I’m so excited to host a second post for the WOW! Book Tour of The House on Linden Way! It has been so much fun getting to know Elizabeth Maria Naranjo. If you haven’t seen it yet, make sure you check out my review of The House on Linden Way and check out the other posts from the tour!
Enjoy reading through this interview between Elizabeth and me. She had some great, insightful answers!
Questions About Reading/Writing:
Jess: To begin with, what does your writing routine look like?
Elizabeth: It’s changed so much over the years. I’m a newly minted classroom teacher, so I have less time to write than I used to. Twice a week I write in my car between dropping my son off at school and going into work. On weekends I write at a coffee shop for an hour or two first thing in the morning. All of those times are for drafting. In the evenings I work on blog posts, edits, and ideas for new stories.
Jess: Wow! It’s awesome that you’re still able to fit writing into such a busy schedule. It gives me hope for writing as a teacher myself! What are you reading currently?
Elizabeth: I just finished reading an excellent YA science fiction novel called Exo, recommended to me by my son. And now I’m reading Stephen King’s new book, Fairy Tale. Just for the record, I want to say that I came up with the title first, as my WIP from 2021 is also called Fairy Tale, and I’m not changing it. Mr. King will just have to understand.
Jess: I’m sure he’ll understand. You’ll have to let me know how his newest book is! Do you find yourself reading frequently, or do you go through reading “dry spells”?
Elizabeth: I read every night for at least thirty minutes, sometimes an hour. It’s an ingrained routine; I never skip it. If I’m between books and struggling to find the right one, then I turn to nonfiction. That happened to me this summer. I was getting restless with genre fiction but literary fiction sounded too heavy at the time, so I picked up Phil Collins’ memoir, Not Dead Yet. That is a fantastic read by the way!!
Jess: I’ll have to look into it! I love the idea of reading as a routine. What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
Elizabeth: My friend and critique partner Carrie Ann Lahain comes to mind—she’s an amazing writer and has been a consistent source of support and encouragement over the years. We met nearly a decade ago in an online class for debut authors, and we just clicked. She’s helped me become a better writer by patiently reading everything I write and offering sharp, insightful criticism.
Jess: That’s such an awesome story! Writing buddies are so important to success as an author. On average, how long does it take you to write a book? What did the timeline look like for writing The House on Linden Way?
Elizabeth: My first impulse is to say there really is no average for how long it takes to write a book because each one is so different. But I realize that when I consolidate the weeks spent actually writing, it comes down to about three months for a first draft. With Linden Way, that three months was spread out over a year, because I got stuck and shelved it for a while. Of course the first draft is just the beginning; editing is a whole other story. Each round of edits takes a month or two, and there are at least two major ones. In a best-case scenario, I could start a book and have it ready for publication in a year.
Jess: I’ve always admired authors like Stephen King and Nicholas Sparks who seemingly publish a new book every year. I often feel discouraged when I shelve a book and ignore it for a bit, so it’s nice to know that something so brilliant can still come out of it!
Questions About The House on Linden Way
Jess: Moving onto some more specific questions, was the experience of publishing The House on Linden Way different from publishing The Fourth Wall? How so?
Elizabeth: The experience was very different because The Fourth Wall is a traditionally published novel and Linden Way is self-published. So for The Fourth Wall there was a lot of waiting, like between signing the contract and receiving the editorial letter; between turning in developmental edits and getting to move on to the next round, etc. And there was uncertainty because I felt very removed from much of the process and knew that final decisions weren’t up to me.
With Linden Way I was in charge of everything and there was never any concern that I’d have to change my title or end up with a book cover I didn’t like or have to rewrite the entire thing in first person present tense because that’s the going trend. (None of this happened with my small publisher, but the uncertainty is always there and it happens all the time.) I got to choose who I worked with and they worked for me, not the other way around. I’ve found self-publishing to be a better fit for me, although I’m grateful to have experienced both.
Jess: It sounds like those two experiences were truly unique! I feel like I would also prefer self-publishing, just given that I’m a “control enthusiast” as my husband likes to say. So what inspired you to write The House On Linden Way?
