Name Susan Elliston
Where are you from
That is one question that always intrigues me. You see I was born in Malta, my father was in the Royal Navy, and was stationed there at the time. Before I was two we moved to Singapore. I can assure you we never stayed in one place very long. Even after he retired, we moved around the world. So, in a way, my answer would have to be, I am from everywhere.
A little about your self `ie your education Family life etc
By the time I graduated high school in Texas, I had been to 11 schools on three continents. It had always been one of my dreams to be a flight attendant and at the age of nineteen and a half, I got my wings with American Airlines. My travelling never stopped. I met and married a pilot and together we had three children and have forty years of marriage, hopefully with many more to come. For the first thirty years, we followed my husband from one job to another and moved over 35 times. We lived in Africa, Australia and all over The United States. I believe my travelling was the best education one could receive. I certainly use memories from different locations in my writing.
Fiona: Tell us your latest news?
It is exciting to know that my book The Wardrobe has been adapted into a screenplay. At this time it is with a production company who intend to see it developed either for the big screen or cable T.V. While waiting on news about that adventure, I am editing a book. Also, I am doing research for the sequel to The Wardrobe.
Fiona: When and why did you begin writing?
I began seriously writing in the mid-80’s. A story idea had taken root, and I would find myself making notes. But I give credit to my husband for starting me on the writing path me. He purchased me my first computer. All I knew about computers was how to turn them on and off. After that, seeing I was trying to balance raising three children, learn how to use a computer and do research to develop my story, he built me a sun room to escape too and then to my surprise he hired an au pair, to help around the house.
Fiona: When did you consider yourself a writer?
The day I hit those two lovely words, The End. The book was just short of 600 pages. It had taken me many years to research and several trips to New Orleans. From the first word typed to the last was a year long battle between facts and fiction. In the end I succeeded and completed my first romantic historical, time travel. Unfortunately, I was a bit ahead of my time. Epic time travel adventures had not taken hold. I have a bin full of rejection letters from publishers and agents who did not like the subject matter. It was years before I again had the courage to tell a story.
Fiona: What inspired you to write your first book?
That is easy. My love of history. I wanted to share a historical event and write it so the reader would not realize they were actually getting a history lesson. I am proud to say I accomplished my goal.
Fiona: Do you have a specific writing style?
My style is very much like Hemingway’s. I love to keep the stories full of vivid descriptions, using simple words. If the reader says that my book was a page turner, then I know I have down well. One should not have to work at reading a book, rather get lost in the story and when finished, want more.
Fiona: How did you come up with the title?
I have never had trouble with titles. Most times an idea will emerge while researching the story and I will jot down notes and name the file. I then use my notes and try to incorporate the central theme of the story in the title. The book The Wardrobe is a good example of this, as a wardrobe plays a significant role in the storyline.
Fiona: How much of the book is realistic ?
Most of the book is very realistic. The story itself incorporates two historical events. I merely linked them together and came up with the base for the thriller. The locations and folklore are real, and the accounts of both events are as accurate as I could write them. I researched old newspaper articles from The London Times and a variety of news articles in and around New Jersey. By implementing what I learned and reading books on the local superstitions from both locations, I found it gave credence to the story.
Fiona: Are experiences based on someone you know, or events in your own life?
As a child in England, I had a large Wardrobe in my bedroom. The thing terrified me at night. Much later in life, when we lived in Australia, I used that memory to write a three-page horror story for Halloween. I read it to my children and their friends, and I can tell you, not one of them to this day would own a Wardrobe. Even better, from that first time I read the story, all of those that heard it, tell me, they won’t even go to bed with a closet door open. You might say I succeeded beyond all expectations in my attempt to give them a good scary tale. A few years after I wrote those three pages, I sat down and expanded the story. It was the mid-nineties and during research, I read about The Jersey Devil. I also knew the story of The Devil’s Footprints, a strange happening in England that was never solved. From there, I just let my imagination run free. I will tell you that I only worked on the story during the day and swore, once it was completed, I would not write another thriller. Guess I have to rethink that, as readers have been asking for more.
Fiona: What books have influenced your life most? a mentor?
Historical books, paranormal, and real life events always have influenced me. My mentors were authors who I read and enjoyed. I learned from reading a variety of subjects, but it was a work of fiction called Katie McHuholland, which influenced me the most. All of Catherine Cookson’s books use of history to reach her readers, most of which are set in the Victorian era. Through her works I came to appreciate all that I had.
Fiona: What book are you reading now?
