Friday, November 1, 2013

Feature Friday: Elizabeth Langston

Elizabeth Langston lives in North Carolina (USA), halfway between the beaches and the mountains. She has two daughters (teen-ish), one husband (a geek like her), and too many computers. When she’s not writing stories or software, Elizabeth loves to travel, watch dance reality shows on TV, and ponder which restaurant ought to get her family’s business that night. Her debut novel, WHISPER FALLS, releases in Nov 2013.

Interview:

A.L.:
What piece of advice would you give to a budding author?

Elizabeth: 
Your voice is everything. Write so much that your distinctive style becomes second nature. It’s no different than being the best in sports, dance, music, or any talent; you have to practice to be good.

A.L.:
What's your favorite book and why?

Elizabeth: 
Wow. There ought to be a qualifier, like What’s your favorite romance? What’s your favorite mystery?

But that’s not the question. So, if I were about to move into an underground bunker, and I was only allowed to take along one book, it would be THE PROPHET by Khalil Gibran. It “speaks to me” on so many different levels, and every time I re-read a passage, I discover something new.

A.L.:
Where did you get the idea for Whisper Falls?

Elizabeth:
It came from two different ideas that intersected. Back in the 1980s, I watched a TV show called THE TWILIGHT ZONE.  The episode “A Message From Charity” haunted me. It featured a modern day boy who “meets” a girl accused during the Salem Witch Trials. Thirty minutes didn’t take the story deep enough, and the ending was not satisfying for me. 

Fast forward twenty years.  I came across some research on indentured servants in 18th/19th century America. A character started speaking in my head—a girl who had survived horrific cruelty with her dignity intact.  Somehow, that servant girl, Susanna, took the place of Charity. And Whisper Falls was born.

A.L.:
Did you hit any snags while writing Whisper Falls?  What were they and how did you fix them?

Elizabeth:
There were two snags. First—writing Mark.  He’s a teen male athlete. I’ve never been a boy, and both of my children are girls. I wasn’t sure if I would get Mark’s point-of-view right. So I interviewed a lot of guys.  Adult athletes. The teen sons of my friends. It helped, but I still worried. When my publishing house matched me with a male editor, I breathed a sigh of relief. He assured me that I’d done a good job and helped me make the final few tweaks.

The second snag was getting the history right. It took years of accumulating research to grow comfortable with Susanna’s half of the story. Most indentured servants could write their names (maybe) and not much else. So there are minimal first-hand materials to learn how it really felt to be “bound” the way Susanna was. I immersed myself in the details of 18th century life and then did my best to figure out what it would be like to work in a miserably hot kitchen without pay, without relief, without gratitude.

A.L.:
Which one of the characters in Whisper Falls is your favorite and why?

Elizabeth:
I can’t choose between Mark and Susanna; I love them both for different reasons. It’s like asking me to pick between my two daughters. Can’t do it.
Instead, I’ll pick one of the secondary characters, Mark’s sister Marissa. In WHISPER FALLS, she is entirely off-page. Marissa has graduated from college and moved to Colorado with a guy. The reader only gets glimpses of her through phone calls or instant-messages with Mark. She adores her brother, argues with her mom, and doesn’t want to admit that her boyfriend is a jerk. We’ll see much more of Marissa in the sequels.

A.L.:
Can you tell us a little bit about your journey as an author?

Elizabeth:
I was an incredibly late bloomer with writing. Most of my author-friends knew that they wanted to write from the very first time they picked up a crayon. Not me. The idea to write a book never occurred to me until both of my kids were in school. So I started late, practiced hard, collaborated with a great agent, and finally sold.

A.L.:
What are you working on now?  Sequel?  Something new?

Elizabeth: 
WHISPER FALLS has two sequels. Book 2, A WHISPER IN TIME, is nearly ready for advanced reading copies. I’m still in edits for Book 3, WHISPERS FROM THE PAST.  After we finish this trilogy, I’ll start first-round edits on something new, I WISH.

A.L.:
What's your favorite television show ever? 

Elizabeth: 
THE WEST WING.  Relevant, beautiful stories. Fabulous actors. And the most amazing writing ever in a TV series.

A.L.:
Is there a reason why you chose to set Whisper Falls in North Carolina?

Elizabeth: 
I needed something to be easy. I knew that writing Susanna and Mark would be seriously hard. Setting the story near where I lived gave me one less thing to create from scratch. Of course, I still had to research this part of North Carolina in the 18th century, but happily it ended up being the perfect setting for Susanna.

A.L.:
Why did you choose to write a book that straddles two eras?  Was it difficult?

Elizabeth: 
The TWILIGHT ZONE episode pushed me into the idea of spanning two centuries. I started to plot the book knowing that element of the story. The harder part was picking which two. I knew Mark would live modern-day, but what about Susanna?

I have to thank a librarian on the opposite side of the world for helping me narrow down Susanna’s time period. I was in New Zealand on vacation and dropped by a library to talk with the YA librarian. I asked her opinion about how to make an American historical interesting for NZ teens. She said, “No wars. American wars are boring.”  Okay, then. I matched “no wars” to Raleigh’s history and came up with 1796 for Susanna.

The Giveaway:

For USA or Canada, one signed copy of Whisper Falls.  For international, an Amazon gift certificate $10 USD and a signed bookplate.  (There are two Rafflecopters below, make sure you enter in your correct shipping area).

Whisper Falls:  While training for a mountain bike race, high-school senior Mark Lewis spots a mysterious girl dressed in odd clothing, standing behind a waterfall in the woods near his North Carolina home. When she comments on the strange machine that he rides, he suspects something isn’t right. When Susanna claims to be an indentured servant from 1796, he wonders if she's crazy. Yet he feels compelled to find out more.

Mark enters a ‘long-distance’ relationship with Susanna through the shimmering--and temperamental--barrier of Whisper Falls. Curious about her world, Mark combs through history to learn about the brutal life she's trapped in. But knowledge can be dangerous. Soon he must choose between the risk of changing history or dooming the girl he can't stop thinking about to a lifetime of misery.




Read Goodreads reviews.
Buy on Amazon.
Buy on Barnes and Noble.

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 two winners (selected by Rafflecopter) one international, one US/Canada. I will contact the winners via email.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway