J. LYNN ELSE is a Minnesota award-winning author who’s self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt, “The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen (2013),” which was named an Indie Editor’s Choice book for 2016 by the Historical Novel Society, and “The Forgotten: Heir of the Heretic (2016)” as well as a sci fi novella “Strangely Constructed Souls (2018).” Through Inklings Publishing, she’s authored “Descendants of Avalon” (2018), “Lost Daughters of Avalon” (2019), and “Prophecy of Avalon” (2021).” Her short story “The Girl from the Haunted Woods,” won 2nd place in the “Journey into the Fantastical” Anthology contest. In 2021, she became the Indie Reviews Editor for the Historical Novel Society. She believes in unicorns and practices random acts of awesome.
Here is an interview with J. Lynn Else.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
My pen name is J. Lynn Else (pronounced just like the word, ‘or else.)’ I grew up on massive amounts of Star Trek and X-Files. Now I write mostly historical fiction and fantasy. I’ve also written a sci fi novella and am working on a children’s book. I’m proud to call myself a nerd and have what some people might label an “unhealthy” obsession with Baby Yoda/Grogu. The intervention is TBD.
How many hours a day do you write?
At the moment, I’m actually sketching and inking for a children’s book I also wrote. Its actually nice to get away from the computer for a while! *slowly closes laptop*
How many unpublished and half-finished books do you have?
I have a historical fantasy set during the time of the pyramids in ancient Egypt that needs another read through. Very close to completion! I also have a paranormal story about life and death that’s in the beginning stages. And there’s another sci fi novella which continues the story of my first novella. I have half a short story I was working on for a contest that mixes elements of fantasy together with “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” vibes. AND another Avalon book set 20 years after my Awakenings trilogy I’ve just started…Yikes, I should probably open my laptop again.
How long on average does it take you to write a book?
My first book took a year to write the first draft. I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo during November, but that by no means speeds up the process because the story needs lots of work still. And then comes the editing process. On average though, I’d say a year to really create a readable story I’m proud of.
Where did you get the idea for your recent book?
My children’s book was a story I wrote approximately 18 years ago about a young girl who joins a ballet class but is a different shape than all the other girls. Its written from my observations growing up as a dancer. I remember some of the tight-fitting costumes I had to wear that made me uncomfortable, and I was very thin growing up. I had friends who were heavier and while they were such beautiful dancers, the costumes didn’t show that. I wanted to create a story that illustrates how dance should not be one size fits all. Dancers are more than their size. What perfect way to illustrate that than by using different animals as the characters?
How did you develop your plots?
I typically have a general idea where I want to go; however, I let the characters take me there. When put into situations/scenes in which their options are limited, my characters have actually surprised me by what they do. My writing is all about character choices to drive the plot along. Of course, when I’m writing historical fiction, I try to stick to as many facts as possible. For my first novels set during the time of King Tut, I kept a timeline next to the computer every moment.
How do you select the names of your characters?
Quite randomly. Sometimes its people in my life. I’ll use a family member’s maiden name. A few of my characters in the Awakenings trilogy have names that were in the early running as baby names for my children—ones that my husband nixed. Instead, I’ve given characters in my fantasy world those names, because, clearly, I can’t let some things go.
If you didn’t write, what would you do for work?
I wish I’d gone to school for ancient Egyptian studies. How incredible would it be to uncover a lost piece of history on an archeology dig? Instead, I graduated with a theater major and a dance minor. That’s what happens when you’re an incorrigible dreamer.
How did you get inspired to write your recent book?
Sometimes, I’m so excited I can’t wait to get back into it. Other times, I have to remind myself of a TV clip. My kids watched a lot of VeggieTales growing up, and there was this short story about perseverance. In it, Larry the Cucumber had to bring a piano up a giant flight of stairs all by himself. It was a silent film with only a few words: “The piano must go up!” Thus, there are times I must remind myself ‘the piano must go up!’ with a French accent.
What is your favorite childhood book?
In middle school, I was absolutely sucked into the book A Wrinkle In Time. I hadn’t read a sci fi novel with a teenage girl as the main character before. She had to not just save her father but then her little brother! (I also have a little brother) Sometimes, she had a temper, which I also had. So much of the media I was reading and watching at that time had women as side characters, often in need of saving. This book showed me a character I could relate to. These are the types of books I wanted to set down and write for my daughter—so I did!
Have you read anything that made you think differently about fiction?
In college I read the book Ishmael by Daniel Quinn. It completely upended my outlook about the world. Suddenly, I had this new perspective on the people who were telling the stories that shaped our history. There really isn’t any plot or strong setting, its about the dialogue. While this type of storytelling shouldn’t work, it does for this one novel.
What are you currently working on?
As mentioned previously, just a few things.
Do you read your book reviews? How do you deal with bad or good ones?
I do. Good and bad. Its not easy. However, not everyone is going to like my book, and that’s okay. Their review is ONE opinion. What matters is what I think of my book. Am I proud of the work I did? Is this the best product I could create? If those answers are yes, it takes away some of the sting of those lower-starred reviews.
What other authors are you friends with, and how do they help you become a better writer?
I’m blessed with a fantastic group of women writers in my local community. Meg Hafdahl, K. Bird Lincoln, Michelle Kubitz, Melissa Hindermann. Writing isn’t easy, but it is more enjoyable when shared with friends. Despite the fact we all write different genres, their insights are invaluable. They’ve beta read, encouraged, and cheered me on through all the writing stages. I’m so grateful to have them in my life.
A big thanks also to the Historical Novel Society for whom I both review and am the Indie Reviews Editor for. I love the community of historical fiction fans. They’ve welcomed me into the fold and helped me grow both as a reader and writer of historical fiction.
What’s your advice for aspiring writers?
You are the only one who can tell your story. Your voice is unique and valuable. Read a lot, be open to constructive criticism (trust me, it helps in the long run!), and then let yourself be heard! Also, use exclamation points sparingly!!!!!
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
The Writers Thesaurus books by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. Great resources to help expand the way you describe places and emotions, etc. I’ve read books where specific words are used over and over to describe multiple things. It becomes a buzzword and distracts from the writing. These thesauruses are fantastic tools to spark your creativity.
What’s the best thing about being a writer?
Letting the voices in my head out. I’m SO kidding! Writing can be therapeutic sometimes. It can also be a fun adventure. Maybe I want to learn something new. After going to an exhibit on King Tutankhamun, I wanted to discover more about his wife. This drove me to write my first self-published book which focuses on her life and what might have happened, The Forgotten: Aten’s Last Queen. Writing is a journey, sometimes a bit perilous, but always worth the effort.
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Will you have a new book coming out soon?
Be on the lookout for a children’s book about a cute ballerina named Bianca. She loves to dance!
What are your preferred method to have readers get in touch with or follow you (i.e., website, personal blog, Facebook page, Goodreads, etc.) and link(s)?
I have a Contact Me page on my website: www.teasippinnerdymom.com
I’m also on Facebook, Goodreads, Instagram, TikTok, and Twitter. You can find me at all the places!
Goodreads: J. Lynn Else (Author of The Forgotten) | Goodreads
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