Wednesday 24 October 2012


When did you first consider yourself as a “writer”? 

When I finished my first full-length book.  It was the process of writing a first draft, editing, re-editing, and then giving it over to others for objective criticism that made me feel like a writer.  It was like an initiation into a club.

What is the name of your latest book, and if you had to summarize it in less than 20 words, what would you say?
Atomic Summer - THREE friends, TWO secrets, ONE lie, and the summer in 1953 that changed their lives.

What can we expect from you in the future? i.e. More books of the same genre?  Books of a different genre?
More women’s fiction.  I will be releasing my second novel, Restoration, next summer.
After reading some of my daughter’s YA fiction, I realized that YA fiction readers would also enjoy Atomic Summer.  She hasn’t read it yet, because after all, I’m Mom to her and how could I possibly entertain her with my prose. 

What made you decide to write that genre of books?
People fascinate me and I’m fascinated by the complexities of relationships, so that is what I write.  I put my characters in situations and see how they navigate through them.  Creating characters a reader can connect with, cheer on, relate too, feel sympathy toward, or even hate, are what make stories so compelling.  People want to connect with other people.  Think about the recent Olympic coverage.  It was peppered with personal interest vignettes about the athletes because viewers are interested in learning about the people behind the events.

Do you choose a title first, or write the book then choose the title?
I write first and somewhere along the way the title comes to me.  In the beginning, I have a working title I use so I can save the file on my computer by the working title name.  The working title for Atomic Summer was The Truth About Lies.  It doesn’t quite have the punch Atomic Summer does, does it?

How do you come up with character names and places in your book?
Sometimes, I know right off the bat what the names should be because the name fits the character I’m imagining.  Other times, just as with the title, the final character names come to me as I’m going through the editing process because they fit with the story.  In Atomic Summer, three of the characters, who are brothers and a sister, were named after saints.  One of the saint names ends up being prophetic in what happens to that character, so I had to do my history homework.  Places in the book are places I have lived and am familiar with which helps me create a sense of place and setting that is authentic for the reader.

Do you decide on character traits before writing the whole book or as you go along?
I flesh out my characters before I begin writing.  Since my stories are character driven, I have to know them really well before we journey off together into the story. 

Do you plot/plan your book before you actually begin writing, or do you let the writing flow and see where it takes the story?
I have a destination in mind and sketch out scenes that will get me there, but my characters steer the story.  They take me down roads that I don't see when I first start writing.  Instead of forcing a situation on a character to make the story work, the situation unfolds because my characters present them to me based on who they are and what motivates them. 
Are there any hidden messages or morals contained in your books?
No, but there are universal questions asked and experienced through the characters that many of us ask ourselves at different points in our lives.  Atomic Summer is a coming of age story with three teenage girls growing up in the anxiety-riddled times of 1953.  They struggle with faith, friendships, and their burgeoning sexuality, as well as struggling between conforming to and rebelling against the norms of the times.

If you could invite three favorite writers to dinner, who would you invite and enjoy chatting with?
Anne Frank - She was an ordinary girl growing up and living under extraordinary circumstances.  When I was a young girl, I was mesmerized by both her diary and the story around her years in hiding and the helpers who aided those in hiding.  Visiting her hiding place in Amsterdam is on my bucket list, so she has to be on my invitation list.
Shakespeare - He wrote during one of my favorite periods in history, so besides wanting to talk with him about his craft, I would love to hear about his experiences living in the Elizabethan Age.
Pat Conroy - I love his books and how he draws upon his own experiences when writing them.  His life is just as interesting as his stories and I would enjoy the opportunity to ask him the one hundred questions that have crossed my mind while reading his books.

Where can readers follow you?

Twitter: @ElaineDWalsh

Any other information you wish to supply?
100% of the profits from my book sale royalties in 2012 will be donated to cancer related causes and charities.  It was my mother’s story about her and her friend’s conversations about what each of them would do if the end of the world was imminent that was the creative spark for Atomic Summer.  My mother lost her battle to cancer and this book is dedicated to her memory.  And as Anne Frank wrote, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

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