The arresting book cover for her Crooked Cat novel - Friendship Cemetery - I think, says a lot about the sub-genre, but let's get to know Adele, and find out more about her work.
Hello and welcome, Adele, having come all the way from Mississipi to visit me in Scotland.
Your typical week sounds like it has a lot of varying types of activities. Let’s take your non-writing tasks first. How much time in a typical week do you devote to your artistic pursuits? There was a time when I worked in my studio every day. Lately, I am tied up with the business of promoting “Friendship Cemetery”.
Yes, Adele, I can understand that- it's a task we all have to devote a lot of time to! But you are still painting?
This year, my work has been in several local exhibits; also one in Louisiana and one in Indiana. I have a degree in fine art (painting), and really love to paint. Writing is painful and difficult. I have no idea why I write.
Now for the writing that you do - your bio indicates that you write for an opinion column. Can you tell the readers a little about that? My husband and I, along with two cats and one dog, landed in Columbus, Mississippi just as Hurricane Katrina was hitting the Gulf Coast. After that, the city of New Orleans was under water and closed for several weeks. When the mayor re-opened the city, we discovered that our home, our business, and all of our possessions were lost.
We decided to stay here in Columbus, and try to make a life in this alternate reality. We threw ourselves into the community.
At an art opening, I met the editor of the local daily newspaper. We chatted and he offered me a column. The original idea was a sort-of comparison between the two places. He wanted his readers to see the area from an outsider’s point of view.
I have been writing for almost eight years now, and there is nothing left to say. I want to write bigger, but my hands are tied. He wants everything to have a local hook.
As it turned out, my perspective was way to the left of the people here. In New Orleans, I considered myself middle-of-the-road politically. In Mississippi, I am the poster girl for liberals. I get hate mail, and some scary face-to-face encounters. I believe the editor likes this, because I sell papers.
Adele- That is a pretty shocking thing to happen. Not only dealing with the devastation after Hurricane Katrina, but also the aggressive backlash to your writing. I'm sure that has to have made you adopt some really strong ways of handling with such negative reactions.
Let's move on to a slightly different tack, though -What sort of written preparation do you have to do for your internet radio shows? My show, “Dialogue,” requires a great deal of prep. I come to the show with about 20 questions for the guests. Since most are writers, I read their work beforehand. I research anything that I can find about them on the internet.
The guests are primarily creative people and those with an interest in the paranormal. I have welcomed poets, novelists, ghost hunters, visual artists and musicians. My other passion is animals. Some guests have been the organizers of animal rescue groups.
I send them some questions ahead of time asking about their bio, and asking for anything they wish to include.
Many people panic when they realize that the show is an hour long. (The local TV station gives three-minute interviews.) However, with all that prep, I usually run out of time before I run out of questions.
They are encouraged to invite their friends to listen, so that listeners will email comments or questions.
“Ask The Psychic” is a bit different. The questions are posed to me via email. I answer with tarot cards.
I begin with a talk about the placement of the planets, and how they might affect us. After our commercial break, I talk about the moon phase.
This show has regular listeners, which I love. I am beginning to feel that we are friends.
I close both shows with a quote or a poem that is appropriate for the guest and the subject. That, too, takes a bit of research.
That definitely sounds like a lot of preparation, and a lot of fun too! I was a guest on an internet radio talk show earlier this year and I was petrified, so I know how it feels to be on the other end of that microphone!
Okay, next question. How long have you been writing fiction? I was a painting major at the University of New Orleans when a friend asked me to enroll in a fiction-writing class because he was afraid to do it alone. That was in the mid-nineties. As it turned out, I did well, and during my college years I won several awards for short stories.
After graduation, I tried to keep writing, but never finished anything I started. So, the answer to your question is that I have been writing in stops and starts since about 1995.
My mother always said that I was a better writer than a painter.
Can you describe what Friendship Cemetery is about which wouldn’t be in the book blurb available on the Crooked Cat Bookstore? I think the book is quite funny. You can’t tell that from the description or the cover.
This book can be read on many different levels. There is a story on the surface - action, plot, that sort of thing. But, for those who wish to “read between the lines” there are messages about acceptance, judgment, and superficiality.
I hope readers will see beyond the very shallow world of Columbus, Mississippi, and realize that we are all part of the same vast universe.
I’ve read that you are a psychic. How much has that influenced the plot of Friendship Cemetery?
