Author Interview: Elisa Nader

Hello, everyone! Today I’m thrilled to host an interview with author Elisa Nader!
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elisanader_headshotElisa Nader was born and raised in Washington D.C. While attending Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, VA, she began writing her first novel, but quickly cast it aside as her love of music took hold, and she picked up a bass guitar. Three bands and five years later, she moved back to Washington and rediscovered her love of writing, penning arts and entertainment pieces for the Washington City Paper.

But, once again, writing took a back seat. After a stint at The Washington Post as a lead website designer for the Arts and Entertainment section, she began a long career at AOL as a creative director, working alongside such companies as Time Warner, Travelocity, MapQuest, Bebo, Moviefone, and many more.

Since leaving the company, she spends time writing, raising her seven-year-old daughter, and working alongside her husband in their new venture, Mag7, a User Experience Design collective. She lives outside Washington D.C. with her family.
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Thank you for agreeing to this interview. After reading the bio, we’d like to know more about you! What’s the quirkiest thing about you?

Thanks for having me on your blog!

Quirkiest thing? I’m the worst traveller. Ever. I have to be at the airport ridiculously early. I fear flying so I pace around at the gate probably looking strangely suspicious. I get stressed out about finding overhead space for my carry on. When turbulence hits, I lose my freaking mind.

If we’re driving somewhere, and someone else is behind the wheel (especially my poor husband) I back seat drive. I bang my foot against the floor of the car trying to hit an invisible brake pedal, I hang on to the seat for dear life if the car swerves, and make “suck-in breath” sounds when another car gets to close. If I’m driving, I get angry if the person in front of me is driving too slow, or if the person behind me is driving too fast.

If I’m on the train between DC and NYC for work, I always get in the quiet car because I can’t stand listening to business people talk “numbers” and throw around buzz phrases like “low-hanging fruit” and “let’s put a pin in that,” and “Are you on Linked-In?” (I am, by the way. I’m a total hypocrite!)

Upon further reflection, this all seems less quirky and more neurotic.

Tell us a bit about your book! What inspired ESCAPE FROM EDEN or drove you to tell this particular story? What sets it apart from others in its genre?

ESCAPEfromEDEN_CoverI was being super lazy one night about writing, so I was watching music videos. I came across a video by Cults called Go Outside (link here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eAM9diyVRiM) Go watch the video. I’ll wait…

Wacky, huh? It’s like the band members were in Jonestown. I watched that video and had completely forgotten about Jonestown! How can anyone forget about Jonestown (Link: http://history1900s.about.com/od/1970s/p/jonestown.htm) once they’ve heard the story? And I thought, well, how does that girl in the video feel about being there? Clearly, she’s into it. But what if she wasn’t? What if she wanted out of the commune but couldn’t get out? And that’s where I had my story. It all clicked together for me. I had another manuscript on submission and asked my agent to stop shopping it around because I believed so much in my new manuscript.

Mia, my protagonist, is sixteen and wants out of the religious commune Edenton. Her mother had brought her there when she was ten, and remembers life before the commune. But Mia isn’t sure how to leave the Edenton.

I’m a total sucker for romantic tension. So I knew I wanted a love interest in the book as well, so I decided to introduce Gabriel, a rebellious seventeen-year-old whose parents decided to come and live in Edenton to help “fix” him.

Together, the try to find a way to escape and discover things about the commune that aren’t exactly the holiest of the holy. In fact, the secrets are pretty depraved and shocking.

That sounds amazing! Do you think you could share your favorite excerpt or tease us with a single quote even?

It’s hard to find an excerpt that doesn’t give away too much of the story. But here’s one I like.

One night, Mia and Gabriel are in the jungle that surrounds Edenton exploring—trying to figure out how to escape. They need to avoid the security guards that roam the perimeter of the commune. If they get caught, they’ll be taken to one of the leaders of the commune, Thaddeus.

Keep in mind, Mia is a sheltered girl, arriving at the commune at the age of ten. But Gabriel is quite the opposite.  He’s much more experienced with, let’s say, “relationships.”

After twenty minutes of picking our way over the jungle floor in silence, Gabriel came to a sudden stop. I heard a snapping crack. Then saw a light swept across the tree trunks and leaves in front of us.

