Hey guys. Thank you for joining us at the Coffee Time Romance & More. Today I bring you the lovely Ms. Ellen Butler to discuss her latest release, Poplar Place.
So let us begin the interview. Ms. Butler, thank you so much for taking time out and joining us. Please first help yourself to the yummy sweet and salty goodies in front of you and with your favorite beverage ranging from coffee, tea, and hot chocolate to delicious shakes and smoothies; sit back and make yourself comfortable before I bombard you with questions.
First, I’d like to thank Coffee Time Romance for having me! I’m a huge fan of the site and am excited to reach new readers. I’ve poured myself a hot chocolate, and now to answer your questions…
Please tell us about your book, Poplar Place and the lead characters?
The book is written in first person and we see everything through our heroine’s eyes, Cara Baker. She’s a former Pittsburg, DA who has given up the rat race life of a lawyer, and moved to South Carolina, basically to get away from her problems. Daniel Johnson is a hermit who lives in the third floor apartment of the new house Cara buys. She falls so in love with the house and gardens that she buys the house without meeting the tenant. She sees the home as her tranquil oasis in small town America.
What was the inspiration behind this book especially Daniel Johnson? Any backstory on the book itself or the characters?
Years ago there was this movie which eventually became a television show called The Dead Zone, about this guy who was injured in a bad car accident and was in a coma for years. When he finally woke up he had psychic powers. That story stuck with me for many years and eventually it was the seed of the idea for Danny’s abilities. However, I didn’t want Danny to be a futuristic psychic, and I only wanted his abilities to manifest through touch which is different from the show. Cara and the rest of the characters, I created from my imagination. I remember the climax, at the end of the book, came to me so vividly in a dream after I had written only the first two chapters. I woke up and pounded it out on my computer, then stuck it in a file until it was ready to be put in its place.
*The climax was definitely one of the hard-hitting scenes..
When I began reading this book, it was very heartwarming and light-hearted and left a warm feeling. I loved how Cara went about doing things. Her descriptions of who she thought Daniel was were very humorous. She is one unique lady. As she got excited to meet Daniel, so did I. I felt just as giddy as she did. LoL. Their sweet sweet interactions before they finally met. Loved it.
Were all their interactions planned or did the characters told the stories themselves no matter how different you wanted them to be?
There are times when I’m writing that, my characters take over. And, before I know it, a scene or chapter is completed and I’m like, “where did that come from?” The initial interaction with Dr. Nolan was planned. Beyond that…let’s just say, Cara and Danny’s personalities often took over.
*It did seem like that.. They had a very natural flow to their conversations..
Why did you create so much suspense behind Daniel? Again, was it deliberate or he just wanted to stay hidden in the beginning?
I definitely wanted to keep Danny hidden at the beginning. Throughout the book, I create suspense to keep the reader interested in turning the page. I wanted to make the book difficult to put down, even at the end of each chapter. Keeping Danny as this strange, but harmless hermit keeps Cara and the reader desperate to reveal him.
*Hahahaha.. You got me there.. I was just as curious about him as Cara..
Then the touch of supernatural content i.e. ESP. Why include this particular sixth sense? Do you believe in ESPs and paranormal?
Like I mentioned, the supernatural had been banging around in my brain from The Dead Zone, and I thought; why would someone become a hermit? What kind of abnormality could turn someone into a recluse? This ability came to mind, and I ran with it.
As for your other question, let’s just say I don’t count out the supernatural or the paranormal. When I was younger, a few odd, things happened that gave me goose bumps down the spine. I think animals can sense so much more than we can, and nothing’s creepier than when your dog’s hackles rise for no apparent reason.
*That is sooo true!! Animals do sense much more than we can..
How much research did it involve writing about sixth sense? Was the information easily available? How much is fiction and how much fact?
In college, I got onto a kick researching all sorts of supernatural, from psychics, to astral projection to Wiccan beliefs. This is what happens when you’re up at one in the morning, and procrastinating writing a Constitutional Law final. Back in those days we didn’t have the internet or Google, so we had to go to the library and read books. Amazing, I know.
For Danny and his abilities, as far as I know, it is all fiction. I did not base him on a living person.
*LoL.. Those were the best days.. Going to library for research and ending up procrastinating with all the other books which had nothing to with the given assignment..
The second half is comparatively darker and even more emotional in tone. I had tears in my eyes reading about the guilt Cara felt even though it was not her fault. Was it difficult to merge the two halves? More importantly, how difficult was it to write those brutal and emotional scenes?
The second half was definitely more difficult to write. After composing a few of the emotional scenes, I felt utterly drained and would usually take 24 hours away from my computer to clear my head before returning to edit and expand upon the first draft. The scene between Cara and Annette brought tears to my eyes and I wrote it at a Panera. I felt like a fool. Luckily, I was tucked away in a booth, so I angled myself toward the wall to get a grip and mop up before anyone noticed this crazy lady crying over her computer. Lesson Learned: I write emotional scenes at home in the privacy of my office.
*Hahaha.. I understand.. I had either my door closed reading those parts or wearing glasses so no one could see me all teary and wonder what is wrong..
Was there a plan or specific reason for writing the story the way you did (light, warm-hearted tingly to emotional charged and dark) or it just happened? I admit it sort of threw me off pretty much same way it must have Daniel when he found out. Not that I minded. It is what made this story unique.
I planned it. In the very beginning I provide foreshadowing when she talks about shedding her old life, like a snake sheds its skin. Kind of like real life, just when things seem to be working out for you, BAM! The dishwasher dies and you don’t have the cash to replace it, or your kid breaks his arm, or you find a lump. Sometimes, our past comes back to bite us in the butt, generally when you least expect it. I wanted Cara to become comfortable before throwing her past back at her.
*Whoa! Scary but very realistic examples..
