Book Nerd Interview
What’s one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
Usually readers are surprised to find out that I was an actress for many years and am still a member of the Screen Actors Guild. I think it’s why, in my books, time travel is less of a science, and more of a dramatic exercise for my main character. She has to play the role well enough to fit in.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Languages, including the study of English. And I want to include Drama in that, because it’s largely about using language effectively. I studied Spanish, Italian and French, and was devoted to my English classes and the study of literature and Shakespeare. My love of language influences everything I do, and I’m sure that’s because of the great, great English, drama, and foreign language teachers I had.
What is the best piece of advice you ever received from another author?
I’d like this answer to be deep and meaningful, but honestly, from the great writer of comic mystery, Barbara Silkstone, I learned about marketing and promotion. I really needed the help and guidance she freely and lovingly gave me, and still gives me, even though we only know each other through the internet!
What are some of the common challenges that new and experienced authors face and what advice do you have for over-coming them?
I think both new and experienced authors get caught up in “what to write?” They spend a lot of time second guessing if the audience will like their story, or if it’s literary enough, or impressive, or expressive enough, etc. My advice to anyone who wants to write, and I’m not exactly an old, seasoned, writer myself, is: write the story you want to tell yourself. Write either what you need to write or what entertains you. Some veteran writers would say to write what your audience wants, but I don’t totally agree with that. I think if you’re writing a series, you write the first book according to what you want it to be, then take some time and find out what direction your readers would like the series or characters to go in. But never write to please others in lieu of pleasing yourself, because your heart won’t be in it and it will be obvious.
For those who are unfamiliar with your novel; The Time Baroness (Cassandra Reilly #1), how would you introduce it?
Well, I always say this one’s for Jane Austen fans, though not exclusively for them. But this is not a book in which the main character participates in one of Austen’s novels, nor is it some kind of continuation or re-telling of her work. In The Time Baroness, the main character, Cassandra, is a scientist, a time traveler, who chooses to travel back to England of 1820 because she loves Jane Austen and wants to experience her world. She chooses to go a few years after Jane died though because she doesn’t intend to meet her and she explains her reasons for this in the book. But she wants to see how life was lived in that era and that’s really just how it starts out, kind of a benign experiment that she’s been preparing for, for years. Basically, imagine if YOU, a modern woman, were to go back to that time period. What would you wear? How would you talk? What would you be expected/allowed to do or not do? It’s all a challenge. However, the biggest challenges for Cassandra are all the things that happen that she isn’t at all prepared for: love, danger, adventure...
What was one of the most surprising things you learned in creating Cassandra?
That she’s not just like me. I based her on me, but then she became her own person entirely. She’s much braver than I am, much more talented and beautiful, and she’s also more adventurous and adaptable. I was also surprised at how much I love her.
Why do you feel you had to tell this story?
I had to tell it for myself. I was dying to know what would happen if one went back to that time, several hundred years in the past, and tried to fit in. I just had to find out!
For those who are unfamiliar with James, how would you introduce him?
James is Cassandra’s son, also loosely based on my own son. He’s in his twenties and frankly, he’s a bit too impetuous. He doesn’t entirely think things through. But he’s also very charming and sweet. He’s the one who causes the perilous situation to unfold in The Time Baroness, and he’ll also be a focus in the 4th and 5th books in the series.
If you could introduce any of your characters from another book, who would it be and why?
I’d like to introduce Lauro, the charismatic Italian artist from the 3rd book in the series, The Time Contessa, which I’m about to release. A friend of mine, who just finished reading an early draft of it, said he’s her favorite hero of my series yet, and who can blame her, he’s Italian! He’s truly a Renaissance man because that’s the time period that Cassandra travels to in this book, the Italian Renaissance. He’s dark-haired, handsome and charming, but also very intellectual. He’s an inventor, a painter and a sculptor. I agree that he’s pretty irresistible, but I think my favorite hero is Thaddeus Evans, the revolutionary abolitionist from my 2nd book, The Time Heiress.
What are some of your current and future projects that you can share with us?
As I say, I’m about to release The Time Contessa. I’m also beginning to plot out the story for the 4th in the series, The Time Duchess, and I have some really fun ideas percolating for the 5th! In addition, my husband and I just released the first e-book for ESL students, Making English Your Second Language. Does that sound like it’s right up my alley? (I use to teach ESL too.)
What’s the best advice you can give writers to help them develop their own unique voice and style?
Don’t try to sound like anyone else. Part of me wanted to write in Jane Austen’s style when I started writing The Time Baroness, but, first of all, who could write like her? And second of all, I realized I had to develop my own style. So, sure, be influenced by your favorite writers. Get inspiration from them, and aspire to greatness, but let your voice be yours. Finally, though I have a Bachelor in Fine Arts from NYU, the moment I considered going back to school for writing, everyone I know in the business advised against it. I’m not saying people shouldn’t study how to write, but be careful of writing classes, because I’ve seen them stifle a lot of voices. Most of my friends who studied writing in school can’t finish a project because they’ve got a hundred professors and other students in their heads criticizing them. I’m sure this isn’t true for all people, but I can see how one might get intimidated in that kind of academic atmosphere. If you find a great editor, that can be the person who guides you and teaches you to write more effectively. Mine certainly did!
Where is the best place in the world you’ve been?
Italy. Hands down. I’ve been all over the U.S., and to Mexico, Canada, England and Wales, and have seen a lot of spectacular places. And though I’ve hardly traveled as much as other people, in my experience, Italy, in particular Tuscany, wins.
What book are you reading now?
I’m reading People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks, a Pulitzer Prize winner. Very good story, brilliantly put together, but I wish it weren’t quite so brutal in places.
Who was your first Boyfriend?
Danny Hill. Not quite my first boyfriend but my first love. Does it surprise you that he was an artist and musician? Unfortunately, he passed away young, but I will never, ever forget that he was the first man who ever called me beautiful.
Tell me about your first kiss
It was at the door of my parent’s house. I was fifteen, kind of a late bloomer. The boy’s name was Jeff and I really liked him, but he didn’t ask me out again. I didn’t have my next kiss until I was sixteen!
When asked, what’s the one question you always answer with a lie?
I won’t lie outright about my age, but I will avoid telling it at all costs. Actually, I lie about my husband’s age because he’s quite a bit older than me but doesn’t look or act it.
What's the worst summer job you've ever had?
Ugh, Jack-in-the-Box fast food restaurant in Tucson. What a nightmare.
What did the last text message on your phone say?
“Yeah!” (This was my sister, in response to the election results.)
When was the last time you cried?
Watching Peggy Sue Got Married for the 15th time. I sobbed my guts out. Hey! A time travel story! Doesn’t it figure?
Where can readers stalk you?
They can and I hope they will stalk me on Facebook: Georgina Young-Ellis, my blog: Nerd-girls, Romantics and Time-travelers, my website, where they can read a detailed bio and see reviews and articles I’ve written: GeorginaYoungEllis.com, Pinterest: (my name), Goodreads (also my name) and Twitter: @TheTimeBaroness.
As she is struggling to fit in, her grown son, James, suddenly arrives on her doorstep, popping in from the future. His presence is one more component that could cause her masquerade to unravel. James becomes a popular addition to the Hampshire society, but he makes a terrible mistake. He brings with him a device from the future and shows it to a young woman with whom he is smitten. She is terrified and creates an uproar. James is arrested for possessing a dangerous and subversive object and it is up to his mother to free him from a London prison and return him to the future before her enemies succeed in convicting him. Help comes from a surprising source, and ultimately Cassandra realizes that people, and love, are not always what they seem to be.