Welcome back to our Author’s Interview Friday. Today we are welcoming Elizabeth Horton-Newton to our corner of the world. I met her through BooksGoSocial on Facebook, and have had some wonderful conversations with her. Now, I’m taking a chance to let others get to know her as well. Without much further interruption, I’m going to turn the stage over to her.
Elizabeth, will you share a little of your history with us? Some of your early life, and where you grew up?
- I was born and raised in New York City and lived there until I was 37 when I moved to Knoxville, TN a smaller city in the southern US.
- I attended public schools until I reached the 7th grade. Then I was accepted into a school for girls with high IQ’s. Throwing all sense to the wind I got married when I was 18 and started having babies at 21. Throughout all of this I wrote. I wrote for school friends when I was in elementary school, I wrote romances for girlfriends in high school, I wrote children’s stories, I wrote every free moment including journaling on and off for years. I separated from my husband in 1981, went to Long Island University in Brooklyn NY on several scholarships studying Media Arts with an eye toward television directing and scripting. I spent a lot of time on camera but never viewed it as a serious goal. Over the years I have been a Manager for cabaret performer Edna Manilow, a telemarketer, a hostess in a Lebanese restaurant where I was the only English speaker but did not speak Armenian, a child care center director, an after school program developer and director, a career specialist, a mental health counsellor, a nanny, a shop manager selling native American jewelry and art, a floral designer, a mother, and a grandmother.
What inspired you to start writing?
- I think my interest in writing developed from my love of reading. I was always so excited when my father would read to me at bedtime. Even after I began reading myself he would read to me. I was reading very simple books by the time I was two and a half and I could read well by the time I was about three or four. But nothing compared with having my father read to me. He had a great voice.
- I actually started writing in elementary school. I remember writing stories for my parents about vacations. I wrote stories for my friends.
- I was inspired to write my first book when I was a teenager. The subject? The Beatles. Of course it was never published and has been lost in time. My first published book, “View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale” was inspired by my fascination with the assassination of President John Kennedy. I always thought something was off about the lone gunman theory. After visiting the Sixth Floor Museum in Dallas Texas I became even more convinced Oswald did not shoot Kennedy. If he had lived I believe the truth would have come out. That was the beginning of the idea for my book.
Do you have support outside of the family that helps keep you motivated?
- My best friend Kathy. We have been friends for over 30 years and she has always pressed me to write and keep trying.
Do you have a defining moment that you can point at that says to you “I’m a writer now”?
- That’s a tough question. I think in many ways I have always thought of myself as a story teller more than a writer. Now that I have published a book I suppose I am a writer.
As you were writing, what challenges did you encounter, over come, and learn from?
- I think I learned a lot about myself. I’m much more of a romantic than I ever imagined. I also learned I can be quite stubborn. It was my story and I was determined to write it my way. It wasn’t about getting people to buy it. It was about getting people to think about it.
- Making the final decision to actually do it. I knew it was either do it now and get it out of my head or explode.
Do you find the process of writing to be difficult?
- Writing is actually very relaxing for me. I enjoy telling a good story. Sometimes I have a story mapped out in my mind and I will be writing and something happens that brings me up short because I didn’t see it coming. Then I look back and see how neatly it connects with a clue from earlier in the story. It’s almost like reading it for the first time myself.
I’m sure that reflects into your writing style as well. Has it helped you develop a unique style for your work?
- No not really. I prefer to write first person. I also usually prefer to write as a make protagonist. But the stories just come on their own and in the end I have very little control over what comes out.
I’m sure that can be a little tough when you are working with a complex plot. Do you have any authors you look up to for help as mentors, even if you haven’t met them?
- Stephen King and Harper Lee. They both inspire me to write.
- I love anything by Stephen King and the stories of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Edgar Allen Poe have always been my favorites. Along with the easy reading style of Harper Lee who so captured small town life in “To Kill a Mockingbird”. But it was Stephen King’s “11-22-63” that fired me up. He took the stance that Oswald was the assassin. I was crushed and furious. I think I knew then I would have to write something to counter that. Now that’s ambitious, challenging Stephen King.
