Today we travel to Northern Virginia, USA to chat with Elizabeth Bell about how George Mason University, elementary school vocabulary words, two hundred library books, talismans, wrought iron, sensory deprivation, a turtle, and The Princess Bride come together as part of Elizabeth’s past and current life.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Elizabeth Bell, and I live in Northern Virginia, USA. I grew up in Colorado. I came to Virginia to pursue my Master’s degree in Creative Writing at George Mason University. After graduation, I realized I’d have to return my two hundred library books. Instead, I cleverly found a job in the university library, where I work to this day.
In which genre do you write?
Historical fiction, specifically family saga with strong romantic elements.
How many published books do you have?
Necessary Sins, Lost Saints, Native Stranger, and Sweet Medicine, the four books of The Lazare Family Saga.
When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer and what ignited your author’s flame?
Around the second grade. My teacher would give us students a list of ten vocabulary words to learn each week. To show we understood their meaning, we had to write a sentence that used each of the words correctly. No matter how disparate the words were, I always used those ten sentences to tell a little story.
What is an interesting writing quirk you have, that we wouldn’t know by reading your biography?
I have talismans to get me “in the zone” when I’m writing. I’ll burn an appropriately scented candle, such as gardenia for a scene set in a Charleston garden or Yankee Candle’s Storm Watch for a scene set on the Great Plains of the American West. I’ll also wear a necklace based on the wrought iron of Charleston.
What would you choose as your mascot, spirit animal, or avatar and why?
A turtle. I’ve always been an introvert, and I may be the world’s slowest writer. I spent twenty-eight years researching, writing, and revising the four books of The Lazare Family Saga. But I got there in the end!
What does your ideal writing space look like?
I’d prefer a sensory deprivation chamber! I need as few distractions as possible to concentrate on my fictional world. I write in a U shape: an L-shaped desk plus a table alongside me so I can have research materials spread open all around me. I’m also surrounded by bookshelves. In my ideal writing space, those shelves would be lovely, grained dark hardwood instead of plywood and I’d own all the books instead of borrowing them from library.
What are you currently reading?
I’m rereading Be Free or Die, Cate Lineberry’s excellent biography of Robert Smalls, after reading Rebecca Dwight Bruff’s novel about him.
What movie can you watch over and over without ever getting tired of?
The Princess Bride. I have practically the whole screenplay memorized. It’s brilliant—funny but also heartfelt, exciting, romantic, and and wise.
What is your favorite time of day and why?
The wee hours of the morning, when the rest of the house has gone to bed. That’s my best writing time, when my characters really come alive and tell me their stories.
What’s your favorite place to visit in your country and why?
Lowcountry South Carolina near Charleston. It’s one of the two main settings of my historical saga. I grew up in the other setting: the Great Plains of the American West along the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. I’ve visited the Lowcountry a few times and fell in love with it. I haven’t been able to live there in real life, but I do vicariously through my characters. I love the flora and fauna of the Lowcountry, the birds and even the reptiles. I love the gardens and the architecture, so well suited to the semitropical climate. I love how present the history of Charleston is, how well it’s been preserved. That history is often contentious and tragic, because it’s about the legacy of slavery and the persistence of racism, but it’s also about resilience. That complexity is what makes the history dynamic and compelling and essential.
What are you currently working on?
With the help of my cover designer, I’m creating hardcover versions of my four books. I thought the paperbacks were beautiful, but I love my first hardcover proof even more: beauty and durability! My cover artist is James T. Egan of Bookfly Design, and he is so talented.
Tell us about your most recent book.
My most recent book is Sweet Medicine, the fourth and final installment in my historical fiction series The Lazare Family Saga—but please start with Book One, Necessary Sins. The series is a continuous narrative.
It was great having you be a part of MTA, and learning more about you and your background. Love the bit about the library books, and that now you work in the university library! Wishing you all the best, with much success! – Camilla
The sweeping Lazare Family Saga transports readers from the West Indies to the Wild West, from Charleston, Paris, and Rome into the depths of the human heart. Passion, prejudice, secrets, and a mother’s desperate choice in the chaos of revolution echo through five generations as the multiracial Lazare family struggles to understand where they belong. A French baroness, a Catholic priest, a daring physician, an unconventional Southern belle, an enslaved maid, and a blond Cheyenne Indian find love in dangerous places in this epic spanning 1789-1873.
Kathleen Grissom, bestselling author of The Kitchen House, called the first book, Necessary Sins, “a feast of a novel by an extraordinary new voice. Haunting, meticulously researched, and exquisitely told through characters so human you’d swear they have beating hearts.” Lost Saints and Native Stranger were both Editors’ Choices in the Historical Novels Review, and the Historical Novel Society proclaimed: “Necessary Sins is a rare breed of book, invoking family epics of the past such as The Thorn Birds… [Elizabeth Bell] renders a vivid world that truly feels like stepping back in time.”
Where to find the books:
The four ebooks are available exclusively from Amazon, and they’re free to borrow through Kindle Unlimited. The paperbacks are available through your favorite online bookstore.
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