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Interview with Deb Elkink, author of ‘The Third Grace’

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When author and city-slicker Deb Elkink fell in love and married an introverted cowboy, she moved from her bright lights to his isolated cattle ranch far off in the prairie grasslands. Still—between learning to pilot a light aircraft, sewing for a costume rental store, and cooking for branding crews of a hundred—Deb graduated with a B.A. in Communications from Bethel University in St. Paul, MN; she also holds an M.A. in Theology (both summa cum laude).

Her award-winning debut novel, THE THIRD GRACE, is set in the contrasting locales of Parisian street and Nebraskan farmyard, and incorporates Greek mythology and aesthetics with the personal search for self. Her writing has been described as “layered and sumptuous,” “compelling,” and “satisfying.”

Visit her website at www.DebElkink.com.

Friend her at Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#!/deb.elkink.

Q: Welcome to Beyond the Books, Deb.  Can we start out by you telling us, are you published for the first time or are you multi-published?

Thanks for your invitation. The Third Grace is my debut novel and, like the mommy of a first baby, I love talking about her!

Q: When you were published for the first time, which route did you go – mainstream, small press, vanity published or self-published – and why or how did you choose this route?

Greenbrier Books is a fairly new and small press out of North Carolina, introduced to me by my agent. It’s a royalty-paying house but not traditional in that it doesn’t stock store shelves, instead distributing high-quality print and eBook versions through most online booksellers. I’ve been satisfied with my inauguration into the publishing world, as Greenbrier has maintained a good and personal relationship with me, “holding my hand” through the whole scary process.

Q: How long did it take you to get published once you signed the contract?

I signed the publishing contract in early July and the book was released five months later, on December 1, 2011.

Q: How did it make you feel to become published for the first time and how did you celebrate?

I vividly recall holding the advance reader copy of The Third Grace in my hand for the first time. I’d been driving alone in my car after visiting my rural post office, with the package from the publisher still sealed shut on the seat next to me. I was thinking I’d wait till I got to town to fondle the book, but I was trembling with anticipation, and decided I’d better stop speeding and just pull over to open the box. When I caught sight of the glossy cover art and flipped the pages, while sitting there on the side of the highway, with semi-trailers screaming by and shaking the wind out of me, I couldn’t hold back—I jumped out of the car and whooped and danced with pure, unmitigated delight at seeing that novel in print. It was glorious! On a wintry evening a few months after that, with stacks of the official novel ready to sign, I celebrated with a proper book launch party at the finest arts venue in our small city. I invited the whole world to it, and allmost a hundred friends showed up (not bad, I thought). I wore very high heels and a clever little “fascinator” hat of black feathers and netting to set the tone.

Q: What was the first thing you did as far as promotion when you were published for the first time?

Of course, I contacted local news outlets as well as announcing the publication on my social media sites. I began to promote The Third Grace through speaking engagements and signings. I also entered the novel in a contest and was delighted to receive a prestigious prize (the Grace Irwin Award of $5,000 for the “top pick” of entered books published in 2011), which has given me some exposure and also funds to hire a publicist.

Q: Since you’ve been published, how have you grown as a writer and now a published author?

My confidence has grown. I was raised under a prolific artist—my mom still paints almost every day, and her work is visually beautiful, able to be fully appreciated the moment the viewer sets eyes on it. But with a novel, it’s different. The reader needs to invest significant time in analysis, and this means the writer, breath held, must be patient in learning how the work will be received. The publication of The Third Grace—and especially the win of a significant literary award—has given me the gift of validation by my peers. I’m much more secure in my wiring abilities as I work on my second novel, believing in the likelihood of its publication. I expect the first novel to act as a stepping-stone for my next one.

Q: What has surprised or amazed you about the publishing industry as a whole?

Before I was a published author, I didn’t realize how rigidly the industry observed genre; that is, I thought that if I just wrote a “good” story, an editor somewhere would find it engaging and put it into print. You know—I believed that if I worked hard, I’d be rewarded. Not so! Many excellent books by fantastic writers remain unpublished. I now see the necessity of an agent to ensure that the manuscript—clearly labeled as to category and target market—is put into the hands of the correct publisher, in the proper format, at just the right time. Writing a good story is only the beginning of success!

Q: What is the most rewarding thing about being a published author?

At first blush, it’s the accomplishment of meeting a goal and the encouragement to keep on writing. And then, I admit to being a little surprised at the notoriety I suddenly have; starry-eyed strangers are asking for my signature! This means I have the new responsibility of properly representing myself and what I’m all about, because I now have a growing readership that will hold me accountable for my words and actions—an obligation I hold seriously.

Q: Any final words for writers who dream of being published one day?

I say: Go to a writers’ conference! Becoming connected with other “real” writers and agents and editors was instrumental in pushing me to complete the novel to industry standards and meet the practitioners who could get the book into print. I’ve found acquisition editors and agents and publicists to be eager and friendly—they’re honestly just looking for the next new author, and it might be you! But you need to go where they congregate.


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