1. Tell me about the Midnight Dragonfly series. How did you come up with that story angle or idea?
The Midnight Dragonfly books are a series of romantic YA thrillers following the visions of a teenage psychic in New Orleans. A Louisiana native, I’ve always adored New Orleans’s French Quarter and Garden District, in particular the beautifully haunting architecture. Many buildings there date back 200 years!
As it so happens, back during the sleep deprived days after my little boy was born, I woke up one night from one of the most incredibly detailed, vivid dreams I’d ever had. I’d more than just seen a group of teen sneak into an old abandoned mansion--I’d been with them. I’d gazed into the darkness, and smelled the decay. I’d felt the fear, and the crazy blast of excitement at the prospects of a game of truth or dare. My heart was still racing when I woke up. The images lingered. I kept thinking about what I’d seen, and from the questions came: What happened next? What if one of the teens was a psychic? What if she saw something…something bad? What if she had a premonition? What if what she saw actually happened? What if no one believed her, or at least, no one but the last guy she should let herself begin to fall for?
As I answered those questions, the Midnight Dragonfly books were born!
2. How did you get interested in writing this particular genre (YA-lit)?
Answer:It wasn’t a conscious decision. I didn’t sit down one day and decide, I’m going to write YA. The story came to me, and it was 100% Young Adult. I’d been writing Romantic Suspense for years, but I knew this story--Trinity’s story--was more than just a romantic thriller. It was a journey of self discovery, of Trinity finding her place in the world and becoming who she’s meant to become. That journey wouldn’t work if I forced her into any other genre.
3. What kind of research did you do for this series?
Answer:Tons! There was research on my characters, for which my nieces (to whom the first book is dedicated) helped me out enormously. I laugh when I think about the random texts they received at all times of day and night, and graciously responded to, all the way from “what would you say/do if XX happened, to kind of graffiti is on the bathroom walls at the clubs you go to, to what do you find most romantic in the whole world?
I also did a good bit of research into psychic phenomenon and New Orleans, post Katrina. It was incredibly important to me to paint a portrait of how badly Katrina hurt New Orleans, but also the resilient spirit of the city and the people, and how rebirth and rebuilding is everywhere. As it turned out, resiliency, rebirth, and rebuilding became powerful themes throughout the series.
4. What's a typical working day like for you? When and where do you write? Do you set a daily writing goal?
Answer:I love writing. I love creating. I love exploring story-worlds. My mind is always spinning, whether I’m at the computer or not. Typically I’m at my desk 4-5 hours per day, 5 days per week, with “mind work” happening the rest of the time. I’m constantly grabbing my phone and recording voice messages or jotting random notes. I’m not sure why, but my absolute best thoughts come to me at times when it’s hardest to jot them down: in the shower, while driving, and while running.
As for goals, I stick with weekly goals, rather than hard-core daily goals. I know how much I need to get done every week to meet my deadlines, and while I do divvy this up by day, having a weekly goal allows me some wiggle room if something comes up, such as a sick kid--again, I’m not sure why, but there is some bizarre corollary between imminent deadlines and sick children!
5. What is the hardest/easiest part of writing for you?
Answer:That’s an awesome question--I’ve never been asked that before. The easiest part is the characters. Once they form, they become so vivid to me, it’s like they’re part of me and I’m part of them. I feel what they feel, want what they want. Hurt when they hurt. Sometimes that’s emotionally tough, but it’s also incredibly rewarding.
As for the hardest part…I think it’s letting go. I could fiddle with my stories forever, letting my characters turn left instead of right and exploring what happens next. There are so many possibilities, it’s tough to choose one and run with it. With every book I’ve written, there’s something I’d love to change, all the way from adjusting an existing scene to scrapping it altogether and replacing it with something completely different.
6. What’s the best thing about being an author?
Answer:The chance to explore. There’s nothing static about writing. Every story brings new challenges and possibilities, new characters to get to know, worlds to create, mysteries to solve, love to feel, decisions to make…crimes to commit. Over the years I’ve found myself delving deeply into human behavior and psychology, to the point where I’m the go to person for family and friends wanting to know why someone is doing something. It’s an awesome experience to bring diverse characters together, and see what happens.
