Frequently Asked...

I'm far better answering questions in print than face-to-face, and I often don't answer as well as I'd like when someone at a signing decides to ask me about writing or my books, so I thought I'd try to do a better job of it here. If you have a question you'd like addressed, feel free to use my contact page.

Where do you get your inspiration?

This is probably the most-asked question of authors, all authors. I am very inspired by art, all kinds of art, and by nature. I write best when I've had plenty of time to simply sit and look at the natural beauty around us. That's when my creativity flows and story scenes come to mind. I also people watch. I may not notice what they're wearing (I'm not big into fashion), but I notice expressions and attitudes and stance and how they react to others and to situations. I'm inspired by the whys, the backgrounds leading to their attitudes and behaviors. One simple comment can spark a story idea, and then the multitude of things I've noticed through the years make their way into the story.

What genre do you write?

This is a hard question for me. I write ... however the story needs to be written. I am a bit of a romantic at heart and all of my books include a love relationship, but they aren't romance as per the genre requirements. They are character-based like mainstream fiction, not plot-based. They do tend to have the boy meets girl/they have a falling out/HEA theme, but there are subplots along the way and I may not always have them together at the end. I may even 'off' a character or two, throwing a huge wrench in things. I also write dialogue heavy, and with no tags. I don't use "he said" or "she rebuffed" etc. None of it. That was a huge learning curve, as well, because it can be tricky to make it clear who's talking without tags. But it's doable with practice. That's part why I tend to call my books Literary Romance. Really, it's a fusion of lit fic, romance, women's fic, historical, and bits of suspense. They are never graphic, but they can be intense and emotional. Many have adult language, but only to an extent. I don't do vulgar body part slang. I don't take God's name in vain, even if a character actually would. Protect The Heart is what would be called "clean" historical romance. Finishing Touches tends toward YA and is safe for that category, but it was written mainly for adult women. Off The Moon and Moondrops & Thistles tend toward mainstream fiction with strong romantic elements. Rehearsal starts YA but grows into A along with its characters. There are some religious and spiritual elements in much of my work, but they aren't "Christian Fiction" as per the genre. I'm never quite sure what to call it. I guess I should just stick with "fiction" or maybe "fusion fiction."

How long does it take to write a book?

This largely depends on story and situation. My first published book, Finishing Touches, took four years. But, I was still in a huge learning curve and also taking a novel writing class at the time. My kids were in school then, so I had days free other than normal daily stuff, and plenty of quiet time to think. Still, it took four years of writing, re-writing, studying, thinking about what Jenna would do if... while doing dishes or folding clothes. And then going back to add details and atmosphere.

Most of my LK books have taken a few years each, part because the stories deal with complex issues I can't rush and part due to other things going on, such as military moves and working "real" jobs, writing at night after the kids were in bed. Once we were settled and the kids were in school all day and doing their own things after school, I started moving right along. I also did a 50,000 words in a month challenge for several years, which pushed me to silence the inner critic while writing and just write. One year, I hit 90,000 in one month. Of course it was basic story plot that had to have plenty of revision/filling out/cutting down, but those challenges gave me several mostly complete novels that only needed refinement. Once I started doing my shorter Ella M. Kaye books, I was on a one-a-year roll. And then came the need to take over with one of my grandchildren... The newest EMK is not only back to being far longer, but it took five years. So it depends on a lot of factors.

Do you outline?

I do outline, but only after I have a good chunk of the story written and have to go back to check details and make sure everything lines up right. I don't want the restriction of an outline while creating the story. I spend a lot of time thinking about it while not writing, and while writing, it changes as the characters grow. It may even become something fully different than where I started. I do take a lot of notes along with my outlines during revisions, partly due to using subplots, family backgrounds, and current events and entertainment of the time that I have to research.

Which book is your favorite?

Ouch. How do you answer this one? It is, as they say, a bit like picking your favorite child. I don't have a favorite child or a favorite grandchild because they all have their different special things that are really cool. It's the same with my books, except... the Rehearsal series is my obsession. It's the first long writing I started way back when I was still a kid, 14ish, and I've been working on it seriously since 1996. I find ways to relate many of my basically unrelated books to Rehearsal, even in some small way, including some of my EMK books. So, to stick with the family metaphor, Rehearsal is my mate and the rest of my books are my offspring. They all matter to me. They're all part of me.

Who are your favorite writers?

My first book loves were Dr. Seuss and then Frank Dixon (The Hardy Boys). I loved the imaginative worlds and words and rhymes and morals, and the fun mysteries solved by amateur sleuth brothers.

From there, I went to young adult lit fic and then to adult lit fic and historicals. I blazed through John Jakes' Kent Family Chronicles and through several of Irving Stone's historicals, particularly the artist books. I love Hemingway, Shakespeare, Marilynne Robinson's fiction, Ethan Canin, John Irving (the earlier works), Taylor Caldwell, William Faulkner, Mark Twain, Joyce Carol Oates. Older lit fic is generally my go-to, but I'm recently digging into Kazuo Ishiguro, Jojo Moyes, and Edward Rutherford's historical epics. I also love lighter reads such as Maggie Toussaint's cozy mysteries and indie authors such as J.A. Fleming and Darrick Dean. I have to say I've also enjoyed reading the entire Junie B. Jones series to my granddaughter.

Why did you self-publish?

I write because I need to write. I publish because I want to share my stories, because if they matter enough to me to spend so much time on them, I hope they will matter to others, as well.

When I first had the thought of publishing, I researched. Research is one my things. I spent a LOT of hours researching various methods and what rights were included in contracts, what percentages the author could expect, and how long it could take for the book to be released after contracted, if it was contracted. And that depends a lot on current trends, what people were looking for, what they expected, what would make publishers money. That's the name of the big pub game. It's fair enough. It is a business.

But I'm far more interested in art than in business and I was fairly sure no one was actively looking for my odd blend of genres or that it was likely to make anyone big bucks. That has never been my goal. I want my stories to matter to those who are likely to be a niche audience. At the time I was ready to start putting my work out there, the big thing was to either take it to a printer and keep boxes of them in storage to sell on my own (Um, No thank you), or go through a company that would do all of that footwork for you and print them as they sold (POD - print on demand) for a small to not-so-small fee. I decided to go this route, because spending $5,000 or so to have a bunch of books printed to try to sell wasn't in my life-plan. And because I didn't "fit" anywhere easily enough. It was a nice start. I was careful to research companies first and I'm happy with what they did for me at that time when it was my best option.

As my experience grew and more options became available, I jumped over to creating my own company, buying my own ISBNs, and only hiring out the on-demand printing and distributing. I did all of the formatting and the design work, using my art background and willingness to learn the rest. The stigma of self-publishing, which used to be called vanity publishing, has been an uphill battle, but it has thankfully come a long way. I started calling myself an indie author, based on indie musicians publishing their own music, and ran an "indie author" group to help others figure out how to get their work out on their own. Now that term is everywhere, and I'm a member of ALLi, the Alliance of Independent Authors, which is helping to fight the stigma of self-publishing and for indie author rights.


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pen name
Ella M. Kaye
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