Interview with Devon Ellington

Published 2016-04-01.
What do your fans mean to you?
Fans are terrific. They are what allows me to earn a living doing what I love. They won't always agree with me; not every piece will work for every reader; but I'm always interested in what they have to say. I look at a great deal of my writing as something to open or enlarge conversation. We've lost so much of the Art of Conversation over the years -- it's important to practice whenever possible!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Writing is how I figure out the world, and I figure out my response to the world. Sometimes that's by embodying the perspective of a character with similar beliefs; sometimes it's by exploring perspectives very different to my own. I'm curious about just about everything, and putting it into words expands my understanding on all levels. If I can help widen the reader's perspective, so much the better. In non-fiction, such as the Topic Workbooks - - hey, I've been around a long time! If I can save someone else time and despair because they can learn from my mistakes, I'm all for it! ;)
What are you working on next?
So many things! I have a full roster of plays, radio plays, and novels on the slate. One of my publishers, Amber Quill, shut its doors recently. I will be re-releasing some of the short pieces over the coming months -- and some of them will have companion pieces, or "the next" story in a series, because readers have connected so deeply with the characters and want more. I've got a handful of short stories in various stages, and I want to put some more Topic Workbooks up here on Smashwords. I'm also talking to other publishers about taking on the Gwen Finnegan mysteries. The novels on the current slate also show some new directions for me -- a more traditional mystery with an amateur sleuth; a high fantasy novel with sisters at its core; a change-of-life contemporary novel, and an aviation mystery set in the late 1940s. It's going to be an exciting year!
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
The World. The world is a fascinating place. I can't wrap my head around "boredom". How can anyone ever be bored when there's always something new to learn?
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I read A LOT. I believe it's very important for writers to read as much and as widely as possible. I do yoga and meditate every day, and try to go on a couple of retreats a year. I work in the garden. I cook. I research things that interest me. I learned Argentine Tango last year -- which is influencing my writing in ways I never imagined! I support my fellow artists as much as possible -- going out to openings and readings and signings and the like. I'm deeply involved with the National Marine Life Center in Buzzards Bay and their mission to rehabilitate and release marine mammals and sea turtles. I'm active in environmental causes. I actively pester my representatives on federal, state, and local levels, because they can't represent me if they don't know what matters to me.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
It was a poem about morning, written when I was six. I wrote my first story, about my stuffed animals, shortly thereafter. I used to rewrite western television shows in the 60s and 70s with female characters in lead roles, because I didn't like the way they were set up! ;)
What is your writing process?
Sit down and write. I try to do my first 1000 words of the day early on, after feeding the cats, yoga, and meditation, but before anything else. Sometimes that means getting up at 4 AM, if I have a meeting at 8. That's the gig. I prefer to work on first drafts in the morning, and edit something else in the afternoon. If I'm on deadline, I'll just write however long I have to in order to make the deadline. When I finish a draft, I let it marinate for a month or so (two weeks on short pieces) before I do revisions and edits. If you don't give yourself time away, if you attack it immediately after you finish a draft, you won't catch what doesn't work. You have to be able to look at it with fresh eyes, as though someone else wrote it. I do as many drafts as it takes to get it where I want it before submitting it, or as many drafts as my contracted deadlines allow.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I learned to read on GREEN EGGS AND HAM when I was two and a half, but I'm not sure how much impact that had. My heroines growing up were Louisa May Alcott and Harriet Beecher Stowe. Their deep commitment to bettering the human condition had a huge effect on me. I also grew up on Nancy Drew, Beverly Gray, Judy Bolton, etc., and they impacted my need for justice to be served. Of course, as one gets older, one learns that justice and the law are often two different things.
What do you read for pleasure?
Anything I can get my hands on! ;) I re-read books often, favorite novels or biographies or diaries. They give me fuel. When I write in a genre, I read in another genre; otherwise the voice bleeds into mine. So, for instance, if I'm writing a mystery, I'll read a lot of fantasy or biography or literary fiction, but I won't read mystery. I love reading mysteries, so I'll read them if I'm writing something else. I read across genre, although I'm not a big horror fan. There are exceptions. But I seek out mysteries, historical fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy, biography (especially women's biographies). Cookbooks. I read cookbooks like most people read novels.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
Interviews. People are interested in the conversation, and then want to see how it applies to my writing. My blog, Ink in My Coffee ( garners readers, because they can follow the different drafts of a book from concept through publication, and then read the finished book. Meeting readers at conferences and teaching or participating in workshops. I prefer personal interaction as a reader, and I find that readers want that from me as a writer. People are interesting. If you take the time to talk to them in these networking situations, their stories matter.
Describe your desk
I have two desks. I have a wooden rolltop desk I got for free on craigslist a few months ago where I write in longhand, and I have a computer desk I've had for years that has my laptop and printer. Both have items that matter to me on them -- a gargoyle, a few crystals, objects with meaning. I don't put "accessories" around the house just to have stuff -- every piece has a story. The stories contribute to the way I tell stories.
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