Interview with Elle Lothlorien

Were you surprised when your first novel became a bestseller?
I don't think any writer "plans" to become a bestseller--so yes, I was absolutely stunned. (Still am, most days.) When I self-published The Frog Prince (a Romantic Comedy) in July of 2010, people in the publishing industry--fellow-authors, agents, editors--told me I was crazy, and that I would be pounding a nail into the coffin of my writing career. I sold exactly 1 copy in July of 2010; honestly, I couldn't be certain that one of my parents didn't buy it. In September, I sold 18 copies. In October, it was nearly 100 copies. In November, it was several hundred, and the number kept growing. The Frog Prince peaked at #1 in the Kindle Store for Humor in May of 2012. Tens of thousands of copies have been sold to date, but it all started with those dozen or so readers who took a chance on an unknown book back in July of 2010.
Was Alice in Wonderland really based in part on your own trip to Australia?
Absolutely correct. Personal factoid: I am not a spontaneous person. A close author-friend of mine personifies spontaneity. In the summer of 2012, days before she was set to depart for a two-week trip to Australia, she emailed this afterthought to me: “Come with me if you feel like it—I'm headed for the Gold Coast and then just driving wherever. You're always welcome!” Once my Valium drip beat down a massive panic attack, I booked a separate flight. Now, here’s why a person like me should never, ever attempt anything resembling spontaneity. Without getting into the wheres and whyfores of the International Date Line, let’s just say that the concept of arriving in a country two days after I left my place of origin was just too much for my poor little brain to process. Not until I was sitting on the Qantas flight did I discover that I’d booked my ticket on the wrong day, and (best of all) that my friend’s flight didn’t leave until the next day. In short, I was headed to a country where I didn’t know a single soul, where I had no international phone service or transportation, and absolutely no idea where the hell I was even supposed to go when I got there. Alice in Wonderland is partially based on this impromptu trip “down the rabbit hole.”
Is “Elle Lothlorien” a pen-name?
No, it is my real, legal name! It is not my birth name, however.

Here’s the deal: When I was 18-years-old, I changed my last name legally from my birth surname to “Lothlorien.” Why? For the same reason teenagers do anything: because they can. I think I found out that it only cost $50 to file the paperwork with the court (the process was a lot less complicated in those days and didn’t involve an FBI background check or anything). But first I had to decide on a name. I pored over dozens of books, looking through some of my favorite novels for something that seemed like a good fit. I finally decided on “Lothlorien” (a forest in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings) for the simple reason that it sounded pretty. I filed my paperwork with the court, paid my $50, and a few weeks later…presto! A brand new name!

No, I do not think I’m an elf. No, I do not attend Comic-Con and wear pointy rubber ears. I do not speak High Elvish (or Low, if that even exists).

My first name, Elle, is also not my birth name. Here’s the backstory there: After high school, I joined a volunteer fire department. As you can imagine, it was mostly men. The guys in my battalion (Bat 4, yo) tended to call each other by their last names. Since my last name was so long and complicated, some of the guys started calling me “L” (the first letter in my last name). Then people at work started to call me “L” too, and pretty soon I was introducing myself as Elle! When people asked, “How do you spell that?” I had to think of something besides “Uh…it’s spelled ‘L.’” Using the fashion magazine ELLE as a model, I began spelling what was at the time a nickname E-L-L-E.

The reason I eventually changed my first name legally from my birth name to Elle was because it got complicated financially trying to explain to people why they had to write checks or draft legal documents using a first name they’d never heard of before (unless they were someone in my family or knew me before 1991 or 1992).

