Friday, March 1, 2013

Feature Friday: Elizabeth Chandler

Elizabeth Chandler is a pseudonym for Mary Claire Helldorfer. Under the pseudonym, her seventeenth young adult novel is being released in March. In 2009 Kissed by an Angel appeared on the NY Times bestseller list and was among USA Today’s Top 150. Her YA fiction has been translated into fifteen languages. Under her own name she has published eighteen books for younger children.

Mary Claire earned a doctorate in English literature from the University of Rochester and has taught high school and college. She enjoys sports and is a huge fan of the Orioles and Ravens, Baltimore’s baseball and football teams.  Her favorite authors are Jane Austen and P.D. James. She lives in Baltimore with her husband Bob and their cats, Scooter and Birdie.

What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Read. Write. Read. Write.  And do it again.
But most budding writers probably already do that.

So here’s a little more advice—if only I would listen to it!  Don’t edit yourself too quickly. Don’t be afraid of writing really bad and embarrassing stuff.  Let it fly.  We all have to write bad stuff to get to the good stuff.

And here’s advice that will make me sound a million years old, but I’m going to toss it out there anyway: On a regular basis, disconnect the electronics.  Experience the world intimately—its colors, its textures, its sounds, its smells, it tastes, its feel under your fingers. Study the incredible movement of things that aren’t on a screen. You’re going to need all those wonderful details to recreate the world in your story.

What's your favorite book and why?

Now and then I’ll get carried away by a new novel, but I always come back to Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.  I love her insight into people, her skill with dialogue, her plotting, her sense of humor, and of course, the romance!  I could easily fall in love with any of the heroes in Austen’s books!

Where did you get the ideas for both the Kissed by and Angel series and the Dark Secrets series?

Ideas come in a lot of different ways.  The first book of the Dark Secret series, Legacy of Lies, was inspired by a movie called Dead Again—but I won’t explain how I spun off of the film in case anyone reading this interview decides to read that book.  The second of those books, Don’t Tell was one of those ideas that began with my favorite question "What if...."  in which I think of a character and a challenging or dangerous situation, and the story spins out from there. In this case, I asked myself what if there was a girl who has avoided returning to where her mother died, and when she finally does, the strange things that her mother complained of, start happening to her?

The premise of the first Kissed by an Angel trilogy came from a group of editors who asked me to write a book about a girl who believed in angels and was in love with a guy who didn't believe.  They wanted the guy to die and become the girl's guardian angel, an angel sent to warn her about his murderer, who was now trying to kill her.  I think they were inspired by the 1990 movie Ghost. The editors suggested the identity of the murderer, but did not say why the murderer committed the crime and was coming after the heroine. Beyond, those basic ideas, I developed the rest of the characters, the motivations, the setting, the plot events, and mystery clues. 

Did you hit any snags while writing the Kissed by and Angel series or the Dark Secrets series? What were they and how did you fix them?

Well, one huge snag was that when I wrote the first trilogy, I had never imagined writing books 4, 5, and 6.  I had fully intended for my dead characters to stay dead.  I spent three books working toward a certain climax and resolution, every image and event written with that idea in mind, every detail dedicated to the hope of making the conclusion in Book 3 the biggest, most dramatic, and satisfying it could be. 
And then suddenly, two of my characters were “alive” again and the battle needed to be fought between them in a whole new way, but in a way that was still true to character. I needed a lot of help from editors, a lot of brainstorming and support to break out of the box that I had tied up so neatly in word ribbons.   

Which one of the characters in either series is your favorite and why?

Lacey (Kissed by an Angel) has always been my favorite.  She calls things as she sees them and doesn’t worry about hurting other people’s feelings. I worry a lot about hurting people and saying the wrong thing. I found it very freeing to write the voice of someone who says whatever is on her mind.

Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Well, let me tell you about one stage of the journey that might be helpful to a young writer.
When I was in college and had decided I wanted to be a writer, I applied to five graduate programs in creative writing, sending my portfolio off to the universities.  I was rejected from all five.
The next year, while teaching, I reworked my portfolio and applied again to five schools.  Five more rejections came back.  In sports lingo, I started my career at 0 and 10.  And yeah, I bawled my eyes out. 
Sometimes you have to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and find another route to your dream.

What are you working on now? Something new?

I am taking a year to decompress-- to read, watch movies, and explore characters and ideas that may or may not work. I’m taking time to play around with things I’ve tucked away in files and to let my imagination go wherever it wants to. It’s a great temptation to keep pressing on with something I feel more certain I can sell, but I want to create stories, not manufacture them. Good books take time to grow.

As a veteran author in the YA genre, what is your opinion of the current changes in the YA market?

First, I should admit that I don’t follow it closely; I hear about the trends through my editors and agent, as well as librarian and writer friends who send me articles about the business.  I love the variety and the continual shifting of interests—vampires, angels, and mermaids, gritty stuff and sweet stuff, steam-punk and who know what else and what century.  The only thing I don’t like is when marketing people insist that some style or subject is in or out, and use that as an argument for acquiring or passing on a book.  But of course, that would annoy someone like me because I have never been good at writing in response to a trend. A book is in my heart to do, or it isn’t.  My first three angel books (the original Kissed by an Angel trilogy) were published in the mid-nineties, then re-released thirteen years later when angel stories became a trend. Lucky me!    

