Monday, June 3, 2013

10 Follow-Up Questions with RomCom Novelist Elle Lothlorien (@ElleLothlorien)

This Author Spotlight features a return visit with Amazon bestselling author
Elle Lothlorien.

This is a follow-up interview, but for people who are not already familiar with your work, tell us what kind of books you write.

Currently, I write what has been described as “smart contemporary romantic comedy.”

As you can probably tell by the titles, all of my novels are modern retellings loosely based on fairy tales and children’s stories: The Frog Prince, Sleeping Beauty, the “alternate-ending version” Sleeping Beauty WAKES UP! and Alice in Wonderland. Yes, it’s difficult to drop them into one specific sub-genre of romance—at one point I thought “mysterious, contemporary romantic-hoot” would work swell but was told that the category didn’t exist—but it keeps things interesting for both writer and reader since the stories are very different from each other.

What these stories have in common is that they’re definitely stories for grown-ups, not children! Despite being categorized on Amazon in the adult fiction section, every once in a while a review will pop up by a disgruntled reader who bought one or the other of them for their kids or grandkids!


What should readers expect from your stories?

Readers can always expect unique love stories with fun, funny and interesting protagonists, lots of humor, and, of course, romance. Since my books are all “loose riffs” on children’s stories and fairy tales, I try to infuse the adult, modern versions with the flavor of the source material. As a result, The Frog Prince is magical and royally fun and Alice in Wonderland is delightfully disorienting (at first anyway). 

Rather than using the “cleaned-up” Grimms Brothers or Perreault versions of what we now know as “Sleeping Beauty,” I elected to go further back to Giambattista Basile's account “Sun, Moon, and Talia.” And trust me: the originals were nothing that Disney would recognize. Instead of a beautiful princess being awakened with a kiss, Basile’s version tells of a nobleman who takes advantage of a beautiful princess while she sleeps (or is even dead, in some retellings). As a result, my version is equal parts funny and dark; formulaic and daring; a hint of sexy with a pinch of erotic.

I read on that you were working on an enhanced content project. Can you tell us anything more about that?

It’s done! In fact, if your readers are interested in seeing what the fuss is all about they can download a copy of Sleeping Beauty which is FREE in the Kindle Store today through Wednesday June 5.

Here’s how I describe the project to those who haven’t heard of enhanced content: Imagine you’re reading a book where all the characters are gathered around to watch a memorial service video and that this video not only contains a photograph montage of the deceased but also impromptu eulogies from two friends—all of it synched to the song. Like anyone can tell you who’s been to a memorial service in the last ten years, video montages of the deceased are all the rage…rightly so. There’s a reason that “a picture is worth 1,000 words.”

Of course, you’ve probably read this type of scene in a book before and I can tell you that as an author it’s one of the most difficult types of scenes to write. Why is that? Well, describing one photograph is simply a matter of one or two sentences of prose. When you’re talking about describing twenty-five photographs that flash by, one after the other in a video montage, what’s an author to do? You can’t very well expect a reader to choke their way through multiple paragraphs of photograph descriptions.

And as for music, well, you know what they say about that: “Writing about music is like dancing about architecture.” Prose simply can’t capture the emotion, the essence of music.

But imagine that instead of reading a description of the video, you are able to watch the video and hear the music with everyone else at the memorial service. This isn’t like any other enhanced content you’ve seen before (if you’ve even seen it before, though there has been precious little to compare it to with the exception of “how-to” nonfiction books).

This past December, I decided that, given the improvements in tablets and e-readers—and especially with Amazon’s announcement that it will soon release updates for the Kindle Fire that will enable video to play within the e-book itself—it was time. I found the best directors, producers, and musicians and pulled them all together for an experience that will, I think, surprise you.

Of course, there are readers who are not excited about the prospect of anything besides the written word invading their reading experience, and I get that—I really do. Fear not, because I’ve anticipated the needs of those readers as well. If a reader would rather not access the enhanced content, they can simply click a link that skips the video and allows them to go on and read the prose version of the video. The reader misses no part of the story by skipping the interactive content and everyone wins.

What is your latest novel, Rapunzel, about?

Rapunzel, which comes out later this month, is about Amberlie Fairfax, a ward of the ultra-wealthy wig magnate, Dame Gothel. Now in her late 20s, Nima yearns to escape her Jane-Austen-in-training lifestyle and create her own life, preferably one without a single wig in sight. When she finally works up the courage to confront her, her guardian’s rage is severe. Still, Amberlie thinks that “the Damn Dame” took it rather well…until the next morning. That’s when she finds she’s being held prisoner in one of Dame Gothel’s elaborate re-creations of the year 1770, complete with Julius Cavendish, a man who looks like he wandered off a Hugo Boss photo shoot to take part in the farce. Amberlie plays along with the ruse even as she plots an elaborate escape. But when it’s time to put her plan into action, she finds that there may be something besides her guardian’s insane machinations or her feelings for Julius keeping her from leaving Gothel’s eighteenth-century fantasy world.

