Author interview with Ella Martin

Posted: 23/09/2015 in Author Interview
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Today we have an author interview with Ella Martin. This one really excites me because I adore her writing (even though I’ve only read the one book so far). I’d like to extend a huge thank you to her for taking the time to answer my questions.

EC 0106
(Photo Credit: Ansa
Du Toit)

Ella Martin is a young adult author and self-described “prep school survivor” from Southern California. With a keen sense for combining relatable teen characters with engrossing stories, her books blend aspects of romance, angst, and intrigue. Her novel Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up? is the first in the Westgate Prep series of books that tackle female friendships, quirky characters, and sensitive topics with equal tact.

She is represented by Julia A. Weber of J.A. Weber Literaturagentur.

Thank you so much for having me on your blog! Some of these were tough questions, but I really enjoyed answering them. xoxo – Ella

BP: Tell us a little about yourself and your background?

EM: I’m the younger daughter of Filipino immigrants, born in Los Angeles and raised in the San Fernando Valley, and as I like to tell people, I’m a prep school survivor. I’ve told friends from high school that they may not necessarily recognize the characters in my books, but Westgate Prep will probably be super familiar to them. My high school was pretty small (graduating class of about 250 people), so we all pretty much knew each other, but I discovered much later when I was helping to plan a reunion exactly how little we really knew each other.
BP: How did you come up with the title of I Love Him, I Love Him Not?

EM: I Love Him, I Love Him Not had an original working title of The Only Exception, taken from Paramore’s song because that was the song that kind of defined Talia’s character, even when I was writing Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up? But I’m a big fan of long titles, and I like taking common phrases and twisting them around a bit. I particularly like I Love Him, I Love Him Not because it’s not about waiting for someone else to love us back; it’s about deciding for ourselves how we feel.
BP:  What were your favourite subjects in school and why?

EM: When I was in elementary school, I liked English, mainly because I got to read all the time and was encouraged to make up stories. As I got into high school, I loved my social studies classes—history, political science, and economics—because those were about how the world works and why. I didn’t study writing or English when I went to college and opted for a degree in communications with a minor in film, and later I went back to school for an MBA instead of an MFA. It took many, many years before I looked at my safe, steady job and realized how much I really missed writing. It had been this huge part of my life when I was growing up, and I’d kind of tamped it down in favor of a safe career. I’m so much happier now that I’m writing again.
BP: Where do your ideas come from?

EM: I love fairy tales, but I’m terrible at world-building and establishing the rules of magic, which I think is necessary in so many of the traditional fairy tales (hence the inclusion of the word “fairy”). So I like to think about these familiar and beloved stories and try to find a way to strip out the magic and make it a contemporary story. For example, in Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up?, I wanted to tell the story of what might have happened if Snow White realized Prince Charming was really a jerk and ran back to the dwarves who, for all intents and purposes, were her only friends. But in I Love Him, I Love Him Not, I explored the story of Sleeping Beauty where sleep was a metaphor, the awakening wasn’t instantaneous, and the princess had to want to wake up.

But I also get ideas from news events or random snippets of conversations. Any time I pause to think about something, I mentally file it away for later use. For example, I read a blog post by a brilliant teen writer about the ability to be openly gay online, but not in school, and this wasn’t long after reading another post by another brilliant teen writer who didn’t even feel it was safe to come out to family. And it really made me stop to think. Their stories were different but simultaneously so similar, and I knew right away that’s a story that needs to be told.
BP: How do you think you’ve evolved creatively?

EM: This is a tough question to answer because it’s really hard to see a lot of creative evolution over my first two books. I know as a writer, I’ve grown because I’m paying closer attention to the world around me and surrounding myself with smarter people than I who challenge me to stretch beyond my comfort zone. And Twitter allows me to fill that space with voices that make me think, which I think has done more to shape my characters and stories than anything else. I’ve found the research I do to write contemporary YA consists almost entirely of me listening to other people talk. In that way, I think personal growth naturally leads to a creative evolution.
BP: What do you do to relax?

EM: I don’t get many opportunities to relax these days, and I usually fill up my downtime with reading or sleeping. I have a precocious 8-year-old who keeps me on my toes, and there is very little about parenting that could be called relaxing. But there are a number of things I enjoy doing that I wish I had more time to do, like make bread—and not in a machine. I’ve also taken up sewing, and, when it starts to cool down again in Florida, I’d like to start running again. It’s not exactly relaxing for the body, but it relaxes my mind.
BP: What were the challenges you’ve faced with writing this book?

EM: I had serious cases of writer’s block. Some of it stemmed from not knowing where to take the story, some was a lot of self-doubt, and some was not knowing how to continue. And after drafting Will the Real Prince Charming Please Stand Up? in 24 days, I really struggled because it was such a different experience.

I went to a Romance Writers of America workshop several months into writing I Love Him, I Love Him Not and chatted with Roxanne St. Claire, who was the guest speaker. I’d hit a serious case of writer’s block, and when I explained my concept to Roxanne and told her I was struggling, she said, “Well, that’s your problem. She doesn’t want anything. In order for any story to move forward, your main character has to want something, even if it’s a return to the status quo.” That was one of those “duh” moments that clicked in my head and made me realize I was tackling the story all wrong. Because of course Sleeping Beauty would rather stay asleep. The world is a scary place.
BP: Are there any projects in the works that you can tell us about?

EM: I have two projects in the works. One is the third book of the Westgate Prep series, in which Ally is the main character. I’m really excited about this book and hope the end product comes close to what I envision. The other project is not a Westgate Prep book, but it’s a story so dear to me. I’ve pitched it as the Princess and the Pea at Comic Con, and my agent is really supportive of it.
BP: What does your writing process tend to look like?

EM: Once I figure that out, I will tell you. Seriously, though, I’m amazed I get anything written because my “process” seems so sporadic and random. In that way, I’m such a terrible role model as a writer.

My stories are character-driven. I like to start with a character and get to know her really well before I start writing. This is probably the hardest part and why I really need to take breaks between writing, especially when I’m writing in first person, because even when you think you know a secondary character really well, you still perceive them from a perspective not their own. It’s akin to thinking you know your friends but not really knowing them. Anyway, after I’ve lived in her head for a while and know how she’ll behave, it makes it a lot easier to write. And then I’ll figure out what the key plot points are. From there it’s a simple matter of connecting the dots as I write, although that sounds way easier than it really is. I tend to write linearly, but this can be limiting sometimes. While I was writing I Love Him, I Love Him Not, I knew I needed to get to this one scene but had no idea how to make it happen. A good friend practically forced me to watch the Richard Armitage miniseries North and South, which was a complete derailment from what I was working on but a completely brilliant plan because I wrote a key scene out of sequence and was able to link everything up to it. (But I still prefer writing linearly. I think.)
BP: What are your favourite books/authors?

EM: I will preorder any book by Ally Carter or Gail Carriger without even reading the premise. One is contemporary, of course, and the other is steampunk, but both write about female protagonists who kick serious butt, and I know I can’t go wrong reading either of their books. I’ve also just started Holly Bourne’s The Manifesto on How to Be Interesting, and it’s such a fantastic read with a completely relatable protagonist, and she’s hilarious on Twitter, so I will probably read anything she releases, too.

I’d like to extend another Thank You to the author for her willingness to answer my questions. You can find her on social media:

Facebook
Twitter
Tumblr
Instagram

and of course her website.

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