See? Simple (and fairly boring) story there. No elves, sorry.
If you were a fairy tale character, who would you be?
Whichever one is wearing the biggest hoop skirt, honey.
Did you really write Alice in Wonderland in 35 days?
It is absolutely true that I wrote Alice in Wonderland in 35 days—starting on September 26th, 2012 and finishing the first draft on October 31st, 2012—thirty-five days in the seventh circle of hell. I will never, EVER attempt this again.
Were you really in New York City during Hurricane Sandy when you wrote the final chapters of Alice in Wonderland?
Yes, that’s absolutely true—I was in New York City to meet with my agent when Hurricane Sandy hit. My agent called an agent friend of hers to see if she could put me up once it was clear that getting out of the city before the hurricane struck was going to be impossible. This, of course, was right around Halloween, during the final push to finish the novel and edit it before putting it out November 7th. Up until that point, I’d been holed up in a Times Square hotel working without pause for a solid week, and I wasn’t that keen on inconveniencing a stranger with my bizarre, end-of-project behavior (cue Wilson the volleyball, if you know what I mean).

Fortunately for me, my agent's friend was an absolute doll, completely understanding of my predicament. She was, however, alarmed at how little sleep and food I was getting. When I could no longer hold up my head, or when my eyes burned so badly that I couldn’t keep them open anymore, I would flop down for one-hour naps. More often than not, I would find a tray of soup and tea sitting on the table next to the bed when I woke up. It was like having a literary house elf. Looking back, I'm not sure I couldn't have finished the book without her fussing over me.
Are you going to write a sequel to Alice in Wonderland?
Eventually, yes. Naturally, the title will be Through the Looking Glass. I really had a great time writing Alice in Wonderland, and since Lewis Carroll wrote a sequel to "Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland," a sequel doesn’t feel contrived, just natural—like planning a reunion with old friends.
Is it true that the scene in the book where Alice Dahl is explaining to “Rabbit” Montgomery how she came to final in the International Poker Tour four months after learning how to play poker is based on your own experience?
True again! In 2006 I found myself at a home poker tournament of over twenty people. Of course, knowing absolutely nothing about Texas Hold’Em, I busted out after only playing two hands (and yes, the reference to the framed poster of poker hands did happen to me!). I’m a little bit of a competitive person, so for the next couple of months I threw myself into an accelerated crash-course of Texas Hold’Em poker. When I was invited back to play in another home tournament I accepted—much more knowledgeable, of course—and walked away with second place and close to $400 in prize money after beating all men (save one other women).

