The release of alum Ellen Parry Lewis’ second novel will have readers on the edge of their seats in its medieval period romance and despair. She earned her degree from Rowan as a summa cum laude graduate in 2009, and was valedictorian of her high school class. When she is not too busy writing or snuggled up with a book, she can be found enjoying the outdoors with her two Dachshunds, PB and Jay, or playing the piano.
Major: Journalism; concentration in Print Journalism.
Hometown: Williamston, NJ
Q: What can you say about your accomplishments?
A: After many rejection letters, my first novel was accepted for publication by Metal Lunchbox Publishing out of Keedysville, Maryland. I wrote and edited this first novel while I was still in college, and it was released in October 2010, less than a year after I graduated from Rowan.
Since then, I've completed two more manuscripts. My second novel was released as an ebook on Friday October 28th, and it will be released as a paperback in mid-November. My third novel is currently at my publisher's for consideration.
Before I turned to fiction writing full-time, I really enjoyed school. During college, I received freelance positions at several newspapers, most notably the Philadelphia Inquirer. I consider these jobs accomplishments as opposed to mere resume builders because I secured these positions soon after becoming a journalism major and in one case purely because someone read an article I had written, liked it, and wanted me to write for them. I took great pride in my work for these newspapers. As far as my accomplishments as a whole, I must give God all of the glory; my successes and gifts are all from Him.
Q: What is the title of your first book and what is it about? How did you feel to have a work of yours published?
A: My first book is titled Future Vision. It has a science fiction base to it. It's about an ambitious high school student, Samantha Bell, who visits a Future Vision attraction at a carnival. This attraction allows viewers to see up to twenty seconds of highlights of their personal future. However, because of the possible risks, viewers must ingest a dissolvable pill afterwards, causing them to forget what they had just witnessed. Samantha tries to take the future into her own hands, though, when she smuggles a pen inside the attraction. She therefore leaves with no memory of what she saw, but with three words written on her hand--snow, fight, and ca. She feels that she has to figure out what they mean before the event they're about occurs and possibly ruins her life.
When I found out that Future Vision was getting published, I actually cried because I was so happy. I had heard from people how impossible it is to get published, and it's certainly true that it's not an easy task. My publisher is on the smaller side, but I have really been happy with them, and I'm thrilled that I have received such an opportunity with my very first novel.
I was also excited that I was starting so young. After all, I wrote the bulk of Future Vision when I was eighteen. So, aside from being thrilled to see my first work with a cover and as an actual book and not just a word document, I was excited because I knew that it was just the beginning.
Q: What is the title of your second book and what is it about? Did it feel different from when your first book was published?
A: My second novel is called An Unremarkable Girl. It's what I would call light fantasy. It takes place in a pseudo-medieval time setting in countries that never existed, but there is no magic or elves. It's an adventure story of epic proportions.
The main character, Krisanna Wether, lives in a peaceful farming village where she is happy with her calm and predictable life. Though she had been considered quite unremarkable due to her undesirable brown eyes, she soon learns that her looks have a purpose after her people are suddenly enslaved. While doing manual labor at an enemy fort, Krisanna witnesses a princess’s brutal murder, and she finds herself mistaken for this look-alike princess. During her time living under this temporary, false identity, Krisanna meets a handsome, kind enemy soldier, and she finds her heart being pulled in a way that could lead to her death. Krisanna's attempts to free her family and people take this once seemingly unremarkable girl on a journey throughout the country of Tempro. She finds herself living as a prisoner, a princess, a fugitive, a foreigner, a member of the nobility, and more. She also finds herself taking drastic actions, such as kidnapping a real princess and helping encourage a civil war as she struggles with doing the right thing while still achieving her goals.
An Unremarkable Girl is triple the length of Future Vision, but it took a lot less time to write since I was writing full-time by that point. As with the first book, I was ecstatic. I had absolutely loved writing An Unremarkable Girl and I had grown so attached to the characters. I was thrilled, then, to know that other people would get to read about them too.
