Interview with Ellen M. Wilheim

Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Of course. I remember my first attempts when I was a teenager: a play and a story about a mysterious young man. Later on, my first real manuscript was a romance that took place in the early Medieval Ages. It's hero was Prince Drummond who is thrown out of the castle by his parents because he is young and rowdy. He's put in charge of a scouting party and discovers a different world beyond his own. It was wordy, in need of editing but I like to think it had its moments.
What is your writing process?
My characters live in my imagination and are very demanding. Once, one of them said to me, "Now I would never say that!" They become alive, with egos, flaws, and prejudices. They develop while I research the times in which they live. Then, I start plotting. With the Plumed Knightress, I had an archaic legend as a reference that I knew should be modernized. I used some of the original plot and added my own ideas. In the Eye of the Beholder, my first book, began with a dream about a princess whose face was disfigured but she was daring and loved by her people. How would she seem to a stranger from another kingdom? For me, plotting is the hardest part of writing, but my imagination serves me well in preparing scenes and conversations.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
I was always a reader, even though I had to attend special reading classes when at 8 years old, I moved to a new school. As a young child, my favorite book was "Winner the Pooh". "Eyeore" was my favorite. "Lorna Doone" by R.D. Blackmore thrilled my middle-school mind. It was assigned reading and I only read it because I was home sick and bored. I don't think any of my classmates read it. It's a moody, gothic piece about a young child who is abducted, raised by her family's enemies and learns who she really is when she is older. It was my first romance book yet it was also a mystery. It crossed the genres and I loved it.
What do you read for pleasure?
I read a variety of books. Right now I am re-reading "Moby Dick" because I want to understand why literary critics claim that Herman Melville is a wonderful writer. The fact that he spent the first 20 pages verifying the immense size of whales has me curious. No writer would have to justify that today. Readers in our time embrace the fantasy. Recently I have read "The Silk Road", "The Devil in the White City", "Jerusalem the Biography", and "The Art of Fielding."
Describe your desk
Isn't there a column like this in Vanity Fair magazine? I have a Mac laptop in the middle of desk, with piles of papers on both sides. I love chaos, otherwise known as wasting time looking for something. (Also irritates my husband and I take pleasure in that.) I am always listening to a Pandora station. Taped to the wall is an illustration of forks by Shaun Piela who will illustrate my children's book. I have a small globe that is solar operated so it turns when my lamp is on and stops when the lamp is out. Overhead and to my side are books, books, and books. I also have family photographs on nearby shelves. Near my feet, two Jack Russell terriers named Mudpie and Pinky lay and tolerate my lack of attention to them.
Where did you grow up, and how did this influence your writing?
One year when I was eight I lived down the street from John and Priscilla Alden's home. They came to America on the Mayflower. The next year I lived one town away but it was also steeped in history of the region of Plymouth, MA. I embraced the history of my area and especially loved the statues that honored the Pilgrims search for religious freedom. Even though I live far away now, those winding streets, three century-old homes, the cranberry bogs and the four seasons have never been forgotten. Mankind is forever re-learning what other generations have learned. We would be wise to look to our history and learn its lessons.
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
As I was writing my first manuscript, I saw that I controlled the characters' responses to situations and that I could give them options. Then the light bulb went off! I saw that I could master my reactions too! So one night at a dinner party when my mother-in-law made a snide remark about her dessert being better than mine, I was able to keep a calm face and continue to serve the dessert without retorting. Then, I noticed the respect emanating from my other guests who had cringed at her remark. This was a gift to me and I have since changed my personal interaction with people. That has been a joy!
What book marketing techniques have been most effective for you?
I am a shy person and I don't enjoy talking about myself or my work. When people ask me what I'm working on, I sorta stumble. So I am counting on word of mouth, an attractive cover page and an occasional author appearance at book stores or maybe book clubs.
What are you working on next?
My next publication will be a children's story. One day my daughter was setting the table and swore to me that one of the forks moved on its own. Her imagination set my imagination on fire and suddenly I had Frankie the Fork who wanted to taste ice cream because he had heard all about it from Sylvia the teaspoon. The story explains how to set the table properly and also encourages trying new foods. This may sound boring to you, but Frankie is awfully cute and I know you'll enjoy the puns as he roams around the table.
How do you approach cover design?
This is an interesting question that I can only answer from my personal perspective. I am not an illustrator, but I am an active reader. Personally I like a cover that suggests plot lines. I want to be intrigued, not shown a passionate couple. I also prefer drawings of characters than using models. Somehow, to me, a model influences how the character looks. It is more fun for the reader to decide on his/her own, using the clues from the author, how the character should look.
Published 2014-09-13.
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Books by This Author

The Plumed Knightress: A Romance Legend of Charlemagne and His Knights
Price: $2.49 USD. Words: 99,300. Language: English. Published: September 16, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Historical, Fiction » Fantasy » Historical
On a spring day in the late 8th century, the Frank army of King Charles confronts the invading Moor army near the Pyrenees. On the outskirts of the battle, two knights engage in a swordfight. Two different faiths, two different cultures, two different sexes and a faerie's interference all combine to make this a modern adaptation of the story of Rogero and Bradamounte of the Charlemagne legends.