I stiffened. Gabriel pulled me into the shadows of wide leaves. Neither of us moved.

The beam of light arced closer.

Through the trees, I could see the dim glimmering lights of Edenton. We were so close, and I would have preferred the oppressive safety of Edenton to where we were now.

Gabriel peeked around a tree and I felt his heart pound harder. “Shit,” he mumbled.

My pulse throbbed in my throat. I looked up at him. Before I could see his expression, he pressed his lips to mine with blinding pressure. One hand tangled in my hair, the other cinched my waist. My body felt feverish. Through the sweaty material of my shirt, I could feel the muscles of his chest, hard and smooth. The effect made me dizzy and I would have fallen back against a tree if he wasn’t holding me. All I heard were our hearts; the noises of the jungle around us, the footsteps of person approaching with the flashlight, everything else faded away. There was only feeling. The softness of Gabriel’s lips pressed hotly on mine, the hard planes of his body pressed against my curves. I didn’t even want to wonder why he was kissing me, he just he was. My stomach fluttered. It was as if my body began to blossom, awaken, after seasons of cold. I snaked my arms over his shoulders and pulled him closer. I opened my mouth tentatively. He went ridged.

“Hey!” I heard and Gabriel tore himself away from me. Light was in our eyes, and we shielded our faces with our hands. But as Gabriel looked at the man with the flashlight, I looked at him. What just happened?

“Goddammit,” Grizz said, swinging the flashlight beam to Gabriel’s face. “I told them you’d be trouble.” His eyes focused on me and he actually growled. “Mia! Is that—it’s you?”

I nodded, slightly terrified and very, very tingly.

Grizz took a step toward Gabriel.  “If you did anything to hurt her—”

“We were only kissing!” Gabriel held up his hands. “That’s all that happened.”

Realization dawned. Gabriel had kissed me so Grizz would think that’s why we were out here on the edge of Edenton alone. To kiss. Or do other things. Disappointment lodged in my chest, my heart seeming to stop for a few beats.

“Come on.” Grizz grabbed Gabriel by the arm. “We’re going to see Thaddeus. Mia, let’s go.”

“But I didn’t do anything!” I lied, trying to hide my disappointment.

“Let’s hope that’s the case,” Grizz said. “Both of you, move.”

What was your process for writing ESCAPE FROM EDEN? Did you make a story outline, map out scenes with index cards, or did you just go with the flow?

I just write and see where it takes me. I usually have an idea of who the characters are, what their journey will be and a beginning and an end to the story. I do try to outline a scene before I write it – just the big action or pivotal points.

What advice have you most benefited from? Do you have any words of wisdom you’d like to impart to all the writers still on their journey toward publication?

Write what you want to read. It’s hard to ignore the trends, though, because you want people to read your book. But by the time you’ve written for a trend, the trend is probably on its way out.

Don’t be over-critical of your first draft because it will be crap —just write.

Take an online writing class if you can afford it. I took a MediaBistro class and it was the best thing I’d ever done for my writing, as well as making some connections in the publishing industry. Those who teach classes through MediaBistro are publishing professionals.

Find a trusted critique partner. Someone who will call you out of purple prose, over-writing, and bad, boring dialog. My critique partner is Nina Berry (link: http://thetulgey.blogspot.com/) and she’s incredible and you can’t have her. She’s MINE MINE MINE.

My agent, Danielle Chiotti with Upstart Crow Literary (Link: http://www.upstartcrowliterary.com/), is very editorial. She reads everything and gives notes. Some agents don’t do that, they prefer to read to acquire a manuscript then send of to editors for submission. Decide what kind of agent you want (assuming you want an agent) and query those types agents. I trust my agent implicitly —her advice matters.

Finally, you cannot give up. I know people say that all the time, but it’s true. Keep writing. And sometimes you just have to put a manuscript away and start on something new.

About Rachel Russell

Rachel is the YA author of Harvester (Entranced Publishing, 2014). She works as the Submissions Coordinator and Editorial Assistant for Month9Books, LLC., and is also a freelance editor. When she isn't reading, writing, or editing, she's lurking on Twitter, drinking dirty martinis, and spreading the love for pickles on pizza.
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  • Traci Kenworth

    That video was scary. It’s incredible to think situations like that actually exist. Terrifying.