Interview with Ellen L. Buikema

Published 2020-04-25.
What are you working on next?
I am working on a Young Adult Historical Fiction novel, The Hobo Code.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I tend to exercise soon after waking but I don't always feel like it. On the days I don't want to get out of bed, I think about what might happen during the day that could be fun. Writing is always interesting. When writing fictional stories, as I do now, I never know what the characters are going to tell me. Their antics inspire me to get going with the day.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
The earliest story I can recall writing I wrote when I was a very hormonal 15-year-old. It was about a trip we took as a family to Arkansas and the boy I met at a dance. Before leaving for the dance, I remember my father saying, "If anybody asks you to go for a drive in the mountains, tell them NO." I thought, well, no one will ask that. Turns out dad was correct.

I wrote the story inside an old 6th grade English text I had at home so no one would ever find it. What I wrote at the time is gone, but the memory is still lurking about.
What is your writing process?
There are plotters and there are pantsers. I am a bit of both but mostly I fall into the later category. Many ideas come to me during sleep, meditation, and when I am not concentrating on anything in particular. Characters kind of "show up" in my mind and let me know what they will and will not do.

I read aloud what I've written to find errors before bringing the material to one or two critique groups I attend. After that, more editing.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The earliest story that impacted me would have to be The Secret Garden, which I read during my elementary school years. I noticed while reading I was able to "see" the story as a movie within my mind. I loved that the book made me feel for the characters. The imagery felt so real to me that I could almost smell the flowers in the garden and feel the temperature of the air as it was described.
How do you approach cover design?
I have a general feel for what artwork should be on the covers of my books. For the Charlie books, I let my illustrator know what I have in mind, and we go forward from there. I show the cover to a number of people for opinions and go with what feels best.
What do you read for pleasure?
I am a fan of time-travel mysteries, science fiction, historical fiction, fantasy-thriller, and mysticism.
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
The book trailers I've made are helpful, as is using social media for marketing. I write a blog for Writers In The Storm which is enjoyable and helps with name recognition. Work of mouth also helps.
Describe your desk
My desk. Well, my writing area changes. Right now my writing area is on the dining room table. Papers are here and there. I have a candle given to me by my oldest daughter, scented for inspiration. A stuffed dragon, about one foot high, by the name of Nom Nom (as in nom nom that fairie was tasty) sits behind my laptop. A tiny aquarium complete with goldfish and bubbles made of glass from Murano, Italy, and a gift form my youngest daughter, is to my right near the laptop's mouse.

I was writing in the kitchen, but the light coming into the room was too bright, hence the slight change in venue.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in the Chicago area. I lived in an old house with little insulation so when it was cold outside we were shivered inside. When it was hot and steamy we were lethargic and cranky. There was little money for getting away anywhere, so books became my main mode of escape and were very important to me.

My Irish grandfather, who lived in Chicago, passed along a love of poetry. He used to sit me on his lap and tell me about life on the family farm and recite poetry. I loved his brogue and the way his words made pictures in my mind. It is because of him that I attempted to write my own poems. Mom and I were the only readers in my house. That is not to say that no one else read, just not for fun. My mother enjoyed my writing but never told me this until a few years before her death. She never had the opportunity to read any of my books. That is one regret.
What's the story behind your latest book?
When I was growing up my mother told me something surprising. Some family members left the Midwest at a very young age and traveled without their parents across the country on freight trains. She said if it weren't for the hobos, they might never have successfully made the journey. Since all involved in the travels have passed on, I decided to write the story as historical fiction. All locations can be found on Goggle Maps. Extensive research is involved.

My Work In Progress, The Hobo Code, is based loosely on my family history. In 1906 three children are sent to an orphanage by their father after their mother's death. A tragedy forces them to flee the orphanage, sending them on a dangerous journey across the country via freight trains. With the help of hobos and an envelope with the address of relatives in Los Angeles, they travel a dangerous path to find a new home.
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Books by This Author

The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: Summertime
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 8,670. Language: English. Published: June 30, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Emotions & Feelings, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Friendship
The Chameleon' vacation is off to a bumpy start. Frankie, the family fish, causes trouble on the plane. Papa gets lost driving in the mountains looking for Mystery Lake, where Frankie is sure mermaids lurk. When they return home, Charlie's old friend,Tamika Turtle, visits him to attend a soccer game and meets his new friends. Charlie hopes his friends will accept her, never expecting what happens.
The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: School Days
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 7,770. Language: English. Published: March 9, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / Bullying
Charlie Chameleon and his friends are having trouble with Boris Bunny, the class bully. Charlie thinks Boris is putting on an act, but his friends disagree. Follow Charlie’s adventures as he helps Boris learn how to be a friend. Children and parents enjoy the activities at the end of each chapter.
The Adventures of Charlie Chameleon: New Beginnings
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 7,090. Language: English. Published: March 8, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Children’s books » Readers / Chapter Books, Fiction » Children’s books » Social Issues / New Experience
Moving and making new friends is tough! When Charlie Chameleon and his family start their adventure in New Town, Charlie discovers he is braver than he knows. With his bossy pet fish, Frankie, by his side, he faces many challenges, including standing up to the neighborhood bully. Children and parents love the activities at the end of each chapter.
Parenting . . . A Work in Progress
Price: $8.99 USD. Words: 51,680. Language: English. Published: August 12, 2015. Categories: Nonfiction » Parenting » Childhood development, Nonfiction » Psychology » Developmental / general
Is it possible to raise well-adjusted children without losing your mind? Parenting . . . A Work in Progress offers insightful strategies and humorous stories to guide seasoned, as well as new parents of children, newborn to adolescent. Parenting has always been a trying job. Crypts found from the 11th century contain prayers from parents asking for help with their children. It’s the parents’ job t