Thursday, November 6, 2014

Interview with sci-fi paranormal romance author Elle Hill

Today’s guest, Elle Hill, is here to chat about her sci-fi paranormal romance novel, The Tithe.

During her virtual book tour with Goddess Fish Promotions, Elle will be awarding a $50 Amazon gift card to a randomly drawn winner. To be entered for a chance to win, use the form below. To increase your chances of winning, feel free to visit her other tour stops and enter there, too!

Elle began writing novel-length romances in junior high. She continued scribbling wild tales on her wide-ruled notepads till those pesky college and career things got in the way. Finally, after earning her Ph.D. in Sociology, Elle gave herself permission to get a life. Now, she spends just about all her waking hours doing one or more of the following: teaching, writing, volunteering, and tending to the whims of her furkids.

Welcome, Elle. Please tell us about your current release.
Back Blurb:

“Every seven years, seven persons from each of the ten towns must go into the desert, where they will enter into the realm of Elovah, their God.”

No one knows exactly what happens to these seventy Tithes, but everyone knows who: the “unworkables,” those with differing physical and mental capacities. Joshua Barstow, raised for twenty years among her town’s holy women, is one of these seventy Tithes. She is joined by the effervescent Lynna, the scholarly Avery, and the amoral Blue, a man who has spent most of his life in total solitude.

Each night, an angel swoops down to take one of their numbers. Each night, that is, except the first, when the angel touches Josh… and leaves her. What is so special about Josh? She doesn’t feel special; she feels like a woman trying to survive while finally learning the meanings of friendship, community, and love.

How funny that she had to be sacrificed to find reasons to live.

What inspired you to write this book?
As the book says in its dedication: “To all people with differing physical and mental appearances and capacities. We deserve a story in which we’re the heroes.”

Truth is, I’m tired of reading about characters who don’t look and think like my loved ones and me. Since I’m a writer and the god of my own, tiny, made-up universes (it’s good to be queen!), I realized I have the power to, as the way-overused quote says, be the change I want to see in the world.

Also, I’m a sociologist. I couldn’t resist the challenge of writing about how a group of people would react when faced with their inevitable, imminent death. Since no one knows when we’re going to die, this book is really a sociological examination into how we Americans respond to the inevitability of our own demise. The Tithes’ seventy days could just as easily be yours or my seventy years.

A tad morbid, maybe, but true.

Excerpt from The Tithe:
Moments later she turned to Blue and stared. In profile, his nose seemed sharp, proud, maybe a touch too big for the rest of his face. A handsome nose, she realized, on a beautiful face. “Can you tell I’m staring at you?” she asked.
“Yes,” he said.
He was silent for a long moment. “I heard you move. I listen for your movements. But even if I’d been distracted, I’d have felt the heaviness that comes when people focus on me.”
“You’re very handsome,” she told him. Had she ever thought him otherwise?
“Thank you.”
She smiled at his casual acceptance of the compliment. Did the words mean less to a sightless person, or did they not carry the same meaning they did to her? “Tell me about your childhood.”
“What about it?”
“What’s your best memory?”
Blue sat beside her, a statue painted in colors he would never know. “There isn’t. Child or adult, my memories are of existing. I ate, I slept, I listened to services. Sometimes the food was worse, sometimes the services more interesting. But there’s nothing like happiness or sadness. There only was.”
“Was what?” she asked softly.
She shook her head. “It sounds so sad.”
“It wasn’t. You can’t have sadness unless you know happiness. I knew neither.”
They sat in silence for a few minutes.
Finally, in a voice mere decibels from a whisper, Josh asked, “What about now?” 
Shameless, she knew, but maybe voicing the question would exorcise it.
“Why are you asking a question you already know the answer to?” he asked in his inflectionless voice.
“I don’t,” she insisted.
“Everything changed when you touched me,” he said.
After a confused moment, and with many darting glances, she asked in a low tone, “In bed?”
“In the hallway. You touched me, and my life cleaved into a before and a now. Before, I existed, and it was fine. I was content. And then, you. Everything cracked open, and I felt as if I’d just reminded my senses to function. Now, everything feels so raw. Sometimes just the passing of time abrades my skin. Being with you is exquisite and real. And painful.”
Very carefully, Josh put her hands on her knees and leaned forward. She stared at the wall opposite them, against which Taro no longer pressed himself. In she breathed, and out. In and out.
No, she didn’t understand. Or, maybe a little. When she was a young girl, maybe six or seven, a new imrabi had made it her goal to befriend her. Josh hadn’t known what to think of this tall, strong young woman, her right cheek and half her brow stained with a wine-red birthmark. Her name was . . . well, honestly, Josh didn’t remember her name. The imrabi hadn’t stayed long. Another rab’ri had needed her.
The woman must have pitied her, this plain, sassy little girl who dressed herself in the morning and braided her own long brown hair. She made it a point to sit with her during services, to sneak her chocolate milk and extra biscuits, to ask her about herself. Josh had responded cautiously, although she’d never refused a single buttered roll.
Then, one time, the imrabi decided to tickle her. It was what adults did with children, but Josh had no way of knowing that. She only knew few of the imrabi spoke with her, let alone showed her physical affection. When the woman’s fingers brushed against the sensitive undersides of Josh’s arms, she shrieked. The imrabi, mistaking Josh’s reaction for laughter, persisted.
Unsure what to think, only knowing the strange, almost painfully tender feeling of the woman’s fingers on her own untouched skin, Josh began screaming. The woman rocked back in alarm, overbalanced, and fell on her bottom. Josh’s screams bounced off the stone walls, rebounded, scratched at her own ears. The imrabi stared hard at her before rising to her grand height and quitting the room without a word.
The woman never spoke to her again, and a few months later, she left their rab’ri.
Twenty-year-old Josh straightened her posture and rubbed her calf with her other foot. 
“What can I do to make it hurt less?” she asked him.
Blue’s lips thinned into a smile. “I don’t want it to hurt less. Every second that scrapes my skin is another one I spend with you.”
She wasn’t used to being precious to someone. Tolerated, of course. Special, sure—no one catalogued and organized the rab’ri’s library with her level of efficiency. But not cherished, treasured, adored.
At the end of my life. The end of my life. She bowed her head, clenched her fists. Six years she’d known about this, six years she’d prepared. She’d never wanted to die, but she’d been ready for it—until coming here.
The worst part? Knowing her time with her friends, these people who had become as dear to her as breathing, might end tonight. Or tomorrow night. Or in ten nights. But soon. Surely she should hope the angels came for her before everyone else.
Stop being selfish, she thought, before her diaphragm clenched in a single laugh. Was she being more selfish in hoping she died first, or last?
Sometimes she thought leaving them here for another seventy days was the cruelest thing Elovah could have visited upon them.
Blue’s hand grabbed hers, and she held on tightly, willing to pretend for a moment it anchored her in this dust storm of uncertainty.