- Stephen King is certainly my favorite contemporary writer. His ability to consistently turn out stories that engage readers is amazing. I love his use of words and how he can describe a person, place, or situation and make it real. I can actually quote parts of his books. He has had his share of duds. There are a few stories I did not like. But the language is always beautiful. He truly uses words the ways artists use paint.
With all the established authors in your favorites list, you have a powerhouse of inspiration. Are there any new authors who are working their way into this prestigious group?
- David Adair who wrote a book called “Random Lucidity” blew me away. Barrera is another one. Wolfgang Schimanski, Suzi Albracht. There are so many.
Have you started getting any response on your efforts?
- My latest news is of course the success of my first novel, “View From the Sixth Floor: An Oswald Tale”. It was published last October and seems to have been well accepted overall. I’m presently working on my second novel, “Riddle” an exciting romantic thriller.
Do you have a particular method you used in developing your title?
- The title was the most difficult part of the writing process. I wanted people to know it was about Lee Oswald but I also wanted to emphasize it had a lot to do with the point of view of both Olivia and Bill.
With “View from the Sixth Floor” did you base it off your own experiences, or observations from others?
- Some of the book is based on facts. Certainly the assassination really happened; there really was a Lee Oswald. I have used real places for some locations. One place, a cabin, is based on a place where I often vacation.
- The experiences are based on things I know about the assassination. While I never knew Lee Oswald I read a great deal about him and developed a character based on my reading.
Do you have any regrets for this book that would have you change something if you were to go back to the beginning again and start over with what you know now?
- If I was going to change anything in my last book I would probably talk more about the day of the assassination. So much has been written and I would have loved to name names but there is always the risk of lawsuits so I just hint. The hints are fairly obvious to me and any researcher though. Shh don’t tell!
One of the things I have heard from other authors is the design process for the covers can be a challenging. Did you design your own, or have someone else help with this?
- I designed my own cover as well as taking the photo. I want to do it again with my current work but I am not at that point yet.
Are you working on a new project?
- I’m working on a new book called “Riddle” about a young adopted Inuit man who has been convicted of murdering his high school girlfriend. He is just returning home after serving over seven years in prison. But all is not what it seems in the town of Riddle. It’s a mystery, romance, thriller and it has a bit of a political comment on the way we treat natives.
- Past meets present when crimes and murders begin to occur and some seem to implicate the recently paroled young man. A young woman who has been temporarily stranded in Riddle befriends him and together they embark on proving his innocence, if he is innocent.
In your writing, do you leave messages for your readers to find?
- Yes I want people to look at the assassination more objectively. Think about the facts and recognize the possibility Oswald was innocent. What prevents us from knowing the truth? Oswald’s murder at the hands of Jack Ruby. What would make the truth known? If Oswald could tell the whole story himself.
I keep hearing that authors are readers as well. So, I’ll go ahead and ask this: Are you reading one of your established favorites, or one of the new discoveries?
- I’m currently reading an amazing book by indie writer Glen Barrera called “The Assassin Who Couldn’t Dance”. There are so many wonderful indie writer’s out here.
Has writing become your full-time career, or do you are you still putting in time with a regular job?
- Writing is my career now. I retired from the work world at the end of 2013 due to illness and decided to dedicate myself to writing.
With everything you have encountered, do you have any advice for new authors and writers?
- The advice I always give writers is to never give up. Your story deserves to be told your way. You may need grammatical or formatting corrections but the story is yours.
One last question. I know you mentioned you work messages into your writing for readers to find. Do you have anything you want to specifically tell them?
- First I want to say thank you. Thank you for reading my stories, thank you for telling me what you liked or did not like. Thank you for thinking about what I’ve written. I hope this encourages would be writers to write and readers to give more indie writers a chance. Just because a book only costs two or three dollars doesn’t mean it isn’t good.
Thank you Elizabeth for sharing. It has been fun getting to know you even better, and I hope others feel the same way.
If you want to catch up with Elizabeth, you can find her on her blog, Facebook, or Amazon. Don’t forget, Elizabeth will be back in a couple of days. She is bringing Olivia Roberts with her for us to meet.
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Until next time, happy writing!