What was the duration of the writing process for Rapunzel?

Rapunzel was a longer process than Alice in Wonderland. The latter was completed in a whirlwind thirty-seven days (literally—the last few chapters were written in New York City, where I got trapped by Hurricane Sandy!). I started Rapunzel in the fall of 2011 and meant it to be my third book. However, I got sidetracked, first by Sleeping Beauty Wakes Up, and then by Alice in Wonderland, which I was inspired to write after a two-week trip to Australia in August 2012. As a result, the novel has been in progress on and off for over a year-and-a-half! I am confident that it will be out this month.

When Rapunzel is adapted to film, and the producers ask for your dream cast, what will you say?

Ah, hell, I’ll share all of them with you if you want. My fans have always been very generous with suggestions (even for books that haven’t come out yet).

The Frog Prince (from top left)
Roman Habsburg von Lorraine: Colin Egglesfield
Leigh Fromm: Ashley Green
Kat: Candice Accola
Princess Menen Salassie: Judith Shekoni
Princess Isabella of Denmark: Olivia Wilde
Jason Stiebler: Ian Somerhalder
Elfriede Habsburg von Lorraine: Frances Conner

Sleeping Beauty (left to right)
Claire Beau: Hayden Panettiere
Dr. Brendan Charmant: Jamie Bamber
Davin Wibbens: Kevin Zegers
West Beau: Chord Overstreet
Lt. Colonel James “Gray” Grayson: Dove Meir
Revnor “Rev” Carlin: Tyler Cook

Alice in Wonderland (left to right)
Alice Faye Dahl / Marilyn Monroe “Munny” Dahl / Marlene Dietrich “Dee” Dahl: Emma Stone
Lapin “Rabbit” Montgomery: Alex Pettyfer
Souris “Mouse” Montgomery: Jennifer Lawrence
Haimeko “Queenie-baby” Tanaka: Isabella Leung
Clark Gable “Gabe” Dahl: Kellan Lutz

Rapunzel (left to right)
Amberlie Fairfax: Amanda Seyfried
Julius “Jules” Cavendish: Taylor Kitsch
Dame Gothel: Dame Judi Dench
Cosmo: Lindsay Lohan (if she can stay sober and stop getting freaky stuff injected into her face; luckily it’s a small part)

I love actors who are able to show chemistry and also really portray whimsy because there are a lot of hilarious things going on in these novels. Being a gorgeous face and figure just isn’t enough.

Stephen King often makes a cameo in films adapted from his work. Stan Lee is also enjoying doing so these days. What supporting role would you like to play in the film adaptation of Rapunzel?

Oh, wow, I don’t know. Maybe I could be one of the dancers at the ball hosted by the Duke of Devonshire in Rapunzel. I love ballroom dancing! As long as it’s a role without a whole lot of talking, I’d be fine with it.

For a writer, word of mouth is everything. What was the last book you read that you enjoyed so much that you wanted to share it with everyone you know?

Oh, my God, I loved, Loved, LOVED The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

It is one of those works of art that everyone wishes they could create. This book is going on my literal bookshelf, it’s that great. Normally, when I finish reading a paperback novel, I will give it away so someone else can enjoy it. This time, I’m selfish enough to keep the book for myself.

In fact, here is the review I wrote for it (on Goodreads):

"The circus arrives without warning."

This is the first line of Erin Morgenstern's truly magical book THE NIGHT CIRCUS, and I don't know whether to cry tears of joy that a story this exquisite and wondrous exists in the universe or scream with envy that however gifted a writer one may be, there is always--ALWAYS--someone better than you, and you must simply accept that however you might further develop your talent and craft in the coming years, you will likely never reach the heights that this artist has reached in her debut novel.

Would YOU like it? That's hard to say. I am a child of fantasy, a dreamer, a Rêveur, raised on Through the Looking Glass and nursed on Lord of the Rings. Anyone with a Chronicles of Narnia heart, a Dragonriders of Pern mind and a Harry Potter soul will adore this book. Everyone else should probably just keep on browsing...

Oh, how I wish someone would invent Le Cirque des Rêves! I would become a Rêveurs as quick as you can say, "Would you please hand me my red scarf?" If you decide to take a chance, you may just decide that magic is real and everything else in the world is the illusion. As the last line of THE NIGHT CIRCUS reads: "You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream."

