This time I corresponded with Ellie Searl, our "Publishista," about her writing experiences and what she's bringing to the conference. Enjoy!
Your website has a story called “The Good Editor” in which you embarrass a woman you are speaking with. Is this a true story? Did you speak to the woman again?
Yes, “The Good Editor” is a true story. I was so excited to meet someone who spoke with the dialect I was trying to master, I blurted the insult before my brain turned on. I mortified the woman, and I embarrassed myself. The woman left the table, and I never saw her again. I often think about my blatant lack of decorum, my insensitivity. Maybe she’ll see this and forgive me.
Would you consider yourself creative, or detail oriented, or something else that helps you to be successful at designing and formatting books?
I love to create, and I love the design process, so I guess that makes me creative, although I believe that’s in the eye of the beholder. I rely heavily on imagination, harmony, and soul as I work on a project. Once I have my ideas solidified, and the design begins to take shape, I become obsessed with details until I’m satisfied with the final product.
How do you get a feel for a new book you’re working on for an author? Do you rely on the author’s instruction, or use your own intuition?
When I hear the title and a bit of the content, I get an image in my mind right away, and I use that as a starting place. I also use the author’s vision, color schemes, and images, if offered. After I create a first draft, the author and I discuss what does and doesn’t work, and then I make adjustments. Back and forth communication informs continued design modifications until the author approves the cover and the interior. I make sure the author understands why certain things can’t be incorporated into the design.
Do you receive manuscripts that seem hopeless? If so, how do you deal with them?
I haven’t encountered a project so hopeless I had to turn it down; although, some have been close. I don’t like to discourage my author clients. My goal is to assist them by addressing concerns with creative problem solving.
For the almost hopelessly edited manuscript, I recommend the author find a good editor—someone other than a sister or a best friend. If I receive a close-to-hopelessly formatted manuscript, I make the necessary revisions, after which I offer some useful formatting tips. For the inordinately large manuscript rife with complications and graphics, I request the author cut back on content to decrease page count. Otherwise, the sale price would have to be above exorbitant to keep royalties above minus.
Much of your work is done for print-on-demand and online publishing. Do you also maintain a working relationship with large or small publishing companies?
I have a wonderful and exciting working relationship with Deadly Writes Publishing, LLC, located in Marble Hill, MO, owned by Sharon Woods and Bill Hopkins, both award-winning mystery writers. I design the covers and lay out the interiors of the books they publish, and I designed and continue to manage their website at www.deadlywritespublishing.com.
You’ve taught elementary and middle-schoolers, and work with adults in your business. What is your favorite age group as far as audience goes?
I can’t pick a favorite because both are loyal once rapport has been established, both have interesting takes on life and society, and both make me laugh, and cry, and create, and help me color life outside the lines.
But I have to admit, the dance has changed. When I taught middle school English, I liked the high energy tossed around the room. Those pre-teens seemed to appreciate the whimsy in my lessons. They kept me on my teaching toes. Today, I prefer the relaxed energy of adults, who not only seem to appreciate my never-say-die whimsy, but also understand the nuances and subtleties of life. Adults keep me on my writing and book design toes.
You talk of getting away to the mountains. Are your best stories inspired when you are “sinking into a meditative state” (from your website) or from your busy life back at work?
My stories are inspired by the juiciness of humanity wherever I am. I’m fascinated by the idiosyncratic, the ordinary, and all the in-between slice-of-life minutiae. Sinking into that Adirondack chair helps nudge the inspiration from concept to story.
What genre of book do you take to read when you head to the mountains?
I vacillate between literary fiction and criminal investigation. Anna Quindlen, Anita Shreve, and Alice Munro are favorites. I also like Michael Connelly and Nelson DeMille. I’m drawn to books ripe with quirky characters, unexpected plot lines, and nitty-gritty details.
Give us a teaser for your presentation at the All Write Now! Conference.
Transform your manuscript into an inviting, I-want-to-read-this book.
Whether you design your own book or put it into the hands of a professional, know how to manage the design process—from when your manuscript leaves the computer to when your book boasts from a shelf and pops through a digital reader.