Today, we have a special interview with Elsie Park, the author of the Shadows of Valor, a novel which I totally love. Also at the end of this interview there's a huge blog-wide giveaway that you should enter. Anyway, without further ado, I would like to welcome on our blog, Elsie Park! *cue applause*
1. Can you tell us a little trivia about yourself?
As the daughter of a pediatrician, my dad delivered me at birth a the hospital in Hollywood, CA. (USA). COOL!
I’ve played soccer since I was 6 years old. I was the only girl to make the JV boys soccer team as a freshman in high school. My sophomore year, I was one of three girls who made the boys team. My junior and senior years of high school the school finally organized a girl’s soccer team, and I enjoyed playing with other sporty and talented girls.
I’ve played piano since I was 6 years old and have composed music from that age as well.
I grew up in the beautiful mountains of Oakhurst, California (USA) outside of Yosemite National Park where my main hobbies were reading, writing, playing piano, playing soccer, and drawing. After graduating high school, I moved to Utah (USA) to study zoology, botany and criminal justice at college. I paid my way through school first by working as a security guard, and then fighting fires as a wildland firefighter with the Forest Service. I took a year and a half hiatus from school to serve a religious mission for my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) in beautiful northern Italy and then returned to school. I entered the police force after graduation, but soon missed the appeal of firefighting, so I returned to that after a short while. A few years after I married my sweetheart, I dropped my adventurous careers for motherhood (something I’ll never regret doing). I have three wonderful girls less than eight years of age. They are the light of my life.
2. Describe Shadows of Valor in 5 words.
Intriguing, mysterious, betrayal, forgiveness, love
3. What made you write a historical novel? Are you a fan of the genre ever since?
I have always loved fantastical and historical stories about princesses, knights, pirates, Vikings, wizards, dragons, and anything adventurous in another time, especially intertwining a sweet love story. I don’t dislike contemporary stories, but since I’m already living a contemporary life, I often want to read about times and places far from my own. I like to get lost in worlds that I don’t experience everyday. I chose 1300 A.D. England because I like the clothing, and King Edward’s wool tax causing some people to smuggle their goods created a great backdrop for an exciting story.
And yes, I’m a fan of writing historical novels, even though it takes a lot of time and research.
4. When and how did the idea of Shadows of Valor come to you? What inspired you to write this book?
I’ve always loved books, reading and watching good movies (especially historicals), but I would often think of other ways I would have done a certain scene or ending if I didn’t necessarily like the way the author or director did it. My biggest inspiration originally came after several months of thinking that I really wanted to do something as a stay-at-home-mom other than changing diapers, dishes, laundry and errands, but I didn’t want to be taken FROM the home to do it. So when some adventurous medieval scenes invaded my head over a period of days, I thought, “Hey, that would make a good movie or an excellent story if coupled with a good plot.” So on a whim I jotted my ideas down and my first step to writing Shadows of Valor was taken.
5. What is your favorite scene to write in Shadows of Valor? Can you tell us without giving a spoiler?
I like the scene where Elsbeth and The Shadow first meet in the forest and neither of them know at first that the other is an acquaintance from the past. I also like the scenes where they banter back and forth on certain points of view. Reminds me of Elisabeth and Mr. Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice.”
6. Do you have any similarities with Elsbeth? If yes, what are they?
Absolutely. That’s the fun of writing my own stories. I can put a little piece of myself in them. I am a blue-eyed brunette, like Elsbeth, and my name, Elsie, sounds similar to Elsbeth, but that wasn’t on purpose. I just liked the name Elsbeth and thought it sounded medieval. I call her Beth in the story. Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of self-esteem for the way I looked. I didn’t like who I saw in the mirror because it didn’t fit what the world said was beautiful. You know . . . skinny figure, perfect hair, flawless face, no pimples. I know many children, especially teens, feel this way about themselves. Though my sweet parents consistently told me what a beautiful girl I was, that only went so far when I felt depressed that I didn’t look like the gorgeous women I saw in movies and magazines, or when boys didn’t look my way or never asked me out. It was hard to feel my true self-worth during the high school years. Women are bombarded everyday with the world’s view of what’s beautiful as they try to live up it in beauty tips, diets and weight loss. This is especially true with sweet mothers whose bellies have been stretched beyond elasticity because of numerous pregnancies. And unless they have a strong self image, inner strength, or significant other saying they love them just the way they are, the awful truth is that it’s really hard for them to feel good about themselves. A good self image is an issue for Elsbeth’s character because of her physical scars.