Q: Will there be a third or fourth? What should your audience expect from your future work?
A: I already wrote the third book, Avenging Her Father, which is being considered by Metal Lunchbox Publishing at this time. It is a companion to An Unremarkable Girl in that it takes place at the same time and in the same area of the world, but with completely different characters in a different country.
I also have an idea for a third novel in that series. It would take place perhaps ten years or so after the first two books. The main character would be a third girl, unintroduced as of yet, but her story would tie in to the first and second novels. I'm taking a little break from that while I mess around with a different type of fourth book, though. I'm about 10,000 words into this fourth novel and it's shaping up to be a fantasy thriller taking place in the 1850s. I'm really enjoying it so far. Like with my others, it's young adult fiction. Future Vision was young adult fiction, though I would recommend it for ages ten and up as there is nothing in it particularly disturbing or risqué. With An Unremarkable Girl I would perhaps go just a little older as there is some violence.
As I get older myself, I notice that my themes tend to be getting more mature. Perhaps one day I'll write some adult fiction, though I really love young adult fiction still. The great thing about YA fiction is that you can still deal with deep or serious issues, but generally with a younger protagonist. Also, I can still write a juicy love scene or battlefield drama. If I were writing for a purely adult audience, I think I might feel pressured to make the love and war unnecessarily detailed and out of my comfort zone. Additionally, I have always found it to be easiest to write about a character that is just slightly younger than me; I know about the age completely and I have passed through it. I wouldn't be able to do this with, say, a 30-year-old character because I'm not there yet.
Q: What are your goal accomplishments for the future?
A: I have so many ideas in my head, I want to keep writing them down and have book after book released. Of course, I'd like to continue to gain readers. I'd also like to secure a literary agent in the near future. As far as specific awards or milestones, I can't say that I have as specific goals. However, my daydreams do occasionally wander to my future as a novelist--seeing my book on one of the center tables at a bookstore where only the "big books" go, talking about my book on a talk show, attending the movie premier based on one of my novels. You never know!
Q: What type of feedback have you been receiving? Is it hard for you to absorb all the criticism? How has it contributed to your journey as a writer?
A: Overall, feedback has been good. I'm still waiting on feedback for An Unremarkable Girl and the others, but Future Vision feedback was great. A lot of people seemed to think that it was one of the most unique ideas that they had come across. Also, my dialogue has been praised. A lot of other authors are impressed by my young age, 23, which they say is good since it makes me stand out. Unfortunately, when my work was rejected by agents, I did not actually receive any constructive criticism. I received form letters, which obviously don't allow me to fix the problems. In the editing phases of my novels, I have been told that I occasionally get too detail-oriented so that I tell part of the story instead of show it. While I believe I have corrected a lot of these instances during the editing process, it is still helpful as it allows me to really analyze that part of my writing so that I don't continue to make the same sort of mistake.
I am a very self-motivated person and I'm not one to give up on something. However, receiving that first rejection letter for Future Vision was rather depressing, especially when I saw that it was merely a form letter. I used to take each rejection hard, but by the time I got to rejection #20 or so, it was old news. That's not to say that they aren't disappointing, but I'm able to move on. After all, you can get rejected 1,000 times, but it only takes one yes to make your book a reality. Also, when Metal Lunchbox accepted my first manuscript, all of my rejections made the acceptance that much sweeter.
Q: Anything else you’d like to impart on aspiring writers?
A: I would just encourage aspiring writers not to give up! Fiction writing as a career is a difficult job, but not an impossible one, and it is incredibly rewarding. Also, it's never too early to start writing that manuscript in your dorm room like I did. If anything, the weird characters who might interrupt you in that sort of a setting can at times be inspiring.
I also have a website (www.ellenparrylewis.com), a twitter account, @EllenParryLewis, and a Facebook page under "Ellen Parry Lewis."