I am about to read a Wilbur Smith book. The title is Desert God, and it’s the last book in a series set in ancient Egypt. Chelsea Quinn Yarbro is another author that has influenced me. Her Saint-Germain series has me hooked. The historical accuracy in each book amazes me. In my opinion, they are the best vampire series written.
Fiona: Are there any new authors that have grasped your interest?
Between writing, reading and always doing research, I find that I use my reading time to catch up with my favorite authors. Unless recommended to me, new authors have to squeeze into my hectic life. One author managed to do so, and he is brilliant. Danny Kemp’s book, The Desolate Garden is a work of art. I know that he has optioned the book, with hopes of seeing a film produced. He has also written and completed the sequel, which will be one of my summer reads.
Fiona: What are your current projects?
Well now, let us see. I am almost finished editing a book; that is a historical epic time travel. Book two and three are completed and awaiting their turn. While editing, I am making notes for a sequel to this series. I never thought about a sequel, until discussing the possibility with my son Dylan. I am also researching and note making for the next two books in The Wardrobe series. Also, I am help the script writers put together a list of ideas for who could play the roles in the film. This task was requested by the production company. Even though their story is based on my book, the audience will still be shocked with the scripts adaptations. It’s as if part of book two has emerged and part of the first book has been omitted. Still, the book stands on its own, and the movie can do the same. I can’t give any spoilers other than that.
Fiona: Name one entity that you feel supported you outside of family members.
His name is Mr. Walter Von Huene. He is a producer, director, actor, writer and dear friend. Fifteen years ago, he read the rough draft of my first book and was so intrigued with the story he asked me to join him in his office and write the script. Walter taught me so much about the art of screenwriting, enough to know I will stick to writing books. For me, it is easy to ramble on and on, something a script writer does not have the luxury to do. After six months of hard work, we had our first completed draft, that met the industries required length for a script. It was then that I realized so much of my book had to be omitted for a movie to be produced. Far too many intricate details and characters would be lost, something neither of us wanted to do. The project was dropped, but our friendship has continued. 20 years later, the challenge of writing that script has fallen to my son Dylan. He is currently trying to adapt the entire story and to do so, has decided to write it as a ten or twelve episode mini-series for cable T.V. We are in no rush and just enjoy the challenge of the project.
Fiona: Do you see writing as a career?
It is a very hard industry to break into. If I had to live off the sales of my books, believe me we would have starved. I love to tell stories, to create something that my readers will enjoy. I write for the fun of it as well as the challenge. Maybe if I had kept at it years ago instead of giving up, I could have turned it into a career.
Fiona: If you had to do it all over again, would you change anything in your latest book?
Yes. I would have paid closer attention to detail. I may write great adventures, but my spelling leaves a lot to be desired. Editing is something of an art in itself, and an author can be to close to their work. I know I read what I think is there, only to see later that I missed a glaring mistake. My advice would be, if you have the ability to hire an experienced editor do so.
Fiona: Do you recall how your interest in writing originated?
As a child, books were my closest friends. We moved so often that making school friends was hard. My younger brother loved to listen to my stories, and I enjoyed making them up. I would tell him all sorts of adventures but it never occurred to me to write any of them down. After I had read The Hobbit, I knew I wanted to write a book one day.
Fiona: Can you share a little of your current work with us?
My current work is so totally different from the thriller the The Wardrobe, that I would like to keep it to myself for now. I can share a bit of the thriller though.
His eyes were yellow and goat-like in appearance, with jet-black horizontal slits at their center. Gitta recognized his eyes for what they were and reasoned that they explained his cloven feet. He was a monster with animal traits. The pupil in a goat’s eye she knew to be rectangular in shape, and most were yellow or brown in color. The pupil was such that the animal would have excellent vision during the day and unlike other animals, at night as well. The only difference between this demon’s eyes and her goats was in the way they blinked. There they left no doubt as to the fact that he was an evil abomination of the worst kind. His eyelids slid sideways across his cold and cruel stare that held her in his grip.
With the burning of the wardrobe above completed, Mephistopheles had gained enough power to maintain a stable form in Gitta’s world. He was aware that his menacing robe was no longer required to visit her realm. In that aspect, she had helped unwittingly free him of one burden. Proudly and in no fear, he now stood as he had been created in a solid form! He knew the image was not complete, but to be more than a swirling misshapen shadow was a vast improvement.
Elated at this knowledge and wanting to continue his torturous conversation with his helpless prey, he sprang over her, his cloven feet landing each side of her body.