What exciting story are you working on next?
I’m actually penning my first lesbian paranormal romance. Woot! Here’s the premise: A security guard, Jacqueline, is paid big buckeroos to escort and protect a leader, Marin, from Florida to South Dakota to attend a summit. They’re hunted by creatures who look human but clearly aren’t. The more she gets to know her charge, the more Jack thinks Marin might not be entirely human, either.

When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I’ve never not written. I wrote stories in grade school. I moved to very, very bad novels in junior high. In high school, I penned angsty poetry. I stopped writing during the college years – you know, since getting five hours of sleep a night was a luxury and all. After finally graduating, though, I started whining about how I wanted to write but, ohmigosh, was I good enough, and would people buy my books, and I don’t even know how to publish or market a book. My wise oldest sister, also an author, told me to shut up and start writing. Best advice ever.

Do you write full-time? If so, what's your work day like? If not, what do you do other than write and how do you find time to write?
I write for pleasure and work as a sociology instructor for pleasure and pay. Since it pays the bills, I tend to privilege my teaching above my writing, which means if it takes two years to complete a novel, then two years it has to be. During super busy times, like midterms and finals, I have to abstain completely from writing. Alas! I fiercely love both my jobs, though, and wouldn’t trade them for anything. Okay, maybe I’d accept a bit more pay for both, but other than that…

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?
I have no idea if other writers do this, but I’m constantly acting out words that elude me. For example, I’ll shake my hands and blow out my breath and mutter, “What’s the word for that?” I’ve been known to make sad, puppylike sounds and ponder aloud, “Is that more a whimper or a moan?”

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Once I got older and realized most writers can’t sustain themselves with their craft alone, I bounced from chef to teacher to social worker. Heck, my first year in college, I majored in music. Luckily for everyone, I realized I have precious little musical talent and switched to psychology. A year later, I switched again, this time to “Social Sciences, primary emphasis sociology,” as it says on my transcripts.

Anything additional you want to share with the readers?
Thanks so much for reading my information and thoughts! I’d love to hear from any and all of you: Have a gorgeous autumn.

Website | Blog | Amazon 

Thanks, Elle. Happy writing!


Goddess Fish Promotions said...

Thanks for hosting!

Andra Lyn said...

Hi Again Elle! :) So tell me...who is your inspiration when writing??

Rita Wray said...

Thank you for the excerpt.

Edgar Gerik said...

Enjoy the interview.

MomJane said...

I really loved this excerpt. I can't tell you how much I want to read this book.

Elle Hill said...

Hi again, Andra! Thanks for stopping by again.

My inspiration while writing? Honestly, I'm less an inspired writer than a slog-through-it-even-if-you-only-write-300-words-today writer. That said, massive amounts of coffee and some peppy, disco or techno tunes (I was a child of the 80s) sometimes help stimulate me. :)

Elle Hill said...

Hi again, Rita. I'm glad you enjoyed this excerpt. I think it's my favorite from the book. :)

Elle Hill said...

Hi there, Edgar! I'm glad something in the interview spoke to you. :)

Elle Hill said...

MomJane, I am always thrilled to hear you say that. If for some reason you can't afford the book, let me know and I'll buy it for you. I'm just so honored when people show enthusiasm about my baby. :)

Anonymous said...

Intriguing excerpt and interview!

vitajex@aol dot com

Anonymous said...

Intriguing excerpt and interview!

vitajex@aol dot com

Ann L said...

I like this part "Elle gave herself permission to get a life"

Mary Preston said...

I enjoyed the excerpt.

Elle Hill said...

Thanks, Anonymous. I'm glad you enjoyed the excerpt and interview. :)

Elle Hill said...

Ha! Thanks, Ash. Yeah, that pretty much summarizes me after leaving school. While fighting for those degrees, I gave up everything: movies, books, much of a social life. It was good to get them back.

Elle Hill said...

Thanks, Mary. Oh, and I love your avatar pic. _Beauty and the Beast_ is my all-time favorite movie. :)