Greetings, lovely ones, and welcome to our very second author interview! Today we are interviewing Ellen Jane, author of the short story “A Match Made at Christmas” that I just recently read&reviewed.
So Ellen, hi and welcome! Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where were you raised, you know, give us the goods!
Ellen: I’m an Australian writer, so I’ve grown up in and around the sparse bushland of the Australian outback. I used to hate it as a kid, and I longed for rich English forests, but I love it now. It’s starting to creep its way into my books more and more as a setting (though it isn’t in this one because I needed snow!). I don’t have any major events from childhood to share, but I have been affected by mental health issues in both myself and my loved ones since I was young, and I think that is probably the thing that has shaped me most.
Oh interesting. Could you tell us a bit more about that?
Ellen: I’m an HSP (Highly Sensitive Person), and so having that trait while being surrounded and affected by mental health issues growing up has made me think deeply about people—what connects and separates us. It makes my stories have a strong focus on internal growth and connection.
Yes, I definitely noticed that in your writing. So speaking of writing, what inspired you to start writing?
Ellen: I’ve written stories for as long as I can remember, but I never shared them until I fell into fanfiction a few years ago. Fanfiction gets a bad rap, but I’ll never be ashamed of it. It’s this brilliant space where there is no separation from writer and reader—you’re all just fans together, no matter who’s putting the words together—and so it removes a lot of the ego you might otherwise develop. You start to approach stories from a communal perspective as something to share instead of something to own; it’s really cool.
Huh, I’ve never heard it described in such a way. I like your point about the removal of the ego. Could you explore how ego affects you a bit more? Is it a stumbling block for you?
Ellen: Yes! Especially working out if I’m writing for myself or others. We live in a world that encourages us to attribute self-worth to performance, and I’ve been slowly reshaping that because I think focusing on performance leads to short-term happiness rather than a genuine sense of self-worth. Writing lives in this intersection of art and commerce, whereby you need to sell your books if you want them to exist anywhere beyond your head, but at their root, they’re nothing more or less than a form of self-expression. Trends come and go, and if you’re constantly chasing what’s popular, there’s no sense of personal satisfaction. But then, it’s a little selfish to sell books that are written without others’ enjoyment in mind. It’s a balance.
Interesting I like how you see it as a balance. Another thing that authors have to balance is character development and plot. Which is more important to you, character development or plot?
Ellen: Definitely character. I’ll read through any amount of clunky writing if a book has a good character. If I truly can’t stand the plot or writing, I’ll sometimes rewrite it in my head as I go just so I don’t have to walk away from the character.
Hahaha, okay! That’s very fanfiction-y but it does show what matters more for you! Now let’s switch tracks a bit. Tell us a little about your writing. What makes your work and this one in particular special?
Ellen: The romance in this book—and often any that I write—is perhaps a bit unique in that it’s more about emotional intimacy and vulnerability than an earth-shattering kiss. It won’t be for everyone, and I completely respect that; I find myself more drawn to romances that emphasize a voluntary and shared vulnerability than romances that have strong heat (though I’ve definitely written those too). I don’t see those romances in published fiction very much, so it was cathartic to write. It’s also pure fluff and lesbians, which the world needs more of.
Can you tell us a little about what happened ‘behind’ this book? Any funny stories that occurred to you?
Ellen: No funny stories, I’m afraid! I was inspired by The Little Match Girl as one of my favourite Hans Christian Andersen stories, but I always bawl my eyes out when I read it. So, I wanted to bring those vibes in and give it a happy ending. Pure wish fulfillment on my part.
What was the most difficult thing about writing this book?
Ellen: Burnout. It’s been a long year for everyone, and along with writing burnout I’ve had a lot of life upheaval this year, not to mention the political climate of the world. I wanted to write some LGBTQ Christmas fluff because I needed it, but even though it was only a short story I struggled through almost every word. But I’m thankful I wrote it because, despite the difficulty, it became the story I wanted it to be.
Awww that’s sweet. I think we’re all glad that you wrote it. 🙂 Is there anything personal that you used/put into this story?
Ellen: Nothing major, but little elements do creep in. The car alarm going off happened to a friend; the sound of pots and pans clattering at one point was because I was writing on a vid chat with a friend and that was in the background; Elise was involved in wedding planning because I was a bridesmaid this year. It’s fun for me to re-read a story and remember all those little life moments as I go through, even though no one else will notice.
Ah-ha! So there’s a little bit of your life in there! Now what objective material did you use? Did you do a lot of research?
Ellen: God, I’m so not a Ravenclaw. I researched snow? And by that I mean, I went to the snow for the first time recently and was shocked by how cold it is. Astonishing, I know. Apart from that, I mainly focused on how to squash my Australianisms and replace them with British terms (“lie in” instead of “sleep in”; “in the hole” instead of “up the creek”).
That’s funny! Yes, as a Canadian I can confirm that snow is cold haha! But I’m afraid we’ve got to wrap this up. Any final takeaway words or lessons from this book?
Ellen: There’s a line in there: maybe real change isn’t becoming something new but becoming something real. (Or something like that; I can’t remember now!) I think that was the idea I was exploring most. We can be so focused on trying to fix things by turning everything around, but sometimes it’s just about letting go and being authentic, even if it scares you.