reading or watching TV or movies.

What genres do you write in and what do readers have to look forward to in the future from you?
I think I would get bored if I wrote only in one genre. This might change, but for now I’m exploring everything. My second novel, ‘The Device Hunter’ is a steampunk novel. I have the opening chapter and basic plot concept of ‘The Raging of Christopher Sly’ -a post-WWI mistaken identity, family revenge novel; ‘The Incident at Grover’s Mill’ - an alternative telling of H.G. Well’s War of the Worlds; basic plot layouts for an Elizabethan detective series; the opening chapter of, hopefully, the first of a paranormal detective series set in circa 1930; a Edwardian time traveling invention adventure novel as well as the sequel to ‘Harcourt’s Mountain’ provisionally called ‘The Heart of the Mountain’.

If you could sit down with any author dead or alive who would it be?
Georgette Heyer. She did impeccable research and had an uncanny ability to mix humour, romance and suspense – suspense in the sense that you just had to know what would happen next, not was the axe murderer in the closet or not - in every story she wrote. Her timing was incredible and her use of language was masterful, as was her ability to set a scene. She seldom went into great detail but you knew you would recognize everything if you suddenly found yourself transported physically into her books. I so wish that was a possibility! As long as I was one of her heroines and not the scullery maid with bad toothache!

Do you keep a notebook near your for when new ideas pop into your head and how do you keep track of timelines, ideas, inspiration and such?
My notebook is basically attached to me like a limpet to a rock. Although, sometimes, I’m not sure who’s the limpet and who’s the rock. As ideas can occur at the most random, and often the most inappropriate moments, a notebook is an essential piece of writing equipment! Waiters at my favourite coffee shop are used to lending me their pens and occasionally ask about the book. I have been known to sketch out a story idea on the back of the bill! The notebook is just the start. I try to plot the books entirely before I start writing. I have it all on a vast spreadsheet in the computer, so can slot ideas from the notebook in fairly easily. That wait also means I can also pick and choose which scene to write, instead of monotonously writing from Chapter 1 to The End. When I need to, I print the spreadsheet out and lay it down on the carpet so I can see it all at once. If I’m still stuck, I dig out my crayons and lie down on the carpet and cover the spread sheet in colourful doodles waiting for inspiration to strike! My muse has a thing for blanket forts, slices of Bovril toast, chocolate, big glasses of cold milk and colouring in! As I’ve had to move the furniture anyway to make room for the spreadsheet, a blanket fort is the next logical step! My notebook also has lists of things I need to research. As a result, I have files thick with research, both print and electronic.

Writer’s block—real or hype?
Mostly hype, I think. I think one can always write. If not on the book that’s giving you a migraine, then at least on something else. I have a short – and by short I mean really, really short – story collection on the go called, ‘Running the Bathwater Stories’. I have to come up with the idea and then write it and finish it, including edit, in the length of time it takes to run the bath. A lot of them are more ‘slices in time’ than actual stories. But people seem to like them as the number of readers is increasing with each one I post on my author’s Facebook page. They may not be my latest ‘in-progress book’ but it keep s my hand in and the creative juices flowing.

Do you have a favorite genre? Is it the same genre you prefer to write?
I have a very eclectic taste in…well, nearly everything really. My favourite genres are historical romances, sea tales in the Nelson era, westerns, cozy thrillers set in almost any period, steampunk stories and stories about the Roman army and era. I’m not that crazy about contemporary stories, but I’m willing to give them a go, if the story is interesting enough.

What has been the defining moment in your career that made you think “Yes, I am now a writer!”?
It was the moment I got an email from Tirgearr Publishing that said they loved ‘Harcourt’s Mountain’ and would like to send me a contract. I was pretty useless at work for the rest of the day. I was working at a wildlife television production company at the time and I think I must have driven everyone insane telling all and sundry a million times that my book had been accepted by a real-life publisher! From then on I have called myself a writer!

If a movie or TV production company chose to produce your books into a series of shows or movies, who would your ideal cast be?
Easy! My hero in ‘Harcourt’s Mountain’ was completely modelled on Daniel Craig and in ‘The Device Hunter’ he was modelled on Hugh Jackman – my wishful thinking cover proves it! It’s on my website. I pretty much use these two actors as the basis for nearly all my heroes. I create wishful thinking covers for the books and put them on the research files as well – to keep me inspired. (Cough)

How much of your own personality bleeds into your characters?
A fair amount, I should think. But isn’t that true of all writers? To write character convincingly we have to write out of what we know; what’s in our own past, or the people we know or out of our own emotional experience, at least. We have to be chameleons. We have to be able to get into the skin of other people. Which is just a nice way of saying that deep down we’re complete psychos and totally schizophrenic – we just hide it well and let ‘the others’ out to play through our writing!

Harcourt’s Mountain
Genre: Historical Romance
Publisher: Tirgearr Publishing
Heat Rating: (According to Tirgearr Publishing’s Heat Ratings): Level 2 - Sensual (kissing and at least one sexual encounter – there but not described in detail, if that makes sense.)