Fun fact: I haven’t played a single hand of poker (or any other card game) since then.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #1
Upon boarding your Qantas flight to Australia, you will be issued a kit containing a blanket, a sleep mask, a toothbrush, and a small tube of toothpaste, all tightly wrapped in plastic. When one inquires about the hermetically sealed blanket, one is informed that fears of bird flu and Ebola pandemics had prompted the airlines to do their part in lowering the risk by eliminating recycled blankets of yesteryear. Whatever you do, don’t jokingly respond with “Oh, you mean like how we accidentally wiped out Native Americans by giving them smallpox blankets?” Because that nice rice pudding everyone else seems to be enjoying will be withheld from your dinner tray.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #2
When you inform your new Aussie friends about your plans to drive by car from Surfer’s Paradise to Sydney (a distance of approximately 529 miles), be prepared for them to cut you off with “You know that it’s a really long way, right?” Gently explain that, while we may not be our own continent and everything, we have a pretty big country over in America too. (Plus, we kind of invented the road trip.)
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #3
There is no consensus—even among Australians—about which continent Australia or the neighboring country of New Zealand belongs to, with the populace evenly split between “Australia,” and “Somewhere Else.” Ironically, the latter is closer to the truth. According to Wikipedia, New Zealand is part of Zealandia, “a submerged continental fragment that sank after breaking away from Australia 60-85 million years ago.” Not only that, but both Australia and New Zealand are part of the continent of Oceania, which is actually not a continent. (I’m still working out the logic of that.) Whatever you do, do not ask Australians or New Zealanders if they are also citizens of Atlantis.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #4
Australians drive on the left side of the road. When, upon leaving the car rental lot, your traveling companion enthusiastically attempts to use the windshield wipers as a turn signal before abruptly bringing the car to a stop and muttering, “Okay, I just need a second to recover from THAT”—don’t laugh. For one thing, the steering wheel and all important automobile-related amenities are on the wrong side of the vehicle. For another thing, your turn at frantic, windshield-wiper-signaling, and nervous breakdowns while navigating the Roundabouts of Death is definitely coming; it’s just a matter of time.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #5
They have a hotline and everything. It’s the equivalent of Colorado rattlesnakes, only rattlesnakes don’t make you too scared shitless to use a toilet.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #6
Don’t complain about your life, even in a trivial, throwaway-remark-sort-of-way, because Australians will always follow up with an anecdote that will make your existence look positively dull and possibly not worth living by comparison. Case in point: I was grumbling to my new Australian friend that if my dog sees a rabbit when we go for a walk, he’ll chase it. She sighed and said, “Yeah, if there’s a kangaroo in the yard when my dog goes out, he’ll chase it, and then I have to run after him.” She may have said other things after this, but I was busy picking up my brain, which had blown out of my skull after trying to process how a dog chasing a kangaroo down the street could ever be considered an event so routine as to be annoying.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #7
No, the American plug will not go into the Aussie socket no matter how you twist and turn the plug.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #8
If you’ve ever wanted to feel stupider than you already do when you have to decide how much to tip your U.S. dog shampooer/valet/cab driver/barista/proctologist, stop whatever you’re doing, get thee to Australia, and offer a tip to someone (it doesn’t really matter what their profession is). For Australians, I suppose there’s a trace of pleasure to be derived from telling a cash-brandishing American tourist (yours truly, who had just had the first full-service fill-up at a gas station in twenty years): “There is no tipping in this country.” I walked away from that encounter feeling like I’d just used the wrong words for “thank you,” and had instead solicited the guy for sex. Then I remembered that Australians speak English. Sort of.
"Falling Down the Rabbit Hole" Australia Travel Tip #9
Once you leave the state of Queensland behind you and enter New South Wales, you’ll notice that the locals will greet you with “How’re you going?” Just smile and say, “Great, thanks.” Do not try to be a smartass and answer “by koala.” Because Australians are very possessive of their marsupials, and will proceed to relate stories of a deadly, carnivorous creature called a “Drop Bear”
Why do you refer to your fans as "Frog Nation"?
Strangely enough, it wasn't me who came up with this moniker; it was a fan on Facebook. It was several years ago, but I believe someone made a comment to one of my posts, writing something to the effect of "Frog Nation has your back." And the name stuck!
If you could go to the past or the future, where would you go and why?
Definitely the future, but it would depend on whether or not I could control both the time and the physical destination I was traveling to. Knowing my luck, I’d end up like that guy in the movie “The Time Machine” who gets knocked unconscious inside the time machine and flops over the steering wheel, leaving the thing careening wildly out of control (all the way to the year 800,000), arriving just in time to see what remains of humanity trying to eat each other. Good luck finding spare parts for your flux capacitor now, big guy.

As for the past, I refuse to consider traveling to any date before the invention of antibiotics (circa 1932).

Also, no to the 1970s. Because disco.
Do you kill bugs or set them free?
It depends on the bug and where they are in relation to my person. For the most part, I have a “live and let live” policy when it comes to insects. Unless you’re a spider; then you’re as good as dead.

That’s because when I was in my early 20s, I ran calls with a fire & rescue department for six years. One fateful night at 3am, we were dispatched to a call. Still, half-awake, I pulled on my boot and a felt a sharp sting on the top of my foot. I tore the boot off just in time to witness a huge spider strolling out of it. It was too dim in the bunkroom to see what kind of spider it was, but my foot swelled up like a balloon and it felt like it was being spit-roasted over open coals for the next two days.