The characters are still unwilling to leave me. I would love to read more about their romance and their life in Poplar Place. Do you think there will be a sequel to their story sometime in the future?
I never say, never. But, at this time I have no plans to revisit Cara, Danny and Poplar Place.
*grin* I can hope then..
Is this book suitable for book clubs? If yes, can you tell why and guide anyone who might be interested it making it part of their book clubs? Will you be able to participate in them?
Yes, I believe this book is eminently suitable for book clubs. As a matter of fact, I provide book club questions on my website, and a way for book clubs to contact me to be a guest author.
Is it easy to manage both writing a book and maintaining a healthy home life i.e. being able to give time to hubby and kids? Are they supportive?
It’s never “easy,” but as with anything in life, if you really, really want it, you figure out how to make it happen. Everyone is juggling hectic schedules, I’m no different.
Yes, my oldest son is an awesome supporter. While I was writing this novel, he’d come home from school every day and ask if I’d finished my book yet. He was so sweet. I felt bad when I told him he’d have to wait until he was older to read it because it’s an adult book.
*Awww.. shoo sweet of him.. A hug for him..
This is your first full-length novel. Was it difficult to write? Did you face writer’s block, rejections etc. while writing it?
Frankly, it has been the easiest book for me to write. Probably because it had been bouncing around in my head for years (yes YEARS) before I sat down to make it happen. I’m working on a fourth novel now, and I’m dealing with more writer’s block than I’d originally thought I would.
As for rejection, I wrote a blog article about finding an agent and ended it with this:
Finally, a word to the wise, rejection comes with the territory. As a writer, you will face rejection from agents, publishers, and readers. It’s not pretty and it never feels good. The publishing industry is a dog-eat-dog world, and writers are a dime a dozen. If you can’t handle the rejection, find another career.
I have certainly faced my share of rejection, and continue to face it.
*Very insightful.. Thank you.. :)
Since you write women’s fiction and romance, I was wondering what about a woman is a turn-off for you when reading a book by another author?
I prefer strong female characters. Wienie women pushed around by another character, e.g. mother, husband, boyfriend, girlfriend, drives me up a wall. If a woman is a psycho, but strong character, then I’ll like them more than the wall-flowers.
Do you think you will branch out fully into other genres of romance like paranormal or suspense in the future as Poplar Place contains hints of both the genres?
I continue to put suspense in my novels. However, I have no plans to move further into the paranormal. This first book, though engaging, was a tough sell to publishers because it crossed so many genres.
What do you consider to be the key elements of a great story? Was it easy to incorporate these elements in your story?
Hmmm, I think a good plot line is always important. However, I think awesome characters can carry a weak plotline. I’m a character driven writer. I feel that Cara’s life drives this story.
True.. Sometimes I read just for the characters even if the plotline/story was not so good and keep hoping it will get better.. *grin*
Who are some of your favorite authors? What, if any, influence have these authors had on your writing?
I’m a huge fan of Janet Evanovich and her Stephanie Plum novels. Evanovich can write screaming laughter humour like nobody’s business. I’m also a fan of Ellen Byerrum, Kim Gruenenfelder, AJ Nuest, Charlotte Bronte; the list goes on and on. I would say all authors that I read influence my writing. How they turn a phrase, or make me laugh can send me back to my own manuscript in progress and give me ideas on how to better a scene or create snappy dialog.
*That’s great! :D
Did you take any classes that helped you with your writing? Do you have a mentor, writing group, critique group? Or was it all by trial and error?
I did take some creative writing classes back in college, but the reality is; I’ve been writing all my life. Before novels I wrote newsletter articles, dry policy papers, bylaws, procedure manuals, and marketing materials at the jobs I worked. Whenever I wrote articles, the company editors would ding me for flowery language. Novel writing is an outlet for my overactive imagination. I’m not a part of a critique group, but I do have beta readers that provide excellent feedback.
Do you have any Pet Peeves while writing or in writing?
Yes, but as I wouldn’t want to diss another person’s writing or writing style, I plead the fifth.
*Hahaha.. Very diplomatic.. :P
Any other writing projects you are currently working on?
I’m writing a romance trilogy. I’ve finished the first and have almost completed the second. It’s about three hard working women in California, one is an interior designer, the second a party planner, and the third is an art curator. All three are so focused on their careers that men have taken a back seat. So, of course, when you’re not looking, is when Mr. Right comes along.
I’m also researching and have started a WWII book about a woman who joins the OSS and becomes an operative in Europe. This will be another women’s fiction novel and carry the suspense that readers enjoyed in Poplar Place.
*Sounds great.. Cannot wait.. :)
Is there any particular question you think a reader or interviewer should ask an author more often?
Frankly, Mav, I think you’ve done excellent job covering more than I can think of. I hope I haven’t bored your audience. Thanks for taking the time to interview me. It’s been fun answering all your probing questions!
*Blushing* Thank you so much.. Am sure they love your answers as much as I did.. :D
Any last comments or message for all your readers out there and us, here at Coffee Time Romance and More?
My new motto:
Give New Authors a Chance
There are so many new authors coming on the scene since the increase in digital book sales and self-publishing. I’ve found some new favorites through my Kindle. I hope your readers are reaping the benefits and finding some new authors to follow as well.
That is our motto too here at Coffee Time Romance & more! To bring amazing new authors to our readers, up and personal.. :)
Thank you sooo much for taking time out to spend time with us here at Coffee Time Romance & More and giving us more insight to your life, books and writing. I had loads of fun and hope you will join us again soon. Best of luck and success to you. Readers I hope you also enjoyed as much as I did. The author website link is on top for everyone who would like to contact Ms. Ellen Butler for book clubs or more info on her books. We would also love to hear your feedback. See you next time with another great author.