Hi Elizabeth, thanks for coming over to Lightning City. I appreciate you agreeing to answer some questions about your books, how you write and yourself.
Char: I started reading your books before reading your blog. So I’ve been curious, Morgana blogs on your website segments of what becomes “Payne in the Blog”. Which came first? The book or the blog.
Elizabeth: Technically the Blog came first, but the idea for the book came first in my head. I had been toying around with an idea for a character driven outlet on social media about a year ago. But it didn’t hit me to do a character blog until I saw a ‘bestselling’ author do a character blog with a fashion magazine website. I had thought up Morgana and Payne just a week earlier and then came across the other author’s character blog and thought it would be perfect for Morgana.
Char: Now did Morgana come to you fully formed like Harry Potter did to J.K. Rowling? Or was “Payne in the Blog” more of … “a story that needed to be told or you’d go crazy” kind of thing.
Elizabeth: I would say she came to me about half-way formed. Over the course of the blog posts and writing the book (as I was doing both at the same time) she became more fleshed out. I didn’t even discover her love of cake until I had written a few blog posts.
Char: I’ve noticed that Aria, Morgana’s roommate, has been taking over her blog lately. Is she going to get her own book/s?
Elizabeth: Yes. I had planned on starting her book once I got done Rules of Payne 2, but another book that I am co-writing came up, so I probably won’t be able to get to Aria’s story until the end of the year.
Well I cannot wait to get to Aria’s story. I eagerly await Tuesdays and Thursdays when the Blog Posts come out on your website for each installment. That being said … You have created so many great female characters in Morgana’s world, are we going to see all of the ladies get a chance at love? (Evaleen and Tiffany).
Elizabeth: Yes. When I first started the blog/book I only planned on it being a short novella and a couple months worth of blog posts. Only Morgana’s story. But now it’s turned into a monster. I probably won’t stop the blog until the end of the year, and now I am going to write Aria’s, Evaleen’s & Tiffany’s story. And they will be featured on the blog too.
Char: Again I can’t wait for that especially Evaleen. She is my favorite character … although I think Tiffany may have some hidden depths.
Are there any characters that you are most like – or is there someone you know that you’ve modeled them after?
Elizabeth: My personality is sprinkled in all of them. I’m nosey like Aria, fearless when it comes to people like Evaleen, have a major sweet-tooth like Morgana and know what it’s like to have a son with consistent medical issues like Tiffany. The only character that is slightly based on anyone is Alexander. He is based on a boyfriend I had in my twenties. His mom was very controlling and he was an artist.
Char: What is your favorite thing about writing Romance? What is your least favorite thing?
Elizabeth: Favorite thing: Writing the characters I want. A lot of characters I write are in reaction to characters I have read and didn’t like. My Him Her Them series was in reaction to all the virginal/man-whore books I read. It seemed 80% of the books I picked up had that and I just thought, “Why can’t a strong woman, who is sexually secure in herself, be hot? Also, aren’t man-whores just insecure guys, whoring it up to feel good about themselves?” So, I created Jos and Pierce in reaction to that.
Least Favorite thing: Writing sex scenes. It’s not that I get squirmy, actually the opposite. Yes, I turn myself on, doesn’t everyone? Anyway, the sex scenes take a long time to write. It takes me at least double the amount of time to write them, so I can make them just right. Though I will admit, there is one sex scene I wrote in Rules of Payne 2 (you will have to wait until July to find out – sorry), that I wrote rather quickly only because I used a lot of humor with it. I am quick with the funny.
Char: What’s next?
Elizabeth: Rules of Payne 2: Electric Boogaloo (yes, that is the subtitle. I have always wanted to put Electric Boogaloo on something and I thought Rules of Payne would be perfect) comes out end of July. It is in the editing stages at this moment.
