Author Crush Friday with Elana K. Arnold
Glitter girls, you have pressing questions for your favorite authors and we have their answers. Welcome to our weekly segment, Author Crush Fridays.
We love asking questions and we love the answers from some of our favorite authors. Today we’re talking to National Book Award finalist Elana K. Arnold, author of the feminist young adult fairy tale, Damsel (October 2, 2018; Balzer + Bray). Thank you for talking to us today, Elana! We’re honored! Make sure you read until the end because Elana has some great advice for aspiring writers on rejection.
GLITTER: Tell us five random facts about yourself.
- I have many pets.
- I like to write in bed, surrounded by pillows and animals, with coffee nearby.
- I have been mated to the same person for more than half of my life.
- I have two children, neither of whom has ever attended traditional school.
- One of my dogs likes to eat books. Is this irony? Bad luck? You tell me.
GLITTER: Tell us about your journey to become a writer. From first draft to getting an agent to the book you have now.
ELANA: I’ll address this a bit later when I talk about rejections, but I didn’t have a straight path to publication—no one does. All artists struggle.
I did find a home for my first finished novel, Sacred, and have been steadily publishing ever since, in part due to my longstanding relationship with my agent Rubin Pfeffer. Rubin has challenged me to stretch in different directions, including writing books for younger readers.
I find that I chew on a certain idea for a while, and that more than one book may arise from the questions or concerns that surround that idea, and then, when I’ve explored that idea to my satisfaction, I move on to something else. For example, my first novel Sacred and its sequel Splendor revolve around my struggles with disordered eating and my questions about self-care and spirituality; Infandous and What Girls Are Made Of both explore questions of embodied female shame and sexuality. Damsel is a departure. It, and the book I’m currently revising, sprang from a deep well of rage.
GLITTER: How would you describe Damsel to a new reader?
ELANA: Damsel is more closely related to the original fairy tales than their Disney sisters. It asks the question: What happens after the damsel is rescued? And though it’s set in the long ago and far away, it’s a searing indictment of the here-and-now, of rape culture, misogyny, and gaslighting. It may be a fantasy book, but it is not escapism. In some ways, it’s terribly real, as all the best fairy tales are. I think it pairs well with Margo Lanagan’s Tender Morsels.
GLITTER: What one question sparked the birth of Damsel?
ELANA: What if, upon awakening in the arms of a prince, naked and with no memory of her life before, a damsel began to question everything?
GLITTER: Would you call Damsel a feminist fairy tale?
GLITTER: Did you always want to be an author? Did you ever feel like giving up? Did you receive rejection letters in the beginning? How did you get over them?
ELANA: I always wanted to be an author, from around age 8. I studied creative writing in college, alongside my degree in comparative literature, and then went to graduate school for a master’s degree in creative writing. But after I finished, I felt like my voice had left me. It took me a long time to get it back. In fact, for several years, I didn’t call myself a writer, at all. I decided I was a reader, and I read widely and voraciously, the way I used to read as a child, without regard to what I felt I “should” be reading or trying to write. It helped me find my way back to the sorts of stories I love, and led me to writing Sacred, which was published in 2012.
Not only did I get rejections in the beginning, I still get rejections. I just got one last week! Rejections are part of life, and part of writing life. It’s okay to have work rejected. Not everything is going to be for everyone.
The best thing a writer can do is keep working, and not stop writing while out on submission. Create more art.
GLITTER: Do you have any crazy writing rituals?
ELANA: Writing only seems to work for me on my laptop, in a Word document, Times New Roman 12-point font, double spaced. I’ve written in this format for so long that it feels like my own handwriting. I prefer to write surrounded by animals, as I am now, flanked by dogs and with our hairless cat Crumpet tucked into my sweater.
GLITTER: What is one thing you can’t write without?
ELANA: My laptop.
GLITTER: What is one thing you are most passionate about in life?
ELANA: My children.
GLITTER: Will we see any of your books on the big screen, or TV soon?
ELANA: There is actually a Secret Possibility that I can’t talk about yet. So, perhaps!
GLITTER: What are you currently working on?
ELANA: I just finished a revision of my next YA novel, which will be out in 2020. It’s set in the here-and-now, but it’s a feminist retelling of a fairy tale and a fiercely angry book.
Photo credit: Davis Arnold
Elana K. Arnold is the author of many books for children and teens, including the middle grade novels The Question of Miracles, Far from Fair, and A Boy Called Bat, and the YA novels What Girls Are Made Of and Infandous. What Girls Are Made Of was a 2017 National Book Award finalist, and her other books have been variously included on the Los Angeles Public Library’s Best Books of the Year list, the Bank Street Best Children’s Books of the Year list, the YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults list, have been ALAN Picks, and have been selected for inclusion in the Amelia Bloomer Project. She holds a master’s degree in Creative Writing/Fiction from the University of California, Davis, and currently lives in Huntington Beach, California, with her husband, two children, and a menagerie of animals. Visit her website at www.elanakarnold.com.