You've written YA, MG, and children's books. What's your favorite age to write for and why?

The truth is I’ve loved each of them as I was writing them.  Each offers different challenges and different possibilities.  A writer has to write what he or she absolutely loves at the time.  It’s so much work, the only way you can sustain the energy over several drafts is if you truly love your characters and the story you’re telling. 

You still visit schools a lot. What's the most common question kids ask you? What do you answer with?

The question I am always asked, whether I’m talking to little kids, teens, or adults, is “Where do you get your ideas?”  I usually turn the question back to the students: where do you get yours?
Books, TV, movies, stories which family members tell us, our own experiences, dreams. . . .

But here’s the critical question:  where do we get the ideas that work? 
For me, the ideas that will burst into a good book come from all the places mentioned above, but that somehow connect with something deep inside me: some fear, some intense desire, some hidden hurt, something that bewilders me which I am desperate to work out and understand.  Once that connection is made, the idea will take off.  Often, I won’t realize why a story compels me to write it until I’ve finished it, which is good.  If I don’t know why a story has power over me, I’m drawing from a deeper source of energy, and I don’t get shy or self-conscious in the telling.

The Giveaway:
Elizabeth is giving away a copy of EVERCROSSED, EVERLASTING, and her newest release, EVERAFTER to one lucky winner!  These are the last three books in a six book series.  However, the first three books are now sold in one omnibus called: KISSED BY AN ANGEL (see below), so you can easily catch up by getting yourself the omnibus!

Kissed by an Angel: An angelic romantic suspense trilogy in one volume!

"Kissed by an Angel": Ivy and Tristan have the love of a lifetime--until Tristan dies in a car accident. Now Tristan returns as an angel, but Ivy is unable to feel his presence.

"The Power of Love": Tristan has learned that the person responsible for the car crash is after Ivy. Can he cross the boundaries of life and death to warn Ivy that she is in trouble?

"Soulmates": Tristan must rescue Ivy, but if he does so his mission will be finished and he will have to leave his true love forever.

EvercrossedIt’s been a year since Ivy’s boyfriend, Tristan, died. They’ve both moved on—Tristan to the other side of the afterlife, and Ivy to sweet, dependable Will. Now Ivy’s heading to Cape Cod, hoping to leave the horror of last summer behind. She wants nothing more than to lie on the beach, sip lemonade, and hang out with her friends.

But then a car crash ends Ivy’s life.

As she floats to the beyond, looking down on the life she’s left behind, Tristan breathes life back into her with a passionate kiss. She wakes up in the hospital, surrounded by Will and her family, but all she can think about is the love that she lost.

But memories aren’t all that’s come back from the past. And this time, Ivy’s not sure love will be enough to save her

EverlastingIvy should be ecstatic that her formerly-dead boyfriend Tristan is back on earth with her, but the life of a fallen angel is never easy. Tristan has been cast down in the body of a murderer, and the police are after him. Now, there's only one way that he and Ivy can be together: they must clear him of the murder.

But when it becomes clear that there are darker forces at work, and Tristan and Ivy are still paying the price for Ivy's miraculous survival of the car crash, these starcrossed lovers have more at stake than ever before. And one of them may not be alive much longer....

Everafter: The sweeping saga of Ivy and Tristan comes to a breathtaking conclusion in this final book of the all-new arc in the New York Times bestselling Kissed by an Angel series.It seems the odds are forever against Ivy and her fallen angel. Tristan is still trapped in the body of an accused murderer, and as the two star-crossed lovers try to clear his name, they must battle the dark forces that would keep them apart and destroy them both. The danger is especially great for Tristan since, as a fallen angel, death would mean losing his soul. It’s up to Ivy to save the one she loves and, hopefully, find a way for the two of the them to be together…for all eternity.

How to Enter:
Enter the giveaway using Rafflecopter. Hit the arrow buttons, follow the prompts, and hit the enter buttons when you're done. (You may have to log in using Facebook to do this). There will be one winner (selected by Rafflecopter). I will contact the winner via email. This contest is open to national entrants only.
a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. I can not WAIT for Everafter. I fell in love with this series when I borrowed it from a friend of mine. I have enjoyed the storyline for the characters.

    Thanks so much for the giveaway!!!

    I am an old follower GFC Terri Matlock.

  2. I crying, literally crying! Omg!!! How did you find her? I've been searching year after year but she doesn't have a website!!! OMG!!! I'm slightly addicted to her novels and slightly emotional right now!! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT! Elizabeth Chandler really doesn exist!! :O YOU ARE AMAZING, You found her! !!!!!!! xx

  3. I haven't read the first few books in this series but I will be buying them ASAP!

  4. I really want to read these books but none of the libraries around me carry them. :(