“I could give you the answer to how many wardrobes there are, but then that would be useless, don’t you think? You have aided me enough, and I can see that you are unwilling to continue to do so. To me, therefore, you have become nothing more than an irritation.” He licked his lips with his black tongue in anticipation. “I see in your own eyes that I won’t break you of your resolve to keep from me the spell I need. Neither do I have the time any longer to sit here and play foolish games. Know this, though, you have not won, for I, unlike you, have all the time in the world, and I will get what I want. You have a child, a daughter.” He watched as fear at the mention of her child flooded her face. “Yes, yes I see that you are following me and my intentions. I will watch your daughter grow, and I will find a way to reach her and the book of spells that I am sure you have read from. One of your mother’s books, no doubt. Cherished and in your safekeeping.”
He looked behind him to the now fully engulfed farm house. “I am sure you would have taken them from here with your intentions set. They have not burned, have they?” He looked back into her stricken face. “You have them safely hidden.” He smiled as he read in her eyes that he had guessed right. “I will have your own child, or her child or whoever it is in the years ahead, to read the words that will set me free, and there is nothing you can do to stop me! Well, almost. I give you one last chance to come to some sort of agreement with me. Why, I will be most giving and allow you to even keep your soul, something which I assure you I don’t easily let slip me by. You can save yourself and the suffering of your family. All you have to do is…”
Mephistopheles did not continue to try to persuade her to do his bidding, for he could see she had no intention to bargain with him. There was nothing he could offer her and time had run out. He cocked his head to one side while thinking what his next actions should be.
Gitta was now paralyzed with fear and wanted only to escape the hideous being, but try as she might, she couldn’t do that anymore than she could take her eyes away from his penetrating gaze. In panic, she watched the thing crouch down and reach again, for her slim white
neck with his cold hands. For Gitta, it was the last thing that she would ever witness. With his powerful grip and with no remorse, Mephistopheles snapped her neck and then in the blink of an eye, he was gone. Only his tracks could be seen leaving the gruesome sight – tracks that would soon vanish beneath the new falling snow.
He had one purpose now, one goal and nothing or no one would stand in his way. Mephistopheles took off running across the English countryside looking for an open door before dawn. He moved with incredible speed across the open fields and into different villages. Such was the distance that he left the falling snow and blustery weather behind him. He raced on into the night under a moonlit sky. Nothing obstructed his way, no walls, no fences, and no buildings. At some houses, he went right up to the door before sensing that he had no need to enter. In one village he approached every home before moving on. Over rooftops and under hedges he easily swept. Not even wide rivers stopped him. He raced and ran for miles, until, in a town far away from Gitta’s body, he smashed through a window, just in time to vanish into a wardrobe.
Back at the burnt farmhouse, the dawn weather grew grim. With the morning’s light came a howling wind that swirled the snow into blizzard conditions. The rage of the storm covered the cloven prints that left the area. Soon even Gitta’s broken body was blanketed, the blood spatters by her head, frozen and either buried or blown away. Nothing was left that would indicate anything or anyone else had been about the farm that night. Nature had done for Mephistopheles what he himself had no time to do. All traces of the demon had been wiped away.
For many miles strong winds swept the snow and further on, where the weather was calmer, fresh snow fell several inches deep. It was as if nothing, not even an animal had been a foot, all tracks had been erased or buried, and there was nothing unusual to be found. This was not so, with much of the countryside around Topsham and beyond. For countless miles Mephistopheles had traveled that night, places that were not touched by the wind or falling snow, his mark had been clearly left upon the land, undisturbed in any fashion. His cloven footprints had survived just like their maker. His calling card, it seemed, had been left for all to see and puzzle over. It was more than a stunned few who awoke at dawn’s light and went about their daily tasks, only to discover something strange had been afoot. Many would find the tracks and excitedly or fearfully show others. Most were alarmed at the discovery, and would set out to find the animal that had left behind such odd prints, but none found either their source or their destination.
Next day, all England, it seemed, was abuzz with the story of the devil’s footprints. For miles and miles, they went, with no explanation of what or who could have made them. The Times of London, the most relied upon newspaper would report, that on February 7-8, 1855 in Devonshire, South of Devon, the discovery of a vast number of foot tracks of the most strange and mysterious description had been found. The tracks were of the cloven type, and many said it was Satan himself that had run across England for more than a hundred miles. Who else could it be, they would ask each other?
Fiona: Is there anything you find particularly challenging in your writing?
God yes! First and for most, like I said, I can’t spell worth a darn. I follow my father in that department. Second, editing is worse than pulling teeth. Also, finding those quiet hours without interruption can be a challenge.
Fiona: Who is your favorite author and what is it that really strikes you about their work?