As of this writing, the trend in publishing is toward series novels as opposed to stand-alone books. Is Rapunzel part of a series? If not, do you have a series you’ve written or plan to write, and if so, what is it?

Series work out well for many authors. I find that I tend to prefer a more direct story and a satisfying finish—all wrapped up in one book. My novels are sometimes erroneously referred to as a series because of the “loose riff on a fairy tale” theme, but they’re not. Each novel is a standalone story with new characters. However, I did recently decide to begin two unusual projects (for me, anyway) after Rapunzel:

1. Turnabout is fair play.
Since The Frog Prince was published in July 2010, I’ve received hundreds of requests for a sequel but I’ve always believed that no sequel is better than a bad sequel. Frankly, I just couldn’t think of an original plot or conflict for a Book 2 that would be worth writing about.

That’s when a fan on my Facebook page suggested that I do a Midnight Sun-like project for The Frog Prince. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Midnight Sun, it’s the Twilight story…told from Edward’s point of view. Stephanie Meyers abandoned it about half-way through after one of her friends leaked it on the internet but she put it on her website so you can still read as much as she wrote before she quit. I actually enjoyed Midnight Sun far more than I did Twilight. Reading about the man’s motivations in courting the woman was far more interesting to read about than the other way around.

When I read her suggestion that I re-write The Frog Prince from Roman Habsburg von Lorraine’s point of view—well, let’s just say that I sat up a little straighter and I was DEFINITELY interested! In any case, I will plan to begin that project (so far untitled) after Rapunzel is out later this month. (I jokingly refer to it as Prince Frog The, but I’m pretty sure that will not be the final title.)

2. Mirror, Mirror, on the Wall

After I finish the Frog Prince re-telling, I plan to write (gasp!) a sequel to Alice in Wonderland called (naturally) Through the Looking Glass. I hope to have it out by the end of the year. I really had a great time writing Alice in Wonderland and since there was a sequel to Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland, it doesn’t feel contrived, just natural—like planning a reunion with old friends.

Saul Bellow said “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write.” Where do ideas for your books come from, and where are you and what are you typically doing when inspiration strikes?

Strangely enough, the very first book I ever started to write (but never finished) was a literary novel. I woke up in the middle of the night while I was living outside Aspen, Colorado with an idea that was so clear and an urge that was so powerful that I got up, wrapped myself in a down comforter, opened up my laptop and started writing it right then. That turned out to be a one-time thing and there were plenty of things about that novel (including the part I wrote in the middle of the night) that needed to be changed.

My ideas come to me mostly when I’m driving, believe it or not. I was listening to a story about Sleeping Beauty Syndrome on NPR while driving home from work one day when I came up with the idea for Sleeping Beauty.

For Alice in Wonderland, I remember I had just dropped my daughter off at some high school away game and was driving home when I came up with the idea for it. I was just kind of daydreaming and began thinking of playing cards, which made me think of the playing cards in the Disney animated movie Alice in Wonderland—which made me think of poker! Voila! A plot.

I was dating a guy who lived in Boulder a couple of years ago and was on Highway 36 to meet him when I thought of the idea for Rapunzel. I’d just watched the movie “The Duchess” at home a few days before and I was recalling those enormous wigs the women wore then, which got me to thinking about wigs today and boom! By the time I reached Boulder, I had a main character and the beginnings of a plot.

I think the reason ideas come to me while I drive is that my mind is in more of a passive, receptive mode, especially if I’m driving on open highway. It’s very much like that extremely lucid state you are in the micro-second before you fall asleep.

Saul Bellow said, “You never have to change anything you got up in the middle of the night to write”? Well, Elle Lothlorien says, “You never have to change anything you plot while driving.”

Brett Easton Ellis once said, “Do not write a novel for praise. Write for yourself; work out between you and your pen the things that intrigue you.”

Indie publishing phenom Amanda Hocking has said that it messed with her head a bit when she realized so many people were going to read the books she’s now writing.

Now that Elle Lothlorien is rapidly gaining recognition in the publishing world, has an established fan base anticipating her next novel, and is being talked about in the highly-reverent third person, will reader expectation influence how and/or what she writes? Or will she hold to Ellis’ suggestion?

Speaking only for myself, the difficulty with self-publishing is that once you get a taste of full creative control, it’s really—really—hard to give it up. Of course, like any author, I want readers to enjoy my novels, but I can’t do anything but purge the stories from my head in the most honest way I know. Do I think about what readers might or might not like as I write the next one? Hell, no! If I did that, the books would never be finished. Like a good author friend of mine once posted on his Facebook page: “People think that I’m not working because I’m just sitting here staring at the computer screen. In reality, I’m just trying to figure out what the @#$% happens next.” Agreed! Look, it’s hard enough to relax enough to let the story flow through you without trying to decide what a majority of tens of thousands of readers might like.