7. What are you working on now?
Answer:On my desk next to me are Line Edits for the third book in the Midnight Dragonfly series, FRAGILE DARKNESS. In addition to those, I’m exploring possibilities for where Trinity goes next, as well as fleshing out several new series ideas. I’m not sure what’s going to bubble up first, but I can promise you lots of action, adventure, mystery, and romance!
8. What advice would you give aspiring writers?
Answer:To believe in yourself and never give up. Each of us has stories to tell, and only you can tell them. The writing life can be incredibly hard. You spend tons of time alone, creating, and then you toss your creation out to the rest of the world, to see what they think. Some will love it, some won’t. That can take a toll of your confidence and your dream. But I have a plaque across from my desk that reads, “You’ll miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” and I essentially live by those words. You have to believe in yourself and follow your dreams. It’s the only way they can come true.
9. Do you have any favorite authors or favorite books?
Answer:Far too many to list them all, but as a sampling:
The Stand by Stephen King
Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
10. What question have you always wanted to be asked in an interview? How would you answer that question?
Answer:What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of book research?
Jumped into a swimming pool with my hands tied together (to see if I could stay afloat)--and broken into a place long abandoned (can’t say where--yet!) to see what it would feel like, and what kind of trouble I could get Trinity into on the other side!
11. If you were writing a book about your life, what would the title be?
Answer:LOL! The first thing that popped into my head was LOST IN SPACE J Then: ONE DAY AT A TIME. But seriously, after thinking on this for more than a few days, I’d have to say DREAMING IN COLOR.
1)If you could trade places with a person for a single day, who would it be and why?
Answer:Two people: 1) my husband. I’d LOVE to know how his mind works and 2) JJ Abrams. I’d love to know how his mind works, too (see below)!
2)What was the last movie you saw?
Answer:Steven Soderbergh’s HAYWIRE
3)What is your biggest TV addiction?
Answer:LOST!!!!!! OMG, I miss that show. Before LOST, it was ALIAS. Post Lost, FRINGE is filling in nicely. I guess you could say I’m a JJ Abrams fangirl J
Answer:Ultra dark chocolate and red wine!
5)Fruits or veggies?
6)Favorite childhood toy?
Answer:Any book I could get my hands on.
7)What did you have for breakfast this morning?
Answer:Key lime flavored Greek yogurt.
Me: Thank you for taking the time to answer these interview questions for me.
Ellie: Thank YOU, Casey! Your questions were terrific and thought-provoking!
Please let your readers know that if they zip over to my Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309) and let me know they read your interview, they’ll be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Broken Illusions!
About the Midnight Dragonfly Series
Glimpses. That’s all they are. Shadowy premonitions flickering through sixteen year old psychic Trinity Monsour’s dreams. Some terrify: a girl screaming, a knife lifting, a body in the grass. But others--the dark, tortured eyes and the shattering kiss, the promise of forever--whisper to her soul.
They come without warning. They come without detail.
But they always mean the same thing: The clock is ticking, and only Trinity can stop it.
Find out how in Broken Illusions (St. Martin’s Press), available May 8, 2012.
About Ellie James
Most people who know Ellie think she’s your nice, ordinary average wife and mom of two little kids. They see someone who does all that normal stuff, like grocery shopping, walking the dogs, going to baseball games, and somehow always forgetting to get the house cleaned and laundry done.
What they don't know is that more often than, this LSU J-School alum is somewhere far, far away, in an extraordinary world, deeply embroiled in solving a riddle or puzzle or crime, testing the limits of possibility, exploring the unexplained, and holding her breath while two people fall in love.
Regardless of which world Ellie’s in, she loves rain and wind and thunder and lightning; the first warm kiss of spring and the first cool whisper of fall; family, friends, and animals; dreams and happy endings; Lost and Fringe; Arcade Fire and Dave Matthews, and last but not least…warm gooey chocolate chip cookies.
You can follow Ellie on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Midnight-Dragonfly-Books-by-Ellie-James/154988421236309
Her next book, BROKEN ILLUSIONS, will be available from Griffin Teen May 8, 2012.
Giveaway: Comment below with your name and e-mail address to be entered to win a signed copy of Shattered Dreams (Midnight Dragonfly, #1) and enter the contest above hosted by Ellie in order to be entered into a drawing for a signed copy of Broken Illusions (Midnight Dragonfly, #2). Ends 5/30.