Author Interview: Elly Blake
After reading her incredible novel - and seeing why Frostblood was a New York Times bestseller - I got to talk to the very creative and extremely sweet Elly Blake. While engaging with her, I got to learn how she reacted when she found out she was a bestseller, what helped her fall in love with fantasy, and her secret obsession.
Let's Learn More About Frostblood
Lisa Hodorovych: Did you envision yourself as Ruby as you wrote the books? If not, who did you envision as her? What about Arcus, Brother Thistle, King Rasmus, and others?
Elly Blake: Yes, I was mostly seeing the world through Ruby’s eyes as I wrote. I tried to get into the heads of the other characters when I wrote their actions and dialogue. I guess I head hop between different points of view as I write, even though I’m writing from the main character’s perspective. The most interesting thing is getting into the head of your villain, because you usually find you have some sympathy or understanding for their motivations. After all, villains don’t think of themselves as villains. As someone once said, villains are the heroes of their own story.
Lisa: What places inspired you as you wrote Frostblood when you talked about Tempesia, the abbey, the Frost King’s castle, etc.? Were these based off of actual places or is your imagination just that amazing?
Elly: I based the general layout of Forwind Abbey on a medieval monastery in France. The ice castle was inspired by photos of ice hotels in Sweden. The snowy landscapes were easy to write since I experience that reality every winter here in Canada. My imagination filled in the gaps, but Pinterest helped quite a bit, too!
"Oh, ho, ho it's MAGIC!"
Lisa: Toward the back of Frostblood there is an interview where you stated, “elemental magic is just cool,” and “Years ago, a friend and I used to throw imaginary fireballs at each other at work,” which is awesome. I used to have imaginary sword fights and magic fights with my friends. Where did this fascination with magic come from?
Elly: Probably from reading fantasy at a young age. I read the Narnia Chronicles when I was nine, and I think my fascination with magic continued from then on. The fireball inspiration might have been from video games. Gosh, I don’t even remember anymore!
Traditional Publishing or Self-Publishing?
Lisa: I know for your books you went the traditional route to publish. However, it seems like self-publishing is becoming the way to do so now-a-days. Which one would you suggest is best for an aspiring writer? Would you give self-publishing a try?
Elly: I think it depends what you want as a writer. My dream was to be able to walk into a bookstore and see my book on a shelf, so traditional publishing was the right choice for me. I have attended workshops on self-publishing and I think it’s fascinating (because it’s basically a small business, and I find business interesting.) Some people have a misconception that self-publishing is easy, and I don’t think that’s true at all. From everything I’ve heard, it’s a lot of hard work, and discoverability is tough. I wouldn’t be averse to attempting self-pub someday, but I would do a lot of research first. I think writers should really educate themselves before choosing a path. Neither path is easy, but both can be rewarding!
Pen Name or Actual Name?
Lisa: Some people publish under their actual name, but then there are some people who write under a pen name. Which do you think is better?
Elly: There’s no right or wrong choice. I’m more comfortable writing under a pen name. (Elly is my first name, but “Blake” is a pen name.) For me, it’s a matter of the online world being so big. I was intimidated at the thought of my legal name being out there everywhere. Other people want their real name to be proudly displayed on books.
Lisa: Out of all of the genres to write in, why did you pick YA fantasy? Why not adult fantasy?
Elly: This is a bit embarrassing to admit, but I never did get into reading most adult fantasy. I grew up reading C.S. Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, Alan Garner, Tolkien, Robin McKinley, etc. But when I tried to read most other adult fantasy, the number of points of view and the extensive world building were a bit too dense for my impatient attention span. (One exception is the Black Jewels series by Anne Bishop, which I really enjoyed.) So, when YA fantasy became popular, with its fast pacing and action and romance and adventure, it was so exciting for me. As it turns out, I love writing it!
Lisa: If you were to write in another genre, what would it be?
