An interview with author Elizabeth Gracen.
Can you tell us about your background as an author?
I’m primarily known as an actress and filmmaker. Over the past twenty years, I have written feature film and short film scripts. However, I’ve also written a couple of books, both fiction and non-fiction, written in collaboration with other authors. The self-publishing world is a perfect fit for me. It affords me control and a means to get my work out into the world/. That is why started Flapper Press - a boutique, curated publishing company and ecommerce source for books, poetry, blogs, art and unique offerings from a stable of talented influencers, thought leaders, indie writers and artists.
As a filmmaker, my company, Flapper Films - http://flapperfilms.com - is always cooking up something, usually in collaboration with a fantastic modern dance company called The Lineage Dance Company.
As an actress, my most recognizable role is ‘Amanda’ in HIGHLANDER: THE SERIES and its spin-off , HIGHLDER: THE RAVEN.
What got you into writing?
Growing up in a small town in Arkansas, I had some really great English teachers who inspired my love for writing and always encouraged me to stretch my imagination. I’m a big fan of poetry as well and have written personal poetry since I was a little girl.
Since I work in so many mediums, including painting and mixed media, I view writing as the necessary spine for everything I create. The narrative structure holds it all together and affords me the opportunity to explore my ideas.
What was the first idea you had for your book, and how did the story grow from there?
My inspiration for the book started with an article in Scientific American about Mt. Parnassus in Delphi and the ethylene gas that emits through the cracks in the mountain. The thrust of the article is that this gas was probably the reason these young Pythia, or Oracles, were sent into wild trances and uttered gibberish and barked like dogs back in the day when a Delphic Oracle was considered the mouthpiece of the god Apollo.
The idea started there – along with a lyric from a fabulous song by Rufus Wainwright called, Go or Go Ahead. There is line that says, “Oh, Medusa, kiss me and crucify this unholy notion of the mythic power of Love.” It got me spinning on the idea of a world without Love and compassion.
From that point on – I don’t even know when I actually decided to send my young heroine into a parallel dimension called the Paradigm - full of mythic creatures, talking animals and the Pale Ones who rule them. It just manifested itself as it went along.
Among your characters, who’s your favorite? Could you please describe him/her?
My heroine, Fippa, was great fun to write. She is a willful, ambitious sixteen year-old with unusual mystical gifts. She desperately wants to be an Oracle and believes that she is destined for great things. Circumstances propel her on a much bigger journey to a parallel dimension. As she crosses through the portal, she is unexpectedly transformed into a creature of legend, long thought extinct – a butterfly girl called the Shalilly. Her journey chips away at her ego and opens her awareness to the world around her. She opens her heart, learns compassion and sacrifices herself to a bigger cause.
What’s your favorite scene from your novel? Could you please describe it?
I really like the auction scene that happens after Fippa travels through the portal to the parallel dimension called the Paradigm. When she is transformed into the Shalilly, she’s quickly captured, caged and taken to auction in one of the enormous Glass Hives. It’s a big ‘filmic’ scene with many of the main characters in play. From this sequence, you understand all the forces and obstacles that Fippa will have to overcome to bring the warrior, Ision, back to Earth before Love is annihilated from the Cosmos. It’s a fun scene.
What’s your favorite part of writing? Plotting? Describing scenes? Dialogue?
Since I’m a filmmaker, I really enjoy writing dialogue, but I tend to think in pictures, so when I really let my imagination rip, it is usually a pleasant challenge to try to bring those images in my head to life on a page.
I suppose the quick answer to that question is that everything takes longer than I plan! Because I usually have several balls in the air at the same time (I’m in the middle of shooting another film right now!), it takes me a long time to get to the final draft of a book or script. However, because I cycle back around to projects, it provides the necessary time it takes to see the writing with fresh eyes.