The moral of this story is this: Before donning any type of footwear you can’t see the bottom of, one should turn it upside down, shake it around, smack it against a brick wall, beat it with a sledgehammer, and drive your car over it a few times. If a spider somehow survives these tactics and actually manages to bite you, remember the plus side: there's a good chance that you could walk away from the situation with superhero powers. Or at least the ability to glow in the dark (which would be kewl at dance clubs under white lights and stuff).
When did you realize you wanted to reinvent the classic fairy tale?
Reinventing fairy tales actually happened by accident. In 2009, I saw a 60 Minutes-type show about people who are technically next in line to a throne somewhere in the world—Ethiopia, Russia, Greece, Albania. The only problem, of course, is that those countries no longer have monarchies, so those "princes" were driving cabs and slinging burgers and stuff. That same year, I read an article about a group in France called “Monarchists” who were lobbying to reinstate the monarchy there (with obvious positive implications for guillotine manufacturers everywhere).

In any case, those two stories planted the seed that led to the premise for THE FROG PRINCE, in which a Denver sexuality researcher, Leigh Fromm, meets the man who would have been the king of Austria—if the monarchy there hadn’t been abolished in 1918. The title of the novel comes from the Brother’s Grimm fairy tale of the same name about a girl who kisses a frog and turns him into a real prince. Leigh Fromm is a woman who is a little on the quirky side, and isn’t quite sure what to do with the would-have-been King of Austria when he pursues her.

When I came up with the idea for my second book about a young woman with a sleep disorder called Klein-Levin Syndrome (aka “Sleeping Beauty Syndrome”) I didn’t have to agonize over what to call it. It wasn’t until I was halfway through writing Sleeping Beauty that I realized that I had stumbled on a potential franchise of sorts; namely, the reinvention of classic fairy tales.
If you could have one superpower what would it be?
In general, I’m leery of superpowers of any kind. That’s because no matter how secretive you are about your superhuman ability to fly without ruining your hairdo, someone—probably the one person you love and trust most in the world—will inevitably out you. And once you’ve been yanked out of that phone booth, Clark Kent, there ain’t no going back in it. Also, superpowers go hand-in-hand with disastrous fashion choices that seem to inspire unfortunate, tight-fitting costumes that scream "erectile dysfunction."
What is the craziest or ugliest object in your house, and why do you keep it?
The craziest object in my house would have to be my son (aka "The Boy"). While I suppose he’s as attractive as any kid at the age of seventeen can be, I find myself questioning his sanity daily. Here is a typical exchange, this one taking place after I caught The Boy microwaving one of those greasy “pancake-and-sausage-on-a-stick” snacks on a paper towel instead of plate:

Me: “Don't cook that on a paper towel—the microwave will get all greasy! Put it on a plate!”
The Boy: “I couldn't find a plate!”
Me [opens cupboard, points at a plate]: “What does that look like?”
The Boy: “I mean I couldn't find a SMALL plate. They're all in the dishwasher.”
Me: “What difference does it make what size the plate is?”
The Boy: “It just feels weird to only use part of it.”
Me, incredulous: “You still have to put it in the dishwasher and wash the whole thing no matter how much of it you get dirty! If it makes you feel better, lick the parts of the plate your food doesn't touch.”
The Boy, laughing: “Shut up, okay?”
Me, shaking head sadly while walking away: “Well, okay...if you think it'll help.”

Why do I keep him? Well, I suppose I’ve always been under the impression that it is my legal obligation to feed, shelter, and nurture The Boy until he reaches the age of 18 (or is arrested and extradited for hacking into, like, Uzbekistan). Also, along with my dachshund, Bacon Bourgeois, Legendary Wiener, The Boy has a cult following on my Facebook page. If anecdotes about him suddenly stopped, people would notice.
What motivated you to become an indie author?
Believe it or not, I started off writing thrillers. After completing my first thriller, I queried and quickly found an agent. My agent found an interested publisher almost immediately. Unfortunately, the editor from that publishing house left to start a literary agency before a deal could be finalized. Despite several rounds of submissions, the book was never picked up by another publisher. I finally withdrew my manuscript from consideration and parted ways with my agent. It was such a disappointing experience that I didn’t write another book for two years.