The world of self-published authors is the new slush pile. What are you going to say/do when a traditional New York publisher and/or agent contacts you and asks for a meeting?

Well, my self-publishing successes have already led to agent offers. Janet Reid (aka “the Query Shark”) with Fine Print Lit was my agent from September 2011 through December 2012 when we amicably parted ways (I love her to pieces and she actually took the trouble to query her agent buddies on my behalf to find me a new agent!). In January of this year, I signed with Kim Lionetti at BookEnds, LLC. The books are all out on submission and we’ve already heard positive things from one Big Six Publisher.

The strange thing is that five years ago I would’ve sold my soul (or at least pawned it) for a Big Six traditional publishing deal. Now, after having successfully self-published for almost three years, I no longer have a Day Job (also known among authors as “backup income”). It’s a little difficult to just walk away from your income stream to sign a traditional contract that is unlikely to cover your living expenses until the time you pay out your advance. Additionally, once you sign a contract, the publishers own your e-book rights and they will immediately remove your e-books from Amazon and every other retailer where it may be for sale until they’ve worked the novels over, changed the cover, etc. That can take over a year! In that time, a self-published author runs the enormous risk of their fan base simply melting away.

Ideally, I hope to negotiate a print-only deal, which will allow me to retain my e-book rights but will give me access to the distribution channels via a Big Six publisher that will get my books into brick and mortar bookstores.

Where do you want your writing career to be in five years’ time?

Once upon a time, I spent a long, hot summer locating underground utilities. The grandfatherly man who trained me said something that has stuck with me until this day: “Plan your work and work your plan.” Although my business plan changes (sometimes daily!) as the world of publishing undergoes a revolution, in five years I hope to be one of the self-published authors leading the way for other authors to retain, manage and monetize not just their print and e-book rights, but their extremely valuable subsidiary rights –foreign, audio, entertainment and merchandising—rather than signing them away once their books become bestsellers.

Finally, because no artistic endeavor is a solo flight, would you care to share the names and contact info for your supporting players, namely your cover designer, editor, proofreader(s), research assistants, hairdresser, dog groomer, chauffer, maid, butler, etc?

Cover designer:

Me. Turns out I’m pretty good at it (and it’s hella fun).


See editors above. Oh, and you forgot beta-readers. I ask five random friends or fans who I can trust to criticize to beta-read each novel before it makes it to my editors.

Research assistants:

Me. You can pry my research out of my cold, dead fingers. It’s the main reason I love to write!

Hair dresser:

I’ve cut and colored my own hair since I was 20 years old. I’ve had too many unfortunate mishaps, even at high-end salons, to take any more chances.

Dog groomer:

I own a miniature, short-haired red dachshund named Bacon Bourgeois, Legendary Wiener. He is a hero on my Facebook page. I bathe him and cut his nails myself. I leave the expressing of the anal glands to the vet. (Hey, I can’t think of a better use of $18 than that.)


Me and my 2001 Honda CRV


Elle Lothlorien (infrequently); her son, The Boy (even less frequently) and Elle’s mother (who cleans more than the two of us put together, bless her heart).


No thanks. When I see creepy semi-strange men lurking around the doorways of my house, I think “restraining order” not “man servant.”

Thanks, Elle!

Great work on your novels and congratulations on your success. Continue planning your work and working your plan.

Best of luck with Rapunzel. I'm sure it will be a success.

Be sure to follow Elle on Twitter, check out her website, and read the first interview we did together HERE

And purchase her books in both Ebook and paperback below:

Note: Sleeping Beauty and Sleeping Beauty WAKES UP! are FREE for Kindle through Tuesday 6/4/13. Download your free copies now.



  1. Wow! I'm the first have the honor of commenting. I first heard of Elle from Alexandra Sokoloff, an author I admire a great deal. I've since read each of Elle's book, I enjoyed them all. I haven't watched the video yet but I will. I like to think of myself as an author but I have a very long way to go. I wish I could sound/seem as intelligent as Elle. She is stunning and smart and talented. Now, I'm off to Amazon to buy "The Night Circus". The book can't get a better recommendation. I understand Elle's feeling of keeping the book that meant so much to her on her shelf. The book that did that for me is "The Memories We Keep" by Walter Zacchius. It is amazing. I bought it. I loaned it and didn't get it back. I bought another copy and refuse to loan it out. I really look forward to the movies based on Elle's books.

  2. Thanks for sharing, Winona. I'll definitely go have a look at The Memories We Keep per your glowing recommendation.

    Thanks again!