Interview with Elizabeth Hirst

What motivated you to become an indie author?
I became an indie author (and publisher) because I wanted to produce books that took chances, and that pleased both myself and readers. I found that people, average people, responded so enthusiastically to my work, and didn't care what niche it fit into on a bookstore shelf. I realized, when I talked to my readers, and really saw what they wanted, that it was them I was writing books for, not big publishing gatekeepers. So, I thought to myself, why not eliminate the barriers between myself and my readers? Also, I really, really like running my own business. I would run five businesses if I somehow had the time and money to do it.
How has Smashwords contributed to your success?
Smashwords has made it easy for me to provide my books to readers, in a variety of formats to suit every e-reading taste. I love the meatgrinder system, and the ease of uploading files. Book formatting is one of my favourite things to do (seriously) but it can get tedious if there are tiny little things that always need tweaking before things can come out right. Smashwords makes it easy. Who can argue with a Word file? Everybody knows how to do those. I also like that Smashwords asks for a fair percentage, and only upon sale. I don't think many of us indies have gazillions of dollars to drop on fees!
What is the greatest joy of writing for you?
The greatest joy of writing, for me, is knowing that there are many, many worlds of magic and wonder inside me, that I can visit anytime I want to, and bring back for others. I consider it an honour and a gift to be able to express myself well enough to convey to others the things that I see inside. I also love getting caught up in the story, the rush that I feel when a scene or series of scenes is just going so right that it's cascading down toward the finish like an avalanche... yeah, that's right, I'm a writing junkie. It's so satisfying sometimes, like a really hard puzzle finally just locking into place. My stories tend to knit themselves together as they go, and I'm always amazed at the little stepping stones I place beforehand that I wasn't even conscious of at the time.
What do your fans mean to you?
My fans mean so much to me. My favourite thing about fans is getting to talk to them about my work... not to get my ego stroked, but to hear about their unique experiences with characters and places that I love so much. I also love hanging out with my fans. I think it's the common ground. They get something very deep about me that a lot of other people never get to see. I never want to get to the point where I'm jaded about my audience. I think that cuts off such an amazing potential relationship.
What are you working on next?
I think it would be easier to say what I'm not working on... Seriously though, I've got a lot of projects on the go right now. I'm working on a history book for a local archive that's going to be exploring primary source material from a World War One nurse. I'm kind of a history and research geek like that. I'm also in the process of writing the sequel to Distant Early Warning, and I'm in the early outline stages of my first Hard Science Fiction endeavor. I've also got a sequel to Flood Waters Rising kicking around in my head somewhere that I need to shake out of there, but I'm not sure where that fits on the timeline, unfortunately. Then, there are the multi-author anthologies I'm editing, which are both loosely romance/erotica themed and are going to be so much fun.
Who are your favorite authors?
Wow... this is a hard one. Tolkien is at the top of the list. I consider The Lord of the Rings to be the most important book series of the twentieth century, and I am in awe of the scope and depth of Tolkien's work and world. I also aspire to the subtle, beautiful creepiness he manages to work into his tales. I'm also big fan of Patrick Rothfuss. He manages to be way more flowery and poetic than I could ever hope to be, and he makes it work so well for him. C.S. Lewis and Dickens are big influences for me, and I absolutely love Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories. I enjoy late Romanticism, especially Mary and Percy Shelley, and the late works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I also love Victorian pulp literature and adventure novels, and gothic novels. If something isn't on this list, that doesn't mean I don't like it... it just means that the multitude of texts that I love will never fit into a paragraph.
What inspires you to get out of bed each day?
One simple phrase: Zip-a-dee-doo-dah. No, seriously! I get grumpy so easily in the morning, but I can't hear certain old Disney songs without catching their boundless optimism. So, I put them in my phone and use them as my alarms. Also, every day I work might bring me one inch closer to going back to Disney World. So, I guess I'm very Disney-motivated. Disney stuff never fails to pick me up, inspire me, and make me happy. You'd seriously never know it from the stuff I write though. I don't know what it is with goths and Disney, but I'm playing right into that stereotype, and loving it.
When you're not writing, how do you spend your time?
There's a time I'm not writing? Seriously, though, I'm a general arts fanatic. If I had more money coming in, I would be at a different play or concert every night. I listen to music, play video games, watch movies, both at home and at our local non-profit theatre with the other film buffs, and I read a lot. I also enjoy walks, craft and street fairs, and ogling fancy clothes that I may or may not be able to afford. And I love dogs, and making a fuss of dogs. Ducks and geese are pretty cool too. I like watching birds in general, actually. I find them amusing and want to hug them even though I know they're prickly.