In June of 2010, after months of querying, I had two offers of agent representation in-hand for my romantic comedy, THE FROG PRINCE. One was from my “dream agent” who represented several New York Times bestsellers. Although the second offer was from an agent from a newer, smaller agency, I found her enthusiasm attractive. In the end, and for various reasons which aren’t worth going into here, I chose to pass on both offers.

Which, of course, left me right back where I was before I’d ever queried anyone: unpublished and depressed as hell about it. My friend and thriller author, Boyd Morrison, was one of the first authors to leverage his indie-publishing success into a four-book, traditional publishing deal. His wife read FROG PRINCE and really liked it, certain that it would be my “breakout novel.” Boyd suggested that I upload THE FROG PRINCE to Amazon for the Kindle.

Honestly, I didn’t do it right away, because it seemed like the learning curve was incredibly steep (and it was). When I did finally take the plunge, I mostly did it so he’d stop harassing me about it. Four months later it became an Amazon best-seller. I keep promising to buy him a drink someday to thank him, but I don’t really mean it.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The great Dorothy Parker once said, "I hate writing. I love having written."

Enough said.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
Patience. If you wait too long, your life will simply pass you by without you having ever tried anything, risked anything, achieved anything.
To what do you attribute your self-publishing success? Can an author still succeed at self-publication, or is going the way of “the Big Six” their only hope?
When I self-published in July of 2010, there were very few self-published authors compared to now. Because of that, it was probably a lot easier to “get noticed.” On the other hand, all that extra scrutiny could have very quickly worked against me. That said, I believe that successful self-publishing—the kind that allows you to quit your Day Job—is absolutely a viable option for independent writers, even without—especially without—the backing of a Big Six publisher. The trick? As a self-published author, it’s important to understand that you are the proud new owner of a BUSINESS–whether you know it (or like it) or not. You are now the widget-maker, the marketing director, the PR rep, the agent, the graphic designer, the accountant, the customer relations department—even the intellectual property attorney! It takes a special kind of personality and drive to make it work.
Given what you now know and have learned, what advice or words of wisdom would you like to impart to a writer struggling to choose between going self-published or traditional?
Don’t choose—pursue both. Keep all your irons in the fire. If you’re querying for traditional publication, think about e-pubbing a novel or short story to gauge reader interest. If you’re antsy about how traditional publishing will view your e-pubbing, then use a pen name. If the book is a success online, you can use your sales figures as leverage for a better traditional publishing deal. And if it bombs? Well, no one’s the wiser (except you, but at least you can lick your wounds in private).

In my opinion, it’s foolish to only pursue traditional publishing. You will wait, wait, wait, and wait some more to find an agent. Then you’ll wait, wait, wait, and wait some more to find a publisher. Then you’ll wait, wait, wait, and wait some more for your book to come out. This whole process can take anywhere from two years (which would be lightning fast in the legacy publishing world) to, well, never. Why wait? You could be published in 48 hours on one of the many e-publishing platforms and launch your writing career NOW.

However—and this is important—if you do go indie, be sure you understand what you’re getting yourself into. I can’t stress this enough: all that stuff a publisher normally does for you—designing a book cover, marketing, formatting a manuscript for e-publication across several platforms—is now your job. Graphic designing not a part of your skill set? Too bad. Those who can’t do either hire or learn on the fly.

So if you e-pub, do it right. No shoddy book covers, no manuscript riddled with typos, or bad grammar.
Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Is that even a question? Show me the writer who hasn’t felt like giving up! Wow, I’d have to say that almost every day since the night I started writing in 2000 I’ve asked myself, “What in the hell am I doing?” I still feel that at any moment someone will tap me on the shoulder, inform me that I’m not a “real” writer, and confiscate my laptop. Us writers are a delicate bunch!

