Tell us about your book(s)!
I write an award-winning adventurous historical romance series called the Reckless Brides. Set in the Regency era, the books (six so far) are the stories of a group of Royal Navy officers, and their families, and how each of them find true love. The books all have a slightly nautical flair, but no two stories are alike. I’ve taken my heroes from the Battle of Traflagar, to India, down the Thames, through the streets of London, and to the South Seas—so adventure is the constant motif. My latest, AFTER THE SCANDAL, follows Tanner Evans and Claire Jellicoe as they head down the Thames River to go boating in the moonlight, only to find a dead body, which compels them to head for London to solve the crime.
Which actor/actress would you like to see playing the lead character from your most recent book?
I have to admit that one lead actor in particular was very much on my mind when I was writing AFTER THE SCANDAL—Benjamin Cumberbatch. His depiction of Sherlock had the sort of honed intellectual sharpness, combined with an utter bafflement of other people’s emotional lives, that I wanted for my hero Tanner Evans. And also are were the cheekbones.
I mentally cast all my books, and I share them all with my readers by making inspiration boards for each book on Pinterest. (http://www.pinterest.com/elizabethessex/) I’ve got places and things and costumes and beautiful paintings and beautiful people, all of which illustrate the story the way I see it in my mind’s eye.
Any tips on how to get through the dreaded writer’s block?
Keep writing. Don’t let yourself get away with not writing, just because you don’t necessarily want to write, or if what you’re writing feels stale. I always say, write what you must, but you must write something.
Keep as much as possible to a professional schedule. Find the time of day that works best for you with your day job, or kid’s school schedule, or feeding schedule, (I have several young writer friends who are just starting their families) and stick to it as much as possible. Even if it’s only 250 words at a time, that’s fine. Just try! And don’t expect it to always be fabulous. Give yourself permission to write DRAFT.
But most importantly, you must take care of, and feed your creative self—you can’t draw creative waters from a dry well. Mix the things that give you a creative boost—doing a crossword to jumpstart the words flowing in your head, or looking at art, or going to the movies, or reading other books, or doing research, or traveling—in with your writing schedule every day, so it becomes a good habit, so your creative soul is sated and your head is full of thoughts that can be put into words.
And when you are out looking at museums or gardens, or whatever, keep a pad and pen with you, or use your note app on your phone to quickly jot down those ideas and thoughts, so you will have them for later use. Nothing kills my creativity faster than telling myself I will remember something later—I rarely can dredge up a good thought more than once. So put systems in place to capture them while you can. :)
What are your thoughts on good/bad reviews?
First, I always tell myself my books are never as good as the glowing reviews say, nor as bad as the worst ones insist. I say that because there is always room for improvement in almost any manuscript. Always. But you also can’t please everyone—when I included a mystery element in my last book, I knew it would not be everyone’s cup of tea. But that was the story in my head, so I wrote it anyway, knowing it wasn’t going to please even some of my biggest fans.
I will also say that I don’t go out of my way to read reviews—I don’t spend a lot of time on Amazon or Goodreads, although I will look at the overall graph of how many reviews there are (because that number influences how the books are placed on lists, and therefore how it sells), and the overall rating. I am usually notified of good reviews, either by the reviewer or review blog themselves, or by my publisher, but once in a while a less positive review will cross before my eyes. When there is constructive criticism in a negative review, I tend to take it to heart, and learn from it.
When an early review chided me for using a modern slang term, I learned that language usage is really, really important to many historical readers, so I went out and got myself an online subscription to the Oxford English Dictionary, and I check every last word now. But conversely, another reviewer recently said that many of the words I choose tend to be too obscure or archaic (Aha! My reaction from the first criticism.) that she was pulled out of the story to try and find the meaning, which wasn’t available in her modern dictionary. So at her suggestion, I am working on a lexicon, a listing of obscure words or nautical terms that I use frequently in my books, so readers will have a resource.
So I suppose my advice is, however hard it is for us to hear criticism, if it is constructive, and you can learn something from it, then it’s all for the good.
How do you relax?
Gardening and reading. And occasionally, playing on Pinterest.
What is your favorite motivational phrase?
Write what you must, but you must write something.
What is your favorite book?
I have three, because they are three different kinds of books:
Persuasion by Jane Austen, which is my favorite book as an adult;
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, which was my favorite childhood book; and
The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, which was my favorite book as a teenager, and was the book that made me want to write my own stories.
Who is your favorite author?
What is your favorite movie?
Roman Holiday. But the ending kills me. Every time.
Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
Jane Austen, again, because I think she was wickedly funny.
If you could do anything besides being an Author, what would it be and why?
I used to be a Nautical Archaeologist, so I would go back to doing that because I loved excavating shipwrecks, and traveling, and diving, and doing research. I’ve been really lucky in my jobs, but I love being a writer best.
What is the most interesting trip you have ever taken?
I’ve traveled pretty extensively, and been in a lot of remote places, but I have very fond memories of the trip my husband, the Indispensable Mr. Essex, and I took to Nepal for our honeymoon. We started in Katmandu, and trekked around for an entire month. It was lovely.
What was your most embarrassing moment?
Was? I continue to have embarrassing moments all the time, still. Just last month, after a panel at the Romantic Times Convention in New Orleans, my dear author friend Tracy Brogan came up and quietly told me I needed to zip up my pants. So much for my hopes to be seen as elegant, knowledgeable and professional. :)
White wine or red? White.
Coffee or tea? Coffee first thing in the morning. And then iced tea through the day, and hot tea in the late afternoon (at least in winter).
Cook dinner or order take-out/delivery? The Indispensable Mr. Essex is the chef in the Essex abode, and I am happy, happy, happy to be his sous-chef. But if I am left alone to make the dinner? Take out. Every time.
Vanilla or chocolate ice-cream? Chocolate!
Pancakes or eggs? Eggs Benedict (which I should like to rename Eggs Cumberbatch, for no reason in particular) on Sunday Mornings and special days. Pancakes only if I’m out for breakfast, or if the sprigs have made them.
Sleep in or get up early? Up early. All the time. Even on holiday. But that’s when I get the most work done, before everyone else (with the exception of the Indispensable Mr. Essex who rises even earlier than I do) is awake.
Laptop or desktop for writing? Laptop. I drag it nearly everywhere, especially in the carpool line at my kid’s school, were I always try to sneak in an extra 200 words. It all adds up.
Elizabeth has Graciously offered one print Copy of AFTER THE SCANDAL. All you have to do is answer the question; After the Scandal has a mystery element mixed in with the romance, as the hero and heroine are drawn closer together by a murder. Do you like an extra element mixed with the romance plot?