How do you discover the ebooks you read?
I read a lot of blogs. I have a bit of a blog addiction, and I tend to pick up books that intrigue me based on other people's reviews and recommendations. I also take gifts. I'd like to get to a place where I'm just browsing for interesting finds, but I'd probably need a lot more money if that were the case. There's a reason I try to stay out of Chapters. I spend minimum $200, whether or not I have $200, because I am exceptionally curious and full of wonder and want to learn.
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
That's a tough one. I've been throwing out stories like there was no tomorrow from as early as five or six years old, because I was a really early reader (I started at just under two years old). I remember writing the deeply philosophical verse : Bears, Bears everywhere; Even in your underwear! when I was in first grade, and I know I wrote a story about a witch, also in first grade, where my best friend 'felt a wiggling in her tummy but it was only jell-o'. I have a feeling that said best friend had a fairly heavy hand in that metaphor. Oh, and I also went to a conference for young authors in third grade for making a picture book about how my dog saved the world from aliens. I got a certificate that said 'Canadian author' on it and everything. See? I've been certified to do this, like, forever. More seriously, though, the first attempt I ever made at a novel was when I was twelve, and it was an embryonic version of the story that would become Flood Waters Rising. The less that can be said about the writing in that, the better. The same goes for the screenplay which I wrote in college and still have a copy of, but that no one will ever see. Ever.
What is your writing process?
Well, there is a school of thought that says there are two kinds of writers: plotters, and 'pantsers' (aka 'seat of the pantsers'). If this theory holds true, I am definitely the latter. My creative process works best when I am throwing out ideas like there's no tomorrow, and re-arranging them later when I've got my editor hat on. I have a very strong subconscious, and it tends to connect a lot of the dots for me, if I just have the courage to let go and let it take over. As such, I tend to avoid critique groups while my work is in the first-draft stages, and in fact, I don't allow myself to discuss my works-in-progress with anyone, not even my husband, until I've got a full story on the page. Outside opinions of any kind can derail my creative flow for days and even weeks when I'm trying to lose myself in the story and feel out what's right for my characters. After the first draft, however, I am a ruthless editor and seek out honest, even harsh critique. Later drafts are a far less vulnerable and delicate process than first drafts.
Do you remember the first story you ever read, and the impact it had on you?
The first story I ever read is one I only remember vaguely. It was the golden book of Snow White. I was two, or thereabouts, and I had declared that my Nan was not to read to me until I had read the book to myself. So, with her help, I worked my way through the book, and very soon I was able to read it by myself. I don't think the story itself is as important as my drive to read, and my stubbornness, which is a trait I carry with me to this day.
How do you approach cover design?
I am lucky in that I have an art degree and so does my husband, so we both have a lot of fun designing the covers. He usually does the novels, and I do the anthologies, in terms of illustrations, but I do all the layout and font choices. I love layout, and he finds it boring. We also have really different philosophies on what makes a good cover! He's very painterly in his artwork, and always wants to do the whole Boris Vallejo, hair streaming in the wind from a cliff top thing, which sometimes makes me giggle. I'm in love with graphic design, vector art, and bold iconic images that the viewer can't get out of their brain. For instance, I absolutely love the original cover design for Micheal Crichton's The Lost World. So striking! I also love designers like trailblazing Disney concept artist Mary Blair, who loved playing with colour and shape. In terms of font and layout, I spend a lot of time experimenting and tweaking things, and often I'll download a hundred or more fonts just to find the right one. I never use stock fonts! I want my covers to feel special, and I think Robin and I both agree that we want our covers to wow people, and draw them in with their originality and quality.
What are your five favorite books, and why?
The Fellowship of the Ring, because it made folklore beguiling and accessible to a modern audience, and introduced the young me to mystery, magic and the possibilities of the fantasy genre.
The Return of the King, because no other book has ever managed to make me so happy, and so sad, all at once. It is truly a book about modernity, its evils, and its possibilities, and we need these truths in our lives.
The Name of the Wind, because I had dreams starring Kvothe, and knew him so well that I could re-create him in my mind in completely new scenarios.
The Dark Tower book 3: The Waste Lands, for its scope and imagination, and the fact that it came so close, in my opinion, to being the Lord of the Rings for the end of the twentieth century.
And lastly, Jane Eyre, because once, an imaginative, lonely little girl read that book, saw herself reflected back in it, and knew that although things might never be easy, it was possible to patch together the good things and make them stay.
What do you read for pleasure?
