FLL: What inspired you to start writing novels?
Elizabeth Courtright: I can’t remember a time I wasn’t interested in writing. Even before I could hold a pencil, I was making up stories. I guess you could say my Barbie dolls had quite the adventuresome lives. In school I was one of those kids who loved creative writing homework. The assignment would be to write six or so paragraphs. Other students groaned and complained and turned in the minimum six paragraphs. I turned in six pages—front and back. Teachers probably despised me! I’ll never forget one assignment from 8th grade social studies class. We were studying WWII, and were supposed to create our own diary of “My Life in Hiding.” It had to contain at least five entries. Yeah, well, I used an entire college ruled notebook (this was before computers, so papers were hand written). I got an A++, but can’t imagine my teacher actually took the time to read the whole rambling thing. In high school, I regaled my girlfriends with tales of their futures, and the dashing gentlemen who would someday sweep them off their feet.
But alas, making up stories was just a hobby. In college, I studied music and eventually had a wonderful career in the financial industry, which kept me busy for twenty-plus years. Even so, I never stopped writing. I have always used the tales in my head as a way to ease stress. Picture one of those tossing and turning nights where work troubles, family troubles, whatever troubles, keep pouring through your mind. No matter what you do, you just can’t sleep. My way to deal with this has always been to overshadow those worries with some random scene from some random novel-to-be. And voilà, I’m asleep in minutes! I guess that doesn’t say much for my keep-you-on-the-edge-of-your-seat story telling ability… oh, dear!
I think the other reason writing intrigues me, is that my nose has always been stuck in a book. Most of what I read as a child came from my mother’s library of romance novels. This is probably why romance is my genre today. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy other books. I read everything—fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, horror, historical fiction, women’s fiction, non-fiction, etcetera—simply because I love to read. Of course, my favorite “other-genre” novels are those that just so happen to sneak in a love story, too.
FLL: Tell us a little about your currently published books. What were their inspirations?
EC: Concealing Grace and Saving Grace are the first two of a five-book series that take place in the post-Civil War south. I’ve always been a history buff, and the Civil War is particularly fascinating to me. The severe oppression, racial prejudice and tensions of that era create an ideal backdrop for a hero—a masked crusader whose identity is unknown. Some will exalt him, many will even admire him, but more will want to kill him. Caught up in the terror is one young woman searching for her own special forever love.
One Fine Beast and its sequel One Fine Man, my most recent releases, are loosely themed after the classic tale, Beauty and the Beast, without the fantasy element. A scarred, disgraced recluse needs a tutor for his daughter. The young woman who takes the position soon discovers the frightening rumors about her employer are true… but is there more to him than meets the eye?
Moonlit Haze is a romantic comedy set in the 1950s. Inspiration for this time setting came after watching the TV series, Mad Men. I wanted to write a comedy and I wanted to write about a couple trapped during a snow storm. Moonlit Haze is it. The only remaining question is will Garfield and Chloe unravel their tangled misconceptions long enough to realize they were meant to be together?
FLL: Are you able to share any details about stories you’re currently working on?
EC: Yes, absolutely! Right now I’m concentrating on Healing Grace, the third installment in the Grace series, which is due to be released in the summer of 2016. Other novels to be released in 2016 (hopefully) are Sacrifice, a tale of noble spies during the Napoleonic wars, and Broken and Beautiful, a contemporary tragedy involving two couples. I’m also working on a heartbreaking, yet inspiring memoire of a mother in the 1960s whose son was diagnosed with autism and brain injury. Another project I can’t wait to dig into is a psychological thriller set in the 1930s, and I can’t forget about the rest of the Grace series—Forgiving Grace and Redeeming Grace. In the mix as well is my own memoire about taking in four foster children—Zero to Four-A Leap of Faith.
FLL: Please describe your writing, publishing and promotion process.
EC: I don’t have a process or a schedule, per se. Story ideas pop into my mind constantly, sometimes from things I see or hear, sometimes from dreams, and sometimes from other books or movies. If I think an idea should be expanded upon, I do research, build characters, and simply start writing. It’s not unusual for a book to twist from the original plan completely once the writing begins. That being said, getting the initial plot line down is easy. Re-writing and editing is the hard part. But, this piece is also the most critical to turning the tale, through the weaving of words, into something that will resonate with and inspire readers. What I am bad about is not taking notes. Over the years I’ve dreamed up and forgotten more stories than I’ll ever get typed.
My work is published through Year of the Book. Promoting is tough, especially considering how many amazing writers are out there. How does a reader choose which books to read from millions? I am always willing to do book signings, readings, interviews, and speaking engagements, and I hope readers will be moved enough by my novels to recommend them to friends.
FLL: Have you encountered any major hurdles along the way, and what kind of support has kept you going?
EC: Getting published through traditional avenues is extremely difficult. The rejection rate is 99%. Have I sent in my work to traditional publishers? Yes. Have I been rejected several times? Yes. Did I get to the point where I gave up hope of ever being published? Oh, yes!
Lack of confidence was another major hurdle for me. I believed my stories were good, but my ability to write was terrible. Some of my early work was pretty awful—not the story, but the writing! Fortunately, I am obsessed enough that improving my skills was imperative. I’ve taken numerous classes. I read books and articles constantly. Organizations such as Romance Writers of America and Pennwriters, Inc. also provide a wealth of knowledge and excellent advice.
What kept me from throwing it all away? I am lucky to have a connection with a printing company (my wonderful hubby). I was able to print books—with fancy covers, too—that are not “published.” I gave these out to friends and family just for fun. Comments came back, such as, “Elizabeth, you have to get this published. It’s too good not to!” and “Your books are better than the ones I buy!” These folks are the reason I am where I am. Their support and encouragement has been astounding.
FLL: You’ve mentioned Third Chance Foundation on your Facebook page. Can you tell us what that’s about and how it ties into your writing efforts?
EC: The Third Chance Foundation is a non-profit post-secondary scholarship fund I set up for foster and adopted children. These kids are my heart, probably because all of my kiddos came into my life that way. Here I was, finally on the road to publication, and I thought, “If I make any money from my books, I’ll use it toward my kids’ educations.” That was my plan, until God said, “No, Elizabeth, you’re going to do this bigger. There are other kids out there who need the money more.”
Incredibly, in doing research to see what other scholarship programs for foster/adopted kids already exist, I discovered very few. Certainly there are not nearly enough when considering the number of kids “in the system.”
Scholarship funds for the Third Chance Foundation are raised through book sales. Proceeds from my novels go directly to the fund, and so far two other authors are contributing their work, as well. My dream for the Third Chance Foundation is to have many books for sale in all different genres so that readers everywhere will be able to find something of interest.
The more books we sell, the more scholarships we’ll be able to provide, the more futures we’ll enable, the more lives we’ll change!
FLL: Where can people connect with you online, and where can your books be purchased?
EC: Kindle and paperback versions of my books are available at Amazon.com. Paperbacks can also be purchased at NeFra Communication Center in York, Pennsylvania; TG Books in York, Pennsylvania; and I-ron-ic in York, Pennsylvania. Other locations will be added soon—part of currently underway promotional efforts.
I love hearing from readers and am excited about what’s in store for Third Chance, so please don’t hesitate to connect with me. I truly do look forward to hearing from you!