Currently, I am about to start an EPIC series with L.E. Chamberlin about a male strip club. If you have ever read Game of Thrones, you know that each chapter is a different character’s point of view and it all flows in real-time. That is the inspiration for the book. It isn’t sci-fi, still a romance but there will be a lot of different story-lines interweaving with others and some dark elements as well as light and funny. Most will have a HEA, but since there will be so many story-lines, not everyone is going to be HEA. It’s going to center around a Male strip club in Washington DC. The best way to describe it would be Game of Thrones meets The Wire meets The Notebook meets Magic Mike, if that makes sense.
I will keep up the Payne In The Blog through all this, until the end of the year. After the EPIC book I will start on Aria’s book. Also, through all this I have been working on a book I want to submit to a Literary Agent. So, I am doing a ton of writing.
Wow, that’s so exciting and great!
Char: Can you pick a favorite scene you’ve written in any of your novels?
Elizabeth: It would be a three way tie with the shower scene in Rules of Payne, the condom wrapper scene in Rules of Payne 2, and the Airplane scene in Rules of Payne 2. A close second would be the diner scene with the vagina poem in The Payne In The Blog. I like funny scenes, since I got my start in comedy. So if a scene can make me laugh then I’m happy.
Char: There are many writers that are Moms. Are you a “Stay at Home Writer” or a “Coffee Shop Writer”? Do you give yourself “Working Hours” or are you more of a “When the Muse Strikes” type? What’s your deal Elizabeth?
Elizabeth: I so wish I was a coffee shop writer. For some reason I think it would be cool to hole up in a coffee shop all day writing. As you can see I have no life. With that said, yes I am a Stay at Home Mom Writer. So my writing revolves around my kids schedule. I have an almost 3 year old and 4 year old. They both are in morning pre-school so I get several hours in the morning M-F to write. Wednesdays are my all-day. They go into afternoon daycare on Wednesdays. I used to write with any free time I had, but burnt out a few months ago, so now I only write M-F. If I get inspired on the weekend then I will write a little, but other than that the weekends are my free time.
Char: What was the road to getting published like? Where you part of a local writer’s group? Romance Writers’ of America? Did you have a mentor?
Elizabeth: When it comes to creative ventures I tend to jump in without looking. It works in my favor and it also really, really doesn’t. It works because I don’t have time to worry if I am doing something wrong, panic and change my mind. It doesn’t work because of everything else you can think of. I make tons of mistakes. I mean a lot! A lot of writers have literary degrees or have written little stories all their life or have read tons and tons of books all their life, so they decided to take the author plunge. None of that is true with me.
I read very little most of my life. I have a learning disability and used to have panic attacks when people asked me to read something. My mom used to try to bribe me with clothes as a teenager (you can get your favorite name brand sweater if you read 3 books), but it didn’t work. Once I hit my late teens/early twenties I had a boring summer job after my junior year in college where I worked in a hotel gift shop. The only thing to do there was read from the bestseller list that lined the display. So I did. It was the first time I actually liked reading. I would occasionally read off and on after that, but I gravitated toward historical fiction or fantasy. I did read some romance.
The embarrassing part is I didn’t even know erotic romance existed until I started writing it. That’s how naive I am. I had heard of Fifty Shades of Grey but I never read it. I just thought it was a dark romance. Then I read an article about a stay at home mom who wrote erotica. I thought, “If she can do it so can I.” I never knew the author, never had read her books, just read the article and decided to jump in head first – like I do. So, a little over a year later, here I am having made a bunch of mistakes, but learning and growing as an author. As far as a mentor, I am too afraid to go up to any author and ask if they will mentor me. I asked Penny Reid a question once and nearly had a heart-attack after because she didn’t respond for a few days. I kept panicking and thinking I scared her off and that she thinks I’m crazy and is ignoring me. Turns out she was just busy with life. But she was very nice answering my question in great detail. My husband doesn’t understand my paranoid fear of asking for help.
Char: So since you fear asking for help, how do you deal with writers’ block? Power through, step back to breathe, or “eat your feelings” with cake or brownies?
