Thursday, September 6, 2018

0 Nancy Richardson Fischer, author of WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY, on it taking a village to produce a book

We're excited to have Nancy Richardson Fischer join us to share more about her latest novel, WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY.

Nancy, what was your inspiration for writing WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY?

The inspiration for When Elephants Fly was a dear friend whose mother has a mental health condition. Watching my friend decide to live in the moment, despite fears that she, too, might end up like her mom, was incredibly powerful.

In addition, my time working for Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was a huge motivation. As the circus’s traveling writer, I witnessed the day-to-day lives of wild animals in captivity, and in particular, elephants. I vowed to someday shine a light on their sad plight.

What scene was really hard for you to write and why, and is that the one of which you are most proud? Or is there another scene you particularly love?


The hardest scenes to write were the ones where my elephant calf, Swifty, is rejected by her mother, and later, when she’s abused at the circus.

I NEVER read books about animals—I can’t stand it when they’re hurt! But if the result of those scenes is that readers care about elephants and want to protect them, or find someone worth fighting for that makes their life more fulfilling, then it was definitely worth it!

The scene I loved writing was the one at the ocean where Lily secretly watches Otis play with Tambor, an elephant he grew up with and loves. The connection between the two showcases the tenderness and love that can be shared between two beings.

What book or books would most resonate with readers who love your book--or visa versa?

I’m a HUGE fan of authors Jennifer Niven, John Green, Sara Zarr, Carrie Arcos, Jenny Torres Sanchez, Robin Roe and Neal Shusterman.

If you love stories that aim for your heart and stay with you long after the last page, then I think you’ll like When Elephants Fly.

How long did you work on WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY?

Writing When Elephants Fly took a little over two years. That includes countless drafts, especially while finding an agent, as some of my rejections provided great feedback that I incorporated. I did another edit with my incredible agent, Stephanie Kip Rostan of Levine Greenberg Rostan (grateful!). Once the all-around wonderful Natashya Wilson, Editorial Director of Harlequin Teen, bought my novel, we did several more rounds of editing. This is why authors say it takes a village to produce a finished book!

What did this book teach you about writing or about yourself?

This book taught me that I am STUBBORN! I just couldn’t give up on Lily and Swifty. If Lily’s journey changes one person’s perception of mental illness, or provides support for anyone dealing with personal challenges, all my hard work will be worth it.

I also learned that while writing is a solitary endeavor, I really appreciate and actually crave being a part of a team. I’m so lucky to have worked with Natashya Wilson, Publicity Manager, Laura Gianino, Director of Publicity, Shara Alexander, Library marketing Manager, Linette Kim, and a sales force that championed my book.

What do you hope readers will take away from WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY?

I hope readers will take away the idea that living in the moment, and making the most of it, is all any of us have. No one is promised tomorrow, so embrace today, make it count, fight for something or someone bigger than yourself, and make a difference. Be kind to the people around you who are struggling to survive and thrive. And to those living with a mental health condition, please remember that there is always hope.

How long or hard was your road to publication? How many books did you write before this one, and how many never got published?

I was lucky to have some early success co-writing sport autobiographies including Bela Karolyi, Monica Seles, Nadia Comaneci, and Apolo Ohno’s books. I also wrote a trilogy of middle grade Star Wars books for LucasFilm. Then came the drought! I wrote two novels and two screenplays that never saw the light. To every unpublished author, or those who have been published but are now hitting dead ends, keep reading, writing and trying! It only takes one YES! to get the ball rolling.

Was there an AHA! moment along your road to publication where something suddenly sank in and you felt you had the key to writing a novel? What was it?

I love writing, but I’m never super confident about my work, even after getting a kick-ass agent, even after selling my novel at auction, even after working with my super talented editor. It’d be great to feel like I have the key to writing a novel, but I also think my insecurity is part of what drives me to keep honing my skills.

What's your writing ritual like? Do you listen to music? Work at home or at a coffee shop or the library, etc?

I’m up at 5:30 in the morning. Caffeine is the first step to my writing day. Once those miniature caffeinated soldiers are marching, I head to my writing shack, usually with my dog, Boone, and spend 3-4 hours writing before taking a break to exercise (Boone and I need a lot of running or biking!). I edit my work in the afternoon. Rarely do I listen to music because I get caught up in a song’s story and can’t focus. Also, I write lyrics for most of my novels so I wouldn’t want to mistakenly appropriate what I hear on Pandora!

What advice would you most like to pass along to other writers?

Everyone’s process is different. My best ideas come during a long bike ride with my husband, or on a hike with my dog. The most important thing, for me, is to have balance. You can only put your butt in the chair for so long. So when writing isn’t working, get outside, increase blood flow, or spend quality time with the people or animals you love. Feed your soul … and then put your butt back in the chair.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m wearing a few different hats. I’m doing PR for When Elephants Fly, edits for my next novel, Pigeon (Inkyard Press, publication 2019), and am in the midst of writing a new novel. Admittedly, sometimes it’s hard to keep the storylines straight!!!

ABOUT THE BOOK

When Elephants Fly
by Nancy Richardson Fischer
Hardcover
Harlequin Teen
Released 9/4/2018

T. Lily Decker is a high school senior with a twelve-year plan: avoid stress, drugs, alcohol and boyfriends, and take regular psych quizzes administered by her best friend, Sawyer, to make sure she’s not developing schizophrenia.

Genetics are not on Lily’s side. When she was seven, her mother, who had paranoid schizophrenia, tried to kill her. And a secret has revealed that Lily’s odds are even worse than she thought. Still, there’s a chance to avoid triggering the mental health condition, if Lily can live a careful life from ages eighteen to thirty, when schizophrenia most commonly manifests.

But when a newspaper internship results in Lily witnessing a mother elephant try to kill her three-week-old calf, Swifty, Lily can’t abandon the story or the calf. With Swifty in danger of dying from grief, Lily must choose whether to risk everything, including her sanity and a first love, on a desperate road trip to save the calf’s life, perhaps finding her own version of freedom along the way.

Purchase When Elephants Fly at Amazon
Purchase When Elephants Fly at IndieBound
View When Elephants Fly on Goodreads

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nancy Richardson Fischer is a graduate of Cornell University, a published author with children's, teen and adult titles to her credit, including Star Wars titles for Lucas Film and numerous athlete autobiographies, such as Julie Krone, Bela Karolyi and Monica Seles. She lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Have you had a chance to read WHEN ELEPHANTS FLY yet? Do you feel insecure about your writing? Does it drive you to hone your skills? Share your thoughts about the interview in the comments!

Happy Reading,

Jocelyn, Halli, Martina, Erin, Susan, Shelly, Kelly, Laura, Emily, and Lori Ann

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