Elisa Beatty loves moving between contrary worlds: raised on the East Coast in a deeply “historic” Revolutionary-War-era town, she now lives on the West Coast, just north of uber-progressive Berkeley, California. Her parents were scientists, but she fell in love with the arts, especially theater and writing. She went on to do doctoral studies in literature, specializing in Shakespeare and gender studies, but is fascinated by popular fiction—her bookshelves have Dostoevsky, Donne, Woolf and Foucault rubbing shoulders with scads of romances. An English teacher by trade, she spends whatever free time she can grab (including SUMMER!!) writing Regencies.
In addition to being a two-time Golden Heart finalist, she won the Historical category of the 2009 Golden Pen, and so far in 2010 has finaled in the Emily, Great Expectations, and Fab Five, with a double final in the Beau Monde’s Royal Ascot. You can learn more about her her website and at the 2009 Golden Heart finalists’ website, The Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. You can also friend her as Elisa Beatty on Facebook.
Elisa’s 2010 (and 2009) Golden Heart manuscript is A MOST IMPROPER GENTLEMAN, which finaled in the Regency category both years:
Octavia Hathawood’s too smart to fall for her own worst enemy. So why can’t she resist the improper advances of David Castleleigh, Earl of Atherton? The man’s vicious half-sisters drove Octavia’s family from the ton with gossip branding her late father a murderer. Now, with the Hathawoods facing the poorhouse, Octavia returns to London seeking decent marriage, only to find the earl apparently bent on convincing the ton she’s about to become his mistress.
They engage in a battle of razor-sharp wits, and of surprisingly vulnerable hearts—and half the time Octavia’s not sure whether her pulse is hammering out of anger, fear, or anticipation of the next time David’s touch will turn her flesh to flame. Meanwhile, her father’s murderer reappears, and this time he’s got Octavia herself in his sights. Does Octavia dare believe David’s insistence he’s nothing like his sisters, and trust his claims he genuinely longs to cherish and protect her? Or—as she fears—is his seductive charm actually the most dangerous weapon leveled against her?
And now a little about Elisa:
1) How long have you been writing?
I was babbling stories as a toddler, so learning to actually write down stories in first grade was the greatest thrill I could imagine—even though I was so physically uncoordinated no one could decode my messy handwriting before junior high. My brain is still constantly concocting stories, and I talk to characters in my head all the time, though I’ve finally learned how to keep my mouth shut when I do it.
2) Did you always want to be an author or is this something you fell into later in life?
Well, I ALSO wanted to be a and an astronaut and an actor and (when I reached adulthood) a teacher, which is what I spend most of my professional time actually doing, but I’ve always, always needed to write. Back in college, I submitted a couple stories to The New Yorker, and got what I now recognize as extremely encouraging rejections. But it’s only been the past couple of years that I’ve gotten serious about pursuing publication.
3) What do you do in your “other” life? (Day job, family, etc.)
I’m the mother of two amazing kids: a daughter who’s almost twelve, and a son who’s about to turn six. My husband’s also a teacher and writer, and has serious artistic and musical talents too (ironically enough, his parents were science people, like mine), and the artistic streak seems to have been passed to our kids. We live in a creative hive: all of us writing or painting or making music or (in the case of the youngest) building elaborate space stations out of Lego. The dog thinks we’re completely nuts.
4) Who are your favorite authors?
How long a list do you want? There are SO many, and I love them for so many different reasons. Shakespeare, of course, and Iris Murdoch, Nawal el Saadawi, Toni Morrison, J.K. Rowling, Patricia Gaffney, Georgette Heyer, the Brontës, Patrick O’Brien, Dorothy Dunnett, Milton, Virgil, Mary Balogh, Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Tony Kushner, Elizabeth Bishop, Eloisa James, Julia Quinn, and Joanna Bourne. I’ll stop there, or you’ll run out of blog space.
5) Do you have an agent?
Not yet. I’ve decided to finish my second book before I move further on trying to sell my first. The second book, The Devil May Care, has been doing really well in contests this year, and has several agents and editors I’d love to work with waiting on the full. Now that summer’s here, I have ten glorious weeks to be a full-time writer (!!), so I should have Devil finished before Nationals, and the third book underway before school starts in September.
6) Where do you see yourself in five years?
Well, I’ll have a few more finished books under my belt, and my goal is to have at least one three-book deal with a major New York publisher. I have multiple sequels in mind for both Improper Gentleman and Devil, and lots of other ideas clamoring for attention in my head. I’d love to be able to support myself writing, so I can give all these ideas the time and attention they need.
And now, in Elisa’s own words…
The Creative Urge
Awhile ago, a new acquaintance told me, “I’m not a creative person. That’s just not something I have in me.” She shrugged, as if this were a trivial admission, along the lines of saying she didn’t care for asparagus, or had never been to Wisconsin.
I was struck dumb. Not a creative person? It was like she’d said, “I don’t breathe oxygen. That’s just not something I do.”
I assume humans are innately creative. Evolution demands it. How else could small, soft, clawless, fangless creatures survive and thrive? Something inside drives us to make new things where only raw materials existed before—mud huts, bows and arrows, fishing poles, leather shoes, venti non-fat mochas with whip cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon, stuff like that.
We invent, we imagine, we see things anew every day, or….we freeze to death, or get eaten by bears. Or at least get really bad caffeine-deprivation headaches.
Until a generation or two ago, our ancestors did some form of creative work almost every day: farming’s essentially creative, after all, as are weaving and sewing and knitting, and furniture-carving, and barn-building, and making cooking pots out of copper or clay.
Creativity’s in our DNA.
Or maybe not….
I’ve seen counter-evidence before. I’ve heard people say they have boring dreams (what an oxymoron!)—no sound, no texture, just flickers of black and white, replaying their day at the office, with, at most, a talking parrot in place of their boss.
And, in the classroom, lots of my students seem baffled by Aristotle’s definition of mimesis: the deep urge to create artistic “imitations” of our world. Invariably, I explain it by saying, “It’s that pressure you feel inside, when you see something happen, and you just have to, have to, have to write about it, or paint about it, or compose a song about it!” About a third of the kids nod eagerly, like that urge is a daily part of their lives, too. The rest look utterly blank.
Still, I can’t wrap my brain around the idea that some people (most people?) live without that creative urge. What must consciousness feel like for them?
We may live in a world where warmth and safety don’t depend on our creativity, where we get woven blankets and cooking pots with a swipe of the charge card at Target. But some of us still have to make things. Or…our brains will explode.
For me, the creative medium is language. Strand me on a deserted island, and I’ll be fine with eating scorpions and getting soaked by monsoons. But if I don’t get hold of some berry juice and a leaf I can write on, that’s when there’ll be trouble.
It doesn’t matter that every other responsibility in my life is screaming at me for attention. It doesn’t matter if I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in weeks. It doesn’t matter if I walk around talking to myself like a crazy-old-cat-lady because some characters in my head are deep into dialogue, and that’s all I can hear. It doesn’t matter if no one else ever reads what I write. I have to do it.
And I suspect that’s just how it is for other writers.
On my writing desk, I have a coffee mug with these words from the painter Claude Monet: “Color is my day-long obsession, joy, and torment.”
Obsession, joy, and torment. Yup. That about sums it up for me.
What about you? Do you feel the creative urge? Where do you think it comes from? Does it bring you mostly joy, or mostly torment? Can you imagine your brain without it?