Elizabeth: I got a little bit of writers block with Rules of Payne 2. I had plotted out the book many months ago, but so much of the story changed while writing the first book and the blogs, I had to start over when I went to write #2. I knew what was going to happen for the first third of the book, but after that I was stumped and every idea I came up with sucked. I let my mind stew a bit, that seems to help but this time it didn’t. I finally had to just sit down and start writing. Finally, I wrote through it and am very happy how it turned out. There is even a chapter in the middle of the book that right up until the end of the chapter I really planned on it ending a certain way, but when I got there Morgana wouldn’t let that happen.
Her idea was much better and I think improved the book. (Yes my characters speak to me.)
As for the “eat my feelings”, I just eat. Happy, sad, tired, energetic, if chocolate is around it isn’t for long if I am there. My husband gets mad at me all the time for eating all the sweets. He throws a lot of, “Were you going to save any for me?” and “Maybe I wanted some of that.”at me. I live by the motto: You snooze you lose.
Char: I think that you and I think alike. “Welcome to the Dark Side, we have Chocolate.”
Now it’s the moment we’ve both been waiting for … Lightning’s Studio!!! I know we are nerdy big fans of this Actors’ Studio quiz, and I think we have been dying for an opportunity like this to arise. So let’s get to it …
Lightning’s Studio Questionnaire:
Char: What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
Elizabeth: The question should be what profession haven’t you tried? I have been a Medical Photographer, Improviser, Actress, Printer, Graphic Technician, Sales Person, Merchandiser, and Executive Assistant. I have always wanted to be an Archaeologist or Forensic Pathologist or History Professor. I’m sorry, it’s too hard to be just one thing.
Char: What “turns you on” creatively?
Elizabeth: I read a lot. I like well defined characters and quality writing. Even if it’s a completely different genre than I normally read, if it is well written, strong characters and gets to the point (meaning not a lot of inner monologue with too much description). Also, I like funny movies, tv shows and comedians. Basically, good comedy. I did Improv for a long time and did my senior thesis on Monty Python, so comedy is very important to me.
Char: What “turns you off” creatively?
Elizabeth: When people try to be shocking, just to be shocking. To me, that’s easy. Also, being mean or calling people names in the name of humor. It’s not funny, it’s childish. If I read a book blurb or the sample of a book where the heroine is so hilarious because she calls all her friends ‘bitch’ and they make fun of each other all the time – because they can because they are friends, I immediately stop reading. All I can think is she has the mentality of a teenager, I have long since left high school, don’t want to read about that immaturity. Also, if the blurb to a book starts like this: “I’m a terrible person. I do terrible things to people and I don’t care. You will hate me but I don’t care.” Unless I am reading a book about a psychopath, I don’t want to read that. All I can thinks is, the author wanted to make the most outrageous character on earth, instead of trying to create a real and believable character. I don’t know of one person who goes around with that mentality, whether they do bad thing or not. No one wants to be hated. I understand it’s a hook by the author to catch a readers eye, but it actually turns me off.
Char: What profession would you not like to do?
Elizabeth: Doctor. I could not have someone’s life in my hands. I would not be able to sleep at night if a patient died. Doctors and Nurses are courageous and I am in awe of them. I know I could never do it, I’m too much of a coward.
Char: What is your favorite word?
Elizabeth: Silly-puss. It’s what I call my sons when they are being silly.
Char: What is your least favorite word?
Elizabeth: Unacceptable. When anyone says it to me my blood starts to boil.
Char: What’s your favorite curse word?
Elizabeth: Penis-face. It’s a nice twist on dickhead.
Char: If Heaven exists, what would you like to happen when you get there?
Elizabeth: That it’s like a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Defending Your Life, but without the creepy Oompa-Loompas. I would be let free to enjoy as much food and chocolate that I like, hang out with loved ones, see all my past lives and just enjoy myself without worry.
Thank you Elizabeth for taking the time for talking about yourself, your characters and your books. This was a blast and I hope you’ll be back!