Author Interview: Justin Elliott

This month I had the pleasure of interviewing Justin Elliott, author of The Lord of Beasts.

Welcome to Scribe’s writing desk, Justin. Was there a moment in your life that clearly sparked your desire to write?

I think like most people who write I have always had the desire to do so. For as far back as I can remember I have always enjoyed creating worlds, characters, and stories. For years I ploughed my creative energies into role playing games – you know, Dungeons and Dragons and the like – that all changed when I was reading something, I can’t remember exactly what it was now, and I had that thought I’m sure all readers have at one stage or another… ‘I can do better than that.’

So, in 2001 I think it was, I buckled down and wrote a short story called “The Soul Gem” and sent it off to a webzine called ‘The Harrow’ that accepts stories from unpublished authors and they accepted it! That was it, I have been writing seriously (more or less) since then.

It’s impressive that the short story was accepted by the first publisher you sent it too. Well done! Tell us about your latest publication?

Scholastic, New Zealand, published my first novel in July 2008 – and I’m still grinning about it now! It’s a young adult fantasy adventure called “The Lord of Beasts”. It’s about a group of friends who are being hunted by a monstrous faery called a Barghest. The story follows their quest into Faery as they hunt for the one artefact that might give them a chance to survive.

I read The Lord of Beasts several months ago and highly recommend it. Now I’m eager to learn more about the sequel. What project are you working on at the moment?

I’m working, slowly, on the third and last book of the series. I didn’t intend writing a trilogy, honest! But you just have to go where the story takes you. Scholastic have had the second, provisionally called, ‘A Dark Future’ for a while now, but due to staffing changes there have not given me answer, one way or the other yet. I’m expecting to hear from them in the next couple of weeks – so keep your fingers crossed!

I’m also planning a new work, but that’s in the earliest of stages.

I sincerely wish you the best of luck with the trilogy. Do you know how a story will end when you first start writing it?

Ok, I admit it! I’m an outliner. I find that without one my writing gets bogged down and stalls. So, yes, I do know how things are going to end before I start.

For me, my outlines are like a road map used so I don’t get lost as I’m trying to get to the end. The outline is flexible and I have yet to stick to one without changing it more than once. My stories still seem to generate lives of their own and veer off in unexpected directions, but with the outline, I never loose track of where the story is heading… or should be heading.

I’m interested to know how you balance writing with the rest of your life?

I’m not sure balance is the right word, but I do my best not to let either side – real life or writing – take over from the other.

The only real concrete rule I have is that weekends are for family. The other five days a week I try and hit a minimum word count. This is a flexible number I set depending on how busy things are – it usually ranges between 500 – 1000 words a day. I fit writing in when I can – lunch at work, after my son has gone to bed, if my wife, Allison, is working in the evenings – but do at least the limit I have set myself.

I totally agree with that. What advice would you give to a newcomer to writing?

I’m really just a newcomer myself and I’m not really sure how much my advice is worth… the one thing I would say though, through my own experience, is persevere.

If you’ve done all that work to write your story, taken the big and difficult step to submit it, don’t give up at the first rejection. Send the story back out there again, and keep doing that until someone accepts it, or you run out of markets.

I submitted to a number of overseas publishers and agents before Scholastic made their offer, ‘The Lord of Beasts’ would never have been published if I had given up after that first rejection.

What are your writing goals for the future?

I would love to be able to give up the day job and write full time – wouldn’t we all! But more realistically, my goal is to get the ‘Lord of the Beasts’ sequel published. Then I’ll worry about the next one. So that’s it I guess, create a writing career one work at a time!

I like that goal and I look forward to seeing the sequel to The Lord of Beasts on the shelves soon. Thank you for giving me your time and sharing your thoughts.

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