More than anything else, that defines my process. I do my best to let a work sit as long as possible before I dive back in. For Shalilly and the non-fiction book I’ll be publishing by the end of the year – The Go to Gals Ultimate Emergency Organizer – there was an enormous amount of research that had to be done before I finally started to write. Like most writers I know, I love the research phase.
I usually create a rough outline and a thorough character breakdown. The latter helps me flesh out the archetypes and how they would speak. After that, the story gradually begins to reveal itself. I try to stay loose and let the characters come to life.
What is it about the genre you chose that appeals to you?
The fantasy genre is one that I have always enjoyed reading. I’m a true believer in magical thinking! That comes from the best part of my childhood spent with my wily Grandmother Murphy. I spent a lot of time with her in a world of make believe. She used to tell me stories about the fairies at war with the evil spiders in her attic! She was what I call a Would-Be Witch who had palm reading books and crystal balls around her house. She’d perform magic tricks and tell fortunes for me and all my friends. Fantasy is in my bones!
I also worked as an actress, for many years, on the fantasy television series, HIGHLANDER and its spin-off series, HIGHLADER: THE RAVEN. As an actor, you spend most of your time in make believe, breathing life into characters – the fantasy world is where you live to make a character work.
Are there any books or writers than have had particular influence on you?
In high school, THE LORD OF THE RINGS trilogy was mandatory reading (I told you I had fantastic teachers). We even had a Middle Earth Day – I sewed my own Galadreil costume out of sheets! I think the world building in those books must have influenced my writing for Shalilly.
Jeanette Winterson’s The Passion is a huge influence on me too. I read it over and over again. All of her work, really, inspires me. It is poetic, grand, deep and a real exploration of the blurred lines between fact, fiction, memory… Her protagonists have the type of hero archetype I am attracted to and want to write about.
Did you ever surprise yourself when you were writing your book? Characters who took on lives of their own? Plot elements that took unexpected turns?
After hearing Elizabeth Gilbert’s inspiring TED Talk about the creative life -https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_on_genius?language=en -
I’ve tried to apply her ideas about just ‘showing up and doing the work’ and not putting so much pressure on yourself to be fantastic. I honestly do rely on my muse or genius to inspire and bring me ideas. I try to stay open and simply be a vessel for creativity. So, in the end, I am constantly surprised at the end of a writing session! The characters do take on lives of their own, and sometimes the plot shifts as new ideas come to the forefront.
ABOUT THE BOOK
In the heart of ancient Delphi, Fippa, a sixteen-year old misfit mystic with unusual gifts, stands at theedge of a cosmic pool, ready to drown. Her sacrifice is the only way to open the portal within the water’s black depths and the only chance she has to bring the young warrior, Ision, back to Earth before Darkness annihilates Love from the Cosmos.
Submerged in the pool, Fippa’s heart stops beating and the portal opens. She finds herself unexpectedly transformed into an exotic butterfly girl—a creature of legend—the Shalilly. Resurrected into a parallel dimension—a land full of mythical creatures, talking animals, and the Pale Ones who dominate them—Fippa the Shalilly is captured and sold to the very man she came to find.
With Darkness looming ever closer, Fippa must persuade Ision to return with her to Earth by telling him a fantastic story—their story. The story of Love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Years later, after traveling the world as Miss America 1982, Elizabeth discovered the craft of acting to channel her vivid imagination, most notably as Amanda in the fantasy series, HIGHLANDER. After the birth of her daughter, she became a filmmaker and launched FLAPPER FILMS—a production company dedicated to creating inspiring content for multi-generational women.
Elizabeth spends her time between Europe and America and happily juggles the role of mother, business owner, filmmaker, and author. She lives with her husband, her ten-year old daughter, three dogs, and an attic full of fairies. SHALILLY is her debut novel.
Find Elizabeth online:
ABOUT THE PUBLISHER
FLAPPER PRESS is a boutique, curated publishing company and eCommerce source for books, poetry, blogs, art and unique offerings from a stable of talented influencers, thought leaders, writers and artists.