Elisabeth Stewart lives in Toronto, Canada. A graduate of The University of Toronto, she is married and the mother of three boys.
Elisabeth wrote a weekly opinion column for a local newspaper from 1996 to 2000 (“slice of life” and political commentaries) and was the winner of a Romance Writer’s Contest (Ponder Publishing 2001). Her short stories have been published in Room of One’s Own (2002), Tall Tales and Short Stories Vol. III (Tall Tales Press 2005) and Ten Stories High (Canadian Authors’ Association – Niagara Branch 2005).
A personal memoir entitled A Family Journey (regarding her son’s battle with post-concussion syndrome) led to an invitation to present her work at The Toronto ABI (Acquired Brain Injury) Network Conference in 2002.
Her first romance novel, A Limited Partnership, was accepted for publication by Awe-Struck E-Books in August 2004.
A wonderful family and great friends keep her busy, sane and grounded as she continues to pursue the challenge and rewards of a writing career.
Visit Elisabeth's new blog at-- http://www.elisabethstewart.blogspot.com/
Q: What made you start writing and when did you start?
A: I started writing stories as a child. My parents were thrilled--gave me a typewriter for my 11th birthday (which I still have). The world of imagination held a strong fascination for me then--and now--not only as an escape but as a means of enriching the “real” world.
Q: Who are some of your favorite authors?
A: Elizabeth Berg, Jodi Picoult, J.D. Salinger, Marge Piercy, LaVryle Spencer, Jennifer Crusie, Wally Lamb, Anya Seton, Mordechi Richler, Marilyn French…I could go on and on…better stop.
Q: How do you come up with the idea for a book? Once you have an idea, do you plot it out, fly by the seat of your pants, or what?
A: Strangely enough, I often come up with story ideas as I’m lying in bed at night. It’s been this way since I was a child. Needless to say, pen and paper are always at hand. I also find inspiration in songs. I listen to the lyrics and wonder what sort of situation led the songwriter to create such lyrics. And then my imagination takes over…
Q: What type of writing schedule do you have? Is it flexible, or do you have a goal for each writing session?
A: I am at my “creative best” in the mornings. I suspect this started when my children were young. As soon as they left for school, I headed for the computer. For the rest of the day and evening, I will jot down ideas as they come to me and perhaps do some editing but that’s it. I wish I was more flexible but this is the “rut” I am in and it works for me.
Q: What one thing do you like the most about being a writer, and why? What do you like the least?
A: I love the creative process--the magic of creating characters, different worlds--and the joy of finding the right words to convey my stories. However, writing is such a solitary endeavor. I must make a concerted effort to combine this pursuit with living in “the real world.” Fortunately, family and friends are always there to remind that there is a life beyond my writing.
Q: Do you ever use real people as the inspiration for characters in your books? If so, why do you choose those particular people?
A: I occasionally use real people as the inspiration for characters. I do so either because I find the person fascinating or their reaction to an event in their lives intriguing. However, I definitely fictionalize these people. I don’t want to intrude upon or make public their private lives.
Q: Tell us about the first time you got the call or the email from a publisher wanting to publish one of your books.
A: When I received the e-mail from Kathryn Struck regarding my novel A Limited Partnership, I was ecstatic. I made dozens of phone calls to share the good news. I also experienced a feeling of relief-- my novel writing efforts and my belief in those efforts had finally been justified. Of course, you can always write for your own pleasure and satisfaction but in your heart of hearts you want recognition. Finally, it had come.
Q: How much of your own life and experiences do you put into your books?
A: I tend to use more of my own life experiences in the short stories I write. That old maxim, “write what you know” certainly applies here. My short stories enable me to work through and/or better understand my past and where it has lead me. As for the romance genre, those scenarios are generated more from flights of fancy, escapism and just plain fun. The heroines may share some of my personality traits but they’re on their own in terms of living their lives.
Q: Have you made any big mistakes in your writing career? What were they, and do you think they did you lasting harm?
A: The biggest mistake I ever made was tossing out the hard copy of a romance novel I had written in a fit of pique after yet anther rejection. Of course, I knew I still had it on my computer and on a back-up disc. Not good enough. Our house was robbed--and totally trashed in the process. My computer was stolen and among many other items, I have yet to find the back-up disc. I suspect it was thrown out during the massive clean-up or I will finally find it buried somewhere if we ever move. Now I realize that simply because one or two publishers do not want your work, that doesn’t mean it isn’t suitable for another publisher. I now make and keep hard copies of my work as well as backing it up on at least two discs. And I know where they are!
Q: Do you ever suffer from writer's block? Have you found any effective ways for dealing with it?
A: I think most writers have moments when “the muse” just isn’t there. When it happens to me I simply get up and leave the computer. I don’t force it. Inevitably, I then find myself thinking about the story while I am busy doing other things and make notes via the old-fashioned pen and paper method. The change--being away from the computer--does wonders for me. In fact, I can write an entire chapter in my eligible scrawl and then transfer it to the computer.
CLOSING REMARKS: A word of advice to all aspiring writers--never give up hope. When I decided to pursue my dream of writing, I was inundated with rejection letters. My total earnings for those first few years were abysmal. Rejection, however painful and disheartening, does have some merit. With each one I discovered the extent of my determination, my sense of self-worth and learned never to sit back and wait for a reply once I’d submitted my work. You go on to the next project so that when (and if) that nasty rejection comes, you’re already hoping for success in your next endeavor. And when “the call” finally comes (the acceptance!) the time spent on a dream will have been justified.