That is hard to pick. I don’t think I can choose just one. Chelsea Quin Yarbro. Wilbur Smith. Diana Gabaldon. Ann Rice. William Horwood. Catherine Cookson Hemmingway and J.K.Rowling to name a few. All of them have one thing in common. They paint pictures with words. You can see clearly in your mind’s eye what they are describing.
Fiona: Do you have to travel much concerning your book(s)?
I was able to travel quite a bit back in the days before the internet. One had to, to gain the knowledge or information needed. Now, I can search on the computer it has made things easier. Nothing, however, will take the place of being able to visit the locations or countries in my stories. For the sequels to The Wardrobe, I will have to visit Wales and England. I am lucky to have family living in both countries.
Fiona: Who designed the covers?
My son Dylan, who is a script writer and also a photographer. Together we come up with ideas and then put them to a family vote.
Fiona: What was the hardest part of writing your book?
That’s easy, the editing.
Fiona: Did you learn anything from writing your book and what was it?
I learned that you need to trust your instincts above all else and just let the story take you on an adventure. Most of all, you really need to read and research your subject matter. For me that is critical. I write all my books using the formula of fiction based on fact. When dealing with historical facts, the hours you are going to put into research are longer than writing the book.
Fiona: Do you have any advice for other writers?
Be yourself and write for yourself. Sit down and write, even when you don’t think you can. Most of all read. Read as often as you can and try many different book categories. Expand your knowledge by exploring through the eyes of authors you admire.
Fiona: Do you have anything specific that you want to say to your readers?
I hope you enjoy reading my books as much as I did writing them. The best way to show an author, you liked their work is to post a review, even if its not five stars. Authors, like myself, learn from you the reader. Your thoughts and impressions are important.
Fiona: Do you remember the first book you read?
I do indeed. I had just turned nine and I read The Lion the Witch and The Wardrobe. After that, it was Black Beauty, followed by The Hobbit. Then it was any book I could get my hands on. In my senior year in high school, I read all of Dickens and was very moved by Ann Frank’s book. Black Like Me, opened my eyes to the unjust treatment of African Americans. The late 60’s were full of books that begged to be read. I am glad I listened to the call. Not many of my friends read outside of school.
Fiona: What makes you laugh/cry?
Young children and what they have to say always amazes me and often makes me laugh out loud. Young children are innocent and brutally honest and will speak their minds regardless of the subject matter. Seeing an animal in pain, children fighting cancer, or saying good-bye at the airport will bring tears. But it’s the loss of a loved one or dear friend, which always makes me cry.
Fiona: Is there one person pass or present you would meet and why?
I would like to meet Mr. Bradd Pitt. Not because he is a darn good actor or because he is darn good looking. I would like to meet the man who’s Make It Right Foundation is helping to rebuild New Orleans 9th Ward. The series of 3 books I am editing now will comprise a story set in New Orleans and tells a part of history; that has almost been forgotten. I doubt a lot of the history in the story, is even taught in schools today. I would love to get permission from The Make It Right Foundation, to be able to place a notation on the cover of the books, that a portion of the sales will go toward helping the Foundation to continue to help the people of New Orleans. It’s as simple as that.
Fiona: What do you want written on your head stone and why ?
No headstone. Scatter my ashes to the wind.
Fiona: Other than writing do you have any hobbies ?
I love to cook and I build crystal chandeliers.
Fiona: What TV shows/films do you enjoy watching?
Downton Abbey. Code Black. House of Cards. The Vikings. The Walking Dead and Black List. Anything about the paranormal or ghosts. Star Wars and Star Treck. War and Peace. All of these are T.V. series. I love watching the history and discovery channel and mini series are most welcome on my DVR. Slap stick comedy is a no go but I do enjoy a good laugh. In the movie department there are many. Titanic, Fifth Element, Star Gate and Schindler’s List to name a few.
Fiona: Favorite foods / Colors/ Music
Sea food, raw or cooked. A good rare steak and nice salad. Roast lamb and mint sauce. I love all types of food. My favorite colors are purple and green. Music is easy. I love it all, except Rap or heavy metal.
Fiona: If you were not a writer what else would you like to have done?
I would have acted or been an artist.
Fiona: Do you have a blog/website? If so what is it?
I don’t have an active blog or a website as of yet. I will see what this year brings. I do keep facebook pages, an Author page, where I post my thoughts and sometimes write news about my work. I also have two other pages, one each for my books.
You can find my book trailer for The Wardrobe here
Also a bit of history about The Devil’s Foot Prints.