Everything we do influences everything else. My psychic ability strongly affects my writing style and descriptions. I think psychics see beyond cold facts. It is as if they see the space between objects, the movement of light, the puddle of shadows in corners. I describe things the way I really see them. I once had a teacher who told me to get my eyes checked, because I was probably going blind. That was many years ago. I can still see. Other people may not see things exactly as I do, but I hope they will enjoy the descriptions.
Of course, my visual art training is just as valuable to the “art” of writing.
Here comes that question authors tend to be asked, but maybe with a slight difference. How many different sub-genres do you think that Friendship Cemetery fits into? I think this book is humor. I consider it an adult book because the themes are universal. It has been described as “young adult”, with which I totally disagree. However, it can be read by people of any age because there is no graphic sex or violence. Although the protagonist is quite young, it is as much a YA book as “To Kill A Mockingbird” or “The Member Of The Wedding”.
“Friendship Cemetery” may be considered a mystery; it falls into a paranormal category. I hope it is also “literary”.
I think the term “Southern Gothic” confuses people. This book is not a Bronte story.
I've got a copy on my kidle to read, and will let you know what I think when I find time to get through my huge pile of to be read books!
How is Friendship Cemetery being categorised on the media- say on Amazon listings? Of course, I don’t expect the people at Amazon to read every book to slip them into convenient categories. I was a bit put off by the “horror” designation. This book is no Stephen King novel.
How are you tackling the mammoth task of advertising and marketing Friendship Cemetery? I am so lucky to have a great deal of help from my husband, Chris.
Yep! I've met Chris (virtually speaking) and he's doing a great job! What other things are you doing?
I have had a TV interview, and three book signings/readings. Of course, we have a Facebook presence.
We have three local papers, all of whom have done a feature article on me, and put the signings on their calendars.
A quarterly magazine has mentioned the book with a photo of the cover. Another monthly magazine has a feature in November.
I have been asked to speak at the monthly meetings of three clubs. So far, one book club is reading my novel. I will have a Skype interview with the book club (in Oregon) when they finish reading it.
I will donate a couple of books to the local library, which will result in another photo-op for the papers.
My family and cousins are promoting it to their Facebook friends.
All of these (except the book club) are local and result in small sales. Because the book has regional appeal, we will send a press release to newspapers in Mississippi and neighboring states.
That all sounds so positive. And hopeful of sales, Adele.
Do you have any tips to share on how an author can get those all-important reviews? This may not be kosher, but we ask for them. We have inserted a slip of paper on the last page of the book suggesting that if they enjoyed it they can write a review in Amazon and Goodreads. This, of course, only works for the books that we sell directly, not those bought on Amazon and other places.
Many of my reviews come from strangers. I think some just saw the book on Amazon and bought it. It is scary having strangers grade me. So far, so good; at this time I have only five star reviews.
Brilliant! We all love those 5*s.
What fiction writing are you currently working on? I have started a new book, “Witch Ball”. It is going much slower than “Friendship”. I have more distractions. There are no ghosts in this one, but still lots of mystery and quirky characters.
I try to write short stories, because I love reading them. Evidently, they are considered out-of-style. I have only written two this year. One, “Flight”, was published in the Summer edition of Allegory. The other, “The Tooth Fairy”, was published in Pen and Plot, in October.
I have been hired to ghost-write a memoir for a local businessman. I suspect a great deal of that is fiction.
I think there's a big market for short stories just now, but I'm afraid mine are only ever really long ones. Do you have plans for any other new fiction releases in the near future? I hope “Witch Ball” will be completed early next year. Perhaps that can be released in the autumn.
Anything else you might want to tell the readers?
“Anything you can do, or dream you do, begin it: boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
I love this quote. I suppose that I would add that beginning is easy, finishing is hard, but still worth the blood, sweat and tears.
Many thanks for letting me “speak”!
Adele Elliott is a painter, a psychic, and a designer of fantasy tiaras. She is a New Orleans native who has been exiled in Mississippi since her home, and most of her sanity, were blown away by an evil wind named Katrina.
Her debut novel, “Friendship Cemetery,” was released by Crooked Cat Publishing on September 20, 2013.
She lives in a big purple house with her wonderful husband, Chris Hannon, and three “children”, Charlotte Ruse (the wild dingo dog), Freda Jolie (lady dog), and Loa (a magical boy-cat).
Thank you so much for coming, Adele. Best wishes for great sales of "Friendship Cemetery".