What helped me stay on course and persevere was going to writers conferences and meeting other writers–both published and unpublished. Over the years I’ve built a network of friends who provided me with support, advice, and inspiration. I’ve seen unpublished friends get multi-book deals. I’ve seen published friends hit the New York Times bestseller’s list. Later, after I self-published, my fans became my biggest supporters. Whenever I’m feeling low, they flood my Facebook page or inbox with lovely compliments and much-needed words of support!
If you had one bit of advice you’d offer a writer who asked you how to make more money self-publishing e-books, what would it be?
Do whatever you can to be the Wizard of Oz. What do I mean by that? When Dorothy, the Tin Man, the Cowardly Lion, and the Scarecrow go to see the Wizard of Oz, they want to believe that he's real. In the same way, a reader wants to find your work and love it. The majority of them don’t care about the turmoil in the industry—self-published versus traditionally published, pricing wars, sock puppetry, etc. By and large, they’re just looking for a few hours of escape in a good book. So your job as a writer, and as a business owner, is to make sure that you never have to say “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!” In other words, your self-published novel should be indistinguishable from a novel published and packaged by a Big Six publisher.
How long have you been writing?
I had a creative writing professor in college who urged me to become a writer, but the desire simply wasn’t there. In the year 2000, I woke up in the middle of the night with a story idea that was so powerful that I got out of bed, sat on the floor of my bedroom, opened my laptop, and began my first book. It turned out that writing an entire book was much harder than writing a college paper! I finished about 25% of that first book, a literary novel, before abandoning it. My next attempt, a suspense novel, was 50% complete before the same thing happened. My first completed novel was a thriller. The Frog Prince was my first-published, second-completed and fourth-attempted novel (for anyone keeping score). I had incredibly good luck when The Frog Prince became an Amazon best-seller in December 2010.
What do you like best (or least) about writing?
Best: When the characters are transmitting, my receiver is tuned in to their frequency, and I can hear them loud and clear. When this happens I’m “in the zone,” and the story comes into my head faster than I can type the words on the keyboard. I’m not so much "writing a book" as I am listening to my characters and transcribing their stories like a court reporter. THAT is the best feeling in the world.

Least: The discipline required. It’s very much like going to the gym: you don’t want to go to the gym, you don’t want to work out, you swear you could go your whole life without doing another push-up or lunge. But then you get there, you start working out, and suddenly you’re thinking, “This is great! I can’t believe I didn’t want to do this today! I wish I could exercise all day! I can’t wait to get here tomorrow and work out again!” But the very next morning that feeling is gone, and you start making excuses about why you don’t want to/need to/have to go. Writing is no different.
Do you read other books while you're working on a manuscript?
Non-fiction, definitely. But when I’m working on a new novel, I try not to read a lot of fiction because I find it’s very easy to adopt the voice of another writer. I’ve always been a huge Jane Austen fan; I have a dog-eared compilation of all her novels next to my bed. That’s my go-to collection when I’m writing a book. Why? Because if I accidentally pick up Austen’s voice and import it into my novel, my characters will all be going around saying things like: “Mr. Biggles, you must needs sit and make yourself comfortable. Did you see that Ms. Courtney came to the ball in a hack chaise? I could hardly keep my countenance!” I'm pretty sure that would stick out like a sore thumb.
Do you have any formal writing training?
Well, I’m not exactly sure what that means. I took English in college–does that count? My undergraduate degree was biological anthropology/pre-med. I think the best “training” you can give yourself to improve your writing is to read. A lot. Every day. Every and all kinds of books. And write every day that you can, even if it’s just a few sentences or paragraphs.
Who or what inspires your writing?
Anyone who is a writer knows how hard it is. As I said during a local TV news interview once, “Writing novels is not for sissies.” The ill-advised sissy comment aside, WRITING IS HARD. Finishing a book is hard. You can be emotionally ground down by the experience. Sometimes you’ll be in the pit of despair, wondering if you’ll ever finish your book. Sometimes you won’t shower or sleep for days (let’s hope this takes place on the weekend if you have a day job). So you’re going to need some kind of inspiration to keep going and not give up. Find that something or someone, because that’s what will keep you going in the days, weeks, and years to come!

