Please give a cold dead welcome to the lovely Elizabeth Wilson to the blog this week!
What are your ambitions for your writing career?
In short: to spread the light.
Look, they told me being an author would be hard, but it’s only been three years since I picked up a pen. The decision to become an author was instantaneous and divine. It was somehow laced with that magical ingredient that had been missing from most of my previous decisions: the lively will to act.
In the three years since, I’ve written two novels, one collaboratively with a New York Times bestselling author. I’ve written countless short stories, many receiving honorable mentions in some America’s most respected print publications. I’ve published one novel independently and the other through one of the greatest publishing houses in the world. My mystery novel went mass market paperback and is a huge success in North America and United Kingdom. I even got to meet, interview and share my book with the legendary 41 times bestselling fantasy author Piers Anthony.
I did all that in three years, and it wasn’t hard. NOT because I’m in any way more talented than any other. I know exactly why it went so smoothly, and my greatest ambition is to use my writing to teach others how easy it really is to be all that you want to be, to achieve your soul’s desire and to find peace.
What’s it about?
“Ascension Denied”, the book that started it all, is a hilarious and clever story about the inevitability and beauty of death, the pointlessness of striving for any goal other than our own, and beer in heaven:
Purgatory is in trouble. Strange deals and corruption are preventing the dead from ascending to their final resting place. The ferryman is still bringing daily loads of freshly perished souls to the shores of the afterlife. Guardian angels are rebelling. But worse, the mayor has restricted all afterlife beer-drinking. What is the point of death if not to enjoy the fact that liver disease is no longer a threat? Alice Shepherd, who has only been dead for five years, finds herself at the helm of a band of activists determined to set things straight. But can Alice unclog the system before the streets are overrun by dead people? And what happens when two drunk guardian angels accidentally open the doors to Hell?
Give us an insight into your main characters. What do they do that is so special?
One of the interesting things I discovered about my characters is that dead or alive, angel or human, all wildly different, they all seem to share the same weakness: A fear of their perceived inability to handle what they believe they’ve been assigned to do. The intriguing thing is how they handle that fear, regardless of whether or not it’s valid. Take Mayor Jagger T. Fleisch for example. He is simply terrified of our heroine Alice Shepherd, and has implemented a stringent bureaucracy to keep purgatory under his control. In between drags of his soggy cigarette filter, his lipsticked pout barks condescending orders to assert his authority, sending him into fits of juicy coughs. He would do anything to increase his power. On the other hand, Raen-El, a guardian angel brimming with divine might, is crippled under the responsibility of protecting the living. He knows that every piece of advice he whispers will send ripples of cause and effect like aftershocks through the present and future of every living human. He would do anything to quit his job.
You know, I think we all share this fear. We’re torn between “follow your dreams” and “this is your lot, make do”. Throw in a bit of guilt-tripping and some stern words of advice from our elders, coupled with absolutely no idea what happens next, and I think we’re all pretty terrified. But then, like my characters, we plod along, making life up as we go along and from time to time we return to that core center where we are truly ourselves, and that’s where we find strength. When we revisit the part of us that knows there is nothing to fear we tap into an eternal stream of energy, intelligence and faith that can keep us progressing in the direction of our dreams as long as we’re willing to let it. The really magical thing is, as soon as we align with that part of ourselves everything becomes easy. Even publishing books.
Have you written any other novels in collaboration with other writers?
When we talk about success in publishing we often say it takes luck more than talent. And that’s probably true. But let’s examine what luck really is. You see, the same number of lucky pennies, better breaks, open doors and crazy coincidences are available to absolutely everyone. It’s the ability to spot them and, most importantly, act on them, that separates the “lucky” from those who stand still. When I decided to become an author and began to develop my story premise, the thought struck me that I should reach out to the business community and try to find a mentor. I sent my writing samples out and attracted the amazing Scott Ciencin, the New York Times bestselling author of Shadowdale. He liked my samples and asked if we could collaborate on an idea he had. A couple of years later our mystery novel “The Humbug Murders” was complete under our collaborative penname L. J. Oliver and published by Simon & Schuster across two continents. What an incredible stroke of luck for me, right? In fact, this success was almost inevitable and this is why: when you respond to a call from your soul, the universe conspires to make it happen for you in the highest and best way for all. Scott needed me, and I needed him, and our meeting resulted in the creation of a beautiful novel. Sadly, my dear friend Scott passed away suddenly before we finished the story, and the divine timing of it all solidified the belief in my mind that when you respond to those inner nudges, the hunches and flashes of inspiration, you know you’re moving in the direction that will best serve both you and others in your path.
Why do you write?
And that is precisely why I write. It’s the song calling to me from deep within, and once you hear its dulcet humming you can never unhear it! In fact, it is your responsibility to act on it, to do the thing that enlivens you the most. And it’s never too late to begin living in this truth of who you really are. You are enacting a story, living it page by page and writing it as you go along. Every decision you make opens a new chapter that takes your story in a different direction. When you revisit past chapters you have the power to read between the lines and discover new and deeper meanings – or simply to dwell on old words, if that is your choice. In this way you also have the power to shape the direction of your future, writing your story the way you want. You are never truly bound by the chapters of your past. But it takes empowerment and courage to recognize that.
My publishing success was not an end in its own right. Rather it was a demonstration to myself that I can achieve anything – absolutely anything when I find the courage to respond to the song. So the greatest gift I got from embarking on the great adventure of authorship was learning that good writing is about story – yes – but it is the empowerment of the hero that drives the story. Who is the hero? We all are, of course, the heroes of our own, amazing, individual stories.
I believe true spirituality lies in the ability to go within and take a close look at the stories we’re writing. To honor our own spirituality and faith in whatever form it takes: religious, natural, secular or scientific. There is no need to align with one belief system or another, but we do have a deep responsibility to align with ourselves. To listen to our inner voice and acknowledge it. And that is a challenge.
What advice would you give to other aspiring writers?
Stop looking for the formula. Whether it’s how to write your book, how to market it, get reviews, reach the top seller lists – whatever the formula might be that you’re looking for. Stop looking and start listening, really listening to the humming coming from within. There are infinite ways to succeed as an author, many of those ways haven’t even happened yet so you won’t find them as long as you’re looking out there. Instead, keep your thoughts and feelings focused on what enlivens you the most and dial up the volume on your soul song. The universe has a knack of working it all out for you, all you have to do is show up for the challenge.
Thanks to Elizabeth for joining us on this weeks blog! Please be sure to follow her and check out her books!