Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Featured Sweetheart-Elaine Scott

I am honored to announce that our latest sweetheart is Houston writer Elaine Scott. I first met this very talented writer almost twenty-five (gulp!) years ago when she presented at the Mesquite Young Writers Workshop. I have to say she is a sweetheart in so many ways! We became fast friends and she has been an inspiration to me as a writer. Her newest book, Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time, will be released in just a few days. It explains for us non-scientific types exactly what the Hubble telescope is seeing out in the vast universe. Elaine is also delighted to announce that Clarion will also be the publisher of Buried Alive, her book about the Chilean miners who were trapped underground for 69 days that will be released next year. Learn more about Elaine Scott on her website, --Jeanette Larson

JL: You've been writing for a long time. How did you get your start as a writer and having books published?

ES: It's kind of a long story, and it has a fairy tale quality to it. I was actually asked to be published the first time--and I was terrified. Back in the mid-70's, during the time of great emphasis on zero population growth, a friend, Guida Jackson asked me to write an article for her literary journal, and she wanted me to call it "The Myth of Motherhood." One of our daughters was adopted, and the other arrived in the more traditional way, and Guida thought I could write about the fact that one could become a parent without reproducing biologically. I was simply stunned at the invitation, but I took the challenge, and my essay was published. It just so happens that the publisher of the now-defunct In Houston magazine saw that essay and asked me if I had anything else. I gulped and said "yes" but I had no idea what I had. After scrambling around, I decided to write a light piece about learning how to ski downhill at the ripe old age of 35. She liked it, and I was on my way. I didn't have my first book published until 1980, and interestingly, it was a children's book about adoption, published by Franklin Watts. I've rarely written for adults since.

JL: How did you get the idea for Space, Stars, and the Beginning of Time , and what process did you use for writing the book?

ES: I have been a passionate fan of the Hubble Space Telescope ever since I followed the astronauts of STS61, as they prepared for the first servicing mission. I wrote about that experience in Adventure in Space. When I realized that Hubble was approaching its 20th "birthday" and the final servicing mission was headed to the telescope, the time seemed right to take a look at all the amazing science this fantastic instrument has facilitated through the years. I used my contacts at NASA and at the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore to gain access to the latest information, and I am humbled that Dr. Mario Livio of STScI agreed to vet the manuscript for accuracy.

JL: You also wrote two fiction books. Share a bit about how the process of writing fiction differs or is similar to writing non-fiction.
ES: I like to write narrative nonfiction, so in that way my nonfiction is similar to fiction. The writing process, however, is vastly different. I outline ahead of time with my nonfiction, but I let my characters tell me their story in fiction. My first novel, Choices, was set in contemporary times, so I didn't have too much research to do on setting, etc. The second, Secrets of the Cirque Medrano, was set in 1904 Paris and Pablo Picasso figured into the story, though he wasn't the main character. Blending completely fictional characters with the well-documented Picasso, created quite a challenge. My imagination could run free with Brigitte, Henri, but Picasso and his "bande" of friends had to be accurate to the nth degree. And since I don't believe in putting words in a historical character's mouth, unless they have been uttered by the subject, it was a challenge to render the real Picasso through the eyes of others.

JL: What has been the biggest surprise to you about writing?

ES: The fact that, 30 some years into this career, it still feels fresh, it still brings me joy, and it's still scary to type the first words of the newest book!

JL: What advice would you give to aspiring writers?

ES: Despite what I said at the beginning of this interview, getting published isn't easy, and I've had my share of rejections. I think the one piece of advice I would give to any aspiring author is to be persistent and to believe in yourself. Writing is hard work. The late Meredith Charpentier was my first editor, and I will pass on the advice that she offered to writers, as they struggled to get published. They often asked her, "Do you think I should quit?" Her answer was always, "If you can, you should." It's the perfect answer, for if you can't quit, then you will persist.