Book Blurb
Spring, 1867 – The western frontier of British Columbia hardly seems a likely place for romance. Filthy, terrified and confused, Hope Booker is waiting to be sold off the ‘bride’ ship. Luke Harcourt happens upon the sale. It’s not love at first sight, but he feels compelled to save her from a life of slavery and prostitution. To allay her fears of being raped, Luke promises never to touch her. Being a man of his word, this is a pledge he quickly finds almost impossible to keep.
Battling their growing attraction to each other, they must learn to live together in the forests of the wild and almost unexplored mountains. They face white water, Indians, wolves, and dangerous men.
 No longer able to deny their feelings, their ‘happy-ever-after’ is shattered when a corrupt land baron forces Luke’s hand. Enraged at the man’s actions, Luke rides into town—and disappears.
Alone and pregnant, Hope faces the prospect of the worst winter in ten years. The trauma of fighting off a hungry grizzly brings on labour, but the baby is stuck. Luke meanwhile wakes up on a ship bound for South America, captained by a revengeful sadist who plans to murder him. Will Luke survive and make it back to Hope in time?
Harcourt played along to see just how far she would go and exactly what she wanted. She coquetted outrageously for the length of time it took them to finish the bottle. When a waiter came to see if they wanted another, to Miss Butler’s obvious disappointment, Harcourt shook his head. As the waiter left, she stretched out her hand towards the cord that held the curtain in place.
Harcourt was quicker. He captured her hand saying, “Leave it. It might set tongues wagging.” She shot him a look, as if trying to read his face. Harcourt smiled, lifted her hand to his lips and kissed it. “We wouldn’t want that,” he said.
She fluttered her eyelashes. “Mr. Luke Harcourt. You don’t mind if I call you
Luke?” Harcourt wondered if she seriously believed that half a bottle of champagne
had made him more pliable.
“Not at all, Miss Butler.”
“You’re a very good poker player, Luke. How much did you win tonight?” She
moved closer, her knee touching his.
“Just over five hundred dollars, I believe.”
“Don’t you know for sure?” She laid her hand on his thigh.
He shrugged. “Counting the money while you play is a distraction.”
“How wonderful to be able to play and not worry about how much you might
be losing. That’s awfully brave. You must be very rich.”
Harcourt gave a short laugh. “Not rich enough for you, Miss Butler.”
“You could be very rich. My father says your mountain is a gold mine.”
Ah. Of course. “Does he indeed?”
“Oh yes.” Her fingers danced lightly on the muscle of his leg. “He says a man
could be wealthy overnight with all that lumber and salmon. Not to mention the
possibility of gold. Imagine how exciting it would be to discover gold!” Her hand
“It must be awfully lonely living up there on your own.” She gazed into his
eyes, her hand relaxing slightly on his thigh. “I’d be terrified. It’s so far away. No one
there to keep you company. What if something bad happens? Indians or bears?”
She lifted his hand, pressing his palm on her chest. “Here, you can feel my heart
trying to leap out my body even thinking about it.”
He let it lie on her white skin for a moment. It’d been a long time since he’d
been with a woman. He felt a momentary flicker of disquiet. But looking into her eyes he caught a glimpse of her empty, amoral, little soul and knew he had no cause for concern. He moved his hand round until it cupped the soft weight of her breast.        She breathed in. “If you sold your mountain to my father,” she murmured, “you would be very rich. You could move to town. We could get to know each other better.” Her hand crept up his thigh. “I’d like to get to know you, Luke, very well.”
He ran his thumb gently over her skin and bent towards her. She closed her
eyes. Her red lips parted, softening in anticipation, her breath came quickly. He gave
a soft laugh. He could feel her skin begin to warm under his fingers, her desire
spreading through her like smoky whiskey, melting her in his hands. She seemed to
have totally forgotten who was meant to be seducing whom.
“Luke,” she purred.
“Miss Butler. Will you do something for me?” His voice so latent with want she almost moaned in response. She could feel his breath on her face. She tilted her head back, shivering as his lips moved very gently on her neck, the tip of his tongue touching her.
“Anything?” His voice was deep, intoxicating. She pressed herself into his
“Good.” He released her and sat back, his voice normal, hard even. “Tell your
father my land is not for sale.”
She blinked. “What?”
“You heard me. Neither my land, nor my person for that matter, is for sale.”
He rose and moved away.
“But why? I, I mean I don’t know what...” She stared up at him. The shock of
his rejection was swiftly replaced by outrage. She stood up abruptly. “Oh, how, how
dare you! You were—”
“If you do want to get to know me better, Miss Butler, you can start with this—I’m not interested in little girls.”

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My Bio
I was born in Zambia, grew up in Zimbabwe and am currently living in South Africa. I say currently because I did my first round-the-world trip when I was four years old. So who knows where I'll end up! I trained as a designer and worked in that field for a number of years, even running my own company. A long stint in advertising followed. When I moved to South Africa I spent eight years in the TV industry, winning an odd international award. Writing was an aspect of each part of my career. But I realised this wasn't enough. I love "telling stories". I'm passionate about it, so in November 2011, I decided to "wrestle the Rottweiler" and put those stories on paper. I feel most alive when I'm writing and delight in letting my imagination run riot.

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