Interview with Elizabeth Barone

Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I grew up in a broken and crumbling city—what was once the brass capital of the world. We've lost many manufacturing companies that were once our main economy. People here are pretty poor, but have come up with some interesting ways to survive. You can get a job in one of the rotating stores or collect scrap metal. Some went to college and moved away to pursue more lucrative careers. Many commute to New York or Hartford.

Like New York, Waterbury is separated into little boroughs. There's Town Plot, one of few remaining nice neighborhoods, originally mostly Italian; Hopeville, named for the elementary school but now full of biker gangs and drug dealers; and Brooklyn, the line of houses that go down Congress Avenue. Many of my stories take place in these neighborhoods. I'd rather write about someone trying to make it out of the bottom than someone living comfortably in, say, the Overlook.

That struggle is what feels more authentic to me. It's the victory of having accomplished something, despite the odds, that breathes life into my characters.
What's the story behind your latest book?
The streets of my city are flavored with Spanish love ballads and the spicy scent of food cooking. More and more young people don't want to learn Spanish, though. My great-grandmother has forgotten much of the Italian she once spoke, and no one else in my family learned. The more American we become, the more of our own culture we lose. As soon as I realized this, it shocked me. That blow created Savannah, a feisty twenty-something-year-old Boricua. When she meets Max, she can't understand why he doesn't speak Spanish, too. "It's your heritage," she tells him in dismay. She upends his life.

The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos is also a love letter to single dads. Max is raising his daughter while going to college and working full-time. He's determined to make a better life for his daughter, even if it means giving up his passion: music. Savannah recognizes this and brings him back to life.

It's a love story, but it's also an exploration of my generation.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
When I graduated high school, I thought you had to move to New York to become an author. I couldn't afford that, so I went to college and got a degree in digital arts. I worked in web design and marketing for a few years. Those were long days, and I didn't do much writing. I was pretty miserable, actually—even though I made decent money. Then I got sick, slammed with these recurring bouts of arthralgia that could totally debilitate me. After a few of these flareups and an alphabet soup of specialists, my doctors determined that something autoimmune was going on, but they couldn't quite figure out what.

I'd been blogging for years, and sometime during all of this I stumbled upon a couple of bloggers who had started self-publishing. I thought it was fascinating but didn't think that I could do it. The more I learned, though, the more I realized that maybe I could. At the beginning of 2011, I lost my job because of my illness, and without a diagnosis, there was nothing I could do about it. I spent the whole summer looking for something in retail and trying to figure out what I wanted to do next. I kept reading those blogs, paying close attention to what DeAnna Knippling was doing. It sounded fun. It also started sounding like something I could totally learn.

In October 2011, I decided to test the waters with a flash fiction I had previously won a literary reward for. I had no idea what I was doing, and I'd missed the initial $0.99 gold rush on Kindle. I loved writing, but was all over the place, bouncing from horror to literary to weird vignettes. The only common thread in my story was characters in their twenties, trying to figure things out. It took me a few years to realize this, but when I did, I fell head over heels in love with writing New Adult romance and suspense.
What is your writing process?
Something from my own life inspires me. It could be something I've noticed about my generation or from my personal experience. Usually it comes in a flash: "Ah, that's interesting." I don't always know what to do with it. I'll tuck it away in the back of my mind and either continue working it out, or wait until I subconsciously connect the dots. Eventually, it turns into an idea: "Someone who is dealing with something." It's my job to then weave that into a plot.

I write a synopsis, usually just a few paragraphs. Depending on how developed the plot is, this could take a few minutes or a few months. I like to just let it work itself out while I'm actively working on something else. Eventually, I write an outline. I turn off the critical, analytical part of me and just let it flow. I have no idea where it's going. It's more like a short and sloppy first draft than an outline. Once that part is done, I set a word count goal.

Often, I put the outline aside and focus on something else for a while. Then I read through it and tinker with it until the story flows. There has to be structure and conflict. I'm notorious for scrapping complete 12-page outlines and starting over. When it's as good as it's going to get, I write a more polished first draft.

I print each chapter as I finish it. Something about seeing that pile and my word count meter grow really motivates me. As soon as I write the last word of the manuscript, I tuck it all into a binder and hide it from myself. I might take a few days off and do nothing or, more than likely, I'll start on something else. As soon as I've completely forgotten what I've written, I take it out and start the editing process. I read through the first draft with a pen and some highlighters, and completely pick it apart. Then I type the corrections into a copy of the first draft, creating the second draft. Usually it's that second draft that I'll send to beta readers and editors.

I can be a little OCD, but when it's done, I know. It's more a feeling than a QR checklist—though I do make sure certain things are good to go before releasing it. You can't catch every single typo, but you can make sure there are no continuity issues or mismatching character descriptions.

I've been using this method for a while now. Before that, I just sort of blundered around. I'm a Virgo, so everything has to have a process. I've never been so relieved so have one.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
I can only pick five?!

Julie of the Wolves, by Jean Craighead George. Most of the book is the main character on her own or interacting with the pack of wolves, yet it's never boring. The way that George wove in Julie's memories to the main narrative was spellbinding.

The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King. The man is a master storyteller, but I was still amazed by how well he blended fantasy and western. The characters are the most memorable. I quote from these books more than anything else.

Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. I'm still in awe of how deftly Flynn handles the complex characters and plot in this book. It's a dark exploration of the human psyche and of marriage.

A Kind of Intimacy, by Jenn Ashworth. Being in Annie's head was truly frightening. Ashworth's prose is wickedly good.