Elly: I’d like to write adult fantasy, but with some of the elements of YA fantasy (like fast pacing and fewer points of view.) I love romance, so I’d love to push the romance a bit further in my books. I’d also love to write YA sci fi. As a lifelong fan of Star Trek, I love light sci fi and space operas.
Let's Learn More About Elly Blake
Lisa: When did you first realize your love for writing and that you wanted to pursue it as a career?
Elly: I started dreaming about being an author when I was 14 years old, but it was literally 2 decades later when I started actually taking writing courses and trying. It took another couple of years for me to get serious about it. When I joined Toronto Romance Writers, a chapter of Romance Writers of America, in 2011, that’s when I truly started to think about pursuing publication. It was incredibly energizing to sit in a room with so many like-minded people, many of whom were published authors.
Lisa: Who inspired you (or was your “mentor”) in life and in writing as you grew up? Which writer did you inspire to be like?
Elly: There were so many people who helped along the way that I can’t even name them all! My mom loves reading and she read to me as a child. She was always reading, so it was natural for me to love books from a young age. I had a fantastic English teacher in high school who taught with such enthusiasm that I went into English lit in University. When I joined Toronto Romance Writers, two published authors were so generous in helping and encouraging me: Eve Silver and Morgan Rhodes. I’m so grateful that they kept nudging me to continue when I was starting out.
Becoming a Bestseller!
Lisa: When you first heard that Frostblood made it to The New York Times bestseller list, what was your reaction? Did you go out and celebrate?
Elly: I was stirring a pot of pasta on the stove when my editor called with the news. As soon as she told me, I burst into tears. Then I realized that I was on speaker phone and the whole publishing team was in on that call. Haha. But they were just so happy. It was a wonderful moment. My husband brought a cake home for me the next day as a chocolatey celebration.
Lisa: Are you “old-school” (like myself) where you like to write things out first before typing them up or do you go straight for the laptop? What is your writing process?
Elly: I write long-hand notes when I’m trying to plan or brainstorm, but mostly I type things out. One weird exception: whenever I wrote the legends/myths in the Frostblood books, I wrote them out long-hand first. For some reason, that kind of scene flowed more naturally that way.
Lisa: I don’t know if you’ve heard of these online classes called “Masterclass?” It’s classes that are taught by different industries finest people. For example, for writing they have people like Neil Gaiman, Margaret Atwood, and Judy Blume teaching. If you got the opportunity to teach a writing class on Masterclass (which I could totally see happening), would you do so? Or would you go speak in front of a college classroom or even a high school classroom?
Elly: I actually signed up for the Judy Blume Masterclass! And then I ended up still under deadline (because I was behind, of course) and didn’t have time to take the course. Thank you for reminding me! Lol. I would definitely teach a workshop, but I think I’d have to get more experience writing before I’d feel comfortable teaching at a college or Masterclass level.
Elly Blake's Secret Obsession
Lisa: May I have at least one interesting factoid about yourself that no one knows? (For example: You’re a comic book enthusiast; you believe you were a witch in a past life; you have a plethora of tattoos you are hiding; you know, something that would make people say, “What? She’s into that?” or “She does that?” Haha!)
Elly: Hmm. Ok, here’s one. When I was as young as four or five years old, I remember pretending to be Wonder Woman. I’m old enough to remember the Lynda Carter version, and I just lurved her so much! I have a Wonder Woman wallet and poster and notebook and tote bag and bracelet (the color is gold, of course)…and a ton of comics I need to catch up on.
Thank you again, Ms. Blake for taking the time to talk with me and answer my questions! It was an absolute honor and it is truly appreciated!
If you would like to learn more about Ms. Blake, her books, and where you can purchase them, check out her website, http://ellyblake.com/
Remember, I did not get paid to write the review on Frostblood nor am I getting paid to interview Ms. Blake. I'm just a fellow writer and fan showcasing the work of a great author. If you have any questions or would like to be featured on my blog, please don't hesitate to contact me.
**This post was originally published on August 9, 2019**