Renee Writes

Author Spotlight: Saltlands by Elizabeth Stephens

Headshot2.jpegElizabeth Stephens was born in Baltimore, Maryland but has since lived in Atlanta, Seattle, Washington D.C., Cairo, Amman, Paris, Beirut, and Geneva. Elizabeth currently lives in Johannesburg with her boyfriend and Zurg, a fat cat she stole from her neighbors.

Elizabeth began writing at the age of 10. She later was able to translate these skills into work as a political correspondent and travel writer during her time in the Middle East and North Africa. Her true passion however, still remained in the realm of fiction.

Being a fan of the macabre, Elizabeth’s first published pieces were horror stories that featured in several ezines and online magazines. She then combined her love of horror with a soft spot for all things romantic and produced Population, her first adult fiction title published by Vantage Point Books in April 2015. The second and final installment to the Population series, Saltlands, is now available.

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About the Book

Saltlands front coverSaltlands is the second and final installment in the science fiction, paranormal romance series, Population. Saltlands is set in a post-apocalyptic Pacific Northwest. A blurb on Saltlands can be found here:

Abel and Mikey are trapped and Kane is taken. The struggle for survival has never been more strained. To escape their submerged prison cell, to cross the apocalyptic landscape known as Population and find Kane.

Tension between Abel and Mikey keeps their odds of survival bleak as they face off against the obstacles that Population places before them. Rogue Others, starvation, savage scavengers, gangs. With over 200 miles to trek, Mikey will have to learn how to trust and Abel, how to hope again as Population leads them to even more dangerous territory and into the Saltlands.

Get it today on Amazon, Amazon UK, Goodreads, Barnes and Noble, and iBooks!

First 10 people to email Elizabeth at el (dot) stephens (at) live (dot) com will get a signed copy of Population!

Keep reading for an interview with the author:

Why did you decide to be a writer?

To say that I decided to be a writer would be a bit of a misnomer. Writing has come as naturally to me as taking in breath. I began writing at the age of 11, because I wanted a look-alike American Girl Doll and my mother told me I could only have one if I wrote a story about the doll. I ended up writing a 76 page science fiction saga about a young girl traversing different planets and have been writing ever since.

Saltlands back coverDo you have a “day job”? If so, what do you do?

I live in Johannesburg, South Africa and work as an author and, at the same time, as a communications consultant. This means I write communications strategies and guidelines, branding and style guides, conduct press engagement, organize events, create visual materials and draft and translate content (English-French-Arabic) for small to large organizations in both the public and private sectors.

At present, I work for CIVICUS Alliance, a large international NGO focused on convening civil society organizations and protecting civic space. I travel quite a bit and had the pleasure of assisting in the organization of conferences in Senegal, Indonesia and Morocco in late 2015.

At the same time, I also provide also provide editorial support to author Michael Withey on the production of his novel, The Domingo and Viernes Story, scheduled for release in late 2016/early 2017.

What genres do you write?

I dabble across a few genres including horror, science fiction, paranormal romance, erotica, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, dystopian and apocalyptic fiction, and young adult. My love lies in all things macabre and, at the same time, romantic. So where the fusion of horror and romance lies, you’ll find me standing at the crossroads with my thumb outstretched.

What authors/books have most influenced you?

The books and authors that have influenced my life the most include The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson; Abarat: Days of Magic Nights of War, A Hellbound Heart, and Mister B. Gone by Clive Barker; The Crazy School by Cornelia Read; Salem’s Lot, Pet Semetary, and The Shining by Stephen King; The Strain by Chuck Hogan and Guillermo Del Toro; The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas; Lord of the Flies by Arthur Golding; and The Little Prince by St. Exupery.

If you could choose an author to be your mentor, who would it be?

It would absolutely be Stephen King. His books are mesmerizing. His ability to generate fear through the use of words alone, the depth of his characters and the tangible ambience of the settings and worlds they live in and, in particular, his ability to produce such consistent and diverse narratives throughout his work. He releases books every single year — a feat that I aim to accomplish!

When did you first consider yourself an author?

That’s a fantastic question and I have to confess that I set myself a pretty stupid standard: I never truly considered myself an author until I held one of my own books in my hand. Despite having already been published, for me, the physical product was what set this new author Elizabeth apart from the writer that had come before. However in retrospect, I think that this is a foolish expectation a lot of writers set for themselves and if I could speak to the me of five years ago I’d have said, “Elizabeth, you are an author! Why? Because you write.”

Does your family support you in your writing, or are you on your own?

The support I get from friends and family is a huge incentive for me to continue writing. As I mentioned, my mother’s ultimatum about purchasing me an American Girl Doll was what started this whole writing fixation. Since then, my mom and dad have both been immensely supportive all the way through my artistic journey, as has the rest of my family.

When I hosted a book launch party to celebrate Population’s release in April 2015, almost 15 members of my family from across the country attended as did my boyfriend who arrived from Germany and six of my best friends who flew in from the East Coast. It was one of the greatest days of my life, to date and I have my friends and family to thank for it.

What are you working on now?

At the moment I have too many projects to count! I am still working on finalizing Saltlands, which will carry Abel’s journey forward through even more treacherous terrain than in Population. At the same time, I recently completed the polishing of a YA novel called The Rougarou. Steeped in Acadian Cajun folklore, the novel is set in Paris and is one for which I am in the process of securing representation. I was also recently inspired by a novel called Flawed by Francette Phal and am nearly 100 pages into a manuscript that is as of yet, untitled. This is my darkest work yet and travels between the perspectives of a young college student and the serial killer to which she has become bound.

How do you market/promote your work? Have you found something that works really well for you?

This is a tricky question and one for which I do not have a great answer. Marketing, I have found to be the most difficult aspect of publication thus far. It’s time consuming and at times, expensive. I have found book giveaways to be an effective strategy to gain readers. I have also found that reaching out to your own community is a great way to get press and gain recognition. My high school, for example, posted several pieces on my book in their local paper and even placed my book in the Garfield Golden Grads display case at the front of the building! Attending writer’s conferences equally is a great way to meet other writers and readers.

Do you have any advice for other authors?

My first piece of advice would be to network, network, network! Things are changing rapidly in the world. Access to technology and global consumerism have lowered the barriers to entry into many industries, making being an author more accessible in some ways, but in others, significantly more difficult. While it’s easier now than ever to publish a book, it’s also harder to find a publisher or literary agent to represent you.

Years before Population was so much as an inkling in my mind’s eye, I had been trying to find an agent to take on one of my young adult books. I wrote query after query and received rejection after rejection. Don’t get me wrong, I had some bites in the beginning and enough encouragement from publishers to keep me going, but nothing concrete ever came of it. But one day — the day that I finished writing draft one of Population — my mom met a woman who just happened to be opening a publishing company and who just happened to be focusing on authors and characters of color. She read my novel that evening and loved it so much that 6 months later I was looking my own book up on Amazon.

My second piece of advice to new and aspiring authors would be to never give up, never surrender! I think the hardest part about being an author is finding the time and the will to continue in such a competitive (and not particularly lucrative) industry. However, when my books arrived in paperback, there was no better feeling. It makes every moment of writer’s block and disappointment and rejection worth it a thousand times over. So don’t ever give up on your passion. Passion is what makes an author’s life worth living.

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