Elizabeth: I’m intrigued by our attachment to childhood homes, and I wanted to write a story centered on that nostalgia. I also find the concept of regret interesting because it’s such a paradox. When I started writing the story I thought Amber would be trapped in the house with all these bad memories, maybe she had an abusive parent, something like that. And then I thought, meh, that’s been done over and over, how much more interesting would it be to have her trapped in a happy childhood, one that she lost, and force her to make a choice between her past and present? Her good memories, because they’re lost to her, would be much more haunting than bad ones.
Jess: I’ll admit, when I first started reading, I thought, “Oh. This is going to be one of those books where she’s trapped with nightmarish memories that haunt her.” During that first scene with Joey, I realized how wrong I had been! I’m so glad you chose to be unique and write about a happy childhood. It made for a great story! What did your research for Linden Way look like?
Elizabeth: I tried to avoid research altogether by setting the story in my own childhood home. Still, I hadn’t seen it in many years, so research looked like me sitting and staring at the house on Linden Way via Google Maps. It was astonishing; I’d never thought to do that before. I typed in the address and just sat there, staring… and thinking, there’s the fence that my stepdad taught me how to stain, we stained it every few years… and why is no one doing that anymore? It’s all faded; it needs a fresh coat of stain. And why isn’t anyone trimming the hedges…?
Jess: That’s a cool way to approach research! Are your characters based on /inspired by real people, or do you create characters based on ideas you have?
Elizabeth: Usually my characters are completely made up and so are their stories. Linden Way is different in that many of the characters—the house, the brother, the best friend—closely resemble real life. I think every author has that one novel that’s slightly more autobiographical. That said, the scenes and situations in Linden Way are fictional. I just took a real-life setting and a few real-life relationships and made up a story.
Jess: What a personal story! I love when authors include their own touches of life into their writing. Which part of the book was the hardest for you to write and why?
Elizabeth: The middle is always the hardest. Beginnings and endings are exciting and then there’s the middle where you have to build a bridge between the two. I’ve outlined my last three books, which makes it easier, but Linden Way was not planned out, and for books like that you just have to stop after that first third and figure out where you’re at and where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. It can be disheartening, and I felt that way at one point with Linden Way and that’s when I got stuck; I was stuck for several months. It all worked out, but I wouldn’t at this point write my way that far into a story without an outline.
Jess: Noted! Write an outline. Slightly random question derived from my own writing habits… Do you hide any secrets in your books that only a few people will find?
Elizabeth: That is a great question, and one that no one’s asked me before. I do have hidden secrets in my books that only one or two people would find. In Linden Way only my childhood best friend would recognize them.
Jess: I love that! What do you hope your readers take away from this book?
Elizabeth: I hope readers take away a good story, and if they’re also writers, I hope they’re inspired to write!
Jess: So what are you working on now?
Elizabeth: I’m working on the third book in my cozy mystery series. It’s very different from Linden Way, pure commercial plot-driven fiction, and a heck of a lot of fun. When I’m done though I’ll probably be ready to dive back into something dark and gloomy.
Jess: That’s awesome! Everyone needs a fun break, though I must say, you excel in the dark and gloomy!
Questions Just for Fun
Jess: You write thrillers, so I’m wondering: What’s something you’re afraid of that other people may not consider “scary”?
Elizabeth: Apple slicers. I use mine every day and it’s always a harrowing experience. I’m sure the risk of slipping and severing a finger is practically non-existent, yet this image plays over and over in my head along with the echoes of imagined screams.
Jess: I completely understand that fear. When I was a kid, my grandpa was using one of those potato slicer things, and he sliced his finger off. My mom and dad were on a date and we were spending the night at his house, so he forbade us from calling 911 because he didn’t want to interrupt the date! I ended up calling my parents from the bathroom and telling them that “Papa’s hand fell off.” (I may possibly be an unreliable narrator in this case… but it sure felt like that’s what happened! And yes, he ended up going to the hospital!)
On a lighter note, would you rather live in a haunted mansion or an un-haunted cottage? Why?
Elizabeth: As much as I love scary stories, I don’t think I’d want to live in one. I’d prefer living in a fairy tale, so I’ll take the un-haunted cottage and the happily ever after.
Jess: Thank you so much for joining me today! Participating in your book tour has been an honor, and I’m looking forward to maintaining a friendship with you moving forward! I can’t wait to read what you write next.
WOW! Women on Writing Book Tour – The House on Linden Way
Make sure you check out the rest of the stops on the book tour!