Eloisa James: Channeling Jane
PhD, Professor in Shakespeare at Fordham University in New York
Writes Regency romance, married to an Italian Knight (really!)
1. having motivation for writing is not enough, you need to work at it
2. what you write about has to come from your own life experiences, no matter what genre you write in
Recent article in Wall Street Journal on her ‘dual life’ as a University Professor and best selling Romance Author.
Grew up in a house with no television and 5,000 books. Putting on family performances as a child she always charged parents to attend. One sister always insisted being a princess. One brother always insisted being a train. One brother was too young to take part but parents insisted be included – one time he played train tracks. Eloisa wrote the plays for all her siblings, and they always had a happy ending (the princess got married, the train survived, and everyone lived happily ever after).
Father – Robert Bly – poet. Read Beowulf to them every night doing all the voices and howling as Grendel
– violence, death, tears – Eloisa and her siblings quickly learned these were the key to a good story
Mother was a teacher and writer who didn’t like romance, discouraged her from reading / writing it
When Eloisa started writing, she didn’t know there were rules, didn’t know about RWA (America), did all kinds of things to her heroine which shouldn’t really be done (some were learned by angry letters from writers)
First attempt at writing a book – ‘Passion Slave’ – 560 pages, sent to 45 publishers, rejected by all (including the Sierra Geography Society who said it was ‘frisky’ and they were sorry that it was not in their line)
First published book: Midnight Pleasures – put her fear for pregnancy / losing baby into the book. Was USA Today best seller, and she learned that genuine feelings and emotions conveyed on the page
Told her mother she was writing for the money, it allowed her to talk about what she was doing. While her mother never liked the romance aspects (‘you know I don’t read that’) she did like hearing about the historical details, and so they found some common ground there.
Writing what you know:
When she cries when she is writing a scene, she knows it is a scene with genuine emotion. She thinks the day she stops crying when she writes scenes like that is the day she should stop writing.
Other inclusions from life – daughter’s illness, husband being taken out on a stretcher (possible heart attack), difficult mother. Now her daughter is a teenager, she doesn’t write about babies any more – but she is writing a book with a prickly teenager
One thought on “Keynote address 1: Channeling Jane: Eloisa James”
This person has had a cool life. Very Little Women. I love the train and train tracks as characters!
I’m not a writer but I do agree with the idea of writing what you know. Maybe it translates to craft too, where I’m currently busy trying to find my ‘voice’. I wonder how to apply that idea.