Laura A H Elliott - Creating an Absolutely Unique and Captivating World
Laura's love for story and travel began in the Amazon where she grew up waterskiing with piranha while learning of head hunters and curses. Her passions include sailing, food, trekking, humanitarian work, learning new languages, family, and playing guitar. No matter the language barrier, perceived danger, altitude, squalls, fashion faux pas, or ingested gluten, she writes to inspire. Months at sea is her happy place. Check out Laurasmagicday.com for her latest adventures.
Please give us a short introduction to what the book is about.
13 on Halloween, book 1 of the Shadow Series, opens with a girl named Roxie who is obsessed with being “popular” and wanting her crush to notice her. It’s about what it’s like to be 13 and all the fun and agony of middle school, what it means to fit in, what it means to be yourself and what it means to receive a gift that is literally out of this world.
What inspired you to write about someone who is celebrating her 13th birthday on Halloween?
I loved Halloween when I was Roxie’s age. My middle school put on a Halloween Carnival every year and since I grew up just outside of Chicago those days could be cold, so the carnival was held inside the school. I’ll never forget that Miss Kelly’s room (my favorite teacher) hosted the “Mystery Hand” every year. It was scary walking up to the huge booth, decorated like a haunted house with several openings covered with “curtains”. A single bell hung there. I got to ring the bell when it was my turn. When I did, the “Mystery Hand” appeared! You never knew which window it would pop out of and the hand was ugly, lots of warts and “bloody” too (it was just a rubber hand but it looked so ghoulishly real!). The hand dropped a treat into my basket and I’m sure I screamed. I was usually there with my two best friends. I always had a fascination with the holiday, so much so I became a ghost! Ghostwriter that is.
All I had when I began 13 on Halloween were a few scribbles about how I wanted to explore a girl’s unluckiest year, which in my mind was her 13th year during Halloween which is a time of year that I enoy. There were many challenges along the way. I knew I wanted to have Roxie, the snarky 12-going-on-13-year-old, to be funny and to see the world through the Animal Kingdom. I wanted to explore how this would affect her perceptions of the world and her changing role in it. And I also wanted to explore the idea...what if everyone born on Halloween were different? And what if one girl out of all the “Halloween babies” was the most special. Who would she be and why?
At the time I wrote 13 on Halloween, I lived very close to the ocean, just as I do now. I’d go on long walks in a town called Pacific Grove, CA haunted by literary greats who lived there before me––John Steinbeck, Joseph Campbell, and Robinson Jeffers. And they kept me company on my long walks when I was trying to sort out the plot and characters.
Tell us more about Roxie. What makes her so special?
Roxie is pretty selfish in book 1, very immature and funny. She’s like a lot of us sometimes. We want what we want when we want it and are at times willing to risk everything to get it. And yet, there’s something about her that is incredibly brave. Something we all wish we could be, especially when life calls us to rise to a great challenge. I like to think Roxie is like all of us. Sometimes we do the brave thing, not because we want to but because it’s who we are.
Why do you write for tweens and young adults? What drew you to this audience?
The stories of middle school and high school are some of life’s most dramatic. It’s a time when we come of age. And I believe that coming of age happens during our entire lifetime. We are always becoming, constantly changing. For that reason, stories written for tween and young adults also resonate on a deep level for all ages. No other period in life causes as much transformation as the tween and teenage years. Tween’s and teen’s jobs are to discover who they are and understand their own hopes and dreams apart from what their family desires for them. It’s their job to be disrupters even as they have to learn how to adapt. It’s a paradox I enjoy exploring and writing about because I have a soft spot in my heart for the age when we first learn to not let circumstances or other people define us.
Besides writing, what other secret skills do you have?
I enjoy sailing and boating. I just got back from spending 90 days at sea and love writing aboard our boat Blue Moon. Nature is a great muse, so is my dog Lucy (she really likes the way Roxie sees the world).
Why did you decide to add Planet Popular to the mix?
I wanted to explore having Roxie’s dream come true in a rapid way. What would it be like to have the mind of a 13-year-old in the body of a 17-year-old and get everything you always wanted, but nothing was as it seemed? I wanted to explore longing and self-awareness. Also, I just thought it would be fun.
Rosie uses animals to describe people. Why did you create her this way?
It’s fun and unusual, and I liked a girl who loved animals so much that it became the way she saw the world. I believe that we all have our own language. What’s your language? Every teenager I know has their own special way they talk with their friends. I wanted to write a character like every teenager, only a little over-the-top. Roxie uses animals as verbs (most of the time). The idea for it came from one of my sayings, “hamstering”, which I say when I’m doing a lot of things but not getting very far (a la hamster wheel). And so Roxie Speak was born. I thought it might be fun.
Any amusing story that happened to you as an author?
Yes, famous people seem to bump into me a lot Once at a SCBWI Conference (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) I had a Judy Blume moment. The ballroom at the Century Plaza hotel in LA was packed after a luncheon and we were all just funneling through the place to get to our breakout workshops when Judy grabbed me by the arm and looked a bit panicked and said, “Is this the only way down?” And I said “Yes!” And well, I didn’t get to say what I really wanted to say to Judy, but I did in a post I wrote here:) All the people around me said...I bet you’ll never wash your elbow (where she grabbed me) again:)
The second time I was in Nepal helping at a dental clinic when I was taking a break for tea like we did every morning at 10 AM. During that moment a lovely woman came up to shake our hands and thank us for the work we were doing in the village. That woman was Jane Goodall. I talk more about it on The Good Story Podcast https://www.goodstorypodcast.com/episodes/laura-elliott/transcript.
What are you working on right now?
I’m working on a WWII story and book 3 and 4 of The Shadow Series. I began the series a long time ago, (13 on Halloween was written in 2010). I’m back into it now and am excited to complete Roxie’s journey.
Where can our readers discover more of your work or interact with you?
Thank you so much for asking. You can visit Laurasmagicday.com to check out my ghostly capers and follow me on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/laurasmagicday/, Facebook https://www.facebook.com/Laura.A.H.Elliott, and LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/lauraelliott/ too.