Today’s author interview is with Emily Tippetts. She writes under E.M. Tippetts or Emily Mah, depending on which genre she is writing. Emily writes contemporary romance, sci-fi and fantasy. Her blog is www.emtippetts.blogspot.com. You can find her many books on www.amazon.com.
1. Your first book was Time and Eternity. What made you write that book?
At the time I was working exclusively on a career in science fiction and fantasy writing, but it occurred to me that if I branched out and took on a pen name, I could get a book published in a smaller, less competitive market. So I decided to try the LDS market and romance. I wrote the best romance I could and after a couple tries, sold it to an LDS publisher, and that began my romance career. It was originally an experiment, but I guess you could say, five books later, that experiment's still running.
2. Who or what was your inspiration?
I'd read enough LDS books to be a little irritated with the common trope that God makes life easier. I mean no disrespect to the Lord - quite the opposite, actually - when I say He does not. He can take some of the sharp edges off, but quite often the trials we face are personal gifts from Him, and they're difficult. I was tired of reading about God as the knight in shining armor that rescues the protagonist, so I wrote a story that felt more honest to me. My main character, Alice O'Donnell, prays about a problem and gets an answer, and that is where her problems begin. Her life is so much more complicated after that experience, and it's the ultimate trial of her faith.
3. How long have you been writing for?
The literal answer is, for as long as I've been able to hold a pencil, but a more accurate answer might be: I've been writing and trying to get published for about twelve years now. I began to try to write professionaly when I went to the Clarion West Writers Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy in 2001. From then it took me five years to make my first professional sale, though the upside there is that it was a professional sale, meaning I earned a professional rate per word. My first novel sold a year after that, and then I continued to sell short stories on up through today. I began indie publishing my romance novels in 2011.
4. What makes this story stand out from other contemporary romances?
Mainstream contemporary romances don't often include religious elements at all, so in that respect it stands out in the national market. More precisely, though, it stands out in the religious/ inspirational market because it's about a crisis of faith and the difficulty that comes with trying to live with a relationship with deity. And yet it's very much a faith affirming book. I think we can acknowledge religion is difficult without putting it down in any way.
5. Did you write it for a specific audience, or was it just a story that needed to be told?
I wrote it for the LDS audience, but I tried to write from a perspective they wouldn't have heard much of before. I wrote it from a convert's perspective, detailing all of the unusual culture quirks of Mormonism and I gave a realistic portrayal of what it's like to have a spiritual experience but have no family or close friends to turn to because they don't share your faith. I hope it gave readers in the mountain west a new point of view on our faith.
6. Most authors pick a genre to write in and stick to that. What made you choose to write in three different categories?
I think most authors take on a pen name when they switch genres, for sound marketing reasons, so actually a lot of us write in multiple ones. My reason for branching out was to get published. I figured that I had a better shot if I tried multiple markets than if I only focused on one.
7. Which is your favorite category to write for and why?
Honestly, I don't have one. There are pros and cons to them all. I started out in science fiction and I think that category shaped my views on writing the most. It taught me that there is great power in being underestimated, to not be afraid of looking like you blend in and subversively sticking out. A lot of people read and watch science fiction purely for entertainment, thinking it's all about big explosions and over the top special effects, and yet it's science fiction that has broken the most norms in mainstream society, I'd argue. Last year at the Nebulas (awards given by the Science Fiction Writers of America), the keynote speaker was Astronaut Michael Fincke, and he's first line was, something along the lines of, "I want to tell you guys all a secret. That stuff you make up? We buy it, completely." He argued that space exploration wouldn't exist without the creativity of forward thinking science fiction authors.
8. Is writing your first passion or did you do something else before you published your first book?
Writing is my passion. To pay the bills I went to law school and worked as a lawyer, and I'll always have that as a fallback, but I do it purely for the money. I'd much rather be writing.
9. Why did you give that up?
I married and moved to a small town where the only work available was very hard on the psyche. It's difficult being privy to a small town's secrets and issues. If I needed the money badly enough, I'd keep working, but for now I am a full time mommy and writer. At this exact moment, I'm in the UK where I don't have a law license. Getting one on top of paying for child care would cost enough to negate any earnings I brought in, I think!
10. Do you have a supportive family when it comes to your writing?
Extremely. My husband and parents have always understood that this is what I wanted to do, and are fully supportive. Nobody's told me I need to grow up or let it go or anything like that. I think getting a professional degree and working as a lawyer showed people that I'm not workshy or lazy. I'm not writing because I live in la-la land and don't really know how life works. No, I get all that. But any opportunity I see to pursue my dreams, I take. People who don't live to regret it.
11. Tell us about your new book/series and what the most important message we should get from it.
My latest book is LOVE IN DARKNESS and it's the second book in the SHATTERED CASTLES series, which takes place in a fictional small town in northern California. In the first book, CASTLES ON THE SAND, the main character is Madison, a young woman who is overlooked and unloved until a missionary comes to town and reveals himself to be her older brother. He then gets involved with her life and helps her see her true worth. LOVE IN DARKNESS takes place two years later, after Madison's served her mission, and it's told from the perspective of her boyfriend, Alex, who inherits his mother's schizophrenia and has a psychotic break on his own mission in Japan. He believes that the kindest thing to do is to let Madison go, while Madison tries to show him that he deserves her love, no matter how difficult their life together might be. They're both rather dark books; I wrote them during a melancholy year when a couple of childhood friends passed away. Writing was part of how I dealt with that.
Thank you for your time today, Emily. We certainly do appreciate you stopping by and answering some questions.
Thanks so much for having me, Brenda!