For me that “something” is reading. There are times (usually when I’m about half-way through writing a novel) when I think, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore.” All it takes is reading one fantastic novel before I wonder how I ever let a crazy thought like that enter my head. And back to the keyboard I go…
If there was a movie made about your life, what would it be called? (And just for fun, who would play you?)
It would be called "DIVA: Everything Wrong with the Modern Literary Market in One Aggressively Self-Congratulatory Package."

In the summer of 2012, annus horribilis, I wrote a controversial “business of e-publishing” blog that generated a tsunami of vitriolic comments, emails, Facebook posts, and tweets—not to mention a couple of assault/death threats—that lasted for months. Of all the comments I read, the most memorable was one in which I was not only called a “diva,” but "everything wrong with the modern literary market in one aggressively self-congratulatory package." As you have probably surmised for yourself, this individual did not enjoy my opinion piece. In the plus column, those insults inspired the name of my publishing company: Diva Press, Inc.

I think Zach Galifianakis would do an outstanding job playing me. (Hey, Cate Blanchett got rave reviews for playing Bob Dylan in the biopic I’m Not There.) Also, I just like saying his name: “Zach Galifianakis.” It’s kewl. If Zach is, for whatever reason, unavailable, I’d be willing to play myself if (and only if) Ian Somerhalder agrees to play all of my love interests from the age of fifteen to the present.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
I’m a military brat. This means that I had an unconventional upbringing in that my family and I moved approximately every two years. I am an American by birth, but I was born in Germany. I’ve lived in Italy (twice), Washington DC (twice), Charleston, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico. When I graduated from high school, my stepmother made a framed cross-stitch sampler of all the schools I attended since kindergarten. If you took that sampler out of its frame, you could wrap a small child with it.

Because of the way I grew up, I never really developed a sense of “home sweet home.” When you’re a military brat, you learn to be happy wherever you are. When I was twenty-five, I moved to Denver, Colorado. I loved it so much that I never left. Colorado is a gorgeous state filled with people and scenery and activities that I love – hiking, cycling, skiing, rock climbing, tubing. I'll never move again.
What is the best non-monetary gift you ever received?
Hands down, the best non-monetary gift I’ve ever received was the gift of literacy.
Tell us about a book that changed your life.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen.

No, I am not trotting this title out to try to impress you. In fact, when I first attempted to read Austen in my twenties, I didn’t even get five chapters in before I felt like I had no idea what the &%$# was happening, or why everyone seemed to think the story was so romantic and brilliant. I mean, it wasn’t as bewildering as reading The Canterbury Tales, which was penned in such antiquated Ye Olde English that you don’t realize until years after you were forced to read it that it included, among other titillating characters, a woman who muses on the price her “queynte” (er, “lady bits,” for the faint-of-heart) could fetch on the open market.

In stark contrast, not a single person gets naked—or even kisses!—in the entirety of Pride and Prejudice. And Mr. Darcy seems like such a grade-A douche-canoe that I couldn’t understand why anyone would waste their breath on the man, let alone fret about whether or not he thought you were “handsome enough” to want to dance with you. It wasn’t until I read an annotated online version of the book (which explained, in detail, the relevant 200-year-old historical and cultural references) that I understood that Austen was perhaps the original snarky, romantic comedy genius. In fact, I keep a dog-eared compilation of Austen’s novels on my nightstand.
If you had to pick one romantic scene or couple to recommend to a first-time reader of YOUR books, which would it be?
Oh, that would definitely be Chapter 14 of The Frog Prince when Roman Habsburg von Lorraine drives his girlfriend, Leigh Fromm, to his new house in the Rocky Mountains for the first time. Leigh is frustrated and a little worried when he stops the car and announces, “This is it!” because there isn’t a single house in sight. (Pssst! Look up!)

Three words: Coolest. Treehouse. EVER.
Published 2015-08-11.
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