I enjoy sociological books on a variety of topics, especially alternative ways of doing business, human sexuality and relationships, and religious/spiritual topics. I also read what I write: science fiction, fantasy and horror. I especially enjoy local Canadian authors, and I'm currently on a kick trying to read a big pile of them. I'm also a Stephen King junkie, although I haven't read his entire catalogue yet by any means. I came to the King kind of late in life, so I'm still catching up.
What is your e-reading device of choice?
I like the Kobo. Kobo has a nice selection of books, they allow for indie publishers to use their file format, and they're not too picky about loading epubs onto your device that aren't from the Kobo store. Plus I find the actual devices nice to use, durable and compact. My only quibble is I wish they didn't have software updates every five minutes.
Published 2014-09-25.
Smashwords Interviews are created by the profiled author, publisher or reader.

Books by This Author

Love, Time, Space, Magic
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 57,400. Language: English. Published: April 11, 2015. Categories: Fiction » Romance » Sci-fi, Fiction » Romance » Fantasy
Enjoy 12 Stories of Science Fiction and Fantasy Romance from Pop Seagull publishing, ranging from the erotic to the sweet, classic adventures to comedy. Read on, and discover how love can trump time, space, and even all the powers of magic.
Distant Early Warning
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 86,540. Language: Canadian English. Published: October 17, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Paranormal, Fiction » Horror » Undead
Because redemption is a place... All they need to do is find the right co-ordinates. Felicia "Denny" Dennigan is a loner who lives for her Dad's visits... until one day she sees him on TV as an undead monster, and must travel to northern Ontario to bring him peace. Follow Denny as she searches for a way to put the ghosts of her past to rest, in a wilderness filled with the restless undead.
Spirits of Suburbia
Price: $5.00 USD. Words: 28,970. Language: English. Published: May 15, 2014. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Short stories
We’ve all read tales of heroes and monsters in far-away lands... But what happens when the strangest monsters are the ones next door? From authors Jennifer Bickley, Elizabeth Hirst, Ira Nayman and Tecuma Macintyre come a collection of seven stories that will leave you wondering if you can ever really know your neighbours.
Flood Waters Rising
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 107,590. Language: English. Published: July 13, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Science fiction » Space opera
(4.00 from 1 review)
For Sithon Flood, trouble is literally flowing through his veins... Heir to a blood condition that can help heal the sick and even raise the dead, Sithon finds himself trapped in a web of lies and manipulation at the hands of his stepfather, a tyrant who desires an undead army. Can Sithon escape Wardan’s evil schemes in time to save his parents’ lives and redeem his family name?
Monsters and Mist: A Short Story Collection
Price: $3.99 USD. Words: 15,920. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » General, Fiction » Horror » General
Now, in one collection, are five original short stories by fantasy/horror author Elizabeth Hirst. From the excitement and swordplay of 'Beyond Nemra' to the unique and powerful worldbuilding of 'Mr. Oon', this book offers a glimpse into fantastic new worlds... and a few unusual looks at our own world, as well.
Mr. Oon
Price: $2.49 USD. Words: 8,010. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
Genya lives in a world where the sky is an ocean, and the sun is a great, gold fish that the people worship as a God. When an attempt to build a scaffold to the sky causes the ocean to spring a leak, raining sea creatures and salt water over the hapless town of Merdona, Genya must find a way to plug the hole, or lose everything in a wash of sea water and destruction.
Beyond Nemra
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 4,880. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Epic
After swallowing a dangerous magical talisman, Nemra the swordswoman embarks on a dangerous mission to capture the Idol of Zephmal, but the enchantments surrounding the idol are designed to prey on her mental weaknesses. Will her partner, Kerimar, be able to unlock the terrible memories of her past in time to release the talisman and save both their lives?
Ground Cover
Price: $1.99 USD. Words: 2,200. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Jenny Short is the kind of person who likes to take the easy way out, especially when it comes to taking care of her home, but when an unusual garden appears in her front yard one sunny day, Jenny must solve the mystery of its sudden arrival, or risk losing a few neighbours to its carnivorous blossoms...
Teddy Bear's Picnic
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,410. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Horror » General
Deanie wakes up one evening to see his favourite teddy bear, Jack, running into the woods, evidently alive. Deanie runs after him, thinking that the Teddy Bears' Picnic he has heard about in stories had finally come to pass, but he is about to discover that not all children's stories tell the truth.
Made of the Mist
Price: $0.99 USD. Words: 1,010. Language: English. Published: June 6, 2011. Categories: Fiction » Fantasy » Contemporary
Karen is bored, stuck as the designated driver at her friend's Niagara Falls bachelorette party, until she accidentally discovers a place where the natural beauty of the Falls remains, untouched forever.