Hello everyone! Recently, I interviewed Tessa Elwood, who wrote the amazing novel Inherit the Stars. If you haven't read my review yet, you can find it here. I highly recommend it! This interview is really fun and interesting - in fact, there's even a great coffee recipe - so keep on reading!
Hi Tessa! First of all, let me thank you for doing this interview. Your novel, Inherit the Stars, has charmed many readers so far and I'm convinced it'll keep doing so. Can you explain what it is about?
Amid a desperate energy crisis, a girl steals her sister’s place in an arranged marriage to save the life of her oldest sibling—upending a much needed political alliance. But then, she'd do about anything to save a sibling's life.
How did the idea come to you?
Via song. On a Netflix night, I saw O Brother, Where Art Thou? and heard Alison Krauss’ rendition of “Down to the River to Pray.” Everyone walking through the woods clothed in white, and in my head I saw a wedding. Soaring vocal chorus, marble and red petals. Wholly beautiful and everyone expectant…except the bride, who cried behind her veil.
Which got me thinking, what would an unwanted arranged marriage be like if the main parties didn’t hate each other? Or even particularly resent each other? They chose this with their eyes open, though it wasn't a cultural norm or what they or their parents had planned for them until the necessity hit. What would that look like? Might as well write and see.
Is this your first novel, or have you been writing for longer than that?
Nah, my first novel was full of pegasus‚ parallel worlds, close-knit spies, and nation states held together by duct tape and string.
When was the first time you actually called yourself a writer?
Only when philosophizing. “As a writer, I..." or “As writers we…” But even now, that’s the only time I tack the “r” on. Otherwise, it's “I write.”
I can't decide if the general hesitance behind artistic identifiers are a question of self-identity or simply what we hold intrinsic. Taken for granted. Like introducing one’s self as a daughter or son. Which is odd, thinking about it, as parents identifying as parents is very prevalent. Though that is something requiring definition—someone may or may not have a child, but they certainly someone else’s. Anyway, tangent.
Was your novel intended as a stand-alone or as part of a series?
Stand-alone. I like stand-alones. But I like serious, too—lord knows I ate up all the Discworld books and always snag the latest Mercy Thompson.
Who is your favorite character in your novel and why?
Asa! This was actually a recent midnight discussion with a friend. She said she often prefers the love interest over the lead in stories, so why shouldn’t that carry over to her cast/protagonist? And I’m like if the protagonist isn't your favorite, then swap them out for the person who *is*. Or at least, the person who fascinates you most, even if you hate their guts. I think that’d be interesting, writing about a character I couldn’t stand. But then, knowing me, I’d redeem them. Or get fed up and kill them off. You never know.
I love Asa's heart, and the way she pushes through fear. Every small step requires so much effort, so much courage she doesn’t feel. And yet she makes that effort. Every day. Sometimes every minute. That’s something.
If Asa were a part of our world, who would be her celebrity crush?
Actually…I don’t know? Good question though. I’m guessing, in films/media, Jennifer Lawrence or Shailene Woodley, for the strong parts they play. Asa would love to be that kick-ass.
In your novel, Asa's family takes a big part of her life and she would do anything for her sisters. Is that something that you value, too?
Yep. Loyalty is fundamental, the constant when the chaos hits. And family embodies that, or at least has the potential. But then, so can friendship—family doesn’t have to be defined by blood.
So far, what's the hardest thing you've been faced with while publishing your novel?
And this is where I smile and shrug.
Who are the authors that have inspired you with their work?
Just about everyone I’ve read. Even stories I dislike will get me thinking about something else. For ItS specifically, probably Georgette Heyer. I listened to a lot of Heyer when drafting. You can never hear too much Heyer.
If you could have lived in any fictional world, which one would it have been?
Oh that’s a hard one. I love the world of Garth Nix's Abhorsen, Scalzi’s Old Man’s War, and NK Jemisin’s Inheritance series, but I don’t know that I’d want to *live* there. Well, maybe in Old Man’s War. Or Discworld! Then, hmmm, maybe not.
If it could be any fictional world, maybe FF IX (the one no one remembers) or X. Or Enslaved (just ignore the ending and mind enslavement). Or Fable. (If I was running things, of course.) I really enjoyed cruising Infamous, but living there? Not so much.
Who would be your fictional best friend?
Oh, I have a list. Such a list.
Maya from The Goblin Emperor, or Sybella from Dark Triumph, or Sabriel, or Amelia Peabody from Crocodile on the Sandbank, or Sam Vimes from Discworld, or Moist, Susan, Death, Rat, Angua, or pretty much everybody from Discworld except the exceptionally insane. Currently, I may have a small crush on Bigby from The Wolf Among Us. Potentially. Just a bit.
Aside from writing novels, what are you passions and hobbies?
Games with good story and character development, or interesting mechanics. Running with audiobooks. Collecting podcasts (I have a list). Night sky photography (oh the milky way). Art fairs. The art institute students produce some amazing stuff.
I've heard that you're obsessed with coffee. Now tell us the truth: what's the best way to drink it? Do you have a special recipe or a favorite coffee shop?
Oh yes. Both. Very big on local as opposed to chains. If you’re not doing espresso, a pour over is definitely my favorite if ordering out (though usually I just get drip, as it’s less hassle). At home though, it’s french press all the way.
And if you want to get technical : the french press is a process that looks like a headache but is actually pretty easy/forgiving. The press itself is pricey, especially the stainless steel kind (what I recommend). Coffee grinders aren’t too bad, and any cheap one will do (though I wouldn’t go much cheaper than $20, as the super cheap ones are usable but irritating). And yes, you do need one. I ignored that big of advice for awhile because it seemed way too connoisseur, and was it really worth it to jack with the whole grinder thing? I mean, how much of a difference would it make?
A lot. Trust me.
— First, boil water. (I’m lazy and use an electric kettle.)
— Grind the beans while this is going on (I use 1/2 cup of beans, and I believe my press is a 36oz?), and dump into the press. Get local if you can, ones that don’t have that weird, shiny coat to them.
— Once the water boils, wait 30 seconds and then fill the press halfway.
— Set a timer for 4 minutes.
— After a minute has passed, stir down the beans (they’ll have bloomed) and finish filling the press with water.
— Once the timer is up, press down the filter and boom—coffee.
What's your favorite social media platform and where can we find you?
Tumblr by far, full of fascinating and/or fandom-y things (i.e. Dragon Age and art). http://feonua.tumblr.com/
I’m never *on* twitter, but my favorite artsy/non-fandom retumbles crosspost to @tessaelwood.
Can you tell us about your current projects and how your novel's publication is going?
Projects! Book 2 of Asa, of course. Mostly book 2. After that, I have a list. All scifi and a potential science fantasy. For book 1 pub stuff, it’s all done on my end and I'm in b2 world. Barring the zombie apocalypse, the first ItS will be out on Dec 8th.
Thank you for answering the questions! I'll wish you luck for your future projects.