I wanted to be an author from the age of about eight or so – as soon as I realised that real people were responsible for the stories I loved. I was a storyteller from a very early age, entertaining friends at sleepovers with tales of princes and princesses, and making up plays that we would rehearse and put on for our parents.
I never could decide on a “real” job, so I did a creative writing diploma and a secretarial course to learn to type, and kept working away on my first novel. Writing and telling stories have always been a part of who I am, so it’s a natural outlet for my creative expression, my ideas, and the way I view the world.
My first novel began as a comedy, but the humour didn’t come easily. At the same time I was planning a mystery series because I loved mystery books, and my novel suddenly developed a subplot involving the ashes of a dead teenager. I completed two drafts of this novel and then moved abroad for two years without doing any writing at all. When I picked up that novel again I hated it. I scrapped the whole thing, but reworked the characters and one of the plot threads and decided I was writing a thriller, since I happened to be “into” crime fiction and thrillers at the time. My tastes seem to change every few years – I’m now devouring all the fantasy and science fiction I can get my hands on.
I don’t like the realism and the increasingly technical detection methods of crime fiction anymore, which is why I’ve moved on to fantasy where I can exercise my imagination with fewer restraints. I used to be a fan of the good, old fashioned whodunit, where clues were considered and suspects checked off the list and the crime was neatly solved. Nowadays I still occasionally like reading about detailed forensic investigation, but I would hate to write it. I find writing about police procedure and investigation boring, which is why I chose to have the police team hopelessly understaffed in my crime novel. I wanted the implications of the crime to drive the plot, not the solving of it.
After several years of revisions I finally admitted to a major flaw in part of a plot that was better suited to a carefree early Twentieth Century setting rather than one post-9/11. I either had to change the period, or change the plot. I’ve only just very recently worked out how to changed the plot.
Next I began a science-fiction novel, but I couldn’t find my “feet” with it, so I shelved it for a while and turned my attention to children’s fantasy. I wrote the first book in a trilogy before taking a break to start a family. I put the trilogy on hold longer than I intended because I had hoped to seek a traditional publisher and discovered (actually, I knew, but I was in denial) that publishers are not interested in trilogies by new authors (too great a risk). I started thinking about incorporating the three books into one standalone, and, in the meantime, with my second baby on the way, I decided to start writing a completely new contemporary fantasy novel – Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin.
During the revision of “Maddie”, I started reading more and more positive news about other authors who had successfully self-published. I could see that the entire publishing industry was changing rapidly and I also realised that traditional publishing would be a very stressful option for me were I to land a publisher who required edits, revisions, and new books on a tight deadline or travelling for book tours. There are all sorts of horror stories about trad pubs and the shiny gloss of being “chosen” began to flake off. It made far more sense for me to choose myself and invest in my own business, rather than sink time, energy, and money into desperately pitching a book to someone not interested in it in the vain hope I would make it one day.
Once the decision was made, it felt like a weight had been lifted. I’m thrilled to be entering into the publishing business – embarking on a new journey with my stories. Thanks for coming along for the ride 🙂
Elle Carter Neal is the author of the middle-grade chapter book The Convoluted Key, picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin. She has been telling stories for as long as she can remember, holding childhood slumber-party audiences entranced until the early hours of the morning. Elle decided to be an author the day she discovered that real people wrote books and that writing books was a real job.