The Silver Linings Playbook, by Matthew Quick. Anyone who can write a love story about two mentally ill people is an instant favorite. Quick gets it. He pulls no punches, but he also humanizes mood disorders.
Describe your desk
My desk is technically a drafting desk; it tilts but I leave it flat. I have a lamp, an old hot cocoa can full of pens, a stack of Post-its, a notebook, and my laptop. I like keeping it as neat as possible; the less clutter, the more focused I am. Someday, I would love a nice long Parsons desk and a better chair. My chair is piled with pillows, and usually I've got my heading pad on my back. I also sit with a step stool under my feet. I wear carpal tunnel braces while I use the computer, and have an ergonomic wrist rest for my keyboard.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
Knowing that someone enjoyed my stories, that my words made her feel something, is the best feeling in the world. I always feel slightly evil yet satisfied when someone tells me one of my books made her cry. I also feel like I've won the lottery when a guy says to me, "I don't usually read this kind of stuff, but your book was amazing." I love writing. My readers are the real reason I keep doing this, though.
What do your fans mean to you?
I don't feel comfortable thinking of people as fans. My readers feel more like friends. We cheer each other on. They share their struggles with me and send me virtual hugs when I'm sick. We have similar problems: depression, anxiety, chronic pain. My readers are like an extended family. I am the luckiest girl in the world to have such an amazing tribe.
What are you working on next?
People really loved my ESX series, but they all said the same thing: "I wish there was more, I wish this was longer." I'm writing a series of full-length novels starring the characters from ESX. Even some of the more minor ones will be making an appearance in some way. It's called the South of Forever series, and it also ties in with The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos. You can't see it, but I'm flailing with excitement. As of January 2015, I am almost done writing the first book in the series. I have at least five planned.

I have other projects, too—like writing the next Comes in Threes book—but for now, I'm focusing on the South of Forever series. Writing is art, but I also have to pay the bills.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
I suffer from depression and an undiagnosed autoimmune disease. Some days, it feels impossible to get out of bed. Other days, it is physically difficult to move. Knowing that there are people waiting for my next book, counting on me to get it done, motivates me to keep going, even when it's really hard. In 2014, I lost a close friend and spent months in bed because I was numb with grief and was taking an antidepressant that, unbeknownst to me, was making my depression worse. Even during this awful time, my family, friends, and readers cheered me on and helped me through.

Now, at the beginning of 2015, I'm in the worst flareup I've ever been in. It's looking like I have Rheumatoid Arthritis. I spent weeks physically unable to write, and there are days when I can't even walk. Yet these wonderful people continue to pour love into me and have even helped research pain relief methods and other therapies. It's because of them that I keep fighting.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
I wish I had a cool answer, like "I climb mountains" or something. Honestly, I'm pretty boring. I watch football with my husband (go Colts)! I stroll through the craft store and get burned with hot glue guns with my sister-in-law (we're really clumsy). I drink coffee and goof around with my friends (when we get going, we can make each other pee our pants). I like to unwind with a good book or a few hours of The Sims 3 (the new one hasn't come out for Mac yet).
Published 2015-01-11.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

The Stairs Between Us
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 65,100. Language: American English. Published: May 30, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Contemporary, Fiction » Women's fiction » General
Noah and Levi should both walk away from the wreckage of their marriage, but neither of them can.
A Disturbing Prospect
Series: River Reapers Motorcycle Club. Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 60,410. Language: American English. Published: January 5, 2018. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Suspense, Fiction » Thriller & suspense » Action & suspense
An ex-convict and a social worker right the wrongs of a dirty town with the help of the River Reapers MC.
Any Other Love
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 79,400. Language: American English. Published: August 21, 2017. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Gay & lesbian fiction » Lesbian
Five nights under the city lights could give Amarie and Char the happily-ever-after they’ve always wanted, but a devastating diagnosis and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity could send it all crashing down.
Just One More Minute
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 57,270. Language: American English. Published: November 18, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
A down-on-her-luck waitress inherits a bakery with the man who stole her dream job—and broke her heart. Contemporary Romance.
Twisted Broken Strings
Series: South of Forever. Price: Free! Words: 79,010. Language: American English. Published: August 30, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
If she lets him into her band, she'll have to let him into her heart. Contemporary rockstar romance.
What Happens on Tour
Series: South of Forever. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 58,960. Language: American English. Published: August 19, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
South of Forever's first tour is about to begin, and so is Poppy's career—if she can keep all her lies straight.
Savannah's Song
Series: South of Forever. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 58,660. Language: American English. Published: June 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
Ever since artist Savannah Santos started taking care of her boyfriend’s daughter, she’s had less time to paint. At first, it seemed as if Max and Chloe were the family she always wanted. But as Max grows more distant, Savannah starts to think encouraging him to join South of Forever was a huge mistake.
Diving Into Him
Series: South of Forever. Price: $2.99 USD. Words: 60,920. Language: American English. Published: June 1, 2016. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
Sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll—that was Jett Costa’s old life. After her wildly popular band falls apart, she’s determined to remain sober and rebuild her career. There’s just one problem. The only person who still has any faith in her is her ex-boyfriend Koty, and Jett isn’t sure that she can keep her hands off him.
The Nanny with the Skull Tattoos
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 56,880. Language: English. Published: February 24, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Romance » New adult, Fiction » Romance » Contemporary
Single dad Max isn’t looking for love—he only needs someone to help take care of his two-year-old daughter, Chloe. Or so he thinks. After being kicked out of his parents’ house, he’s determined to make it on his own. But juggling a full-time job, an undergrad program, and childcare is pretty much impossible.