7. Tell us a bit about your journey to publication?
I started the story on a whim when I had a 10-month-old daughter. She is now 7 years old! I wrote the story and sent it out after a year to relatives who were brutally honest about it. It was hard to take, but I took their suggestions and made changes to my story. I joined the League of Utah Writer’s and attended writer’s conferences and grammar classes, taking notes, learning and applying what I learned to each rewrite. I did this for 6 years, sending my manuscript off to agents and publishers galore, only to receive rejection after rejection (and feeling down and depressed and eating a pound of chocolate after each one). Finally, after having my third baby, I heard of a meeting where a publisher named Jolly Fish Press would be visiting. I didn’t have time to go with three kids and with me still breastfeeding the newest one since she refused to take a bottle. With my husband working the midnight shift and sleeping during the day, it would extremely difficult to go. But something drew me to go regardless of the inconvenience. I managed to get a sitter for the older girls, but had to take the youngest one with me. I listened to Jolly Fish Press’ representative, Chris Loke (executive editor) while standing in the corner bouncing a baby up and down, feeling embarrassed that I had to bring her, almost leaving because she was fussy, and hoping I wasn’t being a distraction to everyone else. I almost cried right there because I felt self-conscious bringing my baby to the meeting, but I stayed the entire time and listened to this new publisher. After leaving the meeting, I went home and thought about sending my manuscript to them, but it took me a month or so to get it ready. But I’m glad I took that chance, I’m glad I went to the meeting despite the hassle, because Jolly Fish Press accepted the manuscript and after over a year of waiting on the publishing process, it’s finally being released nationwide September 7, 2013. I can’t be more excited that this has happened. It’s a dream come true and a testimony that no matter your circumstance, you can write a story and through perseverance, have it published. Never give up!
8. What was the hardest part in writing this book? The easiest?
The hardest part was all the research on medieval England I had to do and the time it took to do it. The easiest part was probably the dialogue. I really enjoyed writing the dialogues. Writing three ballads for the story also came reasonably easy to me with my piano background. Those were really fun! At least one of the songs will be added as an addendum to the story, and possible all three, but I don’t know yet.
9. So far, what has been the toughest criticism given to you as an author? What has been the best compliment?
One of the toughest criticisms was that the old English speech I’d written into my original version (and spent TONS of time researching and perfecting) wasn’t easy for readers to read and should be taken out completely. So that’s what I did.
The best compliment was that readers loved the dialogues between my characters as well as the description of the medieval world.
10. Is there anything that you would like to say to your readers and fans?
I truly hope readers enjoy the story of Elsbeth and Calan in SHADOWS OF VALOR. I hope they appreciate the medieval setting surrounding issues we share today. I’m working on another historical story for a couple of dynamic characters who share issues with the modern reader, but live in the medieval world.
Thank you for having me on you blog, Erleen! It’s been an honor and a privilege. These were great questions that I really enjoyed answering them.
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Growing up in a small mountain town outside of Yosemite National Park, California, U.S.A., Elsie enjoyed playing soccer, playing piano, reading, writing, art and spending time with family and friends. Years ago she spent 18 months in Italy teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. Seeing the castles and old Roman cities only added to her fascination for ancient and medieval culture. In college she studied zoology, botany and criminal justice. She’s worked as a wildland firefighter, security guard and a police officer, but she is currently a stay-at-home mom, spending time with her children and husband. She loves thinking up new ideas for interesting stories and musical compositions to go with them.
Title: Shadows of Valor
Genre/s: Historical Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Jolly Fish Press
Expected Publication: September 7, 2013
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On the surface, Graywall is content and booming. Lord Shaufton, who presides over the city, is a fine ruler. The poor are well-cared for, the area is popular, and morale is high—but within Graywall’s roots, something dark is stirring. This darkness threatens to overpower the once-peaceful town, until a mysterious figure appears: The Shadow.As much a figure of fear to the unruly as legend to the innocent, The Shadow is an enforcer of justice and aid to the King. Due to an outrageous export tax set by King Edward, smuggling has tainted the kingdom, so The Shadow is sent to hunt the smugglers down. Contrary to legend, The Shadow is simply a man known as Sir Calan who, although talented and just, struggles to keep his dark thoughts of revenge from becoming ruthless action.Due to sheer coincidence, The Shadow learns of a deadly plot against Lord Shaufton on a journey to Graywall. Now, he must enter a pseudo courtship with Lord Shaufton’s daughter under his original guise of Sir Calan, all while old emotions are stirred by the lovely Elsbeth, Lord Shaufton’s niece. Elsbeth, it seems, is the only woman who can heal his troubled soul, but she has a story of her own. What transpires is a glorious tale full of deceit, greed, inner struggles, betrayal, and most of all—love.
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